Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton pounced on the worst job loss figures in five years Friday to skewer John McCain over Republican policies they blame for deepening the economic mire.
But the presumptive Republican nominee quickly hit back, warning Democratic “anti-growth” policies would thwart job creation, calling for lower taxes, streamlined regulation and a drive to open markets overseas for US goods.
The figures, showing US firms cut a suprisingly high 80,000 jobs in March, ignited a new phase in the frenetic three-way battle over the feared recession and a housing crisis, a dominant issue, seven months before November elections.
Democratic pace-setter Obama warned the figures showed an economic “crisis” was spreading throughout society.
“This bad news is just the latest evidence that Washington needs fundamental change because it has failed the American people,” he said.
“For millions of unemployed Americans, the American Dream has been slipping away while their government has put special interests ahead of their interests.
“It’s time to turn the page on a Bush-McCain approach that tells Americans who are struggling that you’re on your own’ unless you have a lobbyist in Washington.”
The Illinois Senator called for a second stimulus package and an investment in unemployment insurance and the “crumbling” US infrastructure.
“After decades of flawed trade agreements and tax breaks that ship our jobs overseas, we need to invest in companies that create jobs right here at home,” he said.
Clinton said the jobs report showed the economy was “spiralling downward” and that hardworking American families were paying the price.
“It’s time the president and John McCain recognize the r-word: reality. Our economy is in serious trouble and unless we act swiftly we could be sliding into a deep and painful recession.
“Perhaps this jobs report will also help John McCain recognize that doing nothing is not an economic strategy in times of urgent need.”
The former first lady has accused Obama of copying her call for a 30 billion dollar stimulus plan, and is also demanding help for homeowners to restructure mortgages, and a removal of legal curbs to let lenders relax loan terms.
Democrats accused McCain of ignoring the need to act to stabilize the economy after he expressed disquiet about the idea of large-scale government bailouts to mortgage lenders and homeowners facing foreclosure amid a housing crisis.
McCain said in his own written statement Friday that the jobs figures were a stark reminder of economic challenges, and that many Americans were “hurting.”
“Despite today’s news, the Democrats will continue to advance their anti-growth agenda.
“The American people cannot afford the Democrats and their economic leadership. Washington must not be an obstacle to economic growth and robust job creation,” McCain said.
US employers cut 80,000 jobs in March, marking the biggest decline in employment in five years, the government report showed.
Mounting job losses swelled the national unemployment rate to 5.1 percent last month compared with 4.8 percent in February.
The March non-farm job losses marked the largest decline since March 2003 and the start of the Iraq war, while the unemployment rate was at its highest level since September 2005, just after Hurricane Katrina struck the US Gulf coast.
McCain has been shoring up his credentials on the economy, as fears grow of a recession, which would bode ill for his hopes with a Republican currently in the White House.
“I know economics very well, certainly better than Senator Clinton and Senator Obama, so let’s clear that up,” McCain said in a CNN interview Thursday.
The Arizona Senator has been trying to live down a remark in a Boston Globe interview in New Hampshire last year, when he said “the issue of economics is not something I’ve understood as well as I should.”
On Thursday, he said he had spent the early years of his adult life in the navy, and had not had the time to devote to the subject, but had made up for that during his years as a lawmaker in Washington.