WASHINGTON – President Bush, buoyed by good news on the jobs front, said Friday his administration's efforts to spur a healthier economy are starting to take hold.
"One of the reasons I'm optimistic about the future of our economy is because of our entrepreneurial spirit," Bush told about 1,000 people in a convention hall here. "The tax relief plan puts more capital in the pockets of the small business owners -- which means somebody is more likely to find a job."
Bush spoke just a few hours after the Labor Department (search) reported that the unemployment rate (search) held steady in September at 6.1 percent of the labor force and that businesses added some 57,000 jobs.
Both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney also were hitting the money trail Friday to raise more campaign cash for the Republican presidential primary, in which Bush faces no opponent.
Bush was adding a projected $800,000 to his $84 million re-election war chest at a lunchtime event in Milwaukee. Cheney was headlining a fund-raiser at the Wakonda Club, a private golf club in Iowa, after an appearance in Malvern, Pa., where he was raising money for Rep. Jim Gerlach, a first-term Republican up for re-election next year.
Bush's event drew stern criticism from state Democrats.
"He's raising $800,000 from rich contributors in a town that's increasingly becoming poorer and poorer every year," said Seth Bofelli, a spokesman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party. "That's something that's going to take a lot more than a nice, fancy backdrop and a campaign stop to fix."
But Bush argued that his tax cut package, which increased the child tax credit (search) from $600 to $1,000 and accelerated several income tax cuts previously scheduled to take effect later in the decade, was helping.
As evidence of progress toward a recovery, the president cited the new report. Economists had expected the overall civilian unemployment rate to rise to 6.2 percent, with a loss of 25,000 more jobs.
"Things are getting better," Bush said, standing in front of a huge poster of Milwaukee's downtown, emblazoned with the White House theme "Strengthening America's Economy."
"But there's still work to do," he said.
That work includes lawsuit reforms to lower health care costs, streamlined regulations, a comprehensive energy plan (search), expanded trade and more tax breaks, said Bush. He challenged Congress to make recently enacted tax cuts permanent rather let them expire on schedule.
"The government giveth, and the government taketh away," he said, mocking the built-in provisions for the breaks to expire.
Earlier, Bush met privately with local business owners, sessions the White House often uses to provide fodder for favorable news coverage by local outlets and for the individual examples Bush sprinkles into his public speeches.
Before leaving Washington, Bush met with Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who was in Iraq until last month to help rebuild the country's police force. Kerik challenged criticism that the reconstruction was moving too slowly. He said 35 police stations have been established with 40,000 police in four months.
"Try to stand up 35 police stations in New York City," he said. "It would take you about 11 years, depending on who's in city council. It takes awhile."
The president's trip to Wisconsin was his eighth to the state, which he lost narrowly in 2000.