DETROIT - Sharpening his attack on President Bush and his domestic agenda, Democratic challenger John Kerry yesterday told a breakfast meeting of the Detroit Economic Club that "this President has created more excuses than jobs.''
"His is the excuse presidency. Never wrong, never responsible, never to blame," Mr. Kerry said. "President Bush's desk isn't where the buck stops. It's where the blame begins. He's blamed just about everyone but himself and his administration for America's economic problems."
More than 1,000 members of the club, which Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm acknowledged leans politically conservative, gave Mr. Kerry a cordial response for his remarks, which included a four-part economic plan the candidate said would be hallmarks of his economic agenda if elected.
●●To reform the federal tax code to remove incentives for businesses to ship jobs overseas and to enforce existing trade agreements.
●●To reform the energy and health-care insurance systems, with the government picking up the costs when medical expenses reach $50,000.
●●To invest in the development of new technologies and in higher education for the next generation of workers, offering tax benefits of up to $4,000 per year for students to attend college or technical schools, or to be retrained for new work.
●●To bring budgetary restraint to Capitol Hill, pushing to cut the deficit in half over four years to reduce the tax burden on Americans.
Kerry economic adviser Gene Sperling told reporters on a conference call Tuesday that while the packaging for yesterday's speech was new, the ideas have been staples of Mr. Kerry's campaign speeches for months.
Mr. Kerry, calling himself an "entrepreneurial Democrat," said, "We will create good-paying, middle-class jobs right here in America. Today, if a company is torn between creating jobs in Michigan or Malaysia, we now have a tax code that encourages you to go overseas. George Bush thinks that's right. I believe it's wrong, and as President, I will end it."
Mr. Sperling acknowledged that the provision of the tax code to which Mr. Kerry referred is not a creation of the Bush administration but has been in place for "several decades."
The harder edge to the Kerry speech here, like the speech delivered Tuesday in Toledo, developed after several former staffers to President Clinton joined the Kerry campaign as advisers. One of them, Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, traveled to Detroit yesterday to introduce Mr. Kerry.
Betsy DeVos, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party and a longtime member of the Detroit Economic Club, called the idea of a Kerry presidency "scary."
Voters, she predicted, will choose their next President based on who they think will succeed in the war on terror and in building a strong economy.
Also attending the speech was her counterpart, Mark Brewer, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.
"I think Kerry has demonstrated he would be just as strong on the war on terror as the President has been in defending the country. I think people are much more interested in bread-and-butter issues, at least in this area," he said.
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