Putting It In Context

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THE CHARGE: A President sets his agenda for America in the first 100 days. John Kerry's plan: to pay for new government spending, raise taxes by at least $900 billion. --GEORGE W. BUSH, in a campaign ad running in 18 states that attacks his opponent's tax plan

THE CONTEXT: A September 2003 study of the Democratic candidates' health-care proposals put an $895 billion price tag on Kerry's 10-year plan, which would bring insurance to 26.7 million people who don't have it now. The Bush campaign claims there is no way to pay for that generous plan other than by raising taxes. But Kerry has never said he would raise taxes by $900 billion. He has advocated raising taxes on the wealthiest 2% of Americans — those who make more than $200,000 a year — while giving middle-class earners tax cuts. Kerry's campaign says it is still studying how his health-care plan would be paid for, and it will release details in the coming weeks as analysts reconcile budget projections with Kerry's proposal.

THE CHARGE: [President Bush] thought that Americans wouldn't notice what's happening in our country to the people who make up this country. Thought they wouldn't notice that every minute, two jobs are lost. --JOHN KERRY, speaking to supporters last week in West Palm Beach, Fla.

THE CONTEXT: The statement would be fair if it were in the past tense, but it's not accurate about what's happening in the present. Kerry first introduced this charge back in November, when the nation had lost more than 3 million private-sector jobs since the start of the Bush presidency. (The number has since dipped under 3 million.) The 1,500,000th minute of the Bush presidency ticked by in December. Divide the jobs lost by the number of minutes and — presto!--two jobs a minute. But hirings began overtaking firings last September, and the economy has been creating jobs for a net increase since then of 364,000. So right now, the country is actually gaining jobs at a rate of about 1.4 per minute.