President Bush Discusses Tuesday's Economic Speech
Remarks by the President in Photo Opportunity with
His Cabinet The Cabinet Room
4:11 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I have an opening statement here and I'll answer a
couple of questions.
I want to thank my Cabinet for coming. This is the 15th Cabinet
meeting we've had since we were sworn in, and I appreciate each of
you working so hard on behalf of the American people.
Today we talked about the issues
facing our country. The war on terror continues. We will hunt down
the terrorists wherever they hide. We'll do everything we can to
secure the homeland.
We heard a briefing today from Tom Ridge about how the
reorganization of the Homeland Security Department is going. It's
very important for Congress and the Senate to confirm Tom as quickly
as possible, and to confirm his team, so they can get doing the work
of the American people.
Here at home, I hope the Congress will extend the unemployment
benefits for -- for the American workers who don't have a job --
soon, as quickly as possible. As well, it's important for Congress
to pass the '03 appropriations bills. We're living under continuing
resolutions. The agency heads here are -- want to have their budgets
finalized so that they can have certainty in the appropriations with
which they have to work. Congress has got work to do.
Tomorrow I'm going to talk about how to continue the economic
growth that we have, to ensure our economy is as robust as possible.
I look forward to the speech in Chicago, but it is a plan that
speaks directly to the American citizen that -- to do everything we
can to revitalize the small business sector, to make sure it remains
strong so people can find work. We've put together a fine economic
team. I hope the Congress, the Senate acts quickly to confirm John
Snow and Bill Donaldson. They need to move quickly.
I look forward to working with the leadership in the House and
the Senate. Doesn't matter who's in charge, I will work with them.
Obviously, we're pleased that Senator Frist will be leading the
Senate. We'll work with him; we'll continue to work with Senator
Daschle. And we'll work with Speaker Hastert, Leader DeLay and
Congressman Pelosi, as well.
We've got a job to do for the American people, and we'll do that
job -- to make sure the country is secure, to win the war on terror,
and make sure people can find work.
Let me answer some questions. Sandra, this is your last day, I
understand, and therefore, you get to ask the only question -- I
mean, you get to ask -- (laughter.)
Q The first question to the last? You said that your economic
plan will speak directly to the American citizen. The Democrats say
that it speaks most directly to the richest American taxpayers. How
do you answer that criticism and the charge that you're just going
to lead to deeper deficits?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the critics hadn't seen the plan. This is a
plan that provides tax relief to the working citizens. It's a plan
that is a very fair plan. It's a plan that recognizes when somebody
has more of their own money, they're likely to spend it, which
creates more jobs.
Our administration is concerned about deficits, and the way they
deal with deficits is you want to control spending. And I hope
Congress lives up to their words. When they talk about deficits,
they can join us in making sure we don't overspend. They can join us
and make sure that the appropriations process is focused on those
issues that -- those items that are absolutely necessary to the
I'm pleased that members of the Congress are talking about
deficits. It means they understand their obligations not to
overspend the people's money. And the second way to deal with
deficits is to encourage revenue growth. And the way to encourage
revenue growth is to encourage the private sector to grow. And
tomorrow I'll be talking about ways to encourage the growth of the
Q Sir, with three weeks to go until the U.N. inspectors report
back, are you seeing any signs of compliance by Iraq? Saddam says
it's carrying out intelligence work.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I thought that was an interesting statement
on his part. When you combine that with the fact that his
declaration was clearly deficient, it is discouraging news for those
of us who want to resolve this issue peacefully.
He has the obligation to disarm. For the sake of peace, he must
disarm. The United Nations has clearly said that. It is in our
nation's interest that he disarm. He is a threat to the American
people. He's a threat to our friends and neighbors in the Middle
East. He is a person who has used weapons of mass destruction. And
so, therefore, the world has said to Saddam, you won't have any
weapons of mass destruction, get rid of them. And thus far, it looks
like he hasn't complied.
