CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Bush Speaks in Alexandria, Virginia
Aired February 12, 2003 - 14:18 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to take you live to Alexandria, Virginia, where President George Bush is getting ready to open -- actually stepping up to the mic right now, talking about economy at a round table discussion at Charles Schwab building today. Now he'll comment to all of us.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thanks for your interest in this country and its future.
We got some big challenges ahead of us. We've got an opportunity to make the world a more peaceful place and a freer place. And I believe as a result of the resolve of the United States of America the world will be more peaceful and the world will be more free.
And here at home we've got a challenge with our economy. I mean, frankly, it's not strong enough, it is not robust enough. Anytime somebody's looking for a job and can't find one means we've got to work together to create jobs.
Now, the role of government is not to create wealth, the role of government is to create an environment in which the entrepreneurial spirit can flourish, in which people are encouraged to invest and save, in which there's confidence in the future of the country, and that's what we're here to discuss today.
I want to thank John Snow for agreeing to serve in our administration. He came at a pretty tough time.
BUSH: Some people would have said, "Well, I don't think I want to take on the job unless everything is pre-cooked, you know, the markets will be surging." But he realized that this country needed all of us pulling together. So I asked him. I said, "Would you be willing to leave the private sector to serve America," and he said yes, and I'm thankful for that. I'm glad to have him on my team.
His job is to talk about our program all around the country, and particularly in the halls of Congress, and convince them about the wisdom of what we're proposing.
Speaking about halls of Congress, John mentioned George Allen, the senator from Virginia. I'm glad that George is here. And Don Manzullo from Illinois is here, too.
I'm honored both you guys came. I appreciate your interest. I look forward to working with you and your colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats, to do what's right for the American people.
I want to thank Chuck Schwab (ph) as well for coming. He's a leading entrepreneur in the country, built his own business.
Tomorrow, when I go down to Florida, I'm going to talk about the dreams for small businesses to grow to be big businesses. This is a guy who took a small business and grew it into a big business. It's really what America is all about, is to have unlimited horizons, for people to take risk so they can achieve dreams no matter what their status in life may be. And the Schwab (ph) company certainly represents the great entrepreneurial spirit of our country.
I also want to think Susan Messenger (ph) and David Hutchins (ph), who run the Society for Human Resource Management. Thank you for opening up your hall. It's awfully thoughtful of you to let us come in here. I fully recognize it's not easy to host a presidential entourage, but you did it, and thanks for giving us a chance to come and talk about how we're going to address some of the big challenges here at home.
My attitude about the economy is that first we've done a pretty remarkable job here in America of overcoming some difficulties. The first three quarters of the year 2000 were recessionary. They were negative growth.
Fortunately, we passed tax relief, based upon the principle that if people have more of their own money they're likely to spend it, and when they spend it somebody is likely to provide a good or a service, and when somebody provides a good or service, somebody is more likely to find work.
And I think most economists would tell you that the recession -- most objective economists -- would tell you that the recession was shallower as a result of the initial tax relief package that both Republicans and Democrats voted for.
Then the terrorists hit us. And the people of Virginia know full well the impact of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon and this part of the world. Of course the people in the great city of New York understood the effect that it had, the terrorist attack had on the New York economy. But it affected our whole economy.
The airline industry became -- had difficult times. We couldn't get projects started, real estate, big building projects going because of the lack of terrorism insurance. We actually dealt with that issue in the halls of Congress. And hopefully big construction projects, which will put our hard hats back to work, will get going.
The country was resilient, though, and strong, determined to defeat terror and determined to go about our life no matter what the threat may be. And we began to recover.
And then we found out some of our fellow citizens -- a few of the many executives which run our companies thought they could lie and cheat. And that put a -- that created -- a lot of small investors -- and large investors for that matter -- began to wonder whether or not the numbers they were reading were accurate. There was a loss of confidence in the markets because of the corporate scandals.
And we dealt with that, and we're dealing with that. Pretty soon a good man named Bill Donaldson will become the chairman of the SEC. He knows what his charge is. His charge is to make sure that when an investor, member of an investor club opens up his or her portfolio or the balance sheet of a company they've invested in, they know they're reading true numbers, so they can regain confidence.
Our economy is growing in spite of all of what I've just described, but it's not growing strong enough. And so I went back to the Congress and proposed a plan that is an aggressive plan, no question about it. But the principle of the plan says we trust people in this administration, we trust the people to make wise investments, we trust the people with their own money, we trust the moms and dads to be able to save for their children.
