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America Recovers: President Bush Says Economy Needs a Kickstart

Aired October 3, 2001 - 11:18   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Back here in New York City, the president just emerging from his meeting with various business leaders from across the country. We will listen here live.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I want to thank the business leaders from not only New York, but others who have come from around the country to discuss the state of the nation, and we've had a very frank discussion about the state of our economy. I think there's no question, we all agree, that the events of September 11 shocked our economy just like it shocked the conscience of our nation. But like those terrorists, they can't affect our soul, they can't affect the greatness of America. We all believe that the underpinnings are there for economic recovery and we all must do our part.

The federal government has a role to play. Today, Secretary Paul O'Neill testified at Congress saying that the administration believes that we ought to have $60 to $75 billion more dollars of stimulus to encourage consumer confidence, to enhance business investment, as well as to take care of displaced workers. I have shared that with the business leaders here. They understand that there is a role for the federal government, a strong and active role, and I assured them it's a role that we intend to play.

I know there are people hurting in America. There are people who have lost their jobs. But I assured these leaders that our government will do everything we can to get our economy growing, to make it as strong as possible. I am saddened by the sight of the World Trade Center, once again, but through my tears, I do see a much better future for the country. This is a great nation. It's an entrepreneurial nation. It's a nation that has got such generous and kind people. The business leadership here has contributed $150 million to a variety of funds here in the New York City area to help people, the victims.

It speaks volumes about what America is about. And I want to thank everybody for coming. I'm now going to ask Ken Chenault to say a few words.

Ken?

KEN CHENAULT: Thank you, Mr. President.

This has truly been a very productive meeting. On behalf of all of us here I want to thank you for your outstanding leadership. The job of a leader is to define reality and give hope. And you are defining this new reality, and you're acting in a very positive way to bring us forward. And you are giving us a great deal of hope through your leadership.

BUSH: Thanks, Ken.

CHENAULT: And we thank you.

Your team is moving very quickly and decisively on a range of actions to help stimulate the economy. And I think what's important is, what happened here is a very close partnership that exists between the private sector and the public sector, because we are all in this together. It's important, I think, for the American public to understand that the long-term fundamentals that we have in our economy are strong. We have some short-term challenges, we have a number of specific actions that you are putting in place that we have confidence will restore the economy, will restore the growth for our nation.

And Mr. President, your leadership has been outstanding on every level. You have the support of everyone in this room. You have the support of the American people. You have the support of our friends around the globe. We will not succumb to this evil. We believe in the American promise, and we will do everything to build on that promise.

BUSH: Thank you, Ken.

Betsy?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I would just echo, a very, very productive discussion, a lot of very good ideas raised. I would also echo what Ken said. You have been an incredibly inspiring leader. We are very supportive of the initiatives that you have put forward. And we are totally committed to working together and to working with you to keep our economy strong.

BUSH: I appreciate it, thanks.

I would be glad to take a few questions.

QUESTION: What more (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: You bet. I know we need to provide more tax relief to individuals to boost consumer confidence. We've just finished passing out $40 billion of rebate checks. They were completed by October 1 of this year.

There's going to be tax relief started next year as a part of the package that the Congress and I agreed to. We believe there ought to be more to make sure that the consumer has got money to spend, money to spend in the short term. Secondly there needs to be business relief as well, to encourage investment. And finally, there needs to be a displaced worker package. We've got to recognize that, as a result of September 11, folks have been laid off and we need to make sure they're able to survive until this economy gets going again.

And I got to tell you, I had a great conversation with the leadership of the Congress yesterday. We're coming together on a plan that I believe needs to get passed as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Mr. President, is this going to eat up the rest of the surplus for the year, and does it matter?

BUSH: Well, as I said in Chicago during the campaign, when asked about, "Should the government ever deficit spend?" I said, "Only under these circumstances should government deficit spend -- if there's a national emergency, if there's a recession or if there's a war." You know, we've now got a reason to do what it takes to not only provide security at home, to do what it takes to win the war on terrorism, we've also got to do what it takes to make sure this economy gets growing so people can find work.

You know, we've got the basis for growth. We're an entrepreneurial nation. There's a lot of small business growth in America. You know, by and large, the banking system is very solid. The energy prices are reasonable. And now, we just got to be aggressive and make sure we do what we need to do at the federal level to provide a kick start to give people reason to be confident. And we will do that. And this isn't a Republican idea or a Democrat idea. It's an American idea, and it's the right time for us to come together to get it done.

QUESTION: Mr. President?

BUSH: Yes, ma'am?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Yes, but, you know, we'll leave all that talk up to the statisticians. You're asking me about statistics. And we've got people who count numbers there in Washington, D.C., and that's fine. Here's my attitude: One person laid off is one person too many. And therefore, we've got to do what it takes to make sure that that person who got laid off is able to find work.

I'm not going to dwell on the past. I'm looking forward, and I believe we've got a fantastic opportunity to invigorate this economy and to assure the business leaders around America that the government is playing a very active role and that we will take the steps necessary to provide growth and stimulus. And that's why I believe we need additional stimulus beyond some of the spending that we've already put in place to the tune of about $60 billion to $75 billion.

We'll let the accountants come up -- they call it want they want. There's no question that the economy has been affected by September 11.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) explicitly signed off on that $60 billion to $75 billion...

BUSH: No, they have not yet, but they do understand we need to have a range that, as you go into a debate or discussions about how to stimulate the economy, first and foremost it's important to come up with a total figure so that we don't undershoot or overshoot the mark. And they do recognize that some of the actions that we've all taken together, including the $40 billion supplemental, plus the $15 billion for the airline, will have a positive affect on economic growth, and I do believe they recognize there needs to be more. And so, one of the things that I'm doing is providing the leadership necessary to try to set the parameters on what the definition of more is.

