- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 4, 2006

CRAWFORD, Texas — President Bush yesterday said liberals “want to wall off our economy from the world,” but Democrats countered that American workers “are being hurt by unfair trade practices by other countries.”

The exchange came as Mr. Bush complained that Democrats allowed a research-and-development tax break to expire at the end of last year, putting U.S. firms at a disadvantage with foreign competitors.

“The House and Senate are now considering another temporary extension, but a temporary extension does not allow our innovators to plan and invest with certainty,” the president said in his weekly radio address.

“Other countries offer permanent tax incentives for research and development,” he added. “To keep America the world’s leader in technology and innovation, Congress needs to make the tax credit for research and development permanent.”

As part of his push for an increase in American competitiveness, Mr. Bush called on Democrats to abandon their opposition to free trade. Last year, Democrats overwhelmingly voted against implementing the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

“We cannot afford to be complacent,” the president said. “We’re seeing the rise of new competitors, like China and India, who are making great strides in technology.

“In response, some people want to wall off our economy from the world,” he added. “That is called protectionism.”

But Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a Democrat, complained that workers in her state “are struggling as their jobs are being shipped overseas.” She called Michigan “the epicenter of America’s manufacturing crisis.”

In the Democratic response to the president’s radio address, Mrs. Granholm told Mr. Bush she is “waiting for you to take a stand for those workers — the ones who are being hurt by unfair trade practices by other countries — and for the American businesses that are being slammed by health care costs, and for the American automakers that are fighting hard to compete.”

Mrs. Granholm said the president used Tuesday’s State of the Union address to say: “Automakers, you’re on your own. Manufacturers, you’re on your own. Citizens, you’re on your own.”

She added: “In this global economy, though, we can’t ask our citizens and businesses to just go it alone.”

Despite the sharp rhetoric, Mrs. Granholm rattled off a list of initiatives that mirrored those espoused by the president. They included an expansion of health care and drug coverage, a tax cut to help manufacturers and an emphasis on teaching science and math to American students.

Mr. Bush signed into law a prescription-drug benefit for senior citizens in 2003, he cut taxes on manufacturers, and he spent the last week pushing math and science education.

“Math and science are critical to many of our country’s fastest-growing industries,” he said yesterday. “So we must encourage our children to take more math and science classes and make sure those classes are rigorous enough to compete with other nations.”

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