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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

John Snow
John Snow
Treasury Secretary

August 18, 2004

John Snow

It's always great to be here on Ask the White House. Let's get started... I am looking forward to your questions.

Denise, from North Carolina writes:
This has probably been asked, but where do you really see the economy going for the end of the year and into next? Is raising the interest rates the best thing? Thanks


John Snow
Denise, I can tell you that our economy today is growing and expanding and creating good jobs. After-tax incomes are up and homeownership is at an all-time high. All that means that families are doing better and are more able to afford the things they need.

Can we do better? Yes, and we will. As long as we continue on the path of freedom, making sure that individuals and entrepreneurs have an environment in which they can work and grow, our best days will remain ahead of us, all across this great country.

Setting interest rates is the job of Chairman Greenspan and the Federal Reserve governors... and I have great confidence in them.

Mark, from Santa Fe writes:
Mr. Bush has brought us a record federal deficit and a record trade deficit. The OMB has stated that one third of the tax cuts went to the richest 1 of Americans. Mr. Bush will be the first president since Hoover to have presided over the loss of a million jobs, net. The stock market is low and the oil prices are also at record highs. What can you point to that is positive about the Bush economic policy and isn't Mr. Bush in the same spot his father was in? Thanks

John Snow
Mark, I'm pleased to be able to tell you that there is actually quite a bit of very good economic news due to the President's pro-growth policies. For example, in eleven straight months of job growth we've added 1.5 million new jobs in America. The unemployment rate sits a level lower than each of the past three decades. America's standard of living is on the rise - after-tax income is up 10 percent under President Bush. In addition to the fact that overall homeownership is at an all-time high, the minority homeownership rate set a new record last quarter.

That said, there is more to do and this Administration is committed to pushing ahead with initiatives to keep the economy moving forward.

R.D., from Maryville, TN writes:
Secretary Snow, The President's tax cuts have been described by many Democrats as simply tax cuts for the rich and that middle class people didn't really get a tax cut at all? Don't the rich receive more of a tax cut because they pay more taxes or is that not true? Thanks.

John Snow
Thanks for your question, R.D. - this is an important issue. The President's tax relief helped all taxpayers, especially those at the lowest end of the income bracket. For nearly 5 million families, their tax burden was entirely eliminated. A recent report from the Congressional Budget Office confirmed that the income tax burden on the middle class fell by almost one-third. Additionally, three out four taxpayers in the top income tax rate are small business owners - small businesses create two-thirds of the new private sector jobs, employ more than half of all workers and account for more than half of the output of our economy. President Bush's tax relief has helped millions of American families and businesses, has reinvigorated the U.S. economy, and is driving job creation.

Kayla, from Bentonville, AR writes:
Thank you, Mr. John Snow, for taking my question. Will the rising gas prices cause people to contribute less to the growing economy?Thanks again and God Bless.

John Snow
Kayla, thank you for bringing up a critical issue. The price of oil is causing an economic headwind, and it's critical that the Congress act to pass the President's energy plan which has been stalled in the Senate.

The President's plan ensures that America has a reliable and affordable source of energy and reduces our dependence on foreign sources. We've also got to conserve better, we've got to work on renewable energy sources, and we've got to explore in environmentally friendly ways in places like ANWR in Alaska. These steps will lead to lower costs, and that's very important for our economy.

Germaine, from North Dakota writes:
What is treasury doing to address the security concerns in the financial services sector? Also, i heard they may close 15th street by the Treasury Building - is that true? Keep up the good work with the Economy

Thanks for your time.

John Snow
The extraordinary commitment of the men and women who make our financial systems work is invaluable; their work demonstrates the resiliency and strength of our financial system.

Here at the Treasury Department we remain in close, continual and ongoing cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security, other federal, state and local financial regulators, the international financial institutions, and the private sector to strengthen and protect our critical financial infrastructure.

Working together we have taken numerous steps including: ensuring the best possible communications systems and protocols between and among financial regulators and critical financial services providers; coordinating the identification of potential vulnerabilities in the financial services sector and efforts to mitigate these vulnerabilities; joining with financial regulators and private sector financial services groups to present security seminars and other information sharing opportunities to financial services sector leaders in major cities all across the nation; issuing guidance on business continuity planning; and conducting numerous drills and exercises to test backup systems and prepare financial professionals.

