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As President George W. Bush prepares later this week to present his $1.6 trillion, 10-year tax-cut plan to Congress in a bid to help jump-start a sagging U.S. economy, the first weeks of 2001 have been relentless and unforgiving to some of America’s largest corporations and industries.

According to Forbes Magazine, which has undertaken a new and ongoing financial report called “Body Count: 2001″ — a report that continually monitors and documents corporate and industrial labor performance — “in the first three weeks of 2001, dozens of corporate giants on both The Forbes 500 and the Forbes International 800 have already dismissed more than 113,524 employees in the name of everything from ‘cost-cutting’ and ‘reorganization’ to the ever-popular ‘return to profitability.’”

The most recent figures posted on the site said that 121,541 Americans have permanently lost jobs or have been laid off since the first of the year.

The Forbes report lists the “date pink slips are issued; company name; number of layoffs; and percentage of a company’s workforce” that was affected by the cuts.

As early as mid-summer last year, many of the technology sector’s newest companies — the “dot-com” online retailers and information sites — began to cut staff and some even closed outright, leading to a drop-off in the tech sector and dwindling performances on the Nasdaq composite index, where many of these companies were listed after their initial public offerings, or IPOs.

But by the end of the year, traditional businesses, retailers, corporations and factories began to feel the pinch of reduced consumer activity; home and car sales fell, energy prices increased, and retailers did worse than they expected during the Christmas season.

Though criticized by the outgoing officials in the Clinton administration, Bush and his incoming administrative team said weeks in advance of the Jan. 20 inauguration that the economy was showing definite signs of slowing, and that fears of a new recession were beginning to mount.

Continuing poor economic performances among U.S. industries and corporations, however, have bolstered the administration’s case for Bush’s tax cut, which he has said he plans to send to Congress on Thursday, while spending the early part of this week selling his proposal to the American people and skeptics on Capitol Hill.

Two other factors have also strengthened the Bush administration’s push for the largest tax cut in two decades:

  • Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, during testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, endorsed Bush’s tax-cut plan, saying that although his primary goal is elimination of the federal debt, there should be enough federal surplus funds to reduce that debt and grant the cuts Bush wants.

  • In a report released late last week, the Congressional Budget Office said the U.S. Treasury should expect nearly $5.6 trillion in surplus revenues over the next 10 years — an increase of more than $1 trillion from earlier estimates last year, and more than former President Clinton predicted before he left office.

Yesterday, Bush appealed to Americans to back his tax-cut proposal, saying he wanted to make it retroactive to the first of this year to “help get money into the people’s pockets quicker.”

Also, the president warned Congress and lobbyists against making attempts to add on to his proposal, saying it was the right size “and I’m going to defend it mightily.”

Bush also decried Democratic charges that his cuts were aimed at the wealthiest Americans, deriding such criticism as “class warfare.”

“All the income tax rates should be cut,” he said. “Our tax code should not punish success at any stage of life.”

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