Kerry Campaigns In New Jersey
Spencer Platt  /  Getty Images
Kerry speaks at the New Jersey AFL-CIO's convention in Atlantic City.
updated 6/15/2004 12:03:15 PM ET 2004-06-15T16:03:15

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry on Tuesday accused President Bush of ignoring American values in his economic policies by giving tax cuts to the wealthy and running up the deficit on the backs of workers and the needy.

“All these politicians running around talking about values, I just think it’s wrong,” Kerry told the New Jersey State AFL-CIO. “For middle-class Americans to be saddled with endless debt and deficits while the most fortunate among us walk away with billions in tax cuts. Where does that value come from? As president, I’m going to fight to put America’s tax code in line with our moral code.”

Kerry also criticized the Bush administration for preparing to cut budgets for education, domestic security, veterans and other programs after the election, citing White House planning documents.

“If you think that is compassionate conservatism, then Dick Cheney is Mr. Rogers,” he said at the start of a two-week focus on economic problems facing middle-class Americans.

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Video: Kerry: Middle class squeezed

“This reckless deficit will not be put on the backs of veterans, cops and firefighters,” Kerry said to applause from the union, which is backing his campaign. “It will not be put on the backs of women and children in need. The price of these deficits will not be paid for by the poor. Let me tell you my fundamental value — you don’t make America strong by attacking the weak. And we are going to make that clear on November second of this year.”

Bush’s re-election campaign said the economy is growing and that Kerry chooses to focus on the negative in a “pessimism and misery tour.” Bush is running a television ad that makes the same point and says of Kerry, “Pessimism never created a job.”

“President Bush’s tax cuts put more money into the pockets of America’s middle-class families,” Bush spokesman Steve Schmidt said. “John Kerry has a long history of voting to raise taxes on middle-income voters.”

Although unemployment has risen overall during the last three years of Bush’s presidency, 1.2 million jobs have been created so far this year. But Kerry still says Bush has not done enough to help fill the average American’s pocketbook.

“More than a million Americans who were working three years ago have lost their jobs and the new jobs that are finally being created pay an average of $9,000 less a year,” Kerry said.

“But as wages are going down — ha-ha, guess what — your costs, health care costs are going up 50 percent, tuitions are going up 35 percent, your bills are going up, gasoline prices are going up. I’m running for president because I want an economy that strengthens and expands the middle class, not one that squeezes it,” he said.

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