As far as the Treasury Building, because it's part of the White House complex, it is under the protection of the Secret Service. We continue to monitor and evaluate ever-changing events in order to implement the most appropriate and effective security measures.

Jim, from Kansas City writes:
I know the economy is rapidly improving nationwide, but it takes longer for us to feel the effects in the Midwest. Truthfully, when do you think we'll begin to see real signs of progress? We're still losing jobs to outsourcing like crazy here.

John Snow
Hi, Jim. Thanks for your question. I can tell you this: While the recovery is in full swing in some parts of the country, in others it has been slower. Soon after the President's Jobs and Growth tax relief plan took effect last summer, we began to see considerable improvements in the labor markets. Since August, 1.5 million new jobs have been added nationwide. But there is still more work to do.

I do see signs of progress in the Midwest, and everywhere I travel...most often in the stories from small-business owners. One example is Bob Ford, President of Abrasive Blast Systems in Abilene, Kansas. He's seen a big increase in orders at his small manufacturing firm over the past two years due to the strengthening economy. This has enabled him to hire additional workers. He said that in 2001 and early 2002, companies were very reluctant to spend money on the new equipment that he makes. But from mid-2002 through 2003 and 2004, he has seen a big increase (by at least 50%) in small companies placing orders for new equipment.

I'll be in Missouri and Iowa later this week and look forward to talking more to folks there about the economy in the Midwest.

America, from Virginia writes:
Has the unemployment rate increased or decreased since September 11, 2001? There's a lot of contraversy about this with the upcoming election and everything. Thanks for taking my question America

John Snow
Your question reminds us all of the series of shocks our economy suffered in recent history. In addition to the economic disruption caused by September 11th and the war on terror, there was a recession, corporate scandals and the bursting of the tech bubble. Following September 11th the unemployment rate did rise, hitting a peak of 6.3 percent in June of 2003. Since the time that the President's Jobs and Growth tax relief plan was implemented, in July of 2003, the unemployment rate has dropped and is at 5.5 percent today. That's below the average rate of the 1970s, 1980s and the 1990s.

John, from DC writes:
Secretary Snow: How much practice do you allow yourself for your famed signature? I bet it makes you nervous. Do you sign ten pieces of paper and then choose whichever you feel is the best? It must be a true honor to have your signature on every bill during your tenure. Thanks for answering my question.

John Snow
Thank you for your question, John. It is, indeed, an honor to have my signature on America's currency - the symbol of our great economic strength. Right after I was confirmed for my position by the U.S. Senate, I signed my name five times, and one of those signatures was chosen to be engraved by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP). The employees of BEP are terrific artisans and they did a beautiful job with my signature.

Tiffany, from Baltimore, MD writes:
I am trying to start a business with no in- pocket finances i would like to know is there free money lingering in the government. If so how can i get it

John Snow
Good question, Tiffany! And congratulations on having the idea and desire to start your own business. Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and American way of life, and I wish you great success. To answer your question: First, I want remind you and all Americans that the government doesn't have its own money... the money we collect is yours, and we collect it in taxes. That's why it is so important to keep taxes low - to let you keep more of your own money. Second, yes, the government does assist entrepreneurs through the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA works with banks to guarantee loans, making it easier for you to qualify for a loan as a first-time business owner. Find a bank offering SBA loans near you, visit

Krishna, from Maryland writes:
The US currency is going through too many changes. First there was the bigger pictures on bills, and now multi-colored bills. It has been a problem getting some of these accepted in machines. Especially in Atlantic City

Do you test the new designs on such machines? I am not asking you to go to Atlantic City and spend a couple of thousands on this research

John Snow
Thank you for your question about currency, Krishna. Yes, we are going through some very visible changes on our bills, but these changes are not meant to inconvenience our citizens, but rather to protect our currency from counterfeiters. U.S. currency is highly valued throughout the world and counterfeiters are taking advantage of new technology... so we must stay one step ahead of them. The differences you see are security measures, but the Bureau of Engraving and Printing also makes our money a true work of art... all the while maintaining the classic hallmarks of our "greenbacks."

