WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats seized on a gloomy U.S. jobs report on Friday to deride President George W. Bush’s economic policies, while the White House defended its record on what is becoming a key issue in November’s election.
“Today’s dismal jobs news should put to rest any doubts that our economy is in deep trouble,” Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said in a statement after a government report showed a second straight month of U.S. job losses.
“This troubling news comes at the end of a week where oil topped $104 a barrel and we learned that home foreclosures hit an all time high in the fourth quarter of 2007.”
The Labor Department reported the U.S. economy lost 63,000 jobs last month, after 22,000 jobs were lost in January.
Adding to the dismal employment picture, the department said only 41,000 jobs were created in December -- half the 82,000 originally estimated.
Bush said the economy had slowed but the government had administered a “booster shot” through a stimulus package whose impact would start to be seen in coming months.
“Losing a job is painful and I know Americans are concerned about our economy. So am I,” Bush said.
“It’s clear our economy has slowed. But the good news is we anticipated this and took decisive action to bolster the economy by passing a growth package that will put money into the hands of American workers and businesses.”
DEMOCRATS PUSH EXTRA MEASURES
Amid campaigning for November’s presidential election, the jobs report could give impetus to Democratic efforts to bring in more economic stimulus measures beyond the $152 billion in cash rebates and business tax breaks signed by Bush.
Democrats, who control Congress, are pushing legislation to deliver billions of dollars to local governments hardest hit by foreclosures and could erase mortgage debt for those who face losing their homes.
They are working on a broader stimulus package that would include money for roads and other infrastructure.
“The bipartisan economic stimulus passed by the Democratic Congress and signed into law by President Bush earlier this year was an important step forward, but it cannot possibly make up for the dismal performance of our economy over the last seven years,” the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, said.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain, an Arizona senator, told a town hall meeting in Atlanta that the economy “is not in the condition we want it to be” and said lowering taxes and reducing regulation would stimulate growth.
“Today’s unemployment figures are not good. They’re not terrible but they’re not good,” McCain said.
Barack Obama, an Illinois senator battling Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, took a poke at both McCain and Clinton, a New York senator and former first lady.
Obama said Americans “can’t afford John McCain’s promise of four more years of the very same failed Bush economic policies that have failed us for the last eight, and they can’t afford another politician who promises solutions but won’t change the divisive, lobbyist-driven politics in Washington.”
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino played down the criticism of Bush by Obama and Clinton.
“Two candidates for president, who are duking it out in the Democratic primary, are no doubt going to make charges against this president, even if they don’t ring true,” Perino said.
Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by John O’Callaghan
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