But he's got time. And we continue to call upon Saddam Hussein to
listen to what the world is saying. Not just the United States, but
the entire world expects Saddam Hussein to disarm.
Dick -- Stretch.
Q Mr. President, changing the taxation on stock dividends, a lot
of analysts say that, in and of itself, would not have a
particularly stimulative effect for the economy. Do you disagree
that? And if in the end you get a benefit yourself, is it money that
you would then direct to be reinvested, or is it money that you
THE PRESIDENT: If it -- I didn't hear the second part of your
question. If it -- the hypothetical part of the question, which I'm
probably not going to answer. (Laughter.)
Q If Congress does your bidding and you get benefits from
dividends that aren't being taxed, would you use that money to
reinvest or would you spend it on consumer goods or consumer items?
THE PRESIDENT: Me, personally?
Q You, personally.
THE PRESIDENT: My money is in a blind trust, Stretch, so I don't
know if I've got any dividends.
Q If you did.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, if I did. (Laughter.)
Q Not many of us have dividends these days, but --
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's interesting you asked that question. A
lot of people get dividends, see. And that's one of the reasons why
we're analyzing this issue of taxing things twice, particularly
dividends. Most seniors -- over 50 percent of the seniors receive
First of all, it's unfair to tax money twice. There's a principle
involved. The government ought to be content with taxing revenue
streams or profits one time, not twice. And in dividends, we tax the
corporate profit, and then we tax the money being sent to the
shareholder. And that doesn't make any sense; that's unfair. That's
bad public policy. Many of the shareholders that pay the taxes are
senior citizens. These are citizens who have retired and senior
citizens who can use that money.
Thirdly, the reduction in taxes on dividends will encourage
capital flows, capital flows into the marketplace. It will -- it
will encourage investment, and that's what we want. We want to
encourage investment activity. Investment means jobs.
And so I'm not going to specifically tell you what's in the
speech tomorrow, though it looks like some others might have already
done that. I do encourage you to listen to it. But I encourage you
to look at the entire package. It's a package that's shaped for
economic vitality and growth.
Listen, we're doing fine. Tomorrow, you'll hear me say this
economy is one of the strongest in the world. But what we believe is
we can be stronger. And we also know that when somebody is looking
for work who wants to work means we've got to continue to try to
stimulate job growth.
Now, we don't believe it's the role of government to manage the
economy. We've got great faith in the private sector. And so we're
going to create the environment for the private sector to be
stronger. That's the policy of this administration.
Sandra, good luck to you. Thanks.
Q Thank you, sir.
Q Mr. President, on North Korea, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: I'll answer one on North Korea, yes, real quick.
Q Yes, sir. What would it take for the U.S. or any other nation
to have direct talks with North Korea? And they claim to believe
that the U.S. is a threat to them.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q What can you say?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, I went to Korea and clearly
said that the United States has no intention of invading North
Korea. I said that right there in South Korea. And in Kim Jong Il's
neighborhood, I spoke as clearly as I said, and said we won't invade
you. And I'll repeat that: We have no intention of invading North
We expect North Korea to adhere to her obligations. She's in an
agreement with the United States; she said that she would not
develop nuclear weapons. And we expect people to keep their word. We
will have dialogue; we've had dialogue with North Korea. The
Secretary of State visited with the Deputy Foreign Minister --
SECRETARY POWELL: The Foreign Minister.
THE PRESIDENT: -- the Foreign Minister -- excuse me -- and
talking is one thing. But we expect people to honor obligations. And
for Kim Jong Il to be a credible member of the world community, he's
got to understand that he's got to do what he says he's going to do.
I believe this will be resolved peacefully, and I believe it can
be resolved diplomatically.
Q Thank you, sir.
Q What were you laughing at before we came in, sir? (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: I'm not telling. (Laughter.) I won't tell, but
somebody will leak it. (Laughter.)