- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 2004

DETROIT — President Bush’s economic record doesn’t stack up to recent wartime presidents, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry said yesterday as he called on the president to quit blaming others for a poor economy.

“He sure has a lot of excuses, but as I mentioned a moment ago, 11 presidents — six Democrats, five Republicans, many of whom faced more severe recessions, many who faced bigger wars with bigger expenses — but he is the only one to actually lose jobs on his watch,” Mr. Kerry said.

After sparring last week with Mr. Bush over Iraq and the war on terror, Mr. Kerry has stuck to the domestic front this week, including yesterday’s speech to the Detroit Economic Club, which was his most biting criticism of the president’s economic record to date.

“He’s blamed just about everybody but himself and his administration for America’s economic problems,” Mr. Kerry said. “And if he’s missed you in that process. Don’t worry folks, he’s got 48 days left until the election.”

He said Mr. Bush has lost 1.6 million jobs during his term, becoming the first president in 72 years to preside over a decline. He pointed to the 10-year projections of federal finances, which have gone from a $5 trillion surplus in 2001 to a $5 trillion deficit now. And he said the average American family’s income has fallen $1,500 under Mr. Bush.

But one of Mr. Kerry’s shots at Mr. Bush was demonstrably wrong: He said Mr. Bush has overseen a decline in homeownership rates.

“The ownership level, while high still, is lower than it was in the Clinton years,” he said.

But U.S. Commerce Department figures show just the opposite. In the last quarter of 2000, homeownership stood at 67.5 percent — a record at that time. But in the second quarter of 2004, ownership was at 69.2 percent — the highest in the more than three decades that the U.S. Census Bureau has tracked the rate.

David Wade, a spokesman for Mr. Kerry, said the senator was talking about the rate of increase in homeownership being lower under Mr. Bush than Mr. Clinton.

The ownership level grew 3.3 percent during Mr. Clinton’s eight years, for a rate of 0.4 percent a year. In the first term, it grew 1 percent overall, or at a rate of 0.25 percent.

Under Mr. Bush, the level has grown 1.7 percent through the second quarter of 2004, or an average of 0.5 percent — nearly twice as high as Mr. Clinton’s first term and still slightly higher than his eight years total.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Mr. Bush actually deserves credit for what he’s done for the economy.

“The president’s economic policies got us out of a recession, got our economy growing again and got us creating jobs,” he said.

“Like I said, 1.7 million new jobs in the last year have been created in this country. The unemployment rate is down to 5.4 percent; that’s lower than the averages of the ‘80s — the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. And real after-tax disposable income is up nearly 10 percent.”

Mr. Bush and his surrogates argue they shouldn’t be judged by the economy they were given in 2001, but rather by the economy that President Clinton had when he ran for re-election in 1996.

“On many measures, we’re actually doing better at this point than Bill Clinton did when he was running on the mantle of a great economy,” Ken Mehlman, Bush campaign manager, told reporters during a conference call yesterday.

But Mr. Kerry’s campaign said that argument ignores the fact that more than 10 million jobs were created in Mr. Clinton’s first term and median household incomes rose by $1,481 — nearly the mirror image of the $1,500 drop that the Democrats attribute to Mr. Bush.

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