Owen blasts Fletcher, Bush in Boyle visit

October 08, 2003|HERB BROCK

Arnold Schwarzenegger was a busy man Tuesday afternoon. In California, the Republican was winning the governorship there. In Kentucky, he was campaigning for a Democrat who would like to win the governorship here.

Almost needless explanation: The real Arnold was in California. A man playing the role of Arnold was in Kentucky, including Boyle, Garrard and Lincoln counties.

Wearing a larger-than-life head and passing out mock pink slips with "your name here" lines at the top and the signature of President Bush at the bottom, the "Jobs Terminator" tried to underscore the high rate of joblessness in the area and state.

The occasion was an appearance by Charlie Owen of Louisville, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Chandler's running mate in the November general election.


Standing in front of ATR Wire and Cable Co. and a large sign announcing a "bankruptcy sale" of the 496,000-square-foot facility, whose closing earlier this year cost 550 people their jobs, Owen blamed high unemployment rates across the region and state on the Bush administration and one of its supporters, U.S. 6th District Rep. Ernie Fletcher, R-Lexington, Chandler's Republican opponent.

Fletcher made a stop in Danville later in the afternoon and defended his economic positions - the ones he has taken in Congress and the ones he would embrace as governor. He also returned some fire.

Owen, who drew a crowd of some three dozen supporters, carried the same message of a poor economy to Harrodsburg, where he spoke outside the closed-down Createc plant; to Lancaster, where the stage was an out-of-business Chevrolet dealership; and to the Lincoln County Courthouse in Stanford.

"Washington's economic policies have produced the largest unbalanced budget in the nation's history and still failed to create a single job," said Owen, who was on the second leg of what he called his "Travels with Charlie Tour" across the state. "Congressman Fletcher has given 100 percent support for these policies.

"Of the six congressional districts in Kentucky, it's Congressman Fletcher's 6th District that has lost the most jobs since Bush became president in January 2001," he said. "Kentucky has lost 67,000 jobs and 11,000 of those were in the 6th, including at least 725 in Boyle County, 240 in Lincoln County, 178 in Garrard County and 35 in Mercer County."

The job losses, totaling more than 3 million nationwide over the last three years, are due to "national economic policies that have created extraordinary deficits and transferred wealth to the wealthy through unwise and unfair tax cuts," he said.

If Chandler and Owen are elected, Kentucky's economy would be given several shots in the arm from efforts to "aggressively pursue more high-paying manufacturing jobs, including one more auto plant, "fight" unfair trade laws that export jobs overseas" and oppose "any form of deregulation that forces Kentucky to lose one of its greatest economic advantages - cheap electricity," said Owen.

He claimed that Fletcher has supported legislation that has sent American jobs overseas and that favors deregulation of electric utilities.

Owen said that, while he and Chandler "are not gamblers," they also think the Kentucky economy would get a boost from a law allowing gaming at the state's racetracks. He said it would produce more than $300,000 a year, and he said all of that money would be "dedicated to education."

In response, Fletcher said in the later interview that more than a million Kentuckians probably would not appreciate the Chandler-Owen attack on the Bush tax cuts that he supported.

"More than 1.2 million people in this state were provided tax relief through the Bush tax cut plan," he said.

The congressman also said Owen's claim that the Bush administration's economic policies had not created a single job was wrong. He also said those policies also are helping to create an overall turnaround in the U.S. economy.

"Last month, more than 57,000 new jobs were created," he said. "In addition, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in-creased 3.1 percent, much better than had been predicted, consumer confidence is up, and the stock market has been steadily improving.

"Overall, the country's economy is improving, so they (Chandler and Owen) are really talking about old news."

Fletcher said his opponents' attacks on Bush's economic policies, and he and other Republicans who support them, not only disregard the improvement those policies have helped cause in the economy but also are meant to "deflect attention from the mess in Frankfort."

"They are trying to make this a race about Washington, D.C.," he said. "They'd lose that debate if they want to continue to pursue it, but I suppose they believe that they would have a better chance by focusing on Washington to keep Kentuckians' minds off of the serious problems in the state, the problems a governor really has to deal with."

Those problems, according to Fletcher, include the fact that Kentucky has a poverty rate twice the national average and ranks 49th both in the average educational level attained by adults 25 years of age and over and in the number of women with undergraduate college degrees.

"We also have (Chandler's) resume. He has been auditor and is now the state chief law enforcement officer (as attorney general), and he has served in these positions during years of corruption and fraud," the congressman said.

"I see the governorship as a serious position and I have serious proposals to improve government as we know it, including everything from tax reform to cutting personal-service contracts to monitoring all major expenditures. (Chandler) sees it as a game of musical chairs, where he's going after yet another government job. His goal is not about the welfare of the citizens. It's about moving his office 100 feet down the hall in the Capitol."

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