COLUMBIA, S.C. – Democrat Joe Lieberman (search), warning that America is "hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs," promises to reverse the trend as president with tax incentives and tougher trade policies.
Lieberman called President Bush's massive tax cuts (search) a disaster for working Americans and accused some Democrats of dangerous protectionism.
"Rather than thinking we can build walls around our economy, as some Democrats would have us do, I want to build bridges to markets around the world for American-made goods," Lieberman said in the text of a Friday address provided to The Associated Press.
Aides said the senator was referring to rival Dick Gephardt, the Missouri congressman who has criticized many free trade deals and Democrats like Lieberman who back them.
In his Friday speech to workers at a high-technology manufacturing company in Salem, N.H., Lieberman pledges to be more aggressive than Bush in enforcing free-commerce laws against countries running up trade surpluses with the United States.
He pointed specifically to America's $100 billion trade debt with China, accusing the nation of manipulating Chinese currency to give its exports to the U.S. unfair advantage over American goods.
"There is an economic attack occurring against us that the administration simply is not defending against," the Connecticut senator said in an interview previewing the address.
Lieberman's plan calls for a government-wide crackdown on piracy of intellectual property (search), elimination of a $2 billion loophole for offshore corporations and doubling the number of U.S. trade law enforcers overseas.
Aides said they did not know the cost of Lieberman's package, which includes expensive tax incentives to companies creating manufacturing jobs or keeping them in America.
Lieberman is the first candidate to target his efforts at a single economic sector. Aides said this effort is part of a broader plan he will produce later in the campaign.
The loss of manufacturing jobs has upset the economies of many early voting states, including New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina.
Lieberman's plan includes:
- Giving tax credits to companies based on the percentage of manufacturing jobs they keep in the United States. Similar legislation is pending in Congress.
- Eliminating capital gains taxes for investments in new manufacturing firms that are small to mid-sized. Lieberman has proposed this measure in the past.
- Offering investment tax credits for purchases of information technology such as software used to run payrolls.
- Expanding a program that provides grants to communities with ailing companies, drawing in more local governments that have manufacturing firms.
Lieberman said he would spend money to train workers, help develop the next generation of manufacturing plants and wire the nation to high-speed Internet.
In the interview, Lieberman said about 3.1 million jobs have been lost during Bush's term, about 80 percent of them manufacturing, while 1.3 million middle-class Americans have fallen into poverty and the federal government has scored massive deficits.
"The crisis within a crisis is we're hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs," he said.
Like his eight rivals, Lieberman hopes the lagging economy turns voters against Bush, who has used the war on terrorism to bolster his popularity.