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The Bush Economy Is Awful--No, It's Great...

Monday, 29 Jan 2007 | 2:18 PM ET

President George W. Bush is doing a lousy job steering the U.S. economy -- or, Bush is doing an excellent job -- depending whether you ask Christian Weller or Jack Burkman, both of whom joined "Power Lunch" to dissect the president's economic record.

Burkman, an attorney and a Republican strategist, told CNBC's Sue Herera he believes that America's economy is in great shape. He pointed out that more than 50% of Americans own equities, and that Americans who own property hold "hundreds of thousands of net worth."

So why do certain indicators -- such as the most recent Newsweek poll -- hint that a growing number of Americans disapprove of Bush's leadership? Burkman ascribes it partly to the "establishment media" and a "hyper-focus" on Iraq. The GOP strategist eschewed the strategic issues of the Persian Gulf war, sticking to the financial: he called comparisons to the Vietnam conflict "fallacious," as the U.S. economy of the 1960s was utterly different from that of the present.

Bush & the Economy
The reasons why Bush is not getting credit for a strong economy, with Jack Burkman, J.M. Burkman & Associates, LLC Founder & Former White Water Counsel; Christian Weller, Center for American Progress Senior Economist and CNBC's Sue Herera

But Weller, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, warned of the "flip-side of a debt boom." He pointed to companies cutting health insurance as proof of pressure on blue-collar and middle-class families. Weller said that lately, credit-card debt -- a mark of discretionary consumer spending -- has been flat, and claimed that most people are borrowing money to make ends meet, rather than to invest. He asked rhetorically, "If everything is so hunky-dory, why are people borrowing so much?"

Burkman maintains middle-class savings are down due to greater investment, and blamed an "age of massive negativity" on the "American left 'demagoguing' the issues."

According to a poll by RasmussenReports.com, 42% of Americans approve of the way Bush is handling the presidency; 56% disapprove. Compare that to the Gallup poll of mid-April 2003, when Bush stood at a 71% approval rating -- as the freshly-toppled statuary of Saddam Hussein seemed to signify a quick end to the Iraq war.

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  • Sue Herera is a founding member of CNBC, helping to launch the network in 1989. She is co-anchor of "Power Lunch."

  • Tyler Mathisen co-anchors CNBC's "Power Lunch." Mathisen also co-anchors "Nightly Business Report produced by CNBC."

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Kenny Polcari