It's really the crux of the economic plan. It says it's the people of America, it's the ingenuity and hard work and wise investment capabilities of the American people that make this economy strong and different, and therefore the plan is a plan that puts trust in people.
It's a well-thought-out plan. As a matter of fact, over 200 economists today enthusiastically embraced it, said it's a good idea.
The first part of the plan has to do with your income tax levels. It says everybody who pays taxes ought to get relief. The role of government is not to try to pick and choose who, you know, who the good taxpayers are and who the bad taxpayers are. If you pay taxes, you ought to get relief. Of course, that was already passed in the year 2001.
We also have phasing, you know, increasing the child credit to $1,000 over a period of time, reducing the marriage penalty over a period of time, reducing the bottom rate from 15 percent to 10 percent.
So what we've said to the Congress is, "You've already passed all this. You've already accepted the major principle involved in tax relief, which is trust American people with their money. You've already seen the effects of what a tax relief plan can do. Just accelerate what you've already got on the books. Take that which you have passed, and instead of phasing it in over three or five years, let's move it this year. If the economy needs a little extra umphh, if more money needs to go into the pockets of our people so as to encourage economic vitality, why wait? You've been through the debate. You've already talked about the principles involved. Move it up."
This will affect 92 million Americans who will receive on average a tax relief of $1,083.
Now, you know, some in Washington may say, "That's paltry. It's not enough." Uh-uh. $1, 083 is a lot of money for people, particularly when you think about the effect it'll have on our economy when millions of Americans take that and invest it or buy things with it. It'll have an effect that'll increase the economic vitality of America.
You hear a lot of talk about stimulative, which stimulative, what's not stimulative. We anticipate that this plan -- this aspect of the plan is over $50 billion into the economy this year.
You see, I plan to not only get them to accelerate the tax relief, I'm going to ask Congress to make it retroactive to January 1, so that it'll have an immediate effect on the economy. That's what's needed.
The timing of tax relief is important, just as important as tax relief is.
And so I'm optimistic that Congress was wise once and they'll be wise again on the same plan.
This also will have an effect on small businesses. Tomorrow I'm going to Florida to talk to small-business owners and entrepreneurs. And what Americans and Congress must understand -- I know George Allen understands this, don understands this -- is that most small businesses pay tax at the individual tax rate. When you hear somebody say, "I'm a sole proprietorship," that means you're paying individual income taxes. If you're a Subchapter S or a limited partnership, that means you're paying individual income taxes.
And so when you reduce income taxes, you're really putting capital in the hands of small-business owners, and capital, extra money, gives that person more likely a chance to expand.
And expansion means jobs. And by far the vast majority of new jobs in America are created by small-business owners. And so this tax plan not only helps our fellow Americans save, it also helps small- business owners with additional capital. It's like a huge capital infusion into the small-business sector of America.
On top of that, I'm asking Congress to allow small firms to write up to $75,000 worth of equipment in the year in which they spend it as opposed to limiting the deductions to $25,000.
And that means a lot for small businesses when a person can deduct an additional $50,000 of capital investment. It means you may have the small-business person invest in one extra machine.
But when that's multiplied all across the country, all throughout America, it means the machine manufacturer is more likely to be able to provide jobs. It means the business that buys the machine becomes more efficient. It means somebody is probably needed to operate the machine so that extra employment there. It'll have a ripple effect throughout our economy, which is very important for our fellow Americans to understand.
The other thing I want to talk to you about is the dividend proposal. In America today we tax corporate income profits, which is fine. We should. It makes sense. But then we take that profit and distribute it to a shareholder in the form of a dividend, one of the owners of the company, and then it gets taxed again, and that doesn't make sense.
You don't want to keep taxing capital. If capital equals jobs, you really don't want to tax it but one time, seems like to me. It makes sense.
So when people in America hear us talk about the elimination of the double taxation of dividends, they've got to understand we're doing so with two things in mind: How do we improve the lot of our fellow Americans? And what do we do to increase jobs?
If somebody is looking for work out there, and capital equals jobs, therefore, the more capital available for investment the more likely it is he's going to find work or she's going to find work. And that's what we're here to talk about today.
