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President Bush Talks About Economy and Economic Stimulus Plan

Aired October 31, 2001 - 11:13   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Here's the president now in Washington to talk more about the U.S. economy and some of the same issues that Christine and Major just mentioned..



Welcome. It's nice to see everybody. Welcome. Please be seated.


Thank you very much.

I've just finished icing down my arm.


Today, there's some news out on our economy, and it confirms that the events on September 11th have really shocked the nation, have affected our work force and affected our business space.

The gross domestic product for the third quarter was negative. People are having tough times in America. People are losing their jobs. I'm deeply concerned about that, and I know you are as well.

Consumer confidence is down. After all, we're at war. And for the first time in our nation's history, part of the battle front is here at home.

Shipments, particularly in the manufacturing sector, have declined dramatically in recent months. And it's time for our government to act in a positive and constructive way.

The Congress needs to pass a stimulus package and get it to my desk before the end of November.

I had breakfast today with the speaker and minority leader, Majority Leader Daschle and Senator Lott. All five of us agreed that we need to work together to get a package, that we've got to put aside political differences and act swiftly and strongly on behalf of the American worker and the American business person.

And so my call to Congress is, get to work and get something done.


The American people expect us to do just that.


I want to thank Paul O'Neill for being here. He is leading the charge on Capitol Hill for a common sense economic stimulus package. He brings a lot of experience to the job. After all, he was a manufacturer at one time. He knows the struggles that you go through. And like me, he hurts with the workers who aren't finding work these days.

And I appreciate Christie Todd being here, as well.

One of the smartest things I've done is to tap some of my former governor colleagues and ask them to come to the government. I tapped a great one when I tapped Christie Todd Whitman. She brings a lot of sense and a good view of our environmental policy. And the American people are proud of the job she's doing, and so am I.

Thank you for both being here.

I also want to thank Tim very much for his friendship and his introduction.

I didn't realize you were quite so eloquent.


Must be taking speech lessons.


I want to thank Don Wainwright (ph), as well.

And, of course, Jerry Jasconkowsky (ph) for his friendship and support.

I -- the American people know that we have acted quickly, in terms of this attack that has taken place. And we've done so on the domestic front. In quick order, both Republicans and Democrats decided to spend a considerable sum of money to address the country's needs. We've allocated $55 billion.

And it didn't take long to spend it, I might add. A big chunk of that is going to go to make sure we defend our country, make sure our Defense Department is bolstered during this war.

A significant amount of money went to help New York City recover, as it should.

We want New York City to be on her feet. It's an important symbol for the world that New York City be strong and vibrant. We spent a considerable amount of money for airplane security. My attitude was that the most directly affected industry was the airline industry, and therefore, we had to spend money to make sure the airlines survived and to make sure there was loan money and to make sure that the consumer realized that the government was acting in a positive way to bring security to our airports.

And the first act we took was to empower governors, to say, bring your Guard to the gates, put troops, so that people see a visible presence. And we started to increase the air marshals. And Congress is now working on an Airport Security Bill, and I hope I can be able to sign that pretty quickly too. But we are taking action.

And we need to spend money on helping workers who lost their job as a result of the attack of September 11. I believe we need to extend and expand the unemployment benefits to those workers. And I know we need to expand what they call national emergency grants, which will give governors the latitude to take federal monies and apply that money to special workers needs, such as, health care benefits, to make sure that any laid off worker can be able to pay the premiums of their health care plans.

And so there'll be -- there's more need. But I caution the Congress not to overspend. The temptation is to fund everybody's good idea. And my attitude is that our money ought to be focused and effective. The spending ought to be focused, and we ought to ask the question, is this effective spending?

We need to make sure that, when we spend, there is a strategy and a reason. And so I look forward to working with the appropriators to be responsible about how we spend taxpayers' money, particularly as we run up to what I hope is a recess around the Thanksgiving period.

And we also ought to make sure that we offset any spending with tax relief. The way to have a balanced stimulus package is to recognize we've spent a considerable amount of money up to date and we need to spend some more for our workers, we ought to offset that with tax relief.

And I have laid out some ideas for Congress to consider. On the one hand, we've got to make sure that we bolster consumer demand by both accelerating the tax cuts that now exist, as well as providing rebates for nontaxpayers, but who filed. In other words, there's some people that didn't get rebates last year -- generally low-income people -- that filed an income tax return, but they didn't pay tax, and they ought to get a rebate.

And Congress ought to act as quickly as possible to get that money into people's hands as quickly as possible to bolster demand. And then we've got to make sure our tax relief encourages investment, encourages the flow of capital, and therefore, I think we need to reform the alternative minimum tax on corporate America, so that corporate America doesn't have to get penalized during times of declining earnings -- that doesn't make any sense to do that -- as well as encourage investment in new plants and equipment. House has passed some elements of that plan, and the Senate needs to act, and any differences, we can work out in conference. But time is of the essence. As I mentioned, the leadership is prepared to spend the time necessary to get a good package out, and I'm grateful for that, and I hope the bill writers get moving. That's what the American people expect.

And I want the Congress to know that there is more to helping our economy grow than just tax relief or just spending.

And there's two items I want to briefly touch on. One is an energy plan. Our nation needs an energy plan, an energy plan that encourages conservation and encourages exploration.

