WASHINGTON – The economy has never looked better,or worse,depending on who was speaking at a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday.
Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans defended the state of American industry before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce – the first time Evans has ever appeared before the committee,said Rep. Joe Barton,R-Texas,who chaired the hearing.
“The Bush administration took office on the bust side of a boom-bust cycle that led to a recession and significant job losses,” Evans said. “The president's leadership has seen us through some of the most difficult times in recent memory and resulted in remarkable economic resiliency.”
Evans' appearance drew harsh criticism from Democratic committee members,while Republicans defended administration policies.
“I think Secretary Evans' testimony shows how out of touch the Bush administration is with the economy,” said Rep. Diana DeGette,D-Colo.,in a telephone interview after the hearing. “The secretary painted this rosy picture about jobs and the economy.”
As of last month,there were more than 139,000 unemployed Coloradoans,she said. Since 2001,the unemployment rate in Colorado jumped from 2 percent to 5.6 percent.
Because of time restraints,DeGette said she was unable to address the secretary at the hearing about the president's tax cuts,the statistics he quoted and that,under this administration,the country has had the first net job loss since Herbert Hoover was president.
Rep. John D. Dingell,D-Mich.,the committee's ranking Democrat,said his state had lost 128,000 manufacturing jobs out of 2.8 million lost nationally.
“The only proposals this administration produces involve manipulating statistics and redefining manufacturing so the job loss will not appear to be as great as it really is,” he said,adding that White House officials are “isolated from the realities of this economy.”
Evans reported that the current national unemployment rate of 5.6 percent is below the averages for the ‘70s,‘80s and ‘90s.
However,many Americans fear that their jobs will be among those outsourced and sent overseas.
“We all share these concerns,and we are all motivated by them,” Evans said. “However,the U.S. greatly benefits from doing business with the world.”
The majority of jobs being driven overseas are in the manufacturing and service industries,leaving many unskilled Americans nowhere to turn.
“The cold,hard truth is that losing a job in this country is a lot harder than losing a job in any other developed country,” said Rep. Thomas A. Allen,D-Maine.
Thomas noted that many unemployed have no health benefits.
Evans said his department was taking steps to secure the country's position in the world economy by appointing an assistant secretary for manufacturing and services,setting up an unfair trade practices task force and establishing an office of investigation and compliance to pursue trade violations.
Earlier this month,the appointment of an assistant secretary was halted when it was discovered that he had laid off American workers and opened a factory in China.