"Only George W. Bush could celebrate over a record budget deficit of $422 billion, a loss of 1.6 million jobs and Medicare premiums that are up by a record 17 percent," the Democratic presidential candidate said during a stop in Greensboro, N.C.
"W stands for wrong — the wrong direction for America."
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is predicting that this year's federal deficit will be reach $422 billion, the highest ever but less than the amount analysts predicted earlier this year.
The estimate came as Kerry was talking to North Carolina voters about his plans to fight the forces sending U.S. jobs overseas, a timely topic in a state losing jobs to the manufacturing slump and international competition.
"Because of George Bush's wrong choices, this country is continuing to ship good jobs overseas — jobs with good wages and good benefits," Kerry said at a town hall meeting. "All across America, companies have shut their doors, putting hardworking people out of a job, leaving entire communities without help or hope."
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush, campaigning in Missouri, charged that Kerry is blocking lawsuit restrictions that would help generate new jobs.
"I understand my opponent changes positions a lot, but for 20 years he's been one of the trial lawyers' most reliable allies in the Senate," Mr. Bush told thousands of supporters at an outdoor rally near Kansas City.
Mr. Bush said Kerry has consistently voted against legal changes that would protect workers and businesses.
"His fellow lawyers have responded with millions of dollars in campaign donations," said the president.
Mr. Bush said that "ending junk lawsuits" is necessary to create more jobs and that "the cost to our economy of litigation is conservatively estimated to be over $230 billion a year." Kerry running mate John Edwards is a personal injury lawyer.
Kerry took his message about jobs and outsourcing to a state with industries vulnerable to international competition, including textiles and apparel. North Carolina is also a state that the campaign sees as competitive territory that could be tipped in Kerry's direction, helped by having Edwards, a North Carolina lawmaker, as his running mate.
Kerry hopes to capitalize on statements made by Bush administration officials to portray the president as unsympathetic to job losses caused by international competition.
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said during the Republican convention that "the anxiety belies the numbers" that she said show foreign companies create more jobs in the United States than the number lost to foreign workers.
Treasury Secretary John Snow has said job outsourcing is an aspect of trade that "makes the economy stronger."
The Bush-Cheney campaign said Kerry's advisers and business supporters includes "outsourcers" and that his plan would have little effect on the trend.
"John Kerry's own advisers say his tax plan won't stop outsourcing," said spokesman Steve Schmidt. "He has even said he would support companies taking jobs overseas in the normal course of business."
Mr. Bush won North Carolina easily four years ago, yet with manufacturing employment in the state down more than 20 percent since 2001, economic woes have eaten into the president's popularity in the state.
More than 160,000 jobs have been lost, primarily in industries like furniture and textiles where free trade policies have encouraged overseas job flight.
During his stop Tuesday in Missouri, Mr. Bush also said that Kerry's latest attacks over Iraq have taken on the angry tone of his primary foe Howard Dean.
The president denounced Kerry's Labor Day charge that Iraq is the "wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." Mr. Bush called it another flip-flop from a candidate who voted to authorize the use of force.
And Mr. Bush said it uses "the same words" Dean did during the primaries.
The president declared he was right to "make America safer by removing Saddam Hussein from power."
Missouri has gone with every presidential winner but one in the past century. Mr. Bush narrowly won Missouri in 2000 by 79,000 votes out of 2.3 million cast.