The idea of allowing people to keep more of their own money is particularly important for many of our retired citizens. You got a person who's worked all their life, and medical bills may be piling up, particularly since Medicare isn't all that effective these days for some; or you're worried about your grandkids' education; but really what you're worried about is you want to make sure that you have got a comfortable existence.
Ten million senior Americans receive some sort of dividend income. It certainly makes sense to me that if part of good policy is to encourage job creation with more capital, it's a nice dividend, so to speak, to allow our seniors to have more money as well.
So this relief plan will immediately give seniors $800 on average a year more money, which is vital for their retirement. It's a plan which affect people's lives in a positive way.
Secondly, this is a nation of investors. It used to be, you know, when you talk about stocks and bonds, it probably wasn't all that long ago you'd say, "Well, gosh, how's your portfolio?" And that would probably pertain to, you know, a handful of people that lived, you know -- knew something about Wall Street. You know, there probably weren't a lot of them in Crawford, Texas, all that long ago saying, "Hey, my portfolio is good. How's yours?"
But now America is becoming a nation of owners and investors. We're a much more sophisticated country when it comes to stocks and bonds. Eighty-four million Americans own stock directly and/or through a pension plan.
And so, therefore, policy, public policy which affects stock ownership, public policy which affects those who own equities and those -- and public policy which encourages ownership makes sense. I mean, after all, we want 100 percent of our people to be a part of the ownership society.
The more somebody owns, the more somebody is going to have a stake in the future of the country. We want everybody to have their own home. We want everybody to have their own balance sheet, their own savings, their own plans.
And excluding the double taxation on dividends rewards small investors. It encourages stock ownership.
It also will have a positive effect when it comes to our -- corporate America. And a lot of corporate America said, "Invest in me, the sky's the limit. Got fantastic growth potential," they say, you know. "We may not be making any money, but, hey, give me a shot."
And that works in some cases. But it also makes sense to have people say, "Invest in me because you're going to get a steady source of the cash flow of my company. I'm going to share it with you. We're proud that you took risk in us and, in return, we're going to give you a steady flow of cash -- of the cash coming into the company through the form of a dividend."
Eliminating the double taxation of dividends will encourage more of corporate America to distribute profits and cash flow to their investors through dividends. And that's good. That's a good corporate reform.
It's also good for encouraging the ownership society and it's good for enhancing the lifestyle of millions of Americans all across the country.
The getting rid of the double taxation of dividends is good economic policy for the short term for America. It is good economic policy for the long term of America. And I urge the Congress to eliminate the double taxation of dividends.
One of the things we did before coming over is we had a roundtable discussion sitting around a square table.
BUSH: I appreciate Chuck (ph) providing the square table.
BUSH: But I'm more appreciative of the members of the roundtable who came to talk.
Now, we talked to Joan Hanover (ph). She and her husband, George (ph), were visiting with us. They are near retirement. Retiring, in the process of retiring -- meaning they're very smart, active, capable people who are of retirement age and are retiring.
They receive $1,700 additional dollars a year when we get rid of the double taxation of dividends. That is a significant amount of money for the Hanovers (ph). It's additional money that they can choose to do with what they -- you know, they can do with their own money.
Part of the dialogue, by the way, the money we're talking about today is not the government's money. That's the other important thing to remember. It's an important principle when it comes to tax relief. It's your money we're talking about.
And the Hanovers (ph) will have more money to invest. Joe Kemper (ph) will have an additional $1,600, he shared with us. The whole tax relief will actually give him $3,500 additional money in his own pocket, of which $1600 will be from getting rid of the double taxation of dividends.
I hope you didn't mind me saying that, Joe (ph).
But the point is, is that I think Joe (ph) will tell you he's not one of these super rich in America. He's a guy who served his country. He worked hard all his life. $3,500 means something to him.
When you hear the debate about -- this kind of class warfare rhetoric about, "Oh, this is for the rich, you know, only for the rich," I want you to think about the Joe Kempers (ph) of the world. I certainty will. A fellow who worked for our government and now a fellow who, you know, we trust with that $3,500, because it's his money.
And when he invests it, it's going to have a positive effect. All the Joe Kempers (ph) of the world taking that extra money and investing it will mean somebody else is likely to find a job, and that's important for our fellow Americans to understand.
We met with Tim Roberts (ph) and the Lanes (ph), Bryan (ph) and Wendy Lane (ph). They were -- they are younger parents. The tax relief plan will mean they will have more money to invest for their children. When they set aside some of the money that they get in a child's education trust, for example, and that compounds over time, it means it's more likely that that child is going to have a pretty good nest egg. The more money they have, the more likely it is they'll be able to save for their children's future.
