- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2003

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The steady flow of strong economic news this week — described by ultracautious Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan as “astonishing” — could force Democrats to mute their charges that President Bush is presiding over a “jobless recovery.”

Democrats have sought to make the economy the primary issue in the early stages of the 2004 presidential campaign and have hammered the president, repeatedly charging him with presiding over the greatest U.S. job loss since Herbert Hoover.

But with a new federal report showing the nation’s businesses created 286,000 jobs in the past three months, along with a 19-year high rate of 7.2 percent economic growth, Republicans are beginning to seize the offensive.

“When the numbers clearly show that there is new job creation, it certainly makes some of the things Democrats are saying appear to be what they are — negative political attacks and baseless arguments for the sake of politics,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Christine Iverson.

Republican leaders on Capitol Hill credit Mr. Bush’s tax cuts, which pumped billions of dollars into the economy in the third quarter, for bringing about the surge in new jobs.

“There is a direct correlation between the president’s tax cuts and the stronger economy,” Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois said. “Strong economic growth means more jobs. Democrats say they want to raise taxes to pay for more Washington spending. But that is the worst thing we can do to keep this economy strong and create more jobs.”

Cabinet officials who have been under the gun throughout an economic slowdown that began nine months before Mr. Bush took office also credited the president’s strategy.

“More Americans are taking home paychecks instead of unemployment checks. For those people who don’t have a job, help is on the way,” said Secretary of Commerce Donald L. Evans. “Three months of sustained job creation shows that President Bush’s agenda is helping our economy grow.”

But Democrats show no signs of abandoning their criticism of the Bush team’s handling of the economy.

“Today’s news cannot change the fact that, under this president, we will lose jobs for the first time since Herbert Hoover,” said Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, running in the middle of the pack of nine Democratic presidential hopefuls.

For his part, the president is cautious about the new economic numbers, which included a 0.1 percent drop in the unemployment rate to 6 percent. So cautious, in fact, that he did not directly comment on the Labor Department’s report yesterday during a fund-raiser and a roundtable at a job-training college.

“We’ve had some good news recently about our economy, but we won’t rest until everybody who wants to work can find a job,” Mr. Bush said at a morning fund-raiser. “We will continue to try to create an environment of job creation and job growth by enhancing the entrepreneurial spirit of America.”

The White House called the recent economic numbers “another positive sign for America’s workers and families.”

“The economy is moving in the right direction,” said Bush spokesman Scott McClellan.

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