- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 20, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 (UPI) — President George W. Bush flew to Georgia Thursday to champion his 10-year, $674 billion economic growth plan, saying its accelerated tax cut provisions would spur the nation's financial recovery and also plant the seeds for future prosperity.

America's economic fundamentals were strong, he said. The nation had overcome the economic pounding resulting from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, a falling stock market and corporate scandals, but there was still more than had to be done.

" … There's too many people looking for work," Bush said in a speech at Harrison High School in Kennesaw. "There's still too many people who wonder whether or not their future is bright enough.

"And I think we need to continue to move forward with good positive legislation that will turn this recovery into lasting prosperity … "

Bush's cheerleading, however, came amid several doses of cold water.

According to government figures released Thursday, unemployment claims rose last week to a seven-week high of 402,000, and inflation in wholesale prices rose 1.6 percent in January, fueled mainly by a jump in oil prices amid fears of war with Iraq.

Meanwhile, a Harris Interactive telephone poll of 1,010 adults conducted from Feb. 12 to 16 showed a new dip in the president's overall approval rating — 52 percent to 46 percent, down from 64 percent to 35 percent two months ago.

Poll participants voiced the economy as their main concern (37 percent), just one point down from war. In September, 34 percent of respondents cited the economy as the most important issue facing the country, up from 28 percent in September. The statistical precision of the results was given as plus/minus 3 percentage points.

"And so you ask the question, if things aren't going as well as they should, what should we do?" Bush said after alluding to obstacles overcome. "Well, I agree with Zell (Georgia Democratic Sen. Zell Miller), with this economic theory, that when a person has more money in their pocket, they're likely to demand somebody to produce them a good or service … and when you make that demand in a market-oriented society like ours, somebody's going to provide it.

"And when somebody produces a good or a service to meet your demand, it means somebody is more likely to find work."

Miller, a maverick among Democrats, appeared with Bush in Kennesaw following a roundtable with small business owners and employees.

Bush's growth plan features implementing retroactively tax cuts passed previously and scheduled for implementation in 2004 and 2006. They include increases in the child tax credit, an end to higher taxes for married couples and a broadening of eligibility for the 10 percent tax bracket.

Double taxation of dividends would be ended, and small businesses would be allowed to increase their annual deduction for investment in machinery and equipment to $75,000 from $25,000.

Bush said the break on dividend taxation would benefit millions of seniors, one in four of who receive dividend income from their investments.

The administration predicts the various tax breaks would help lead to the creation of some 1.4 million jobs by the years 2004.

Included in the Bush plan is holding government spending to a 4 percent increase.

"My point to you is, is that this plan makes sense," Bush said. "It makes sense from not only what sounds — commonsensical perspective, but it makes sense when analyzed by the economists behind the blue-chip forecasts."

A Blue Chip Forecast, a forecast by a group of private economists, has predicted the economy would grow by 3.3 percent in the fourth quarter of this year if Bush's proposal were enacted into law — a prediction the president pointed to Thursday.

But Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan last week challenged Bush's plan, saying that tax cuts must be offset by other measures to generate government funds.

Bush's trip to Georgia was the sixth this year by the president to a venue outside Washington to tout his growth package, which faces fierce opposition on Capitol Hill.

Following his remarks, the president flew to Texas, where he was to play host Friday and Saturday at his ranch to Spain's president.

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