The Issues: Jobs

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CBS News continues a month-long series titled "What Does It Mean To You?" focused on where the presidential candidates stand on major issues and how a vote for one or the other candidate might affect average people's lives.

In this report, CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod looks at one of the campaign's most pressing issues: job creation.

This is not how Richard Sterner expected his life to turn out – dumping gravel, and earning just about half of what he was making ten years ago.

"When I first started at Bethlehem Steel, the first thing people would tell me is, 'Don't worry, man, you're set for life.'"

But those high union wages were one of the things that kept the steel industry from competing with less expensive foreign imports. And Bethlehem Steel was finally forced to shut down the furnaces, lock the gates and lay off thousands, including Sterner.

And now, with so many industries moving their operations overseas, Sterner worries about future generations.

"Where are they going to work? Are our young people in the United States right now, are they going to go to India to work? They can't work here. There's no jobs," says Sterner.

Richard Sterner is working; he's just not making much of a living. What he's looking for is not only a candidate with a plan to create jobs, but the kind of jobs that can support a family. The kind of job he used to have.

President Bush's plan to create the kinds of jobs Sterner wants rests on continuing his tax cuts, which he says will encourage business investment.

"The economy is strong. It is getting stronger," says Mr. Bush. "The tax relief we passed is working."

Sen. John Kerry's plan would end tax breaks for companies that move jobs overseas and use that money to cut the corporate rate for companies that create jobs at home.

"When I am president, I promise you, I am putting jobs first in America," Kerry says.

Sterner is on the fence, but leaning towards Kerry.

"If you want to give a guy, a company, tax credits, give him credit for starting more jobs here, building plants here," Sterner says. "Not in India."

But less than four months before the election, Sterner's choice is still not a done deal. He's willing to be convinced "by either one of these guys."

The flames are out for good at Bethlehem Steel, but Richard Sterner's vote will go to the man with the plan to reignite the fire of American industry.