Democrats Roast Bush on Economic Policy

Jay Leno may be safe in his late-night talk-show-hosting job, but that hasn't stopped Democrats from wisecracking at the expense of President Bush's economic policy.

The latest slam: Sen. Joe Lieberman's joke that Bush's economic plan fits on the back of a shampoo bottle -- cut taxes, raise spending, increase deficit and repeat.

Lieberman, D-Conn., said Friday that the current President Bush resembles his father, former President George H.W. Bush, in more than just appearance. Both, he said, are indifferent to economic suffering.

"Almost two years into office, he still has not put forward short or long-term economic growth strategies. He has taken no tangible steps to stem the pain this downturn is causing millions of Americans," Lieberman told an audience at the Nasdaq stock exchange in New York.

Democrats appear to be tag-teaming the president this week, starting with Lieberman, then House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri, then Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota and now Lieberman again prodding the president to take action on the economy.

All three are potential presidential candidates, and all have a laundry list of complaints, the largest being joblessness and the need for extended unemployment benefits.

"On President Bush's watch, we've lost 2 million private sector jobs. A million workers have now exhausted federal unemployment insurance benefits," Lieberman said.

But Republicans argue Bush has already done everything Democrats have demanded. He has given $11 billion in extended unemployment benefits to 2.8 million jobless in 11 states hit hardest by the recession that he inherited in 2001.

Jobless employees in Alaska, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin have up to one year of benefits under the Bush plan.

Republicans also point out that unemployment is now far smaller than it has been in previous recessions. According to the Labor Department, the Reagan recession of 1983 left 11.5 million unemployed and a jobless rate of 10.4 percent. The Bush "41" recession of 1992 saw peak unemployment of 10 million and a jobless rate of 7.8 percent. Last month, 8 million were jobless and the unemployment rate was 5.6 percent.

"In historical terms, the increase in the unemployment is a little lower than it was in the previous recession," said Christian Weller, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.

Democrats also point to huge stock losses when criticizing Bush, saying since he entered office, stocks on the Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange have lost trillions of dollars in value.

But in this week's stock rally, the Dow Jones rose 6 percent, its second positive week in a row. The surge forced Lieberman to add a line to his speech Friday.

"Now, I'm heartened, as I'm sure you are, that the markets have rallied in recent days. That's good news. But a rally does not a recovery make."

Many Democrats and some economists who see declining consumer confidence and low business investment say they fear another economic downturn.

"Given that we're looking at a strong possibility of a double dip recession, I would think that unemployment could likely rise to about 6.5 percent over the next six to 12 months," Weller said.

Fox News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.