Bush Touts Economic Policies in Kentucky
During Visit to Kentucky, The President Reiterates Call for Making Tax Cuts Permanent
By Jennifer Loven
The Associated Press
Thursday, February 26, 2004; 5:29 PM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- President Bush, armed with an aggressive new campaign speech and locals hand-picked to trumpet his economic policies, argued Thursday that America should keep him as president.
Outside his two carefully orchestrated and supporter-stocked appearances in this friendly Southern state, however, some voters had doubts.
Bruce Crater, an employee of the thriving plastic pipe factory that Bush visited to tout his tax cuts and other economic proposals, gave the president a "B-minus" grade and said he hasn't decided whether to vote for him again this year.
"We're seeing some turnaround," said Crater, a fabricator at ISCO Industries. "It's just going to take a long time to come back."
Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn., blasted Bush for proposing the same economic solutions he did nearly four years ago when the country was experiencing a budget surplus instead of today's soaring deficits.
"The country needs something different from an economic standpoint," Ford said in a conference call arranged by the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.
And from ISCO Industries, Bush went to a luncheon that raised $1.2 million for his re-election campaign -- only to be greeted by about 100 protesters waving signs lettered with a single word: "Jobs."
Bush took on his detractors. Speaking before 1,000 GOP contributors who paid $2,000 each to hear him defend his record, the president said voters will have a "very clear choice" this November between his approach to governing and the Democrats'.
Democratic leadership, he said, would bring higher taxes and oppose "every idea that gives Americans more authority and more choices and more control over our own lives." Bush added that a Democratic leader would create a nation "uncertain in the face of danger," and be less than aggressive in battling global terrorism.
"Our opponents have not offered much in the way of strategies to win the war or policies to expand the economy," Bush said. "So far, all we hear is a lot of old bitterness and partisan anger."
Bush said his continued leadership offered a "positive vision for the years ahead."
"The man who sits in the Oval Office will set the course of the war on terror and the direction of our economy," he said. "The security and prosperity of America are at stake."
The event at ISCO Industries was designed to showcase the positive impact of Bush's tax cuts. The five people chosen to share the stage with him offered tales of good times -- all of which, they said, was a result from the cuts.
Rich Gimmel, president of Atlas Machine and Supply, told Bush his Louisville company has "really accelerated" its investment in equipment. Jeannie Unruh, CEO of Mac Construction and Excavating in nearby New Albany, Ind., said her firm was able to plow its $100,000 in tax savings into covering its employees' health insurance costs. ISCO employee Rob Hansen said the $1,200 child tax credit check he and his wife received last August went toward school supplies, medical bills, and eyeglasses for his oldest daughter.
And ISCO President Jimmy Kirchdorfer said he planned to continue adding workers -- an estimated 30 next year.
"Thirty jobs here, 30 jobs there -- all around the country, small businesses are expanding because there's a sense of optimism about the future of this country," Bush interjected. "Look at what we've overcome."
Job creation has been a sensitive issue for Bush. The unemployment rate has been falling and payrolls growing modestly in recent months. More than 8 million Americans were out of work last month.
Bush repeated his call for Congress to make the tax cuts permanent as a way to stimulate more economic activity.
The president was due to travel from Kentucky to Charlotte, N.C., for a similar round of appearances there, including a round-table discussion on his job training proposals with local businessmen at a community college and another fund-raiser. But snowy weather scotched those plans, which aides said would be rescheduled, and the president headed straight back to Washington instead.
© 2004 The Associated Press