President Bush’s economic team rolled by bus across America’s heartland Tuesday, touting a new round of tax cuts as the medicine needed to cure a sick economy.
However, the president’s traveling team stirred up skepticism along the way, from factory workers who have seen more than 2 million manufacturing jobs disappear over the last three years and from other critics who contend that Bush’s tax cuts mainly have helped the wealthy while creating soaring budget deficits.
As they tried to talk up the economy, the administration team had to contend with another dose of bad economic news: The consumer confidence index fell to 76.6 in July, nearly a seven-point drop from 83.5 in June. Analysts had expected a 1.5-point increase in the index produced by the Conference Board, an industry group.
Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao dismissed the decline, saying the survey was taken before American workers and families started to see the benefits from the latest round of Bush tax cuts.
The two-day bus tour in Wisconsin and Minnesota, states which Bush narrowly lost in the 2000 election, was timed to coincide with the lower payroll tax withholding, which took effect this month, and with the mailing of child-tax credits of up to $400 per child.
Both are elements of the $330-billion tax cut package Congress passed in May.
During a stop at a Harley-Davidson motorcycle manufacturing plant in a Milwaukee suburb, Snow insisted that stimulus from tax cuts would help the economy grow.
Democrats, who for the most part opposed the president’s three rounds of tax cuts that total more than $1.8 trillion through 2011, criticized the bus tour.
“George Bush and his team should spend more time fixing the economy and less time touting a job growth record that doesn’t exist,” said Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who is campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the Bush team was trying to mask that the economy has lost roughly 3 million jobs since Bush took office, while the federal budget has gone from surpluses to record deficits.