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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
Secretary of the Treasury
May 5, 2006

John Snow
Good afternoon, everyone. It’s good to be spending this time with you in cyberspace. We had good economic news this morning, with the April employment report showing more jobs, more hours worked and higher wages. I think that there is a lot of momentum for more good jobs and for rising wages, and the outlook for the future of this economy is very strong. I’m looking forward to your questions; let’s get started.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Secretary Snow: In the job numbers and the economy. Is there certain areas of the country that show increases in these numbers as well as area's that show decreases? What part of the economy seems to be growing the fast and which the slowest? Thank You

John Snow
That’s a good question, Cliff. Today’s report did not include a state or regional breakdown, but there is no doubt that economic growth and job creation at this point is broad-based. This is a good time to be looking for a job, especially for those students just graduating from college. Since the Jobs and Growth Act, we’ve seen a great strengthening in labor markets. The economy has nearly 170,000 jobs per month, and that includes the two-month slowdown in job growth in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Recent news on unemployment insurance, with new claims so low in the first quarter of this year, is also heartening. Please visit to see all of the Department of Labor’s employment data.

Timothy, from Commerce, Texas writes:
With the cost of oil, natural gas and electricity on the rise and with this increase it is being passed on to consumers either at the pump or at the checkouts will the people who make minumum wage be seeing an increase?

John Snow
Thanks for raising the issue of gasoline prices, Timothy – they are a concern. That’s why the President has presented a four-part plan that includes making sure consumers and taxpayers are treated fairly, promoting greater fuel efficiency, boosting our oil and gasoline supplies, and investing aggressively in alternatives to gasoline, so we can eliminate the root cause of high gas prices by diversifying away from oil in the longer term.

I know that high gas prices act like a tax on families and businesses, and we need to ease the pain to the extent it is possible. But the good news is that our strong economy has proven so resilient in handling these headwinds to this point. Pain at the pump is unwelcome, but we are fortunate that there is plenty of good news on American’s standards of living at the same time, from homeownership to increasing real disposable income, lots of job creation and overall economic growth.

juanita, from bullhead city, az writes:
i have a dream to start my own small business, my friend sherry told me of programs (free goveerment loans) that i can apply for that this program of free grant money,,i may or not pay back,,do you or are there programs from the goverment that offer this and if so can you give the contact office and phone numbers..hope your office can help thanks juanita

John Snow
Hello, Juanita! Starting a small business is not only the realization of the American Dream, it’s part of the backbone of the American economy! With small businesses creating most of the new jobs, small-business ownership is something President Bush works hard to keep profitable. Your friend may have been referring to the loans offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration. These are not "grants" or "free," but they can help you secure the capital you will need to start up your own piece of the American Dream. Visit to find out more. I wish you the best of luck in pursuing your small-business dream.

Laura, from Denton, Texas writes:
As a graduating college senior, I am nervous about entering the job market. Any advice?

John Snow
Hi, Laura. Congratulations on your upcoming graduation. I think I have some good news for you: the job market for college graduates is the best it has been in five years. The economy is creating jobs at a steady clip – over 5.2 million new jobs since the President’s tax relief took effect. The creation of 138,000 news jobs in April made that month the 32nd month of job creation in a row. So you’re entering the workforce at a very good time. My advice to you is: do your research (employers will appreciate an applicant who knows something about their company), always arrive for job interviews on time and keep an open mind about what job will suit you best. You are young, fortunate to have a good education and live in a land of terrific economic opportunity – be true to yourself, take pride in your work and the rest will follow.

Jim, from Pasadena writes:
What is jobs day? How often do these numbers come out and what do they mean?

John Snow
This is a great question, Jim, thanks for asking. "Jobs Day" is the first Friday of each month when the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the data that they have collected on how many new jobs the economy has created – or how many it has lost – over the past month. The news is closely watched by government officials and financial markets because it is an important indicator of how the U.S. economy is doing. For 32 months in a row, "Jobs Day" has been good news for American workers, with steady job creation totaling 5.2 million new jobs.

