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Bush Briefly Addresses Slowing Economy

Aired September 7, 2001 - 15:07   ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The meeting is over in the Oval Office. We see the president with the Republican leaders of the Congress, the minority leader in the Senate, Trent Lott, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. there's been a meeting going on primarily over today's economic numbers. The president is going to talk about that.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm visiting with the speaker and the leader. It's the end of a long week of discussing how to make sure our economy begins to grow again. I want to appreciate Denny and Trent for coming down again. They've been visiting with their members and I've been visiting with them and their members.

I also had a good discussion today with Minority Leader Gephardt, and of course the Senate Majority Leader Daschle the other day as well, about how we can kind of get away from all the distractions that tend to dominate Washington and focus on a pro-growth agenda for this fall.

The unemployment numbers today are evidence that I've seen first- hand as I travel the country, and that is too many people are losing their jobs as a result of a slowdown that began when Dick and I were campaigning across our country last summer. The slowdown is real and it's affecting too many lives. And we're concerned about it.

Any American out of work is too many Americans out of work. And that's why it's absolutely essential that we work together to put a growth plan in place to create jobs for hard-working Americans. It starts with having a responsible budget that meets our nation's obligations, without affecting Social Security or dipping into Social Security. We made a great step toward economic growth when we worked together to pass tax relief. One-half of the checks have gone out and more relief is on the way this fall, which should help our economy.

Beginning January 1, Americans will see lower tax rates, lower withholding from their paychecks and a larger tax credit. Tax relief is just now making its way in the economy, and there are some it seems like who are beginning to say maybe we ought to raise taxes. But I can assure you, the four of us on this stage are not going to let anybody pick the pockets of the American taxpayer.

To help get our economy moving again, Congress needs to enact an energy plan which will lower energy costs and create jobs. To get the economy moving again, Congress needs to enact trade promotion authority so we can open up new markets for American products. We've got a plan to get our economy moving, so Americans can find work.

And today I want to thank the leadership of the Congress from the Republican side that came and strategized with the vice president and me, as to how to get this plan moving. I want the American people to know we're deeply concerned about the unemployment rates, and we intend to do something about it.

Thank you all very much.

QUESTION: Mr. President, long-term, sir...

WATERS: All right, just a quick statement on the economy and urge to the Congress to enact what he calls his pro-growth agenda. The president of the United States reacting, along with the vice president and the Republican leaders of the Congress to today's unfortunate economic numbers: an increase to the highest in four years of the unemployment rate to 4.9 percent.

Kelly Wallace is at the White House. The meeting, as the president said, was to strategize. There are many economists who really don't know what's happening in this economy. This must make, for the administration, a very difficult problem.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, it is a very difficult problem, and really the administration now saying the economy is really its main focus, and it's really a big part of its agenda because, as we know, presidents really have the most at stake when it comes to the economy. The president, as you heard him say, the slowdown began during the presidential campaign when he and Vice President Dick Cheney were campaigning. That was when former President Bill Clinton was here in the White House.

But right now, though, this administration knowing that how it handles this economy and if it does not help stimulate some economic growth, that this president will be held accountable, and Republicans could pay a price in next year's elections.

Another very important thing, Lou -- and we've been hearing it from this president for a few weeks now -- he is saying he is, quote, "deeply concerned." Very important for this White House to have the president show how concerned he is about the economic slowdown, about these new unemployment figures and how more and more Americans are losing their jobs.

As you know, Lou, the president's father, former President Bush, was often criticized for his handling of the economy. Some believe he appeared to be out of touch, and that could have contributed to his loss of a second term -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Kelly at the White House.

Let's find out more about the plan to enact this pro-growth agenda.

Jonathan Karl, I heard the president say Congress must enact an energy plan, a trade promotion authority to create new markets. It would seem that there needs to be a little bit more meat on that bone.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly the Republican leadership up here on Capitol Hill, although the two prominent Republican leaders were standing right behind the president, they are talking about a much more widespread, ambitious plan to get the economy going. They're not talking simply about trade promotion authority and about going forward with the energy plan.

They also want to see more tax cuts. They have said this on the record, and they have said it repeatedly. And the plan right now that this Republican leadership is working on is to come forward with a plan this year to go forward with more tax cuts, specifically capital gains tax cuts, which they believe would give a kick-start to this economy.

There's another thing going on here, and that is the declining economy has met a declining budget surplus, and you've heard the president promise that he would not dip into the Social Security surplus. A very important thing politically for Republicans up here on Capitol Hill.

And they are working on a plan they want to put forward that would say that they would do across-the-board spending cuts if necessary to keep from dipping into that Social Security surplus.

Meanwhile, Democrats are ready to go. They are saying that this president -- that this Congress is already on the verge, if not doing so, stepping on that Social Security surplus. And I'll tell you, don't be surprised to see this become the major political issue of the fall, something that Democrats could try to use even in political ads to go forward to try to make Republicans pay a very steep price, not only for a declining economy -- for a slowing economy, but also for possibly dipping into that Social Security surplus.

WATERS: All right, Jonathan Karl on the Hill. And CNN will be there every step of the way as we cover the Congress and the president's attempts to compete against this sluggish U.S. economy.



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