The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 31, 2007

Press Gaggle by Tony Snow and Ed Lazear
Aboard Air Force One
En route New York, New York

Tony Snow, White House Press Secretary
Ed Lazear, Chairman, Council of Economic Advisors

9:31 A.M. EST

MR. SNOW: All right, everybody ready? The President's schedule, early normal briefings. We're on our way to New York, where we'll go to Federal Hall. The President will first have an interview with Neil Cavuto, of FOX News, on the state of the economy address that the President is going to deliver afterward at Federal Hall. And then upon conclusion of that, he'll meet we Ceasar Borja, Jr. and other members of the Borja family. And then we will return home.


Q The meeting with Borja is after the speech?

MR. SNOW: That's correct.

Q Do you know what other members of his family are going to be there?

MR. SNOW: His mother, brother and sister. His mother is Eva; brother, Evan; and sister, Nhia, N-h-i-a.

Q I'm sorry, you said he's going to be meeting with them after his speech?

MR. SNOW: That is correct.

Q Is that going to be pooled at all?

MR. SNOW: It's a private meeting. We will probably -- we may have a photo release. We're not going to do pool; this is a private meeting.

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. SNOW: What?

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, what?

Q (Inaudible.)

MR. SNOW: Because it's an appropriate thing to do.

Q Well, I mean, but, it's a legitimate question. I mean, the kid has been calling for a lot more money than the President put up yesterday, for instance. Why --

MR. SNOW: Well, I think -- look, the President is going to be dealing with a grieving young man and his family. The one thing we can assure him, from a policy point of view, is that we will plug the gaps in any coverage and anybody who needs treatment will get it. Period.

Q "Anybody" -- say that again, anybody --

MR. SNOW: First responders who need treatment will get the treatment they need. Many are already covered by insurance programs, many through their union; but if there are gaps in that, we're going to do it. We've already -- he will get -- the family will get some briefing also about ongoing medical efforts.

Q But you're saying anybody -- when you said "anybody," you're saying first responders --

MR. SNOW: What I'm saying is first responders.

Q -- because, you know, people like Senator Clinton have talked about broadening it out to residents, out of state folks that showed up.

MR. SNOW: Well, at this point we're talking with the family of the first responder. I think at this particular juncture the most important thing to do is to talk to the Borja family, to pass on condolences and we do not look upon this as a political meeting, and I doubt they look at it as a political meeting, as well.

Q On a different subject, how confident are you that Iran was behind the agents that killed those five soldiers in Karbala?

MR. SNOW: I'm not getting into that sort of speculation. I'd send you off to the Department of Defense for any readout they're going to give. But let me just reiterate what the President said -- we're going to do force protection and people who are trying to kill our troops or to try to destabilize the democracy, we will respond to forcefully and appropriately.

Q Tony, good economic news this morning on GDP, how does that help you, if at all, when working with Congress? Does it give you a boost in terms of getting your agenda done?

MR. SNOW: Well, I think it indicates the success of the President's program. If you take a look at the GDP numbers -- a couple of other items I'd draw your attention to: low inflation and high wage growth. What we're seeing now is vigorous growth -- I think it's 5.4 percent in wage growth in the fourth quarter. You guys will have handouts, so you can double check me on the numbers. The fact is, there's vigorous wage growth and it indicates that the President's proposal of cutting taxes and creating more opportunities for businesses and workers is, in fact, succeeding, and it's important that Congress continue to think about ways of expanding our prosperity. And the first thing it ought to do is to extend the tax cuts that are already part of the law.

I've also got Eddie Lazear here, Chairman of the President's Council of Economic Advisors. So if you want sage advice on economic analysis, Eddie is your guy.

Q Do you think that this kind of economic growth is sustainable?

CHAIRMAN LAZEAR: I do. We've had this kind of economic growth for a number of years now. It's symptomatic of what we see as we come out of a recovery. Usually the first year or two is very, very strong, then it tapers off.

We've been fortunate in that this economy has been able to sustain growth for a long period of time. We're seeing it show up not only in growth of output in GDP, but we're also seeing wage growth, as Tony said. We're seeing high profits, which help the business climate, in terms of investment.

The only weak spot in the economy has been housing, and the very good news is that the economy is so robust that it's been able to grow at a very steep pace, despite the fact that the housing sector has slowed really to its historic levels. So it's not slowing relative to its past, it's just slowing to its historic levels.

Q -- quarterly GDP figures going ahead this year?

CHAIRMAN LAZEAR: We think there -- we think that we could see sustained growth. Remember, the labor market is extremely tight right now. We have a lot of people working. We've got 4.5 percent unemployment. Job growth is very strong. When you see that in the labor market, that suggests that the economy can continue to grow.

Q Can I ask you one other question on the Ground Zero stuff? You're saying anybody, first responder, who needs treatment will get treatment. Indefinitely? There's also a question, sort of, of how long this commitment will last.

MR. SNOW: Look, I'm not going to get into specifics. I'll let you -- the better thing to do is talk to the policy guys. Again, what you have is a situation where a lot of people were insured, and if there are holes in the insurance, we're going to plug them. The federal government has made a significant commitment, and we're committed to helping the first responders.

Q Do you have any sense of how much beyond the $25 million we're going to need? Everybody seems to agree that's sort of a down payment at this point.

MR. SNOW: Well, we'll have to see. Look, there are a lot -- what happened is that there was a big first payment -- the federal role began to expand only last October, as you know. So at this point, we are still getting data in. As a matter of fact, the first tranche of data should be coming in either tomorrow or the beginning of next week.

So rather than trying to do a back-of-the-envelope calculation, we'll take a look at the real numbers and find out what we've learned through the first quarter, and obviously we'll make appropriate adjustments as the data indicate.

Q Appropriate adjustments in the 2008 budget?

MR. SNOW: We'll find out. Again, we don't know what adjustments need to be made. So you're trying to talk into a vacuum. It may be that this is sufficient, it may be that it isn't. We'll just have to see.

Q Do you know when you'll know?

MR. SNOW: Well, again, the guys are going to start crunching the numbers as soon as they come in. The best thing to do is to give us a few days to find out, A, when the data are going to be available, and how long they think it's going to take to assess it.

All right, thanks, guys.

END 9:37 A.M. EST

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