If we get rid of the double taxation of dividends, it means that one of the good investment vehicles for a child who is, you know, young today will be a dividend-paying stock, because not only will the person be able to get the yield, the person will get the appreciation of the company in which they invest.
These good couples work hard for their children. They make sacrifices for their children. And it makes sense for our tax policy to reward them for their sacrifices.
The plan we've laid out is good for job creation. The plan we've laid out also speaks to the aspirations of many of our citizens. And that's very important for Congress to understand when they debate this plan.
It speaks for the aspirations of the senior citizen to have a comfortable lifestyle when they retire. It speaks to the aspirations of the moms and dads to be able to invest for their children. It speaks to the aspirations of a person looking for work today. It really speaks to the hopes of our country, that we want our economy to be as strong as it possibly can be, as we take on some of the great challenges which this country has ever faced.
This country will accomplish anything we set our mind to. We will achieve peace in the world. We will work for freedom not only here in America, a free and just society, we believe in freedom around the world, because everybody has got worth.
See, one of the great principles of America is everybody has dignity, everybody counts, everybody matters. As I said in my State of the Union, liberty is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to human -- mankind, and that's what I believe.
And as we think about how to have a better society and a more peaceful world, we've got to trust in the wisdom and strength of the American people. After all, the American people is this country's greatest asset.
I boldly predict that with good policy this economy will be strong. I boldly predict that with wise diplomatic policy the world will be more peaceful. And I can predict that because we happen to live in the greatest nation on the face of the Earth.
Thank you all for coming. May God bless America.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: And you've been listening to the president of the United States giving word -- or giving, rather -- addressing us and folks there at the Charles Schwab building in Alexandria, Virginia, after having a round table discussion, closed door discussion with small investors.
President Bush making a number of points with regard to the economy and his stimulus plan. We're going to bring in our Andy Serru (ph) -- Serwer, "Fortune" editor-at-large, and also our John King, Senior White House correspondent, live at the White House there.
John, let's begin with you. And the president obviously has a lot ahead here with regard to the stimulus package. How much it's going to cost, and also a pending or a possible war against Iraq.
JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, especially note worthy about this speech -- rare is the speech nowadays when the president does not take five, six, sometimes 10 minutes to talk about Iraq and other challenges on the world stare, here the president only very indirectly referring to the challenges he faces in the world, in his diplomatic efforts, as he called them, underway.
The president focusing almost entirely in this speech on his economic proposals to the Congress, and there is a reason for that. The administration is concerned, with all the focus in the news media and by the president on the situation in Iraq and on the situation in North Korea that his domestic agenda is not getting much attention in the news media, and the president is in a battle with the Congress right now, especially with the Democrats, trying to sell this plan, and his battle with the Democrats complicated, at least a bit, by some testimony yesterday by the Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, who said he doesn't particularly take issue with the Bush tax cuts per se, but he thinks they should be paid for, that he thinks that the deficit is getting too big again, and that that could be a drag on the long-term economy. So the president focusing here on his domestic agenda, and not saying much at all about Iraq. In recent weeks, that is quite a rare thing.
PHILLIPS: Andy Serwer, why enact such a costly plan with the war looming?
ANDY SERWER, EDITOR AT LARGE, "FORTUNE": Well, that's a question many are asking. And as John King pointed out, especially Chairman Greenspan seems to be referring to that as well. John was saying that the chairman was testifying yesterday. He also testified today, and his comments echoed those he made yesterday, again questioning the president when it came to the stimulus package, saying that it's premature, the war hangs over the economy, and really sort the undercurrent is, can we afford it? Can we afford the plan? And Ari Fleischer, the president's press secretary, had to acknowledge this difference in opinion between the president and the Fed chairman, and that does not bode well.
Senator Daschle coming out and saying that the Fed chairman's lack of support was the kiss of death for the stimulus package, and that's why we saw the president, agreeing with John here, out there really trying to appeal to average American citizens, talking about the dividend tax cut which the Fed chairman does agree with, but he did not address head-on that issue of the cost of the budget, which is interesting, isn't it?
PHILLIPS: Fortune editor at large, Andy Serwer. Indeed it is. Out of New York, also John King at the White House.
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