WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidates, campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, criticized President Bush's handling of the economy and urged union members Monday to organize labor's support to defeat the president in 2004.
Florida Sen. Bob Graham (search) told a Labor Day rally at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines that "time after time [Bush has] said one thing and acted in another way." He criticized Bush for the rising budget deficit and for not adequately funding the homeland security department.
More than 2,000 people turned out for the Des Moines rally sponsored by the South Central Iowa Federation of Labor.
Sen. John Edwards (search) of North Carolina told the Iowa crowd that President Bush has little in common with working men and women.
He "doesn't come from the same place that most of us come from," said Edwards, who reminded the union members of his family's ties to the labor movement. Edwards father was a mill worker and his mother worked as mail carrier.
In Iowa City, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) called Bush a poor custodian of the nation's economy and condemned the Bush tax cuts as handouts for big corporations.
"Guess who got the tax cut? It certainly wasn't anyone here," Dean told more than 200 union members at a Labor Day picnic. "I believe the way to improve the economy is to give working people a reasonable and fair wage and a decent set of working conditions so maybe they could put a little bit of money into the economy.
Campaigning in New Hampshire, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Rep. Dick Gephardt of Missouri denounced Bush's handling of the economy as the two rivals for the Democratic nomination made joint campaign appearances in Manchester and Milford.
Gephardt characterized Bush's economics as a "survival of the fittest" policy that he said casts aside the middle class in favor of big business and special interests.
Gephardt, who has received the endorsement of a dozen labor unions, said he would pursue fair trade polices over free trade. He said the Bush policies have allowed companies to use cheap labor abroad at the expense of American workers.
Kerry said the country needed a labor secretary from a labor background who respects the right of workers to organize. As president, Kerry said he would seek to end tax breaks for companies that move overseas and promised a Justice Department that enforces antitrust laws and fights for civil rights.
"We need a trade policy that lifts up standards for workers around the world," Gephardt told about 300 union members at a breakfast in Manchester.
In Iowa, former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley Braun also said the Bush administration's tax cuts for the wealthy and trickle down ideas about the economy aren't working.
"How do we fix it? With tax increases at the top so the wealthy pay more of their fair share, and then we put that into the economy to create jobs," she said.
Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich said he would cancel U.S. participation in the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization if he wins the presidency.
"There are too many places in America where the jobs are gone and the factories are closed," Kucinich said.
He called for public works programs similar to those put in place in the 1930s by President Franklin Roosevelt to provide jobs and rebuild highways, schools and the country's energy system.
Bush, addressing a Labor Day crowd in Richfield, Ohio, defended his economic policies and said he was directing his Commerce Department to take new steps to find ways to revitalize the manufacturing sector, which has been especially hard hit.
"I understand that for a full recovery, to make sure people can find work, that manufacturing must do better," Bush told the Ohio crowd. He said one way to give manufacturing a boost is to open the way for more trade so more goods can be shipped abroad.