Tuesday, March 30, 2004

APPLETON, Wis. — President Bush yesterday said the productivity of American workers, which skyrocketed during the nation’s recent recession, is an impediment to the creation of new jobs.

But the president said with economic growth high and projections for continued expansion through the summer, the lack of new jobs is not hampering the economy.

“This economy is going through a fundamental change. We’re growing, which is great,” the president told several hundred supporters in a speech at a performing-arts center in Appleton, about an hour from Green Bay.

“But the problem is … many companies are able to fill new orders and don’t have a need to expand because they’re more productive. In other words, it’s possible to grow our economy and not have people find new jobs, and that’s a problem,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush said his tax cuts, totaling $2 trillion since 2001, have helped boost growth in the gross domestic product (GDP), which hit a nearly 20-year high of 8.2 percent in the summer quarter. The rate remained strong, averaging 5 percent in the past two quarters, and economists expect growth to continue at that rate for some time.

But job creation has not rebounded like GDP growth, running at about 10,000 a month in the past year. Mr. Bush’s Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry, has made the issue a central part of his presidential campaign, blaming the Bush administration for the loss of 2.2 million jobs since the president took office.

The Massachusetts Democrat this week pledged to create 10 million jobs in his first term if elected, although he offered few specifics on the plan.

Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said Mr. Bush is seeking to blame others for the job losses.

“They have every excuse in the world for what’s gone wrong and not a single solution to make it right,” she said.

Economists, including Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, think higher productivity, along with the depletion of surplus goods, inevitably will lead to the creation of jobs.

Mr. Bush, who yesterday noted that more than 1 million jobs were lost in the three months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, said: “I understand job creation.”

“We have to do something about it. We’ve got to deal with the economy the way it is. Many people are working, and more and more people are working, but there are some who, frankly, feel like they’re being left behind, and that’s not right,” Mr. Bush said.

The president said community colleges are important because they can coordinate with employers to train students “for the jobs which exist.”

Mr. Bush, who lost Wisconsin in 2000 by about 6,000 votes, said the expected battleground state this year has benefited from his policies. Unemployment is down to 5 percent from 5.8 percent a year ago, and the state exported $11.5 billion of products last year.

“I read this and I wasn’t quite sure — it says that Wisconsin cheese is being sold in France. That’s a good cheese,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “People are finding jobs here in Wisconsin because they’re making products here that people want in other countries.”

Mr. Bush said Mr. Kerry’s tax-and-spend policy proposals are “the enemy of job creation.”

As the president spoke, several hundred protesters marched outside the performing-arts center, chanting, “Bush Go Home.” Some carried signs that said: “9-11 — Bush Knew,” and “Stop Lying To Us.”

Protesters greeted him again when he made an unannounced stop at the annual Governor’s Conference on Emergency Management, but the reception was warmer inside.

“I don’t care about your politics. What I do care about is the fact that you’re serving,” Mr. Bush told the audience of first responders.

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