updated 3/6/2004 1:16:03 PM ET 2004-03-06T18:16:03

President Bush said Saturday the choice for voters this November is clear: lower taxes to stimulate growth or higher taxes that will stunt job creation.

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Bush defended his record on the economy Saturday and implied that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry would raise taxes and hurt the economy.

“Raising taxes will make it harder for people to find work,” Bush said during a news conference in Crawford, Texas, with Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Bush did not mention Kerry by name.

His comments came a day after a Labor Department report showed the economy added only 21,000 jobs in February, far below the 125,000 that economists had forecast. The government also downgraded job gains for January from 112,000 to 97,000.

Bush insisted, however, that the economy is rebounding.

“The economy is getting stronger. We’ve overcome a lot. We’ve been through a recession. We’ve been through an attack. We’ve been through corporate scandals. We’ve been through war. And our economy is getting stronger,” he said.

Bush said reducing regulation, changing rules on nuisance lawsuits and making his tax cuts permanent will strengthen the economy. "The question is who brings forth the best growth
policies," Bush said.

Kerry seizes on new data
Kerry seized on the new labor numbers Friday as additional evidence of disappearing jobs during the Bush administration, saying the losses "rip the heart out of our economy." More than 2.2 million payroll jobs have been lost since Bush took office -- a figure Kerry has repeatedly raised on the campaign trial as proof that new leadership is needed in the White House.

Addressing economic problems of his own at the news conference, Fox stressed the importance of Mexico as a trading partner.

He said Mexico's trade relationship with the United States is a two-way commercial street. "Mexico buys from the United States in volume that equals Germany, Spain, Italy, and France. All this creates employment," said Fox.

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