Kansas City — In a 45-minute speech Thursday, President George W. Bush said the lagging economy is beginning to turn around thanks in part to his tax cuts, which he wants to make permanent.
“America’s economy today is showing signs of promise,” said Bush as he addressed a packed Kansas City Convention Center. “Our economy is starting to grow again. Americans are feeling more confident.”
With a little more than a year left until the next presidential election, Bush said tax cuts are spurring economic growth, and he will pressure Congress to make them permanent. He blamed the recent recession on the stockmarket’s dramatic decline in 2000, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the rash of corporate scandals.
But not all Missouri politicians agree that Bush’s policies have been good for the country.
In a statement released after Bush’s speech, U.S. Rep. and Democratic presidential candidate Dick Gephardt said the president’s policies are sinking the country and leaving thousands of Americans out of work.
“In my views, his policies have failed,” Gephardt’s statement read. “He is taking our country and our economy in the wrong direction.”
Since Bush took office in 2001 around 3 million people have been fired or layed off from their jobs, about 2.7 million of them in manufacturing.
Missouri Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Talent, who accompanied Bush to Kansas City, said he agrees with Bush’s policies and believes the economy is moving forward. He said there still a lot that can be done to lower Missouri’s unemployment rate.
In July, more than 165,700 Missourians were jobless, raising the state’s unemployment rate to 5.6 percent. The national unemployment rate is currently 6.2 percent.
Columbia’s unemployment rate was 1.9 percent in May, the lowest in Missouri and one of the lowest in the country.
Despite Columbia’s high employment levels, recent layoffs at the University of Missouri-Columbia and other state agencies have some local politicians concerned about the direction of the country.
“Our local economy has historically been able to weather changes in the national economy,” said Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia. “This time it may have difficulty doing so.”
One mid-Missourian hurt by the down economy is Amy Bax of Jefferson City. She was laid off last May from her job as a marketing specialist at the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Bax, who has been unable to find a new job, said she has two children under the age of 2 and recently purchased a new home.
“This is happening to a lot of people at the state government,” she said. “A lot of people were laidoff in the department, some found another job, but there are others who are just out of work.”
Missourian reporter Adam Behsudi contributed to this story.