WASHINGTON – A double-barrel shot from Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean (search) Wednesday blasted both President Bush for "destroying the economy" and his rivals for not opposing the president's policies strongly enough.
"The Bush administration has created a crisis for American workers and brought financial disaster to more and more American families," Dean told an audience at a labor union hall in Iowa, home of the first presidential caucus.
"Too many Democrats in Washington have become so afraid of losing that they have remained silent or only halfheartedly fought the very agenda that is destroying the Democratic dream of America," he added.
Dean is not the only Democrat attacking the administration for the economy. In fact, while he has surged to the top of the polls on his Bush-bashing, anti-war rhetoric, other candidates have focused a great deal on the economy, laid out their own plans and blasted Bush as hard or harder.
Bush has defended his tax cuts by saying that the budget deficit would have occurred anyway because of recession and spending on the war on terror and homeland security.
Bush said he is highly optimistic about the economy and on Wednesday touted his accomplishments.
"Paychecks are already reflecting the reduction in income tax rates, which is providing relief to millions of taxpayers and small businesses," Bush said Wednesday in a Rose Garden press conference. "American families have begun to receive checks from a $400 per child increase in the child tax credit. This time when we say, 'The check's in the mail,' we mean it."
While Bush pledged that his administration would do more to help people find jobs, Dean did not offer any new economic proposals of his own. Instead, he repackaged various ideas he has already laid out on the campaign trail. But most of them, in one form or another, have already made their way through Congress or have been proposed by all or most of his rivals.
Among his suggestions, Dean would:
— Repeal all of the president's tax cuts;
— Raise the minimum wage;
— Expand unemployment insurance;
— Increase aid to states; and
— Cut the cost of health insurance for employers.
His proposals have already drawn fire from Democratic rival Sen. John Kerry (search) of Massachusetts. The two are locked in a tight battle in New Hampshire, the leadoff primary state. Kerry supports some of the Bush tax cuts, saying they help the middle class. In a shot at Dean, Kerry released a statement saying, "Real Democrats don't walk away from the middle class."
Dean has said that creating new jobs in America will require increased government investment, meaning federal spending on things like infrastructure and research and development.
But he has not put a price tag on his proposals, saying he will offer details and specifics in September. That prompted several rival campaigns to note that Dean is doing all sorts of complaining about problems but offering very few solutions.
Fox News' Carl Cameron contributed to this report.