TOM BEARDEN: With 18 days left in the presidential campaign, Sen. Kerry spent his day crisscrossing the battleground state of Wisconsin.
Beginning in Milwaukee at a technical college, the senator hammered the president's economic record.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Right now we have an economy where for too many people the dream is harder and harder to reach. People play by the rules, they do everything that they're supposed to do, and every time you think you're about to get ahead it just kind of slips away as the prices go up.
In just the past four years we've lost 1.6 million private sector jobs, 67,500 manufacturing jobs right here in Wisconsin. Our opponents suggest that telling the truth about the challenges that we face is pessimistic.
Well, let me tell you something: I think the most pessimistic thing you can say is that America can't do better than we're doing today.
TOM BEARDEN: Sen. Kerry then outlined his plan to keep middle-class families from feeling what he describes as the economic squeeze of increasing costs and declining income.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: I think we need to restore fairness to the middle class of America. (Cheers and applause) And here is exactly how we're going to do it. Here are the plans.
First, we're going to focus on keeping and creating the good jobs here in America. We're going to close the tax loopholes that actually reward companies for shipping jobs overseas, and we're going to use that money to reward the companies that create and keep good jobs here in the United States. (Cheers and applause)
We're going to help American business grow by cutting the corporate tax rate by 5 percent, and we'll give 99 percent of businesses a tax break here at home. We'll provide a new jobs tax credit for hiring, and every small business and manufacturer who decides to add more employees to the payroll will get a credit for doing that.
Second, we'll offer middle-class tax cuts that help families to be able to shoulder the biggest burden of their costs.
TOM BEARDEN: There was mixed economic news today. Activity at the nation's factories was less than anticipated. But the 1.5 percent jump in retail sales was the best showing in six months.
A rebound in automobile sales accounted for a large chunk of that number, but consumers also spent heartily on electronics, building materials, and clothing. (Cheers and applause)
President Bush spent the day in Iowa and talked about job creation to a crowd of his supporters at a rally in Cedar Rapids. He also took a swipe at Sen. Kerry on the issue.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: In the final debate when I talked about the vital link between education and jobs, the senator didn't seem to get it. (Laughter) He said I switched... he said I switched away from jobs and started talking about education. No. Good jobs start with good education. (Cheers and applause)
At a time when most new jobs require at least two years of college, I understand that one of the best ways to keep jobs in America is to make sure our workforce is educated, the most highly skilled, the most creative and the most innovative in the world. That's how we create jobs here in America. (Cheers and applause)
TOM BEARDEN: Earlier in the week the president supported job retraining to help unemployed workers. Today in Cedar Rapids, he said more jobs had been created in the past year and his economic policies would add even more in the future.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The unemployment rate in Iowa is down to 4.5 percent. (Cheers and applause) This economy is moving forward, and we're not going back to the old days of tax and spend. (Cheers and applause) Listen, to make sure, to make sure jobs stay here in America and people can find work, America must be the best place in the world to do business. That means less regulations on the job creators.
That means you've got to do something about the frivolous lawsuits that make it hard for people to expand their businesses. (Cheers and applause) To create jobs and to make sure people can find work, we've got to reject economic isolationism.
We need to open up markets-- for Iowa farm products, for example. See, America can compete with anybody, any time, anywhere so long as the playing field is level.
TOM BEARDEN: President Bush heads to Florida tomorrow. And the next stop for Sen. Kerry is Ohio, yet another fiercely contested state where one poll shows Kerry with a lead and another shows the president ahead.