Carol, from Green Bay, WI writes:
As a woman-owned small business, I am finding the cost of healthcare staggering. What can you do quickly to alleviate the strain small business owners like myself are feeling. There are moments when the cost of healthcare is so large that it is difficult to pay all the vendor bills and salaries.Thank you, Carol

John Snow
Thanks for this question, Carol. I know, and the President knows, that small-business owners are really feeling a financial pinch when it comes to health-care costs. It’s an issue of real concern and we’re working hard to bring you some relief. One of the President’s accomplishments in this area was the creation of Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). HSAs are a savings product paired with an insurance product – a high deductible health plan (an HDHP). I think you might find quite a bit of financial relief in these products if they are right for you and your employees. I encourage you to talk with your insurer about HSAs. Here’s how they work:

Individuals and/or their employers can contribute, tax free, to the accounts to save for future medical expenses. Contributions can be made to them as long as the account-holder has an HDHP, a comprehensive health insurance policy with deductibles of at least $1,050 for self-only coverage and $2,100 for family coverage. Withdrawals from the HSA can be made, tax free, at any time for qualified health expenses, which includes most out-of-pocket medical expenses. Thus, someone with an HDHP can contribute, every year, an amount equal to the deductible to his HSA and use those funds, which are exempt from income taxes, to meet the deductible. Any amount remaining in his HSA at the end of the year is rolled over to future years, to be used for future health care expenses. You can learn more about the mechanics of HSAs at

Choosing an HSA over traditional insurance plans puts you in charge of your health-care purchasing decisions, and that’s why their creation was so important. Similar to retirement-saving tools like IRAs, HSAs were designed to help individuals take more control over how their health care dollars are spent and save for future medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis. For all these reasons, I’m pleased that more employers are choosing to offer HSAs to their employees every day, and I encourage all employers and individuals to consider them as an attractive alternative to traditional health insurance.

Thanks again for bringing up this critical topic, Carol. I hope that you consider HSAs for you and your employees.

Michael, from Powell, TN writes:
What happens to the economy if there is a tax increase?

John Snow
Michael, you’ve asked a question that I hope members of Congress are asking themselves right now! The answer, to me, is clear: tax increases hurt the American economy. I always tell people that it’s this simple: Anything you tax more, you get less of. And anything you tax less, you get more of.

When the President and Congress lowered taxes on incomes and investment, our economy pivoted into recovery and then into strong growth. Job creation, rising business investment, high productivity and so many other positive economic developments can be directly traced to the enactment of tax relief. The President and I are urging Congress to act quickly to agree on legislation that will extend these lower tax rates that are so important to the health of the American economy. Congress needs to act to avoid a tax increase.

Sachin, from Winston Salem writes:
Why unemplyment rate is not decreasing much (5.4 Aug 2005 to 4.7 March 2006)even when GDP growth first Qtr 2006 was 4.8, and significant growth in 2005 other then 4th Qtr.

John Snow
Hello, Sachin! The decrease in unemployment has actually been quite substantial (unemployment today is lower than the average of the last four decades), and the creation of new jobs has been strong. You are right that GDP growth has been very good, and I think that the 5.2 million Americans who have found new jobs would say that our employment situation is extremely positive.

Zhanglixiong, from Changsha China writes:
Mr John Snow,I just want to know that what is the prediction of GDP in 2006 in USA? Can this be achieved or even more? Thank you.

John Snow
Thanks for joining us today, Zhanglixiong. I expect to see GDP growth upwards of three percent in the coming year. The American economy is firing on all cylinders right now, and there is every reason to be optimistic about the future. Congressional action to extend the President’s lower tax rates on income and investment will help ensure a positive path for the future of the American economy.

Gregory, from Los Angeles, CA writes:
Mr. Secretary, If the president remains dedicated to his conservative values, further promotion of tax cuts, and reduced spending, why has the national deficit sky rocketed to 8.2 trillion under his leadership as our president? Gregory

John Snow
Thank you for this question, Gregory. First, to clarify your figures, I think you are referring to the gross debt, which includes not only the debt owed to investors but also the book-keeping entries associated with other parts of the government. The publicly held debt – that is, the portion of the debt that U.S. taxpayers have to pay net interest on – is $4.8 trillion. And the good news is that interest payments on this debt are low by historical standards.

I appreciate your concern about our budget deficit (the difference, each year, between what the federal government spends and what it takes in from tax revenues), and I want you to know that the President and I share your concern. The budget deficit is unwelcome, but it is understandable considering the challenges our nation has faced in recent years. Furthermore, it is on a path of reduction and the President wants to see the deficit cut in half by 2009. Our government is facing economic demands that are exceptional, from fighting the war on terror to helping the victims of devastating hurricanes put their lives back together. These are costly events that lead to unwelcome, brief deficits. They should be regarded as temporary as they are entirely surmountable with continued economic strength and spending restraint in the areas where it is possible and appropriate.

There was good news on this issue this week, with a Congressional Budget Office report saying that the 2006 deficit is expected to be significantly less than originally anticipated due to a surge in federal tax revenue. Gregory, our economy is doing very well right now and is generation very high tax revenues. With continued economic growth, and fiscal restraint, we will stay on track to keep bringing that deficit down.

John Snow
Thanks so much, everyone, for your terrific questions. I’m glad we had a chance to chat, and I look forward to our next conversation on “Ask the White House!”