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Mark Shields is a nationally known columnist and commentator.

The acceptance speech -- 2004


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Neither a seer nor a prophet do I claim to be.

In fact, you are now talking to the guy who predicted that, in November of 2000, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona would win the White House and who, for too many seasons to count, has predicted that "this would be the year" when the beloved Boston Red Sox would actually win their first World Series since 1918.

But this time, it is different. I am confident that I already know the speech that, on July 29, 2004, at the national convention in Boston's Fleet Center, the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party will deliver. I do not pretend to know who that nominee will be, but I have read much of his acceptance speech.

Before we get to the excerpts, let us -- as either Elvis Presley or Richard Nixon once said -- look at the record. President George W. Bush's economic record, that is.

For starters, 2.7 million private sector jobs have been lost since the administration took office. For the first time since 1990, inflation-adjusted weekly wages in the nation have declined for four quarters in a row.

There were 1.4 million more Americans -- including 700,000 more children -- living in poverty last year than there were one year earlier. Bush inherited a projected 10-year federal budget surplus of $5.6 trillion .Today, best estimates project that the 10-year federal budget will instead add up to a $3.3 trillion deficit. That is an adverse turn-around in federal finances -- in just two and a half years -- of nearly $9 trillion.

In his own defense, the president has claimed that only his aggressive tax-cut program made the recession of 2001 so historically "shallow."

Gene Sperling, the national economic advisor in the Clinton administration, responds that while "President Bush takes the credit for a 'shallow recession,' he denies any responsibility for an even 'more shallow' economic recovery."

Lawrence Mishel, president of the liberal Economic Policy Institute, quotes the current Council of Economic Advisors, who argued that this year's edition of Bush's tax cuts would, from the third quarter of 2003 through the fourth quarter of 2004, create an additional 1.4 million new jobs. That would be on top of the 4.1 million new jobs the U.S. economy would produce on its own even absent the latest tax-cuts.

As Mishel logically concludes, "Any month that adds at least 344,000 jobs to the economy can be marked a success, and every month payrolls grow by less that 257,000 jobs, the Bush policy is generating fewer jobs than would have been created" without the annual tax cuts the president successfully championed. In the last six months, the nation's economy has lost half a million jobs.

With this dismal background, the 2004 Democratic nominee will say the following next July: "Our opponents' economic vision has one goal: to get rid of taxes on unearned income -- from interest and dividends and inherited stock portfolios -- and shift the tax burden onto people who work. This crowd wants a world where the only people who have to pay taxes are the ones who do the work. ... The character of our country has been betrayed by some at the top who want the measure of an American to be how much she is worth, not how hard or how well she works. ... Theirs is a discredited conservative notion that America should ask the least of those who have the most. ... We are committed to a fair shake for all and a free ride for none.

"Mr. President, I challenge you. Explain why you think a multimillionaire should pay 15 percent on his next million while a fireman has to pay over 30 percent on each extra dollar of overtime. ... In these times of national sacrifice, we should not be asking less of the most fortunate."

Those are words almost all drawn or paraphrased from a June speech by North Carolina Senator and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. The fates appear to be conspiring against Edwards, whose moment in the media spotlight and at the microphone was generally expected to be in September.

But the California gubernatorial recall is dominating the political coverage and short reports about Edwards and the Democratic challengers are mostly buried somewhere near the classified ads.

John Edwards may not get to deliver it, but I'll bet you breakfast that large chunks of "the Edwards speech" will be heard next July in Boston.


Click here for more from Creators Syndicate.

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