And I believe we can do both in a responsible way. And we need to modernize the infrastructure that develops energy from point A to point B, from plant to consumer. We need to get after it. It is in our national interest that we have an energy plan, one designed to make us less reliant upon foreign sources of energy.


And as Tim mentioned, I need to have what's called trade promotion authority. I need to be able to negotiate trade agreements with nations who aren't trading with America. The Congress can vote the trade agreement down if they don't like it. But we need to be aggressive when it comes to opening up markets and taking advantage of opportunities around the world.

This nation should not stand on the sidelines when it comes to free trade. We must be confident. People who build walls around America aren't confident in America. They're not confident in American workers; they're not confident in American businesses. I'm confident in America's ability to compete.

I want to tear walls down. I want to make it easier for the world to trade in freedom ,and I think it's good for American workers that we trade. I think it's good for American business that we trade. And I know it's good for the spread of American values if we trade freely around the world.


So I ask the Congress to be confident as we approach these big issues.

Be confident in the ability of the American people. Be confident in the ability of the entrepreneurs to succeed. Be confident in our future of the country. And that's exactly the way I feel.

This is a very unusual period in American history, obviously. We've never been attacked like this before. We're still being attacked.

Our heart goes out to anybody who suffers in America. And so we're bolstering our homeland defense. We're disrupting and denying anybody who wants to harm the American people. We spent hours tracking down every possible lead of somebody who would come into this country or who might be buried in this country trying to hurt any American.

And I'm proud of our law enforcement officials who work nonstop around the clock, taking every single lead and pursuing it to its end.

Yesterday, or a couple of days ago, I put the country on alert for a reason, that, on the one hand, while we go about our business of going to World Series games or shopping or traveling to Washington, D.C., I wanted our law enforcement officials to know we had some information that made it necessary for us to protect United States assets, to protect those areas that might be vulnerable. And that's exactly what's taking place today.

And we're also fighting a war overseas with the purpose of hunting down the evildoers and bringing them to justice. And I'm patient. And I'm focused. And I will not yield. We must win. We have no other choice for our children and our grandchildren, that we bring any terrorist to justice and hold those nations who harbor them -- which harbor them, or feed them, or clothe them -- to justice as well.

And the United States will prevail.


People ask me about the economy. They say, "Are you worried?" I say, "I'm worried any time anybody loses his job." But in the long term, I'm optimistic about the U.S. economy. We've got good tax policy. We've got low interest rates. We've got the best workers in the world. We've got an entrepreneurial spirit that is infectious and strong and alive and well. We're the best place to do business in the entire globe, and that hadn't changed.

But I'm optimistic for another reason. I'm optimistic because the spirit of this country is incredibly strong. This is a fabulous nation. The evil ones thought they could affect the spirit of America. But its had an opposite effect. Our country is patient, our country is resolved, our country is united. Regardless of our religion, regardless of where we live, regardless of our political party, we're united behind the fact that we must rise to this occasion, and rise we will. We will plant that flag of freedom forever by winning the war against terrorism, by rallying our economy and by keeping strong and adhering to the values we hold so dear, starting with freedom.


I want to thank you all for letting me come by.


Thank you for letting me come by. (LAUGHTER)

Keep working hard. Keep working hard.

And may God continue to bless America.

HEMMER: We will plant that flag of freedom forever, says the president, when addressed to a number of economic people there at the old executive office building of the White House. This was specifically set out to be a speech about the economy. But as we all know, the economy is as much mental or psychological as anything.

The president started out by saying the consumer confidence is down, is GDP negative, according to numbers from three hours ago. Indeed, he's right. But then he went on to talk about the economic stimulus package, which may be presented in Congress sometime soon, saying Congress needs to act, pass a bill, get on my desk by the end of November. My call get to Congress is, get work, get something done.

Major Garrett at the White House. Christine Romans at the Stock Exchange with us once again.

And, Major, a speech of passion and enthusiasm. Let's talk about the specifics. He wants certain things done. Is the end of November too optimistic?

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: White House officials don't think so. But in Congress, the mood a little bit more if not hostile, Democrats in the Senate particularly have some very strong issues, very strong disagreements with the president on what exactly constitutes an effective stimulus plan. What Democrats in the Senate want is much more money spent on health care benefits to workers who have been displaced, and also much longer extension of unemployment benefits. Their fear is that the economic slowdown will last longer. People will need those unemployment benefits for much longer than they are currently allowed to receive them, plus they are going to need benefits to supplement their health care, which if they've been laid off, they have lost, probably can't afford to pay for through any other means. That is the central disagreement between the Senate Democrats and the Bush White House.

There is also another factor here. The president said I want Congress to get moving, get going, as if Congress sitting around doing nothing. Well, there are some members of the Senate, some Republicans saying privately, the Bush White House has not shown quite enough leadership on this economic stimulus plan, hasn't put specifics on the table, directly and hard enough, to get the Senate to move, and so they will at times, at least privately, say the White House shares some of the blame for the lack of movement on a stimulus plan. The president clearly indicated he and his top advisers will increase that leverage, increase that pressure, try to work out something out with the Senate Democrats. Senate Democrats are in control, although just narrowly, but they do hold the sway of power in the Senate. If the president is going to get this economic stimulus bill, he's going need to push harder, and probably compromise on a couple of these issues. HEMMER: Very interesting.




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