For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 6, 2003
President Discusses Economy with 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 American people.
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 private sector.
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 might spend?
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 dividends.
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 Korea.
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.)
END 4:21 P.M. EST