Kerry Calls for Tech Investments in Rust Belt

Democrat John Kerry (search) is wrapping up a three-day tour of industrial communities with a call for new technology investments to revitalize the downtrodden Rust Belt.

"The bottom line: I believe that the best days of the Rust Belt (search) aren't behind us, they're ahead of us," Kerry said in the prepared text of an economic speech he was giving Wednesday at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Kerry's bus tour took him by the mines of West Virginia, the steel communities of Pennsylvania and Ohio and the auto plants of Michigan. All four states have lost manufacturing jobs under President Bush, and all four are up for grabs in the presidential race.

Kerry promises voters that if he is elected, he would create 10 million jobs during his first term.

Among the initiatives Kerry was proposing Wednesday is a guarantee program that would help small and medium-sized manufacturers get credit to invest in new technology. He also said he would increase funding for military research and direct the Defense Department to invest in broadband, biotechnology, nanotechnology and energy independence. To prepare the work force, Kerry pledged to improve math and science education and enhance job training.

President Bush's campaign chided Kerry for failing to explain how much all the new proposals would cost. Kerry had said earlier this month that he would explain how he would finance his new ideas without raising the deficit or middle class taxes.

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said Kerry's plan is "a further indication that there is a massive tax increase coming for middle income families when John Kerry becomes president."

Kerry economic policy director Jason Furman said Kerry would detail the cost of major new ideas, but the plans he was announcing Wednesday would be a small part of the overall budget and can be funded by making shifts from other federal programs.

During the bus tour, Kerry's criticism of Bush's economic stewardship was coupled with his questioning of Bush's military record during the Vietnam War. Kerry questioned whether Bush always reported for duty in the Texas Air National Guard in response to questions about his own anti-war activities after returning from battle in Vietnam.

"I think a lot of veterans are going to be very angry at a president who can't account for his own service in the National Guard, and a vice president who got every deferment in the world and decided he had better things to do, criticizing somebody who fought for their country and served," Kerry told the Dayton Daily News.

Bush and Cheney personally have not commented on Kerry's military service or his anti-war protests, but Bush adviser Karen Hughes said Kerry misled Americans by "pretending" to throw his medals away after returning from Vietnam.

Bush campaign spokeswoman Nicolle Devenish said Kerry is attacking Bush to avoid explaining his Senate record on defense and security measures. Cheney also questioned this week whether the Democrat is fit to serve as president in a time of war, prompting a rebuttal from Kerry on Tuesday night.

"The vice president is running around, finding so much time to be destructive," Kerry said at a Cleveland fund-raiser that raised about $700,000, according to his campaign. "In 1992, he was secretary of defense and he bragged and led the effort to cut the military." Kerry also met privately with former Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2000, said a Kerry aide, who not characterize the meeting.