Americans not happy despite job growth

Washington, October 16:

Three years of job growth, low unemployment, a slowing but strong economy:

US president George W Bush would seem to have good campaign ammunition for this election year. Yet polls suggest many voters are not buying it.

In a season of discontent that could mark a turning point in Bush’s political fortunes, even his centre-right Republican Party’s traditional lead on economic issues is in question. Protecting the US against terrorism remains Bush’s top campaign theme for the November 7 Congressional elections. But he lifted the economy to the number-two spot in the last week, touting his past tax cuts and saying, “America must remain an entrepreneurial heaven”.

His portrayal of the centre-left Democrats as the party of higher taxes drew angry rebuttals from opposition leaders, who argue that wages for average Americans have lagged behind inflation under Bush and that his tax cuts benefit high earners the most. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the US Senate, said, “Workers are still hurting in the Bush economy”. Under the Republicans, he said, “The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is getting squeesed”.

All 435 seats in the US House of Representatives and one third of the 100 Senate seats are in play next month, with slumping public support for the war in Iraq and sleaze scandals in Congress posing mounting problems for Republicans.

Analysts say the Democrats are within reach of retaking control of the House for the first time in 12 years, with a longer shot in the Senate. Terrorism and Iraq remain the hot-button topics for voters. But in a worrying sign for Republicans, a survey this month found that most Americans also distrust them on pocketbook issues.

Asked which party in Congress would do a better job of dealing with the economy, 54 per cent chose the Democrats and 36 per cent the Republicans. The Gallup poll’s margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points.

Republicans are also hoping for a boost from a drop in the federal budget deficit to $248 billion in the latest fiscal year.