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Last Updated: Monday, 1 September, 2003, 16:50 GMT 17:50 UK
Tax cuts have worked, says Bush
George W Bush
Mr Bush wants to win over economic critics
President George W Bush has defended his controversial policy of cutting taxes to boost the economy, arguing that it will help put America back to work.

Mr Bush acknowledged that the US economy had suffered a series of shocks over the past two years, but promised better times ahead.

Speaking to an audience of trade unionists in his annual Labor Day address, Mr Bush fended off criticism over unemployment, which has grown despite a seemingly robust overall economy.

"When you lower taxes, people have more money... We did the right thing with tax relief," he said.

Mr Bush's critics have argued that tax cuts - a major plank in his government's economic policy - only benefit the wealthy, and have done nothing to persuade cautious companies to start hiring again.

Talking politics

Having focused heavily on foreign policy since September 11, Mr Bush is keen to be seen as taking a serious interest in the US economy.

US GDP growth
Presidential elections are now 15 months away, and the economy is likely to be a central issue in the campaign.

The overall economy has recovered quickly from the surprisingly brief effects of September 11 and other shocks, and is now growing by more than 3% year on year - much faster than stagnant Europe, for example.

But unemployment, which has soared since the collapse in the hi-tech boom in 2000-01, has not fallen as expected, and remains at 6.2%.

Mr Bush's father - despite his victory in the first Gulf War - was brought down by inattention to a weak economy.

Mr Bush was speaking in Ohio, a state he narrowly won in 2000, but where support will be crucial in next year's contest.

'Get me an energy bill'

The other main focus in Mr Bush's speech - which was otherwise light on concrete policy ideas - was a call for a new national energy policy.

Last month's widespread power cuts have intensified calls for changes to the way that the US energy industry is run and regulated.

"We don't need voluntary reliability standards, we need mandatory reliability standards," he said.

"'Congress needs to get me an energy bill."

Previous attempts to redefine energy policy under the Bush administration have run into political controversy, as Mr Bush and some of his colleagues have close links with the industry.


WATCH AND LISTEN
President George W Bush
"It was a shallow recession because of the tax relief"



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