Sen. John F. Kerry and President Bush continued to trade barbs Thursday over who is more optimistic about the economy, with Bush touting new economic indicators and Kerry promoting his proposals to help the working class.

"The economy has shifted into a higher gear," Bush told a meeting of the National Federation of Independent Business in Washington.

Taking a dig at his Democratic challenger, Bush said there are "modern-day economic pessimists around who are quick to offer dire predictions and complaints. But you know what they do not offer is pro-growth economic policies. They can find the dark cloud, but they can't see the sunshine. They don't know where to take the country."

On a tarmac in Detroit, Kerry shot back that it is he who is most optimistic about the economy. "The truth is, I believe in the American economy and I believe I know how to put us back to work," he told reporters before addressing an AFL-CIO meeting with that message.

"They think everything is okay today. They want to sell status quo to the American people and call that good. They can do that," he said. "I'm selling better. The working people of America can have better incomes, we can create better jobs in America."

Later, opening a two-day western swing, Bush used remarks at a GOP fund-raiser in Spokane, Wash., to argue for patience in Iraq, drawing an analogy to the ruins of Germany after World War II. Bush told the audience he wanted to read "something I think you'll find interesting from the New York Times." That drew derisive laughter, but Bush interrupted to say the passage was from 1946.

"Germany is a land in an acute stage of economic, political and moral crisis. The basic elements of recovery and peace are lacking," he read. Bush then said: "Now, that was a pessimistic view of the future for Germany. Fortunately, my predecessors were not pessimistic people." Bush did not mention that the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe was not proposed until 1947.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Presidential Debates rolled out its proposals for this year's debates, which include three presidential debates and one vice presidential debate. The debates probably would exclude independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader unless he received 15 percent support in polls.

While the campaigns must approve final plans, the commission has proposed holding the first debate, on domestic policy, Sept. 30 at the University of Miami in Coral Gables. The second would be a town hall setting Oct. 8 at Washington University in St. Louis, with the candidates taking questions from undecided voters. The final debate, on foreign policy, would be Oct 13 at Arizona State University in Tempe. Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland would hold the vice presidential debate on Oct 5. Florida, Missouri, Arizona and Ohio are considered battleground states.

Kerry spent the better part of the day in Detroit, accompanied by Al Sharpton. The candidate addressed the AFL-CIO, and then attended two fundraisers, one for Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) and one for his campaign.

Kerry -- who has been invoking Bill Clinton's economic success -- said he welcomes the former president's upcoming book and book tour. "I think that both are going to remind Americans about some very, very good years in terms of the economy . . . and the policy directions we took," he told reporters here.

Staff writer Mike Allen in Tacoma, Wash., contributed to this report.

"The economy has shifted into a higher gear," President Bush told a meeting of the National Federation of Independent Business in Washington.