Bush pledges dollars 10bn for jobless

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The Independent Online
THE already fierce US election campaign revved up further yesterday as President George Bush called for a new dollars 10bn ( pounds 5.1bn) federal job-training programme to alleviate unemployment, while Hillary Clinton delivered a slashing riposte to Republican attempts to depict her as a latter- day Madame Mao who, if the Democrats won, would virtually take over the White House.

Mr Bush's programme, outlined at a visit to a vocational training centre in New Jersey, represents a fresh attempt to build the momentum generated by last week's convention, which has halved Governor Bill Clinton's lead in the polls to 10 per cent.

The proposals, which would take effect from fiscal 1994, are a mixture of ideas already on the table and - the most notable novelty - a system of state-funded vouchers worth dollars 3,000 for adults either out of work already or facing unemployment, to join retraining schemes. They are a calculated attempt to reassure ordinary workers that they would be shielded from impending changes in US industry, not least the planned North American free-trade area.

The agreement with Mexico and Canada, Mr Bush conceded, could cause short-term 'dislocations' in some industries, but his proposals were 'bold, innovative and loyal to the future of the American worker'. But once again he failed to specify where spending would be cut to generate the money to pay for them.

A senior Clinton aide, George Stephanopoulos, pointed to the Democratic candidate's detailed apprenticeship proposals, whose dollars 3bn cost would be met from defence cuts and increased taxes on the very wealthy.

But in the struggle to gain the high ground in the economic debate, neither candidate was mentioning the real topic on the market's mind, the plunge in the dollar. Thus far the main impact here has been on Wall Street but the weakness of the dollar has ruled out any further cut in interest rates, which might improve Mr Bush's prospects by breathing life into the faltering recovery.

On the other election battlefront, of 'character' and 'family values', came a Democratic counter-attack from Mrs Clinton, portrayed as the extremist opposite to the grandmotherly Barbara Bush. Claims that she had compared the family to 'slavery' were 'a sad distortion of what I've stood for', she said.