Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry pushed his economic message in two more swing states Wednesday, arguing that his policies will let working families "pay your bills, send your kids to college, buy a house, save a little for retirement, and go out to dinner or a movie once in a while."
At a backyard gathering here and earlier at a union hall in Philadelphia, Kerry promised to "bring quality, high-paying jobs back to America."
His campaign released a letter signed by 10 academic economists, all winners of the Nobel Prize in their discipline, asserting that President Bush and the Republicans have embarked "on a reckless and extreme course that endangers the long-term economic health of our nation."
Among the better-known signers are Paul A. Samuelson and Robert M. Solow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Joseph E. Stiglitz of Columbia, and Kenneth J. Arrow of Stanford.
Their letter says that the Bush administration's tax cuts "were poorly designed and therefore have given insufficient stimulus to job creation."
It continues: "The principal effect of its fiscal policies has been to turn budget surpluses into enormous budget deficits. That fiscal irresponsibility threatens the long-term economic security and prosperity of our nation."
"At the same time," the Nobel winners said, "his policies have exacerbated income inequality, failed to address the real wage declines and rising health care costs beleaguering American families and ignored the need for critical investments to spur long-term growth."
In his morning meeting with the labor audience, Kerry sought to put the same argument in more colloquial language, while rebutting GOP assertions that he is "a pessimist" on the economy. "There's nothing more pessimistic than saying this is the best we can do," said the senator from Massachusetts. "We can do better, and we will."
Standing before a large banner with the words "Jobs-Jobs-Jobs," Kerry said, "We're going to put America back to work." The first question came from a single mother of three who said she had been fired from her factory job without notice and had received no severance pay or temporary health care benefits. Kerry told her that his health care plan would include coverage for all children and that he would provide new job-training benefits for workers in her situation.
Kerry's overnight visit to Philadelphia also included a fundraiser aimed at adding $2 million to Democratic Party campaign funds and a breakfast meeting with African American ministers.
Here in Green Bay, a quiet neighborhood was transformed by Kerry's drop-by into the site of a verbal war between Bush supporters shouting "Four more years" and a larger number of Democrats bellowing "Two more months."
In arguing for different budget priorities than Bush's tax cuts, Kerry quoted legendary Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi as saying: "Who you are depends on what you do with what you have." He urged his listeners to tell conservative neighbors that "there's nothing conservative about piling up debt" as Bush has done.
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are states carried in 2000 by Al Gore that have been targeted by Republicans this year, with multiple visits from Bush and Vice President Cheney.
In Ohio, Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), Kerry's running mate, told audiences in an inner-city Cleveland neighborhood and in a more rural community in Warren that a Democratic administration would reinvest in working-class communities.
"We need a president who stands up for your jobs as much as he fights for his own job," Edwards told a crowd of hundreds at an outdoor rally in Warren.
Earlier in the day, he addressed a smaller group at a community center in Huff, a blighted, predominantly African American neighborhood in Cleveland. Pastors and other residents pressed him on social issues, such as how he and Kerry would deal with parolees returning to communities where jobs are scarce and education expensive.
In his response, Edwards attacked the Bush administration by contending that it "is content to spend $50,000 on housing young people in prison for a long time." But, Edwards said, "how about spending $10,000 on a young person to get them involved in life?"
Both the Kerry and Bush campaigns have focused on Ohio, a key swing state. Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D), who represents Cleveland, said that her constituents are frustrated by administration policies.
"People want to be homeowners, but they're frustrated by the process and by being left out," she said.
In a multi-state trip that began Saturday, Edwards has also kept the pressure on Bush to denounce the ads that have questioned Kerry's military record. At each stop, he has been joined by veterans and politicians who repeated his challenge to Bush.
Rep. Timothy J. Ryan (D-Ohio) told the crowd in Warren that "it's time for President Bush to not only apologize to Senator Kerry but also apologize to every single decorated veteran, because when you call into question the service of a volunteer, you call into question the service of every veteran in the United States, and we're not going to let that happen!"
The enthusiastic crowd chanted, "Outsource Bush!"
Nakamura is traveling with Edwards.