IMAGE: President Bush talks with Marine Spc. Robert Jackson in Des Moines
Matthew Putney  /  AP
President Bush talks with Marine Spc. Robert Jackson in Des Moines on Thursday before boarding Air Force One. Jackson lost both his legs in an explosion last August in Iraq.
updated 4/15/2004 5:52:34 PM ET 2004-04-15T21:52:34

As millions of Americans filed their tax returns Thursday, President Bush told hundreds of Midwesterners in a state he lost four years ago that his tax cuts were boosting economic growth.

“Tax relief we passed is helping to drive the economy forward ... just at the right time” following a recession and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Bush, who was headlining a two-day symposium on rural America. He said the economy lost 1 million jobs in just three months after the attacks.

This year is “a little better” because of his administration’s tax cuts, the president said, crediting them with helping to create 308,000 jobs last month and 750,000 since August.

Bush said the American people expected the government to keep the taxpayers’ burden as low as possible, and “I take that responsibility seriously.”

Before Bush spoke, the White House issued a “fact sheet” stating that 109 million taxpayers would see their taxes decline this year by an average of $1,544.

“I’m pleased to stand beside the tax-cutter-in-chief of the United States,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who introduced the president.

Partisan message for bipartisan event
The symposium, sponsored by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines, was led by Grassley, the head of Bush’s re-election campaign in the state, and Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat whom Bush helped try to oust in 2002.

Bush’s Democratic opponent, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, told students at Howard University in Washington that the president was misleading Americans about tax policies, both Kerry’s and his own, and accused Bush of a “big truth deficit.”

Although Iowa carries only seven electoral votes, Bush and Kerry are battling hard for the state. Both men and their aligned interest groups are airing TV ads there. Bush lost the state in 2000 by fewer than 5,000 votes.

It was the second time since taking office that the president marked the April 15 tax-filing deadline in Iowa. Bush’s previous visit was to Cedar Rapids on April 15, 2002, when he raised money for Harkin’s opponent and argued — as was the plan for Thursday — for tax cuts enacted in 2002 to be made permanent.

Bush wants to keep in place key tax cuts that are set to expire at year’s end: an increase in the child tax credit, tax reductions for some married couples who would pay more than they would as individual filers and an expansion of the bottom 10 percent tax bracket.

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Both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney benefited from the tax cuts they pushed through Congress.

Bush and his wife, Laura, paid $227,490 in federal income taxes last year, about 28 percent of their adjusted gross income of $822,126. In 2002, about 31 percent of their adjusted gross income of $856,056 went to federal taxes.

The difference from one year to the next was even more pronounced for the vice president.

Cheney and his wife, Lynne, owed $253,067 in federal taxes last year,  about 20 percent of their adjusted gross income of $1.3 million. In 2002, they earned slightly less but paid more in taxes, 29 percent of their $1.2 million in income.

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