President Bush was touring a union training center in the Valley late this afternoon and planned to cite record levels of American home ownership as proof his economic agenda is working.
Bush was touring the Phoenix Carpenter’s Training Center in west Phoenix, a facility that opened in February to train people in construction trades.
The venue may seem unusual for a Republican president since labor organizations have traditionally backed Democrats. But Rick Mills, administrative assistant for the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, said the union does not view the president’s trip as political.
"It’s an honor," Mills said. "It doesn’t matter who the president is. It’s an honor to have the president of the United States come to our center. This has nothing to do with the politics. It has to do with having the president come here and view our facility."
The AFL-CIO labor union has scheduled a protest in front of the carpenters’ hall during the president’s visit.
Bush will hold a discussion on home ownership and tout recent U.S. Census Bureau figures showing home ownership is at a record high.
Census figures show 68.6 percent of American families own their homes. Home ownership among minorities reached 50.6 percent in 2003, also a record, according to the White House.
While details of the format for the president’s visit have not been released, his itinerary bills it as a "conversation" about home ownership. The trip to Arizona is classified as an official visit, meaning Bush’s re-election campaign does not have to pick up any of the costs.
Jim Pederson, chairman of the state Democratic Party, said that while home ownership rates and housing starts are up, American workers remain on shaky financial ground. The federal budget deficits that have grown rapidly under Bush’s tenure will likely drive up interest rates, which will lead to more foreclosures and bankruptcies, said Pederson, a commercial real estate developer.
Tax cuts that are at the core of Bush’s domestic agenda "have really put us all in a sugar high as far as the economy is concerned this year," Pederson said. "We can’t live with these deficits. It comes to a point where the whole house collapses."
Among the props likely to be used by protesters today will be red balloons with the phrase "Bush’s $5.2 trillion deficit" printed on them. The balloons are part of a nationwide campaign by Democratic activists to call attention to the deficit.
Danny Diaz, spokesman for the Bush re-election campaign, said Bush inherited a struggling economy and because of his policies, economic indicators, including the number of families owning their homes, are now strong.
"Every major economic indicator is pointed in the right direction," Diaz said.
The facts are there are more people in homes and there are more people finding jobs because of the economic policies and the leadership demonstrated by this president."