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Democrats Raise Alert About ‘Manufacturing Czar’ Post

A Nebraska businessman whom President Bush wanted to nominate for the job of ”manufacturing czar” has withdrawn from consideration amid attacks from Democrats. Anthony Raimondo said he would not be a candidate for the position as Democratic organizations began e-mailing reporters that Raimondo had laid off workers in Nebraska and opened a plant in China. Two administration officials confirmed that Raimondo bowed out. One administration source said the withdrawal had nothing to do with the ”baseless” Democratic attacks.

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From USA TODAY

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WASHINGTON — A Nebraska businessman whom President Bush wanted to nominate for the job of ”manufacturing czar” has withdrawn from consideration amid attacks from Democrats.

Anthony Raimondo said he would not be a candidate for the position as Democratic organizations began e-mailing reporters that Raimondo had laid off workers in Nebraska and opened a plant in China.

Two administration officials confirmed that Raimondo bowed out. One administration source said the withdrawal had nothing to do with the ”baseless” Democratic attacks.

The campaign staff of presidential candidate John Kerry told reporters in an e-mail Wednesday that Bush was about to nominate Raimondo to the position, a deputy secretary of Commerce. Raimondo is chairman and CEO of Behlen Manufacturing, a maker of metal buildings and silos in Columbus, Neb.

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The transfer of manufacturing and service jobs to lower-cost locales overseas, a phenomenon called ”outsourcing,” is one of the biggest issues of the election. Kerry, meeting with senators at the Capitol, said, ”Their manufacturing czar, the person they choose, has been a poster person for the very depths of their policy that have affected millions of Americans negatively across our country.”

The Bush administration has had several recent stumbles on economic policy:

* Gregory Mankiw, chairman of Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers, said last month that although individual workers are hurt when employers move manufacturing and service jobs to other countries, it is a ”good thing” for the economy over the long term because it reflects widening trade. Democrats called the comments insensitive to the unemployed.

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* In February, Bush’s annual report to Congress on the economy predicted the creation of 2.6 million jobs this year. But the government reported job growth of 112,000 in January — since revised to 92,000. That was well short of the average of 216,000 a month needed to meet Bush’s forecast.

* In January, former Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill was quoted in a scathing book, The Price of Loyalty, as accusing Bush of being disengaged from policymaking and saying the administration routinely put short-term political interests ahead of the nation’s long-term economic well-being.

Rep. Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican, said that Democrats were ”attacking a great American” in Raimondo. He said Raimondo’s four U.S. plants employ 1,200 workers and that the factory in China, with 180 employees, makes farm equipment for sale in China. ”This isn’t an issue of outsourcing,” Terry said. ”This is an issue of being efficient in a global economy.”

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Copyright 2004 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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