KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) President Bush yesterday injected a new tone of urgency into his public appeals for Congress to quickly pass his $1.6 trillion tax cut, saying the economy “has slowed and we better do something about it.””

Paul Wong
President Bush shakes hands with a crowd gathered to greet him yesterday in Billings, Montana where he outlined his economic agenda.<br><br>AP PHOTO

Campaigning anew in the heartlands for his economic agenda, the president told several hundred business people that his plan “has the potential to turn (the slowing economy) around.””

Bush”s remarks, both in Kansas City and yesterday evening in Billings, Mont., set the stage for what top White House aides said would be a major address on the economy today in Kalamazoo.

“It”s going to be the president”s assessment of where the economy is, why his plan is the best plan to help the economy recover,”” said Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary.

Montana is the 21st state that Bush has visited since becoming presidenttestament to his determination to take his tax-cut campaign beyond what he gently denigrated on yesterday as “the filter””meaning the Washington establishment.

Upon the president”s arrival in Kansas City, he dropped in on First Watch, a popular diner, before addressing local businessmen and women gathered at Bajan Industries, a minority-owned enterprise that produces specialty cards for Hallmark and employs many former welfare recipients.

There, the president delivered his standard stump speech, laying out his rationale for the across-the-board tax cut and debt reduction while explaining his proposals to rebuild the military and extend the solvency of Medicare and Social Security.

Bush also defended his plan to increase overall domestic spending by 4 percent in the face of strong pressure on Capitol Hill to sharply increase such spending.

At one point, the president said sternly: “The days of spending orgies … are over with!””

As Bush has increasingly tied his arguments for the tax cut to what he calls a “sputtering”” economy, top congressional Democrats have chastised him for talking down the economy.

But Bush seemed undaunted by such charges.

“We”ll let the numbers speak for themselves. I”m confident about our economy. I”m confident, however, if we do the right things, we can have economic growth, the likes of which we”ve had in the past,”” he told reporters at the diner. “We”ll watch the numbers carefully. The numbers will speak the truth.””

He added: “The last quarter of last year was a very slow-growth quarter. And we”ll see how it is in the first quarter of this year. I think a lot of experts

believe it is gonna be slow.””

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