WASHINGTON – John Kerry ( search) slammed the Bush administration Monday for not creating more jobs and for distorting his record on tax votes in the two decades he has served as a senator from Massachusetts.
Kerry said President Bush and his team have only given the American people a bunch of "broken promises" such as the No Child Left Behind Act ( search), the education reform law enacted in 2002.
"The only thing they can tell Americans is half-truths so they distort," the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said of the White House.
As Kerry addressed students at the Charles A. Jones Skills and Business Center in Sacramento, Calif., Vice President Dick Cheney spoke across the country to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (search). The No. 2 man at the White House took a swipe at Kerry, saying the 350 votes for higher taxes during his four terms as senator amounts to a vote for a tax increase once every three weeks over nearly 20 years.
He also accused Kerry of seeking to repeal tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003.
"He has given the usual assurances that in those first 100 days he's planning, only the wealthiest Americans can expect higher taxes," Cheney said. "But voters are entitled to measure that campaign promise against Senator Kerry's long record in support of higher taxes for every income group."
Cheney listed all the taxes that Kerry would raise by not calling for an extension of several of the cuts that are expected to expire during the next administration. He said Kerry has indicated he would allow an increase in the child tax credit and the rate married couples pay, which amounts to more than they would as individuals. He said Kerry voted against creating the new 10 percent bracket; against repealing the inheritance tax; against cutting taxes on dividend income; and against raising the amount of investment expenses that businesses can write off.
Kerry responded, calling Cheney's remarks the "latest distortion" of his record.
"They found Dick Cheney in an undisclosed location and brought him out to attack me. That seems to be his designated role, not to create jobs, but to attack John Kerry," he said.
Kerry added that while he did vote against Bush's tax cut for the wealthiest Americans, he supported an alternative plan that gave the middle class a tax cut.
"Here's the truth — under my plan, 98 percent of Americans will get a tax cut at the federal level from John Kerry's administration," the New Englander said. "The only people who will be asked to share in building a stronger America will be those at the very, very top" of the income bracket, meaning those people who make more than $200,000 a year.
Monday's dueling events were the second in two weeks to cross the nation and launch a rhetorical fight. Last time, the subject was on national security and the Democrat's credentials to be commander in chief. This round is focusing on the economy and jobs. Bush plans to join the debate this week with speeches on the economy in the electoral battleground states of West Virginia and Wisconsin.
True to form, Kerry blasted Bush for losing 3 million jobs during his tenure, for not doing anything to stop the spiraling budget deficits and for not cracking down on U.S. businesses sending more work overseas. Kerry said his plan would offer new tax credits for small businesses and manufacturers that create additional jobs and offer health insurance. He said he thinks 10 million new jobs could be created.
The Bush administration has been trying to paint Kerry's views on outsourcing as isolationist but Kerry argues that by taxing overseas operations of U.S. businesses, he can cover the costs of other tax-cut plans, and that would encourage U.S. businesses to keep more jobs at home.
"No president can stop all outsourcing or ought to. I understand that," Kerry said. "But for heaven's sake, no American worker ought to be asked to actually subsidize through our tax code the loss of their own job."
He also blamed the Bush team for the rising costs of healthcare, gas and college tuition.
"Everything's going up except the wages of the American worker and I believe it's time to change that," Kerry said.
Speaking in a state that's known for its high-tech hotbeds, Kerry also promised to explore more ways to push the science and technology envelope and called the Bush administration the "worst science-committed administration in the history of the country."
Kerry added that whether it be stem-cell research or alternative fuels, the United States needs to make sure it's at the forefront of new technologies.
"We are going to put that front and center on the agenda so no young American in uniform needs to be held hostage because of our dependence on oil in the Middle East. We're going to declare our independence," Kerry said, promising that if he's sent to the Oval Office, 20 percent of all U.S. electricity will be produced by alternative energy by 2020.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.