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Bush Again Touts Tax Cut Plan

January 23, 2003|Edwin Chen and James Gerstenzang | Times Staff Writers

ST. LOUIS — President Bush on Wednesday traveled to the middle of the country to press the benefits of his new tax cut proposal for middle-income families.

He decried "the typical class warfare rhetoric" that he said Democrats have used "to pit one group of people against another" to defeat his $674-billion economic stimulus package. The bulk of the proposal -- $670 billion -- would cut taxes, and Bush defended his plan as a matter of "fairness."

He said it would cut an average of $1,083 from the tax bills of 92 million Americans. He also said it would help create 2.1 million jobs over three years. That would be a sharp turnaround from the nearly 1.7 million jobs lost since Bush took office two years ago this week.

With concerns about his stewardship of the economy driving down his poll ratings, Bush visited JS Logistics, a trucking and warehouse business that opened 20 years ago with five employees. It has grown to 125 workers and $24 million in annual revenue and operates satellite offices in four other states.

"Twenty-three million small-business owners will receive an average tax cut of $2,042 under this plan," Bush said.

"It's a lot of money to somebody who has got two employees," he said. "It's a lot of money to somebody making a decision whether or not to expand a business."

While Bush was speaking, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) labeled the tax plan the "Leave No Millionaire Behind Act." He said it faced growing opposition.

"There is a concern about its size, its unfairness," Daschle said. He added that it should be redrawn to provide short-term relief and stimulus for the economy; less relief to those at the top of the economic ladder and more to those on the lower rungs; and help to states struggling to balance their budgets.

Recent polls have detected a current of dissatisfaction with the president's economic policies that the Democrats are seeking to tap.

An ABC News/Washington Post survey this week reported that 53% of those polled disapprove of the way Bush is handling the economy, and 61% think the tax plan favors the rich. A CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll two weeks ago found that 55% thought Bush was not paying sufficient attention to the economy.

Showing a defensiveness about the polls, a senior White House official said that with 59% approving Bush's overall performance as president, his standing was similar to the ratings that President Reagan received in October 1984, and that President Clinton received in October 1996, one month before each was reelected by wide margins.

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Chen reported from St. Louis, Gerstenzang from Washington.

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