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Kerry says Bush is ‘out of touch’ with US workers

Cites lowered GDP figures

DALY CITY, Calif. -- President Bush, who recently boasted that the US economy has ''turned the corner," is out of touch with average Americans, John F. Kerry charged yesterday, citing revised Commerce Department statistics that lowered the estimated gross domestic product during the second quarter of this year.

The Democratic presidential nominee, campaigning in this Democrat-friendly state in a suburb of San Francisco, pledged to enact a series of consumer protection reforms, including prohibiting spikes in interest rates on credit cards, halting high penalties for the early repayment of home mortgages, and ending short-term lending and insurance abuses that have targeted service personnel on US military bases.

''In America, I don't believe that we ought to make money that way," Kerry said. ''We ought to make money the old-fashioned way -- not by ripping people off, but by selling products in the marketplace and by creating the new products and jobs of the future."

Kerry's campaign focused on the Commerce Department report. GDP, which measures total output within the nation's borders, expanded at a 2.8 percent annual rate from April through June to $10.8 trillion. It was not only a sharp slowdown from the first-quarter rate of 4.5 percent, but also down from the 3 percent growth rate estimated last month by the department.

Kerry also cited Census Bureau data released the day before that indicated that 1.3 million people moved below the poverty line, 1.4 million people lost their health insurance, and the average US worker suffered a $1,500 loss in income during 2003.

''The president had nothing to say -- nothing to say -- no plans, no real approach," Kerry said. ''Either the president doesn't have a plan, or the president is out of touch with what's happening to real Americans."

A Wall Street Journal/ NBC News poll released yesterday indicated Bush was ahead of Kerry nationally, 47 percent to 45 percent, but within the survey's margin of error of 3.5 percentage points. The poll also indicated the president was trailing Bush by 4 percentage points in 17 battleground states. On the issue of handling terrorism, Bush led Kerry 53 percent to 42 percent, but 52 percent said they disapproved of the president's handling of the economy.

Also, among independents, a key voting bloc, Bush's disapproval rating has reached 60 percent.

Kerry has regularly accused Bush of supporting policies tilted toward the rich, and throughout the week has focused his campaign pitch on attracting support from middle-class voters through such initiatives as his consumer-protection reforms. In particular, he attacked zero-interest credit card offers ''with fine print so fine that you not only need high-powered specs, you need a magnifying glass to read what it says." Because interest rates can soar if a single payment is late, consumers can get caught in a ''debt trap," Kerry said, ''which is why you have one bankruptcy filed in America every 19 seconds now; it's why personal debt is higher than it's ever been in America."   Continued...

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