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The Administration's Keystone Credibility Gap

From The Progress Report

President Bush is slated to visit Pennsylvania to talk about the economy tomorrow – and he has some explaining to do. For the last two months, the administration has told Pennsylvanians about its two top economic priorities. In January, the president bludgeoned the state’s senior Republican senator and rammed through legislation that cut off overtime pay protections for 8 million workers. And this month, in the face of the state losing 14 percent of its manufacturing jobs, the White House showed lack of concern for the problem by placing a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette headlined, ” Bush Economic Report Praises ‘Outsourcing’ Jobs .” In a state that has seen its labor force contract by more than 100,000 jobs in the last year alone while wages stagnate, the Harrisburg Patriot News notes “the words ‘jobless recovery’ are heard over and over again” – something the president should keep in mind before he again tells Pennsylvanians how great their economy is doing.

The president has made two recent trips to Pennsylvania, telling citizens there that his economic plan is working. On 12/2/03, he said at a Pittsburgh fundraiser that he got “the economy going again” by passing tax cuts which “laid the foundation for greater prosperity and more jobs.” And on 1/31/04, he said in Philadelphia, “Congress heard the needs of the people looking for jobs, it responded, the tax cuts are working. And now we need to make them permanent.” His rhetoric flies in the face of reality in Pennsylvania. According to the non-partisan Keystone Research Center, job creation in Pennsylvania has fallen 57,100 jobs short of what the Bush administration promised for the state in passing its “Jobs and Growth” tax cut.

In Harrisburg, Bush is slated hold “a conversation on education and the 21st century jobs initiative” – his new initiative to add $500 million in funding to job training. But as an American Progress backgrounder notes, this comes on the heels of the White House’s past efforts to cut more than $1 billion out of the same job training programs. Additionally, in the White House’s 2005 budget, the WP notes other job training programs “face cuts or elimination, such as one-stop career centers, youth opportunity grants and migrant worker training.”

A recent report by the Keystone Research Center finds “new jobs in Pennsylvania’s expanding industries pay, on average, 23 percent less that jobs lost in contracting industries.” In response, not only has the administration trumpeted the shift of good paying jobs offshore – which many companies try to hide – and fought off Sen. Arlen Specter’s (R-PA) legislation to protect overtime pay, but AP also reported on 1/6/04 that the Administration has published documents that “suggest ways employers can avoid paying overtime” under the new rules. Specter, outraged at the assault on working families, said “this is a bad time to be cutting back on overtime when so many workers are relying on overtime for their sustenance” and “wondered whether it is wise to cut workers’ discretionary spending now, ‘given the fragility of the economy.'” (See this American Progress backgrounder and this data digest more on the wage problem afflicting the nation.)

At the same time the overtime debate raged, the administration sponsored a conference encouraging American companies to ship more jobs to China. It has also opposed a minimum wage increase here at home. And while a record number of workers exhaust their unemployment benefits, the White House’s allies in Congress have repeatedly opposed extending unemployment benefits. True, progressives on Capitol Hill were recently able to muscle through a temporary unemployment benefit extension, but as the Minneapolis Star Tribune points out, the President has yet to make clear whether he will endorse that legislation.

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