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Daschle blames bush

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Daschle attacks Bush for what senator calls `atrocious' economic record
By Alan Fram, Associated Press, 9/18/2002 15:24
WASHINGTON (AP) Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle launched a pre-election attack on President Bush's economic record on Wednesday, accusing him of doing little to spur the listless economy or address job and stock market losses, eroded retirement accounts and vanishing budget surpluses.

The South Dakota Democrat's 35-minute address on the Senate floor, replete with poster-sized charts, came during a run-up to congressional elections that have been dominated in recent weeks by talk of war with Iraq. Democrats long have preferred campaign seasons to be dominated by domestic issues, which polls traditionally show are more to their advantage.

''Regardless of what it is we do with Iraq and the war on terrorism, I'd hope this administration can dedicate some of its time each week to economic security as well, ... to this atrocious record'' on the economy, Daschle said.

''It takes leadership not only with regard to international and foreign policy, but to help here at home on economic policy as well. We haven't seen it to date,'' he added.

Daschle's remarks prompted an immediate response from Republicans, who said Daschle and the Democratic-led Senate have done little.

''Even if you accept all that as a problem and a lot of it is, what is your plan?'' Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said of the issues Daschle named. ''Quit being critical without offering any alternatives.''

Added Trent Duffy, spokesman for the White House budget office: ''It's a shame when America is so united that Senator Daschle is trying to return us to partisanship and politics.''

Democrats said Daschle's remarks were part of a plan for party officials and candidates to hold events around the country emphasizing the economy's importance as an issue.

''Americans are worried about the direction the economy is headed,'' said Bill Buck, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee.

Senate Democrats are hoping to increase their 50-49 majority, plus a Democratic-leaning independent, in the November elections. But races in many states seem very close and either party could emerge in control of the Senate and the GOP-run House.

The comments by Daschle, who is mentioned as a possible presidential candidate for 2004, were reminiscent of similar attacks Democrats launched on the first President Bush in 1992, when the economy was also climbing out of a recession.

Among the statistics Daschle cited for the current Bush administration were 2 million lost jobs, a low 1 percent economic growth, a $4.5 trillion loss in stock market values, and drops in the value of workers' retirement savings and in consumer confidence.

At the same time, health care costs and foreclosures have increased, huge projected federal surpluses have all but vanished and the government is once again spending Social Security surpluses to pay for other programs, Daschle said. He also contrasted the lucrative compensation paid to many corporate executives with that of minimum wage earners.

''They have one economic all-purpose antidote for everything, and that is tax cuts, tax cuts largely dedicated to those at the very top,'' he said, sounding a familiar Democratic theme.

In a written statement, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said Daschle ignored ''the Democrats' real desire to increase taxes to pay for more spending.''

Some Democrats though not Daschle have suggested blocking parts of last year's tax cut that have yet to take effect.

''Senator Daschle, the American people don't want more political speeches. They want tangible results,'' Hastert said.

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