GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Tuesday's projection of a record budget deficit this election year and the continuing movement of U.S. jobs overseas show President Bush is taking the country down the wrong economic track.
The Congressional Budget Office predicted a $422 billion deficit, but the Bush campaign noted that was less than projected earlier this year and said the improvement was due to the president's tax-cut policies.
"Only George W. Bush could celebrate over a record budget deficit," the loss of jobs over the past 3 1/2 years and last weekend's announcement of a record increase in Medicare premiums, Kerry said.
"W stands for wrong -- the wrong direction for America," he said in a statement released by his campaign.
Kerry was campaigning in North Carolina, the home state of Sen. John Edwards, his running mate, emphasizing the loss of American jobs overseas and talking about his plan to change rules that let companies defer paying taxes on money earned abroad.
'A complete freebie'"We give them a complete freebie," Kerry told about 300 people, "and when I'm president of the United States, it will take me about a nanosecond to ask the Congress to close that stupid loophole that rewards companies."
North Carolina voted for Bush in 2000 by 7 percentage points but, with Bush seen as vulnerable on job losses, the contest is closer this year, polls indicate. The state has lost more than 160,000 jobs during the Bush administration, mostly in the furniture and textile industries where free trade policies have encouraged the export of jobs to cheaper labor markets.
Kerry also pointed to statements by administration officials in favor of "outsourcing" production and portrayed Bush as unsympathetic to job losses caused by international competition.
"My value is good, old-fashioned four words: 'Made in the USA,"' Kerry said.
Bush's campaign said Kerry has "outsourcers" among his own advisers and business supporters, and that the Democrat's plan would do little to reverse the trend.
"Kerry's shifting positions on outsourcing are another reason that he faces a credibility problem with the American people," said Bush spokesman Steve Schmidt.
Bush has proposed doubling the number of people served by job training, increasing funding for community colleges and creating "opportunity zones" of reduced taxes, improved housing and training in places hardest hit by job losses.
Kerry did not discuss the budget deficit figure in front of his audience. But he accused Bush of making a poor decision to spend the surplus that existed when he took office in January 2001 on a series of tax cuts that mostly benefited the wealthy.
"He made a choice about what to do with that. I thought his was the wrong choice because I thought it would put us into deficit," Kerry said.
Bush campaign policy director Tim Adams said, "John Kerry's plans for $2 trillion in new spending means higher taxes on all Americans or a budget deficit that is completely out of control."
------On the Net:
Kerry-Edwards campaign: http://www.johnkerry.com
Bush-Cheney campaign: http://georgewbush.com