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.
September 17, 2004
Greetings from Ohio! I'm proud to be talking to you today from my home state of Ohio, the Buckeye state. Welcome to "Ask the White House." It's great to be back; this is one of my favorite forums for discussion with American taxpayers. I'm looking forward to your questions, so let's get started.
Megan, from Cleveland, Ohio writes:
Thanks for your question. The creation of jobs in Ohio is an issue of great concern to the President. U.S. Department of Labor data indicates that Ohio has gained almost 12,000 net new jobs since January, but it hasn't been enough, and gains haven't been as steady as we'd like. I was in Cincinnati yesterday, and I was pleased to learn that 57 percent of employers in that area are planning on hiring new employees in the upcoming months, according to a Manpower, Inc. survey released this week. So that news was encouraging, and I believe it indicates that better times are ahead for Ohio workers.
Ohio will not be left behind; the U.S. economy is too strong for that and Ohio's workers and businesses have a long tradition of excellence and success. We're going to keep growing as a country, and Ohioans will be part of that growth.
Kevin, from Lincoln, Nebraska
Even if we haven't reached that goal, can our economy still be improving?
We've seen 12 consecutive months of job creation, with new jobs having been created for 1.7 million Americans, according to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Another BLS survey shows job gains at 2.4 million... and I imagine the real number is somewhere between those two.
Since August 2003, employment has increased in 47 states and unemployment rates have decreased in 45 states. GDP growth has been strong, and homeownership has reached record highs.
The signs are very promising, but there is no doubt that there is more to do. That's why this Administration is committed to the President's pro-growth policies that will keep our economy moving forward.
Pat, from Ft. Myers Beach
There is actually more evidence (in data from the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics) to indicate that jobs are being created across the spectrum, in many industries and areas.
It's hard to tell how many of those jobs are high-paying versus low-paying, but I am optimistic that the range is normal and economically healthy. I think it is worth pointing out, especially in light of your friend's experience, that a person's education and professional experience are critical factors when it comes to finding a good job.
That's why the President is dedicated to improving education at all levels in this country, including an entrepreneurial approach to continuing education, particularly through using our country's terrific community colleges, to train workers for professional opportunities in their home towns.
Abby, from Waterford, Michigan
They are a non-partisan, government-run research organization. Their two surveys tracking job growth are called the Payroll and Household surveys.
The two surveys tend to have different numbers during any given month of results, which can be confusing, but both are showing very strong gains in job growth.
The Payroll survey shows that jobs have been created for 1.7 million Americans, while the Household survey shows job gains at 2.4 million. I imagine the real number is somewhere between those two.
James, from El Paso, TX
Their reprehensible actions hurt stockholders and workers... and it hurt our economy. President Bush took aggressive steps against those who abused their power and made sure they would no longer be in a position to harm investors.
The President's actions to crack down on corporate fraud, including enacting the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform bill and the creation Corporate Fraud Task Force, went a long way toward restoring investor confidence and bolstered our economic recovery.
But there's more to do. Government agencies must always be vigilant, using the tools available to them, to prevent fraud from occurring or stopping it in its tracks if it does.
Mutual funds in particular play an important role in creating an ownership society by providing millions of American households an effective way to invest and save for their families and futures. If insiders in the mutual fund business "game" the system to the detriment of hard-working investors, the SEC will hold them to account.
The thoughtful reform proposals put forward by the SEC represent important progress in strengthening corporate governance and transparency in mutual funds.
President Bush will not tolerate the wrongdoing of those who seek to abuse the trust of investors.
Mike, from Elkin, NC
You're right to point out that the economy can't feel good to anyone who is unemployed, and increasing job creation is of utmost importance to the Bush administration... and we know that there is work to be done. We're dedicated to growing this economy and creating good jobs.
I want to reassure you that the signs of a growing economy are absolutely there, they're very good, and I'm optimistic that they will continue to get better.
Jobs are, unfortunately, the last thing to return to a recovering economy, but they have indeed been coming back. America has seen 12 consecutive months of job growth, totally between 1.7 and 2.4 million jobs (those numbers are from the two government jobs surveys, and my sense is that the total lies somewhere between those two).
Growth of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been strong, and more Americans than ever before own their own homes. We are fortunate to have the most open, flexible, adaptive and resilient economy in the world... an economy uniquely built and now positioned to create lots of good jobs.
Continuing to implement the President's economic policies will improve the chances that you - and all Americans who seek work - will find that job sooner.
Jim, from The Bronx, NY
President Bush believes that America's taxpayers deserve, and our future economic prosperity demands, a simpler, fairer, pro-growth tax code - and he has pledged to lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify it.
The President also understands how important homeownership is to this country, and I am pleased to report that homeownership levels have reached record highs during his administration.
