WASHINGTON – President Bush expressed confidence Thursday that the economy is turning around, saying the tax rebates (search ) heading to 25 million homes next week are proof of his commitment to American families.
"Better days are ahead," Bush told workers and supporters at a Treasury Department (search ) check-processing center in Philadelphia. "Soon the mail carrier will be delivering the checks that we promised to the American people.
"When people get checks, it helps them with their lives," he said.
The Treasury facility starts mailing out $12 billion in tax rebate checks to middle-class families with children beginning Friday.
The rebate is part of the $330 billion tax cut package the president signed into law in May. In addition, middle-class families with children will see their annual child tax credit rise $400 to $1,000 per year.
Democrats blame the president for the exclusion of some 6.5 million low-income families with children from the expanded child-tax credit the law afforded.
"The president claims he wants to extend the child tax credit to working families, but his trip today suggests he has no intention of turning his reassuring rhetoric into reality for millions of deserving children," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (search ), D-Calif.
The president did call on Congress to remedy the loophole that left out families making between $10,500 and $27,000 from the tax relief. Both chambers have passed bills to offer the tax credit for low-income families, but Democrats say the House Republican bill contains so many additional cuts, that it is outrageous and unreasonable.
Nonetheless, Democrats have been using stalling tactics in the House to force the two chambers to send negotiators to work out the differences.
"They've got to resolve their differences and get it to my desk as quickly as possible so people can get additional help," Bush said of the lawmakers.
Bush walked the floor of the Treasury building in Philadelphia as it churned out thousands of child-credit tax rebates each hour. Amid the clattering machinery of the print shop, Bush examined one check and jokingly began to shove it into his jacket pocket.
Later, he headed to Michigan, where he again spoke about the economy and jobs to an enthusiastic crowd at Beaver Aerospace and Defense Inc., (search ) a suburban Detroit defense contractor.
"I am interested in making sure every one of our fellow citizens who wants to work can find a job," he said in the second speech.
Efforts to achieve that objective appeared headed in the right direction Thursday. The Labor Department reported that new jobless claims dropped to a five-month low last week. The number of long-term unemployed also dropped in the previous week, falling for the second week in a row.
Still, Bush has to overcome mixed impressions about his performance on the economy. The Detroit News (search) published a poll Thursday that showed 48 percent of those surveyed approved of Bush's handling of the economy, while 47 percent said they disapproved.
Even with tax relief on the way and jobless numbers appearing to improve, Democrats say Bush is working his way out of a bad economy at the sake of the next generation. The federal deficit is expected to have a $455 billion shortage this year, a number that Democrats say makes Bush a poor steward of the economy.
"The people's money, translated into the people's debt, is going to take money out of the people's pockets," said Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey, who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
"More and more people are coming to the conclusion that the president has taken us down a fiscal course that doesn't add up," said Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee.
Bush addressed the red-ink monster that is expected to last the rest of the decade, saying that its origins were unavoidable.
"We've got a deficit because revenues to the Treasury have dropped as a result of recession," he said. "And we've got a deficit as well because I'm spending the money necessary to win the war. My attitude is when we put our troops in harm's way they deserve the best."
Following his speeches, the president headed to a $2 million fund-raiser in Dearborn, Mich. Taxpayers are footing the bill for half the trip while the Bush re-election committee paid for the swing back from Michigan.
The president wants to make sure the two states he visited Thursday support him in the next election. He lost both Michigan and Pennsylvania in 2000, and doesn't want to see their collective 14 percent of the electoral votes go any other way this time. Bush has visited Pennsylvania more than any other state -- 20 times -- and planned a 21st on Monday. Thursday was his 10th trip to Michigan as president.
Along with the trip into the heartland, Bush also faced the requisite protesters. Outside his Philadelphia event, hundreds lined up to urge him to intervene in Liberia.
"Have a heart," said one placard.
But another incident on his motorcade route was nothing at all, said Secret Service officials. When the president was leaving Philadelphia, a small plane, single-engine Cessna violated the restricted air space over the president's motorcade.
A police chopper hot on its tail escorted the solo pilot to a New Jersey airport without incident. The Secret Service issued a statement saying that the breach was inadvertent and the president was never in danger.
Fox News' James Rosen and the Associated Press contributed to this report.