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Residents, representatives respond to Bush's speech

By Billy Corriher

The day after President George Bush delivered his annual "State of the Union" speech, some in the community disagreed with Bush's upbeat assessment of the economy.

Jonesboro resident Rachelle Exis said she doesn't think Bush has handled the economy very well.

"I feel like the economy, for middle and lower class people, has gotten really hard," she said.

Exis said Bush's stance on cutting overtime pay and tax cuts is not helping the economy.

"I remember in (President Bill) Clinton's time you could make some money and save a little," she said.

But Jonesboro resident Roy Foster said that, while the national economy is still struggling, he agrees with the president's assessment.

"The economy is going to recover soon," he said. "I think (Bush) is doing what he can." Foster said the president was also right in calling for Congress to make his tax cuts permanent.

Foster also said he had no problem with Bush's discussion of more drug testing in schools.

"Drugs have gotten so bad, we've got to do something," he said.

Foster said that, overall, he likes Bush's leadership and will vote for him again.

"I think the president's speech was on the money," he said.

Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, said he supported the president's stance on national security, but would have liked the speech to include more about job creation.

"We must look at what is going on inside our country," he said. "We are closing manufacturing plants here and opening them up in Chile or China or India."

Scott said more needs to be done to keep jobs in the United States. Bush did propose funding for job training at community colleges, but Scott posed the question, "What are we going to train them for?"

Scott said he also would have liked Bush's speech to focus more on expanding health care insurance and strengthening veteran's benefits.

Rep. Mac Collins, R-Jackson, who is vying for the Republican Senate nomination, said the president's speech was a "good update" of where the country stands.

"I thought (Bush) had his eye on the ball," he said. "I'm very pleased with the commander in chief's leadership."

Collins said the president's comments on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs were proof that Iraq was a threat to U.S. security.

"If we had not gone in when we did, I'm pretty sure Saddam Hussein would still have those programs," he said.

Collins said he also credited Bush's tax cuts with helping to stimulate an economic recovery.

"There's a lot of good, positive things that are happening," he said, pointing to rising productivity, low interest rates, rising home construction and a recovering stock market.

Collins said the loss of manufacturing jobs, however, continues to be a concern for his constituents, and he hopes Bush will emphasize protecting those jobs.

"I want to help him do more than what he talked about," he said.

Sen. Zell Miller, the only Democratic senator to endorse Bush, issued a statement praising Bush's address and his foreign policy.

"In a strong, forceful, optimistic n even visionary way, he talked about the kind of nation and world we can be," he said.

"Where he really touched this old Marine was with the strength and determination he continues to show in the War on Terrorism and to rogue dictators around the world," Miller said, pointing to Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi's decision to abandon weapons of mass destruction as evidence of Bush's effectiveness.