Again, I want to repeat we've just finished with $40 billion of rebate from the tax package we agreed upon earlier in the year. Plus, we'll have about $70 billion in the rate reduction starting next year. And so what we're looking at is how to bridge into next year.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Yes, that's a very good question. I finally got one -- no, anyway...

(LAUGHTER)

I believe you ought to ask the -- I wish you could have heard the discussion we had -- let me put it to you that way -- where I believe around this table, for example, believe it's important to be aggressive on the front end, that the risk-reward ratio is beneficial to be more aggressive on the front end and obviously we agree with that. That's why we've proposed up to $60 billion to $75 billion, but we're mindful of the affect on long-term interest rates, and we think that number is the right number.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Yes, we did. I can be very specific, just like I have been. They do believe we need to stimulate the economy through boosting consumer confidence with some of kind of money in the hands of consumers, and there's a variety of ways...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Excuse me?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: I'm sorry. There's a variety of ways to do that. There's rebates, there's acceleration of the tax cuts -- are the two most effective ways to do that and we discussed both of those.

Secondly, we discussed a variety of options for corporate relief. One, we talked about ways to encourage investment through expensing (sic) of depreciation. Some people thought we ought to look at one- time ITCs, investment tax credits. People talked about the idea of corporate tax relief. And so we did have specific discussions about ways to make sure that our economy continues to grow. And I am most grateful for the input that we have been given here. It has been incredibly helpful.

The thing I come away with is that these are men and women dedicated to America first and foremost. They're dedicated to the workers that work for their company. They're dedicated to providing security for their workers so they can go to work feeling safely. And they love their country, and they're going to do what it takes to join all of us together to recover from this awful incident of September 11.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)?

BUSH: Well, I think the average American must not be afraid to travel. We opened Reagan Airport yesterday for a reason. We think it's safe and that people ought to feel comfortable about traveling around our country.

They ought to take their kids on vacations. They ought to go to ball games. The mayor wants them to come to the Yankee games, of course.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: The World Series.

BUSH: The World Series, yes. No question he's an incurable optimist. But people ought to -- listen, we ought to be aware in America. We are aware. How can you not be aware that we've entered into a new era? The imagery is vivid in people's minds.

But nevertheless, Americans must know that their government is doing everything we can to track down every rumor, every hint, every possible evil-doer. And therefore, Americans ought to go about their business, and they are beginning to do so. The load factors were up on the airlines, which means more people will be going to hotels and restaurants. I fulfilled my promise last night to take the mayor of Washington, D.C., for dinner. I did, Morton's Steakhouse. We had a nice slice of beef, plus I paid.

(LAUGHTER)

Thank you.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)?

BUSH: He's visiting with our friends. As you know, we put together a broad coalition of nations that are interested in joining us to battle terrorism. And Secretary Rumsfeld went over to visit with the leaders of a group of nations to share with them information, to discuss the determination of our nation.

People need to be able to look us in the eye and know that when we say that we're in this for the long run, that we're going to find terrorists and bring them to justice, we mean it, that this is a nation -- see, it's hard for people around the world to understand the resolve of America. They may hear my speech occasionally. But they need to look in the eyes of members of my administration and hear them say that not only is this president resolved, but America is resolved to route out terrorism, to make sure that legitimate governments can survive as we head into the 21st century, and to make a strong stand for freedom.

And Secretary Rumsfeld is going to do a fine job of delivering that message because he knows exactly how I feel about the mission we have ahead of us.

Thank you all for coming.

HEMMER: A rather energetic, sometimes playful President Bush, with his comments before reporters and opening statement, following his meeting with about 30 leading executives from the business world here in the U.S., saying the economy needs a kickstart, it's been in shock at this point, saying the economic stimulus package now being worked on at the White House may extend anywhere from $60 to $70 billion. When asked how would he initiate kickstarting the economy, he talked about more tax relief, boosting consumer confidence, and also quite mindful of those who have lost theirs jobs, saying one person laid off is one person too many.

Kelly Wallace from the White House with us here today in New York as the president arrived earlier today.

And, Kelly, surprise out of here? Anything there?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, the news here was the size, the 60 to $70 billion stimulus, first time you've heard the White House attach itself to a dollar figure. The White House definitely wanting to make sure that it's big enough, again, to sort of give a kickstart in the short term, but not to big to sort of jack up long-term interest rates.

HEMMER: Last hour, Kelly, listening to Tom Daschle, the Senate majority leader, talking about a $50 billion figure. If you look at these two numbers being throw out there, they're not too far off.

WALLACE: They are not too far off, and obviously, they will work together. The other interesting thing, not a lot of specifics, as you saw from the president. He talked in general, increasing consumer confidence, maybe more tax rebate checks going out in the mail, increasing business confidence, maybe some corporate tax breaks, helping laid-off workers. No real specifics. It's a different sort of world now, Bill.

There is this bipartisanship in Washington. The president met with congressional leaders yesterday. The sense is the White House and Democrats, Republicans, wants to work together, come up with a plan together, and get bipartisan agreement.

HEMMER: And quickly, Kelly, how much concern is there for a timeframe right now, given the current climate? WALLACE: Well, you heard the president, he wants something as quickly as possible, and it sort of does two things. One, it does is sort of a psychological thing. It sort of sends a message to consumers and businesses, help is on the way, and then of course we get more money out to people. The more money they spend, the more kick to the economy.

HEMMER: Kelly Wallace, here in New York. Kelly, thank you.

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