- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2003

From combined dispatches

President Bush claimed credit yesterday for a raft of favorable new economic reports, saying it was proof his tax cuts are kicking in.

“America’s economy is getting stronger every day,” Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address. It was the first time in six weeks he did not devote his weekly address to the situation in Iraq.

The economy has created nearly 300,000 new jobs in the past three months after a half-year drought, pushing the unemployment rate down to 6 percent in October and leaving little doubt that the jobs market is bouncing back.

The Labor Department reported Friday that payrolls grew by 126,000 last month, more than economists had predicted. That followed a revised 125,000 new jobs in September, more than double what initially was reported. U.S. companies added 35,000 employees in August.

Last week, the government reported that economic output rose at a 7.2 percent annual rate in the third quarter.

“American companies are investing. Americans are buying homes at a record pace, and home ownership is @ near-record levels,” Mr. Bush, who is spending the weekend at Camp David, Md., said in his taped address.

Stock market values have risen, adding about $2 trillion in wealth for investors since the beginning of the year, he said, crediting the gains to “the effects of tax relief on the American economy.”

But Democrats criticized the president’s economic record.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, a Democratic presidential candidate, said it was too early to celebrate.

“President Bush has compiled the worst economic record since the Great Depression, and it is going to take a lot more than this news to dig the country out of this hole,” Mr. Dean told the Associated Press.

“Despite the Bush administration’s tax cut binge, millions of Americans are still out of work, and we’re only beginning to feel the horrific deficit hangover,” said Mr. Dean’s spokesman, Jay Carson.

Next year’s budget deficit is projected to be about $500 billion.

Also, with Veterans Day approaching, Democrats yesterday charged that Republican-passed tax cuts and spending priorities have undermined the nation’s ability to provide health care and benefits to those who served in uniform.

“I have great concern that trillion dollar tax cuts to some of America’s wealthiest families have cut into our promise to support a decent quality of life for our military families and quality health care for our veterans,” Rep. Chet Edwards of Texas said in the Democrats’ weekly radio address.

Mr. Edwards, from the Texas district that is home to the huge Fort Hood Army base, said Mr. Bush and Republicans in Congress have pushed cuts in military housing and 10-year reductions in veterans health care.

“What message does it send to our veterans when the administration says American taxpayers can afford to build new hospitals in Iraq, but we cannot afford to keep open veterans hospitals here at home?” Mr. Edwards said.

He said 60,000 veterans were waiting six months or more for an appointment at a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital.

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