Hurricanes, war, hostage-takings ... it's been a tough week to focus on the fundamental things in life. But that's what economists tried to do this week ... and they had plenty to ponder.
On the upside, *the blue-collar sector marked improvements in construction spending and manufacturing activity. *Consumer spending jumped in July. And on Friday, *the government announced America's payrolls added 144,000 jobs in August. That helped drive unemployment down to 5.4 percent.
The Bush administration is sure to make hay on any upbeat economic news. And the president certainly had much of the political stage to himself this week. From the GOP convention in New York to the farm fields of Iowa, Mr. Bush did his best to state his case for re-election.
Gearing up for his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention in New York Thursday night, President Bush made a campaign stop in the Heartland earlier in the week. He addressed a crowd of nearly 13,000 in Alleman, Iowa, at the Farm Progress Show, an annual agricultural exhibition in the state.
President Bush: "It's good to be here at the farm show. You know, some people think you can find the heart and soul of America in Hollywood (CROWD BOOS). I think they can find it right here in Iowa.(CROWD CHEERS).
It was the President's fourth trip in the past month to Iowa, a key battleground state. In 2000, former Vice President Al Gore won there by a margin of just 4,000 votes. The 2004 race also is expected to be tight. Much of the president's speech on Tuesday was about the war on terror, but he wanted to energize one of his strongest bases of support -- rural voters. Amid hay bales and tractors and surrounded by farm groups like the National Corn Growers and American Soybean Associations, Bush talked about his record on farm policy.
President Bush: "When it comes to improving our economy and keeping this ag economy strong in America we're getting the job done."
In 2000, Bush collected 60 percent of the nation's rural vote. He's looking to increase that total this November. He claimed the farm economy was sagging when he took office, but that figures now show farm income and exports are on the rise.
President Bush: "A strong farm economy is good for our nation's economy, and we have a strong farm economy today. We're seeing record exports for farm products. Farm income is up and that means people are making a living here in rural Iowa, and that is good for the United States of America. And, I intend to keep it that way."
Drawing cheers from the crowd, President Bush pledged his support for ethanol, the corn-based gasoline additive, and for soy diesel. He said Congress needs to get the energy bill to his desk to sign.
President Bush: "I believe in ethanol and I believe in biodiesel (CROWD CHEERS). See, I think one of these days, the President is going to be sitting in the oval office and somebody is going to walk in and say, "Guess what Mr, President, the corn crop is up and we're less dependent on foreign sources of energy." (CROWD CHEERS)
Bush also talked about his administration's support for conservation programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, or CRP. He claimed 35 million acres of farmland currently are in the program, but the contracts will expire in 2007 and 2008. He said he has directed the Secretary of Agriculture to offer early re-enrollments and extensions on existing contracts.