- The Washington Times - Friday, August 27, 2004

DALY CITY, Calif. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry yesterday criticized the president for neglecting the middle class and being out of touch with ordinary Americans.

“Either the president doesn’t have a plan or the president is out of touch with what’s happening to real Americans,” Mr. Kerry said to an audience gathered in a high school auditorium. “I think what we need is leadership that knows how hard this struggle is.”

As Kerry campaigned, the Commerce Department reported that the economy grew at a relatively modest 2.8 percent annual rate in the second quarter — slower than previously thought and evidence that the business recovery hit a rough spot in the spring and early summer.

The Bush-Cheney campaign said President Bush has created 1.5 million new jobs in the past year, reversing losses sustained after the September 11 attacks.

“John Kerry’s campaign of pessimism is intent on talking down our economy and ignores the challenges and progress we have made,” said spokesman Steve Schmidt.

Mr. Kerry talked about the economy as he promised to curb credit card fees and protect home buyers and military families from unfair lending practices, a pitch aimed squarely at voters’ checkbooks.

He promised to protect consumers drawn in by unscrupulous credit card offers with “fine print that is so fine that you not only need high-powered specs, you need a magnifying glass to read what it says.”

Mr. Kerry’s proposals ask financial companies to disclose more information to customers, including requiring that credit card bills display the number of months it would take a customer to pay off the balance by making the minimum monthly payments.

Other proposals would block credit card companies from changing the interest rates on purchases retroactively and require them to notify customers before raising their interest rates.

Mr. Kerry said Mr. Bush gets too many campaign contributions from the financial industry to make the changes that consumers need. “For four years, George Bush has put narrow interests first while hard-working families pay the price,” he said.

The Bush-Cheney campaign countered that Kerry’s campaign benefits, too, from financial donations.

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