"Swing Voters Are Smarter Than Bush People Think"

John Kerry recently took his economic case to Middle America with a three-day bus tour through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. BusinessWeek's Richard S. Dunham caught up with the likely Democratic Presidential candidate on Apr. 28 aboard the Jobs First Express between Ann Arbor and Detroit.

On Bush campaign ads that portray Kerry as a liberal throwback:

Swing voters are smarter than the Bush people think, and they see through that kind of malarkey. Once people learn what my vision is, we will do better.

On his "hike-and-cut" tax policy:

I will hold on to the 10% bracket. I will keep the child credit and the marriage-penalty fix. I will only roll back [the top marginal rate] to the level it was under Bill Clinton. Then I have tax cuts on top of that: the $4,000 tuition tax credit, a tax credit for small business and the self-employed for 50% of health-insurance costs. That's two very significant tax cuts putting money back into people's pockets. That will give the middle class a huge break. The President is fixated on tax cuts for wealthy Americans. It's the most extreme example of trickle-down theory, and he has pursued it to the exclusion of common sense.

On the stimulative effect of tax cuts:

Of course, it has had some stimulative effect -- there's a lot of money sloshing around the system from tax cuts and military spending. The question is: Is it an anchor that's holding back growth? They're not making smart economic choices and are fiscally irresponsible.

On his pledge to halve the deficit:

People care about the deficit. They know they're going to have to pay for these [Bush] tax cuts. They know the interest rates will go up, and their kids will be saddled with debt. They know the impact it will have on Social Security and Medicare. People are much smarter than the pundits think.

On generating more manufacturing jobs:

The most important thing is creating jobs and giving the American worker a fair playing field. Now, in the context of the campaign, the [Bush team] is playing copycat. It's about four years too late. The American people will hold them responsible for the loss of 2.8 million manufacturing jobs. Let's see how direct and honest he is about his record.

On skeptics who question his plan to spur jobs with a corporate tax cut:

I'm not going to tell people it will happen in a day or a week or a month. I will restore investor confidence in the fiscal policies of the United States. I will restore worker confidence that trade rules are going to be enforced. If we can offset the cost of health care [through my health-insurance proposal], we can reduce the cost of doing business in America. What we need is an active President making these choices. What this country has had is four years of George W. Bush, and the only thing he can come up with is tax cuts for the rich.

On his get-tough trade rhetoric:

I don't have any doubts about [free] trade. I have doubts about the way the Administration is enforcing trade agreements. There is nothing wrong with a trade agreement that contains enforceable labor standards and environmental standards. We have anti-surge and anti-dumping provisions in current trade agreements. This Administration doesn't enforce them. Why? They're just being rigid and doctrinaire. They've had four years to do it and have failed. Look, I know we're going to trade. I want American companies to succeed. But I don't want our workers to subsidize with their tax dollars the export of American jobs.

On the WTO's anti-U.S. rulings:

I have concerns about the standards being applied in some of the judgments. I think [the WTO] needs to have a little more transparency and accountability. We may need to reform it.

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