BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – President Bush (search), taking credit for signs of economic rebound as he picked up another $1.85 million for his re-election fund, told an audience at an Alabama crane factory on Monday "there's more work to do," especially in the area of creating jobs for Americans.
Bush carried his message of economic optimism to a state where unemployment is well below the national average, but where some counties are still struggling with double-digit jobless rates.
The president said his formula for economic growth — largely three rounds of tax cuts — were fueling a recovery.
"By reducing taxes, this administration kept a promise," Bush said. "We did the right thing at the right time for the American economy."
Now, the president said, a huge white crane behind him, "We're talking about how best we can continue to create new jobs all across America. This economy of ours is growing, the entrepreneurial spirit is strong, but there's more work to do."
Of the 2.7 million jobs the U.S. economy has lost since the recession began in early 2001, 2.4 million were in manufacturing.
After his economic speech, the president was picking up another $1.85 million for his re-election fund. A $2,000-per-person fund raiser in Birmingham after the economic address follows Bush's standard formula: a private reception for the most prolific fund raisers, then a lunchtime speech to the whole group.
White House officials arranged for Bush to give the economic speech in what is becoming a favorite backdrop — cranes and other heavy equipment. Bush is looking to project concern over job losses in the manufacturing sector.
Bush's audience was about 350 small-business owners and employees at CraneWorks, a family owned concern that has seen a 70 percent revenue growth in the last year and added 15 employees since January, according to the White House. CraneWorks, ringed by barbed wire, is housed in a gleaming new warehouse, in an industrial district of Birmingham with pockets of decaying factories.
Bush said the crane company he visited was able to buy nine cranes in the last year, thanks to tax cuts.
Companies like CraneWorks must compete on their own, he said. "But what government's doing is trying to put a little wind in their sails, and it seems to be working."
Bush credits his three rounds of tax cuts for such gains. Last week, the government reported that the gross domestic product grew by 7.2 percent between July and September, the best performance in about 20 years.
Alabama's unemployment rate in September was 5.5 percent, down from 5.7 percent in August and below the national rate of 6.1 percent. Some western Alabama counties, however, continue to struggle with high jobless rates.
Bush reiterated his call for his six-point blueprint for boosting the economy: cutting health care costs, reducing medical liability costs for doctors, decreasing class-action lawsuits, increasing domestic energy supplies, making all his tax cuts permanent and trimming back small-business regulation.
The economic message in Bush's speech was also a bid to remind Americans he is focused on domestic concerns, when grim news from Iraq has commanded much of his administration's attention.
On Sunday, the worst day of casualties for American troops since March, Bush stayed silent and out of public sight. A spokesman told reporters Bush was being briefed on the downing of a U.S. helicopter, which killed 16 soldiers and injured 20.
Before Monday's fund-raiser, the president's re-election war chest totaled about $92 million. Monday's event will push the total to about $94 million.
After a long weekend at his Texas ranch, Bush had originally planned to head back to Washington following the Birmingham appearances.
But he now plans to survey fire damage in Southern California on Tuesday, giving him another night's sleep at the ranch.