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April 6, 2013 at 12:00 PM   |   Comments

Jobs report puts focus on sequester

WASHINGTON, April 6 (UPI) -- Democrats say the federal budget sequester is to blame for a disappointing U.S. March jobs report but Republicans blame President Barack Obama's policies.

The Labor Department reported Friday the economy added 88,000 jobs in March, well below what economists had forecast.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the jobs report showed the sequester -- virtually across-the-board federal spending cuts that took effect March 1 -- has already begun to hurt the economy. Carney charged congressional Republicans were not taking the necessary measures to end the sequester because they wanted "to embrace it as a political victory and a home run," The Hill reported Saturday

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said, "Republicans prefer sequesters that undermine our economic growth and Ryan budgets that would cost jobs and threaten the economic security of seniors and working families."

Republicans countered the employment report showed regulations and tax hikes were strangling the economy, and renewed their charge that the Affordable Care Act has added uncertainly to the economy.

"Our economy is not creating enough jobs, and too many working men and women are still in the unemployment line," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, said he doubted the sequester was responsible for the disappointing jobs report. Nearly five years after a near meltdown in the financial sector and the collapse of the housing market, Zandi said the March report shows the economy is "still not gaining traction."

Other analysts said the a decline in retail jobs suggested the expiration of the payroll tax cut at the end of 2012 was slowing the economy by cutting into workers' purchasing power.

Keith Hall, a senior research fellow at George Mason University and former director of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said Washington gridlock on fiscal issues was causing uncertainty in the economy.

Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation, said persistent infighting in Washington on such issues as the debt ceiling and the sequester are holding the economy back.

"If we don't do something big, the economy will continue to drag," he said.


GOP: States know how to balance budgets

WASHINGTON, April 6 (UPI) -- Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Saturday if Washington wants to see how to balance the budget while growing the economy, it should look to the states.

Delivering the Republican weekly media address, Brownback touted his state's conservative tax policies as a model, The Hill reported.

During his term as governor, Brownback consolidated income tax brackets, eliminated some small business taxes and recently proposed doing away with the state income tax.

He highlighted the "ideas that work" that 30 Republican governors have used to improve their states' economies.

Those measures "involve a more focused government that costs less," Brownback said. "A taxing structure that encourages growth. An education system that produces measurable results. And a renewed focus on the incredible dignity of each and every person, no matter who they are."

In his state, Brownback said, Kansas had a projected $500 million deficit the year he took office, ABC News Radio reported. "Two years later we had a $500 million ending balance -- and did it without tax increases," he said.

His comments come as taxes are likely to re-emerge as a national issue.

President Obama will reveal his budget next week, the White House said Friday. It will include his proposals for entitlement reform, but officials said the changes must be tied to increased taxes on wealthy Americans and corporations.


Attack kills 22, hurts 50, at Iraq rally

BAQUBA, Iraq, April 6 (UPI) -- A grenade attack at a political rally in eastern Iraq Saturday killed at least 22 people and wounded at least 50, officials say.

Sunni candidate Muthana al-Jourani was meeting supporters in Baquba at the time of the attack, the BBC reported.

After tossing a grenade into the meeting, the suicide bomber blew himself up, police said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Provincial elections are scheduled for April 20, the first in Iraq since 2010.


Nelson Mandela discharged from hospital

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, April 6 (UPI) -- Former South African President Nelson Mandela was sent home Saturday from a Johannesburg hospital after a bout of pneumonia, the government said.

Mandela, 94, was admitted March 27 for a recurrence of the lung problems that were a result of his long imprisonment during the days of apartheid.

Doctors determined he had recovered enough to return home to continue his recovery. CNN said Mandela has not appeared in public since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

President Jacob Zuma said in a written statement he appreciated the work of Mandela's medical team and "extended his gratitude to all South Africans and friends of the Republic in Africa and around the world for support."


Morsi ends visit to Sudan

KHARTOUM, Sudan, April 6 (UPI) -- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi called for closer ties with Sudan as he ended a two-day visit Saturday to his country's southern neighbor.

Appearing at a news conference with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, Morsi said there is no real border dispute between the two countries. He called for a three-way summit with Libya to settle any border issues.

"Egypt's ties stumbled in the past, but now we are together, with possibilities of enhancing cooperation that satisfies the interests of all sides," Morsi said. "Mutual talks in this respect are currently ongoing, and we welcome the restoration of old relations with Africa."

Bashir called for transportation improvements to allow better movement of goods in the region, Egypt's Middle East News Agency said.

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