Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The Bush-Cheney campaign, taking a cue former President Ronald Reagan, yesterday said President Bush has approached the economy “with optimism and new ideas,” while Sen. John Kerry is practicing “the politics of pessimism.”

“Despite evidence that President Bush’s pro-growth policies are working, John Kerry continues to talk down America’s growing economy,” campaign manager Ken Mehlman said.

The senator from Massachusetts, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, yesterday opened a two-week blitz to criticize the Bush administration’s economic policy.

Appearing at a labor rally in Atlantic City, N.J., he said: “I’m running for president because I want an economy that strengthens and expands the middle class, not one that squeezes it.

“Twenty years ago, middle-class families with one parent working used to be able to buy a home and pay for college,” Mr. Kerry said. “But today two incomes barely cover the basics.”

The senator also said the Bush administration is overly optimistic while average Americans are suffering.

Mr. Bush countered that during his term in office, the U.S. economy has weathered a recession, a terrorist attack, corporate scandals and two wars and emerged “incredibly strong.” Sounding a theme made popular by Mr. Reagan, the president said: “I am an optimistic person.”

“I guess if you want to try to find something to be pessimistic about, you can find it, no matter how hard you look, you know? I’m optimistic. I have seen what we have come through,” he said.

The claim by Mr. Bush, who pushed through Congress the largest tax-rate cut in history, is backed by Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and economic numbers.

“Our best judgment is that the economy is growing in a solid fashion,” Mr. Greenspan said yesterday.

“I think this particular recovery has some momentum in it and does not look to be short-lived,” he told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. He also said the September 11 attacks, the recession, corporate scandals and war “did not divert us from the pursuit and eventual achievement of price stability and the greater economic stability that goes with it.”

The economy, according to federal statistics, is growing at the fastest rate in 20 years. Forecasters expect it to grow at a rate of nearly 5 percent for the rest of the year. In the past nine months, the economy has added 1.4 million jobs, although the Bush administration has a net loss of jobs during its tenure.

Although the numbers appear strong, an Associated Press survey last week found that 57 percent of 788 registered voters thought the nation had lost jobs in the past six months.

Focusing on economic growth, and in a nod to Mr. Reagan’s popular optimism, the Bush team is airing ads that portray Mr. Kerry as a pessimist.

In one, aptly title “Pessimism,” a narrator says “the economy has been growing for 10 straight months.”

“John Kerry’s response? He’s talking about the Great Depression. One thing’s sure: Pessimism never created a job,” the ad concludes.

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