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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.

Steve Friedman
Director of the National Economic Council Biography
May 21, 2004

Steve Friedman
Good to be here today. Looking forward to your questions.

ed, from nv writes:
How is the President going to bring back consumer confidence in the stock market?

Steve Friedman
Over time, the performance of the stock market is determined by economic fundamentals. The President’s economic plan is helping lead to strong economic growth, job creation, and a restoration of consumer and investor confidence.

The economy is growing at the fastest rate in twenty years, over the last four quarters at a rate of 4.9 percent. The economy has created over 1.1 million jobs since last August. Real disposable income has grown 10 percent since the President took office. Strong economic fundamentals should, over time, lead to strong growth in the markets.

Your home state of Nevada has been creating jobs since January of 2002 – with 90,000 net new jobs created since then. Your state’s April unemployment rate dropped slightly, to 4.3 percent, significantly lower than the national average.

Robyn, from New York City writes:
I don't think that Alan Greenspan should be involved with economics in any way. I think it is time to turn him loose and get new blood to help with the problems that this country is presently experiencing.

Steve Friedman
The President renominated Chairman Greenspan last Tuesday, and said, “Alan Greenspan has done a superb job as chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve system and I have great continuing confidence in his economic stewardship.”

tom, from livonia, mi writes:
More of an affirmation than a question. We are a small manufacturer in business for 35 years. We saw the economic slow down occurring by August

2000. Received a few blessings to stay busy until August 2002 where we finally ran out of work and layed-off 10 of our work force. By May 2003 we were able to get ALL people back. This calendar year, we have added 20 to our

payroll and are now working 56 hour work weeks; first time since 1997. We hope you can stay the course...and bring home a championship for the Pistons.

Steve Friedman
That’s great to hear. Things have been tough in Michigan, and it’s good to hear success stories like yours. The good news is that, in April, Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped more than any other state in the country – it’s down from 6.9% in March to 6.1% in April. And 19,300 net new Michigan jobs were created since March.

There’s still more to do to get the economy growing faster, these new jobs show that progress is being made, and that Michigan is on the road to recovery. We’re also seeing good signs of a turnaround in manufacturing, with three consecutive months of manufacturing job growth (nationally).

Enjoy the game tomorrow night.

Andrew, from Decatur, GA writes:
Are tax cuts really the best policy during times of massive deficits, while we are conducting two wars?

Steve Friedman
The President’s tax cuts helped fuel the US economy and recover from the economic shocks of a market collapse and the following recession, the 9/11 attacks, corporate governance scandals, and the war on terror.

By allowing taxpayers to keep more of the money they earn, the tax cuts helped strengthen consumer demand, because when consumers have more money to spend, they demand more goods, which means someone else has a job to produce those goods.

Deficits are important, and the President’s budget would cut the deficit in half within five years. But pro-growth policies are crucial, along with spending discipline here in Washington.

At the same time, the President has said that he will provide our troops with whatever resources they need to win the war on terror, and his first economic priority is to make sure that everyone who wants a job can find one.

Edwin, from Washington writes:
What is the difference between your responsibilities as the Director of the NEC versus the responsibilities of the NEC Chairman?

Steve Friedman
The President chairs the National Economic Council, and I serve as the director. The NEC consists of cabinet secretaries who work on economic issues (like Treasury Secretary John Snow, Budget Director Josh “Harley-Davidson” Bolten, Commerce Secretary Don Evans, CEA Chairman Greg Mankiw, and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao).

The NEC advises the President on economic policy, and I help coordinate that advice for him. The most important part of my job is to act as an “honest broker” to make sure he hears the views of his different advisors.

Christopher, from San Antonio, TX writes:
What can the American citizen do to help insure the gas price drop back down to a reasonable rate, and if we can do nothing, what is government going to be implementing to insure the reduction of gas prices?

Steve Friedman
We’re very concerned about rising gas prices, and we will remain vigilant. High gas prices place burden on the family budget and the economy.

High gas prices reflect a tight supply, increasing demand, and insufficient refinery capacity. These are problems that have been years in the making, and cannot be fixed overnight.

We need comprehensive solutions, not patchwork crisis management. Congress needs to act on the President’s energy plan, so that we can be less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

The most important thing the government can do in the near term is to ensure that markets work as effectively as possible.

The Department of Energy is monitoring the markets and energy supplies and will keep industry, consumers, and policy makers informed. The Administration will continue to monitor “price gouging,” and will respond to local incidents that may produce regional price spikes.

Lamont, from Whitewater , WI writes:
Wisconsin has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, is there going to be more jobs in the future?

Steve Friedman
Wisconsin’s job picture is influenced heavily by the manufacturing sector. Manufacturing jobs have experienced a decline over the past few years, but we’re beginning to see signs of a manufacturing recovery.

Nationally, we’ve seen three consecutive months of manufacturing job growth, and factory activity is growing at nearly the fastest pace in twenty years.

In April, 14,100 net new jobs were created in Wisconsin. Wisconsin job growth has been on a positive trend since December of last year, creating 36,400 net new jobs since then.

Your state’s unemployment rate is now at 4.6 percent, well below the national average of 5.6 percent, and it dropped half a percentage point in the last month.

Shari, from Ohio writes:
There are many political ads addressing the issue of out-sourcing of American jobs, most recently hit being the tech sector. What can the administration do to stop this situation?

Steve Friedman
It’s hard on someone to lose a job for any reason. Outsourcing is an issue we face in a changing global economy. The best way to address job loss, including from outsourcing, is to ensure that America remains the best place in the world to do business, and that American workers are the best educated, best trained, and most productive in the world.

The President believes that, on a level playing field, American workers can out-compete anyone else in the world.

What are we doing about it? The worst thing we could do would be to retreat to economic isolationism.

The President has a six point plan to make American workers more productive and American businesses more competitive, including reducing the burdens of taxes, litigation, and regulation, pushing for open markets and fair trade, enacting a comprehensive energy plan, and controlling the growth of health care costs.

We also need to have high-skilled and well-trained workers, and the President has proposed a Jobs for the 21st Century Initiative. You can find out more about this by clicking here.

Jonathan, from Houston writes:
Does the National Economic Council have any influence over the Federal Reserve with regard to changes in the discount rate or reserve requirement?

Steve Friedman
No. The Federal Reserve is independent.

Steve Friedman
Thanks for the great questions today. Hope to do this again soon. Have a good weekend.

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