Trumka echoes White House refrain of blaming Bush for economic woes

A top union leader Sunday echoed the recent White House refrain of blaming the current ecnomic situation on the administration of George W. Bush.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka appeared on CNN's "State of the Union" two days after the Labor Department announced that the economy had shed 54,000 jobs and unemployment had ticked up to 9.6 percent.

But Trumka solidly defended President Obama, saying "the foundation has been built" by the president to counter eight years in which unions got "worked over" by the Bush administration.

"He inherited this recession," Trumka said of the commander in chief. "He's brought us back. He's brought sanity back to the financial system."

"He's created more jobs in this recession than George Bush did in eight years with a surplus," Trumka said, while acknowledging that not enough jobs had been created and blaming Republican obstructionism in Congress for, among other things, a too-small stimulus package.

In his weekly address, Obama blamed Bush policies for hurting the middle class, and said he was the president helping Main Street recover. The troubled economy is a key hurdle for Democrats in November midterm elections, and a USA Today/Gallup poll released Friday showed 71 percent saying Bush should get most of the blame, down from 80 percent who blamed the former president for the recession in July 2009. 

About half of respondents — 48 percent — said Obama, who has been in office for 20 months, should get a great deal or moderate part of the blame, up from 32 percent a year ago.

Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association, who appeared alongside Trumka, gave Obama plaudits for recognizing the need for small-business lending, but said that and other measures now being discussed, such as the payroll tax holiday, "should have been on the table a year and a half ago."

McCracken was asked if Obama was anti-business.

"I think it can be perceived that way because a lot of things that have come out of Washington in the past year and a half do inject uncertainty into the economy," he said, adding "that does hurt job growth." Uncertainty over future actions such as revamping tax policy "sort of add to that general unease," McCracken said.

Trumka rushed to the president's defense. "This president has done more and given more tax cuts to business than anyone before," he said. "We had no choice but to rein in Wall Street. We had no choice but to rein in healthcare costs."

Calamities seen now are the product of "bad policies of the past 30 years," Trumka said, "and this president has tried to correct them."

Trumka said that policies McCracken wanted to see were simply being held up by the GOP. "The House of Representatives has passed 400 bills that are sitting at the doorstep of the Senate and because of the obstructionism of the Republicans haven't been able to be passed," he said.

McCracken advocated at least a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts, saying that letting the cuts for top earners expire would hurt successful businesses that were creating jobs. "This is the wrong time to extend taxes on anybody," he said.

"When you give the tax cuts to the very rich they don't buy much," Trumka said, adding, "we need to create demand and the best way to create demand is to put money in people's pockets."