Robert, from Arlington, Virginia writes:
The Bush Administration's 2001 and 2003 tax reforms helped return more money to the average American, but there have been recent discussions of changing our tax system from its current unfair progressive system to a flat income tax rate or a national sales tax. Mr. Secretary, which of these tax reform plans being discussed today would allow Americans to keep more of what they earn?

John Snow
Thanks for this question, Robert. It is a compelling one. The President agrees that America needs a much simpler tax code, and the President's budget includes several proposals that would help accomplish that. The President's top priority right now on taxes is to make the tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 permanent, in order to avoid a tax increase on individuals and small businesses.

Dave, from Sault Ste. Marie, MI writes:
Thank you Secretary Snow for participating in this forum and taking the time to respond to my questionstatement.

I firmly believe that government has taken on roles and responsibilities that properly belongs to the individual and private sector. When President George H.W. Bush addressed the crowd that had assembled for the Labor Day Mackinac Bridge Walk in 1992, a heckler shouted, "What are you going to do to get me a job?" I am not aware if the President had heard his comment, however, I responded, "What are you doing?"

Secretary Snow, I was concerned by the contents of the first paragraph of your biography:

"...As Secretary of the Treasury, Snow works closely with President Bush to strengthen economic growth and create jobs."

Secretary Snow, how do you believe that the government creates jobs?

John Snow
Great question, Dave, thank you for asking. I don't believe that the government creates jobs, outside of actual government employment (both civil service and the military). What I do believe - and what the President believes and often says - is that government can help create an environment in which entrepreneurs can flourish. And when our nation's businesses - especially the smallest businesses - are given the room and the oxygen to grow, they will grow and they will create good jobs. My responsibility as a public servant is to make sure that the government is not putting too much of a weight on our free-enterprise system. We need to keep it free to keep it growing and creating jobs.

Laura, from Virginia writes:
Is the outlook for employment in the workforce good for people that are just graduating college? I would like a government job, and I was wondering what kind of experiance you need, if the economy can support more college graduates, etc. Thank youLaura

John Snow
Laura, I think this is a good time for college graduates to be looking for work. Your college degree will put you at an advantage for many career opportunities. I meet with employers all over the country, and they are hiring! Particularly in the small-business sector, skilled employees are extremely sought-after right now. Our economy is the most open, flexible, adaptive and resilient in the world - which means it is always ripe for highly skilled and thoughtful workers. If you would like to work for the government, please visit to find out about career opportunities in public service.

JD, from Chandler, Az. writes:
Why isn't the White House communicating why the Household Jobs Survey is a better indicator of the jobs situation in America than the Payroll Survey?

John Snow
That's an interesting question, JD, and it's really one for the statisticians to work out. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at the U.S. Department of Labor conducts both surveys, and there are merits to both. My guess is that the truth about real job creation lies somewhere between the two surveys. I can tell you that I see very strong evidence of job creation and growth as I travel the country and meet with business owners. Small firms in particular are taking advantage of the President's tax relief by purchasing new equipment, growing their companies and hiring new employees.

Patrick, from Geneva (CH) writes:
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions, Mr. Snow. What would be the impact of the budget deficits on the US economy, and what are the mesures that this administration is doing to reduce the negative impact resulting from this deficit?

And why is the Sercret Service a part of the departement of the treasury?

Thank you very much.

John Snow
Thank you for these questions, Patrick. The current U.S. budget deficits are too large, and they are unwelcome. However, they are understandable, given extraordinary blows to our economy and the necessity to fight a war unlike any war that has ever been waged: the global war on terror. While addressing the deficit, we must remember that it is not historically overwhelming. The President's budget calls for cutting the deficit in half over the next five years. We can manage this deficit, and we can cut it in half over the next five years by controlling spending and growing our economy.

The Secret Service is actually no longer part of the Treasury Department, though we work closely with them. Secret Service became part of the Department of Homeland Security upon its creation in 2002. The Secret Service was originally established to combat currency counterfeiting, and that's why they were part of Treasury. For a complete timeline of the history of this fascinating Division of government, please go to

John Snow
Thanks, everyone, for your terrific questions. I look forward to participating in Ask the White House again soon.