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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.

Don Evans
Don Evans
Commerce Secretary

August 19, 2004

Don Evans

I'm delighted to be here to participate in Ask the White House and pleased to share with you my thoughts about our future. The American economy is gaining strength each day. We are seeing positive signs that President Bush's policies are growing the economy, putting more money in the pockets of Americans, and giving them the confidence to make long term decisions like buying a home. Since last August, 1.5 million new jobs have been created. But this Administration is not satisfied by any means. We will continue to push an agenda to meet the needs of every American family. We're committed to improving the lives of all Americans. I'll take your questions now.

Kimberly, from Texas writes:
I happen to have two questions, so I hope I am not keeping you. First of all, how do you get the job you are currently holding and secondly, how can younger people (17 and under) have a voice in the election?

Don Evans
Nice to hear from you Kimberly!

I became the Secretary of Commerce when President Bush asked me to come to Washington, D.C. to serve as part of his cabinet. I consider working for the President to be a true honor as well as a great opportunity to give back to my country.

In answer to your second question, while the voting age is 18, there are many ways young people can participate in elections. You can volunteer your time and energy in issues and ideas that you find important. You can write letters to your elected representatives about policies that are of concern to you and you can also encourage your friends and family who are eligible to vote to go to the polls. But most importantly, you can focus on getting a good education and taking the time to learn the issues and develop opinions, so that when the time comes, you have all the necessary tools needed to make educated choices in choosing your leaders.

Tim, from Buffalo, NY writes:
How long can we expect the economic upturn to continue?and does it only aid those whose income derives from the stocks

Don Evans
Well, Tim, let me tell you why I am optimistic about the continued strength of our economy. First, our economy has been growing for 11 straight months and we have added more than 1.5 million new jobs. Our unemployment rate is currently at 5.5% and more Americans are at work right now than at any point in our nation's history. Our nation is more productive than ever and consumer confidence is the highest it has been in 2 years. I also sense confidence and optimism when I talk to business leaders, entrepreneurs and workers all across this country.

We have some tough problems to tackle in order to keep our economy moving though. That is why the President has continued his efforts to address health care costs, put in place a national energy plan and make sure the tax cuts that have helped build our economic rebound remain in place for families and businesses.

To answer your second question it is important to note that the benefits of our economic recovery have been very broad-based. We've seen jobs created in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, and take home pay for all Americans growing. Taking inflation into account, take-home-pay has grown 3.5% over the past year. This is faster than in the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s. In addition, interest rates remain near historic lows and inflation is in check.

Mark, from Phoenix Arizona writes:
It is an honor to speak with you today. I just recently retired from military service after 25 years and wanted to pass on what a great job President Bush and his staff are doing. I keep hearing that the economy isn't doing that well, but that's not what I am experiencing here in the real world. I am much better off today then I was 4 years ago and the future is looking brighter everyday. How do you see the economy doing in the next 4 years?

Don Evans
Mark, thank you for your question and thank you for your years of military service! You’re right. The American economy is growing stronger each and every day, and Americans are beginning to feel the effects of President Bush’s pro-jobs, pro-growth policies. As I just mentioned to Tim, our economy has created 1.5 million jobs since last August and more Americans are working today than have ever worked before. The unemployment rate is lower than the average of the 1970s, 1980s or 1990s. And take home pay’s increase by 3.5 percent last year is an amazingly fast rate. More Americans own homes than any other time in our nation’s history. And our interest rates, mortgage rates and inflation are at record lows. Our future is brighter, Mark. And it’s because President Bush’s economic vision has built the foundation for long-term prosperity. The next 10 years will bring the strongest economic performance any of us have ever seen. And yes, we will begin to see much of that strengthening in the next four years. America is positioned for strong and sustainable growth. I’m optimistic and excited for American families.

Robert, from Wausau, Wisconsin writes:
Why did President Bush advocate a tax policy which shifted the tax burden onto the shoulders of the middle class?