President Bush has a bold agenda for promoting an ownership society by giving young people the option of voluntary personal accounts under Social Security to give them more control over their retirement savings, encouraging Americans to utilize Health Savings Accounts that give individuals expanded access and choice in health care, ensuring lower taxes and less burdensome regulations for entrepreneurs, and promoting policies that eliminate barriers to homeownership.
Nick, from Oberlin, OH writes:
This Administration believes that the budget deficit matters, and that it is a concern. It's unwelcome. But it is understandable, given the extraordinary circumstances of recent history. But because of the ongoing effects of the President's pro-growth economic policies, the deficit outlook continues to improve. To stay on this path, we need a continuation of the President's policies on spending discipline and economic growth.
Because you cannot achieve deficit reduction without growth. This is a point that is too often missed in economic discussions and commentary.
Let me assure you: we know that deficits matter and we are committed to the President's plan, which will reduce the federal deficit by half over the next five years, bringing it well below historic norms.
Robert, from Harisburg, PA writes:
Through his economic policies, most notably invigorating tax cuts, President Bush provided the stimulus that our economy needed to come out of recession (remember that he inherited an economy in steep decline that was then further damaged by terrorist attacks, corporate malfeasance and a stock market bubble bursting).
Today our economic growth is strong and good jobs are being created - 1.7 million new jobs over 12 consecutive months of job growth.
His policies created Health Savings Accounts which are now offering Americans the ability to reduce the cost and increase their own control over their health care.
Some of other innovative health-care proposals have, sadly, been stymied by a lack of action in the U.S. Senate. The President is strongly in favor of Association Health Plans for small businesses, and legal reform that would reduce the cost of junk lawsuits, particularly for the medical community. Both policies would reduce the cost of health care and increase the number of Americans who are covered by insurance.
In terms of national security: this has been the most important issue of the President's administration.
Under his leadership, our government has undergone the largest re-structuring in decades - the creation of the Department of Homeland Security - in order to increase the efficacy of our efforts to protect the people of this great land.
President Bush is a resolute leader of the global war on terror. The terrorists are on the run and millions of people in the Middle East who used to live in hatred-breeding tyranny now live in freedom - an environment in which terrorists are far less likely to grow.
From cutting off their money supply to hunting them down individually in caves, we are winning the war against terrorists and our President has been an extremely effective Commander in Chief of this war.
Megan, from Wisconsin writes:
The increasing cost of oil is creating a headwind for our economy, and it is unfortunate to have that headwind while we, as a country, are working so hard to recover economically from difficult times.
Our economy is growing and creating jobs, but we could make more progress if Congress would pass the President's energy policy. Uncertainty in the Middle East, including the war in Iraq, has impacted prices.
Many other factors are at play around the world, but the bottom line is that the President's proposed energy policy would keep costs low, reduce dependence on foreign oil and create jobs for American workers.
Matt, from Tallahassee writes:
To characterize this as "tax cuts for the wealthy" is not accurate. The top income tax rate is 35% right now, versus 70% in 1980. And yet the top 1% of income earners now pays 32% of all federal income taxes versus 17% in 1980.
The top 10% of income earners now pays 67% of income taxes versus 48% in 1980. And, in 1980, the bottom 60% of taxpayers, in terms of income, paid 15% of federal income taxes. This year they will pay only 3% of federal income taxes.
The President's tax cuts have often been mistakenly, falsely referred to as "tax cuts for the wealthy," so here is some information to set the record straight: higher income individuals are now paying a higher percentage of the total individual income tax. In fact, those people who make over $200,000 a year pay 45.4% of the tax burden.
Before the President's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, the top 1% paid 30.5% of individual income taxes. Now they pay 32.3%. Before the cuts, the top 10% paid 62.6%. Now they pay 64.8%. And on the other end, the bottom 50% paid 4.1% of all individual income taxes before the cuts, and now they pay 3.6 %. Which means that taxpayers that rank in the top 50% pay 96.4% of all individual income taxes.
And to show that the policy of across-the-board tax cuts do work: Almost all workers are paying lower marginal tax rates than they were paying in 1980 and yet revenue has grown at an average annual rate of about 5% -- 2% if we exclude inflation. There is no way that would have happened given how much tax rates have come down unless lower tax rates created better incentives to
work, save, and invest.
Woody, from Buna, Texas
The President is committed to ensuring that the promise of Social Security is kept for current seniors and those nearing retirement - and that we fix the Social Security system for our children and grandchildren.
To ensure its long-term future, Social Security needs to be fixed soon. Any fix will require choices, bipartisanship, and public discussion. There are a variety of good plans that have been proposed to fix Social Security and to establish personal accounts, including a number of options presented by the bipartisan President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security.
The President will work with Congress to determine the best elements of the proposals that have been put forward, according to these principles: