US House Speaker Dennis Hastert visiting Tulsa, responds to Democratic attacks

Wednesday, August 13th 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- The third man in line to the U.S. presidency said Wednesday some Democratic presidential hopefuls could use a lesson in economics.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert defended President Bush's tax cuts a day after Democratic candidate after candidate blasted those cuts at a forum in Stillwater.

Hastert, R-Ill., said the toughest thing he ever did was teach economics to 16-year-olds as a teacher in Illinois.

"Some of these members running for president ought to take a basic course in economics as well," he said.

The tax cuts were needed to return consumer confidence "by putting a little more money in everyone's pockets," stimulate the stock market and create jobs, Hastert said.

"We don't have a magic wand we can wave over the economy and make things better again," he said. "But one of the things we can do is try and create the environment where people will start to invest money in capital goods, goods that create jobs."

He said Democrats want to raise taxes just as the economy is making a comeback, and "we know raising taxes would be a negative thing to the economy."

Hastert appeared at a Tulsa fund-raising breakfast for Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla. Guests paid $50 per person to attend.

Hastert recounted his journey from high school wrestling coach to congressman to speaker.

He talked about how the Sept. 11 attacks changed the lives of all Americans, describing how agents whisked him away to an undisclosed location moments after he saw smoke from the burning Pentagon.

He defended Bush's handling of the aftermath of 9-11, another target of some of the Democratic candidates.

"We've gone to Iraq and tried to remove threats of terror from that country and weapons of mass destruction, I might add," he said. "People don't want to talk about that anymore but they were there."

And he pointed out the Democrats who have supported Bush in those efforts, saying their decisions were based on the same intelligence Bush used.

"They don't have anything else to talk about," Hastert said. "It's their job as a presidential candidate or a wannabe to try to find wedges. I don't think it has much gravity right now."

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