Don Evans
Thanks for the question, Robert! President Bush’s tax cuts have significantly lowered the tax burden for taxpayers at all income levels. And a report that was recently released by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office tells us that the President’s tax package has done just that. The study found that as a result of the tax law changes, the share of individual income taxes paid by all taxpayers will decline this year—except for the top 20% of earners. Further, the top 5% of earners will pay more than half of all federal income taxes and the lowest 40% of earners will pay no income taxes at all in 2004.

That means that the wealthiest among us continue to pay more than those with smaller incomes, and that the middle class is experiencing significant reductions in their tax bills. For example, thanks to tax relief enacted since 2001, a family of four earning $40,000 a year now pays nearly $2,000 less in federal taxes. That is enough to pay the average home electricity bill for more than a year, or fill up the gas tank of two cars for an entire year. Through child tax credits, elimination of the marriage penalty, and other measures, President Bush hopes to continue to reduce the tax burden placed on the middle class.

Sam, from Philadelphia writes:
Do you have any indications on what job growth will be like for the rest of year?

Don Evans
Hi Sam! My crystal ball is no clearer than anyone else’s but I do know that the trend is our friend and the President’s tax relief is helping our economy grow and create jobs.

We’ve created 1.5 million jobs in the past 11 months according to the payroll survey and 2.4 million new jobs according to the household survey which counts the self-employed of which there are over 10 million workers alone in the U.S.

Moreover, there are more Americans employed today than at any time in our country’s history and the unemployment rate is at 5.5% right now after peaking at 6.3% in the middle of last year. Like our overall economy, I believe the job market is strong and will continue to get stronger.

Laura, from Virginia writes:
Hello Mr. Evens-Are gas prices expected go up much more, or down? I have heard that President Bush plans to "enviornmentally safely" search Alaska for oil, but will that help? Gas is just getting very expensive. Thanks for taking my question, and God Bless, Laura

Don Evans
Thank you for your question Laura. You’re right. Gas prices have been extremely volatile recently. President Bush recognized our energy crisis immediately. He understands that without energy security, we do not have economic security. The President spoke of the problem throughout his 2000 campaign, and four days after his inauguration, he formed the National Energy Task Force. The Task Force offered 105 recommendations. Most of them were handled administratively by the Bush Administration. But a key piece of the puzzle is passage of a comprehensive, sound, safe and reliable energy plan, and that is now languishing in Congress. Let me explain to you why this plan is important, Laura. The U.S. depends heavily on foreign oil, and our energy supplies are not as diverse as they should be. Both of these cause an enormous amount of volatility and fluctuations in the American energy market. The legislation in Congress would allow us to explore resources closer to home, like in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, in an environmentally friendly and safe way. Unfortunately, the more obstructionists in Congress delay passage of the President’s proposals, the more Americans will pay in higher energy prices. President Bush wants Congress to act soon so American families like yours can get some relief.

Annie, from DE writes:
Dear Mr. Evans, Thank you for your time. I was wondering how old a presidential candidate has to be to run for office. Thanks again


Don Evans
Thanks for writing in Annie.

According to the Constitution, in order to be President of the United States, a person must be a natural born citizen and have reached the age of 35 at the time he or she is sworn in.

Steph, from Illinois writes:
Isn't your wife one of Laura Bush's bestfriends and has been even before she got married to the president?

Don Evans
Hi Steph! While my wife and the First Lady are very close friends, it is actually President Bush that my wife has known longer. They met many years ago in the second grade and have been friends ever since.

Goven, from Washington writes:
Will our countries' economic be on a high speed for a long time,or will Japan be better than us?

Don Evans
Interesting question, Goven. Over the past year, the U.S. economy has grown at a terrific pace– one of the strongest 12-month periods in nearly 20 years. Most economists—and the Bush Administration—believe that we will continue to experience strong growth.

Goven, the United States is the world’s leading economy, and it is widely believed that we will have the fastest growing major economy in the world, including Japan, in 2004 and 2005. By engaging the world through free trade and continuing to pursue pro-growth policies at home, President Bush will work to ensure that our economy stays strong.

Don Evans
It's been great speaking with everyone today. I'm proud to serve you and our great country. God bless you all.