John Kerry, on the final leg of his bus tour of industrial states, on Wednesday called for new technology investments to revitalize the Rust Belt and create “an economy that is based on people and products not perks and privilege.”
Speaking at a United Auto Workers union hall, the Democratic presidential candidate said President Bush has a responsibility to help people out of work, even if he’s not entirely to blame for some job losses.
“I’m not going to tell you that every job lost is his fault,” Kerry said. “I’m not going to say that to you. But you know what, at least come out and look the people in the eye who’ve lost their job and say we’re going to give you the job training, we’re going to give you the health care.”
Kerry’s bus tour took him by the mines of West Virginia, the steel communities of Pennsylvania and Ohio and the auto plants of Michigan. All four states have lost manufacturing jobs under Bush, and all four are up for grabs in the presidential race.
Kerry promises voters that if he is elected, he would create 10 million jobs during his first term.
“I want an economy that is based on people and products not perks and privilege for the wealthy and the connected,” Kerry said.
Since Bush took office in January 2001, some 1.8 million jobs have been lost, according to government figures. In March, the economy added 308,000 jobs — the most in four years.
Among the initiatives Kerry was proposing Wednesday is a guarantee program that would help small- and medium-sized manufacturers get credit to invest in new technology. He also said he would increase funding for military research and direct the Defense Department to invest in broadband, biotechnology, nanotechnology and energy independence. To prepare the work force, Kerry pledged to improve math and science education and enhance job training.
“The bottom line: I believe that the best days of the Rust Belt aren’t behind us, they’re ahead of us,” Kerry said in text prepared for delivery Wednesday afternoon at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Mich.
President Bush’s campaign chided Kerry for failing to explain how much all the new proposals would cost. Kerry had said earlier this month that he would explain how he would finance his new ideas without increasing the deficit or raising middle class taxes.
Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry’s plan is “a further indication that there is a massive tax increase coming for middle-income families when John Kerry becomes president.”
Kerry economic policy director Jason Furman said Kerry would detail the cost of major new ideas, but the plans he was announcing Wednesday would be a small part of the overall budget and can be funded by making shifts from other federal programs.
During the bus tour, Kerry’s criticism of Bush’s economic stewardship was coupled with his questioning of Bush’s military record during the Vietnam War. Kerry questioned whether Bush always reported for duty in the Texas Air National Guard in response to questions about his own anti-war activities after returning from battle in Vietnam.
“I think a lot of veterans are going to be very angry at a president who can’t account for his own service in the National Guard, and a vice president who got every deferment in the world and decided he had better things to do, criticizing somebody who fought for their country and served,” Kerry told the Dayton Daily News.
To prove the president showed up for duty during a temporary transfer to an Alabama base, the White House has released pay records and a copy of a dental exam Bush received on the base.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., emerging from a Capitol Hill meeting for Democrats with Kerry campaign chairwoman Jeanne Shaheen on Wednesday, said the president should explain what he was doing while in the National Guard.
“As far as we know, Senator Kerry got three Purple Hearts for risking his life in Vietnam and President Bush got a dental examination in Alabama,” Pelosi said.
Bush and Vice President Cheney personally have not commented on Kerry’s military service or his anti-war protests, but Bush adviser Karen Hughes said Kerry misled Americans by “pretending” to throw his medals away after returning from Vietnam.
Bush campaign spokeswoman Nicolle Devenish said Kerry is attacking Bush to avoid explaining his Senate record on defense and security measures.