The White House
President George W. Bush
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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
Commerce Secretary
In Focus: Economy

October 26, 2004

Don Evans

I'm delighted to be here to participate in Ask the White House to discuss our strengthening economy. Thanks to the President's economic policies, the economy is growing, putting more money in the pockets of Americans, and giving them the confidence to make long term decisions like buying a home. But this administration knows there's still work to do and this administration continues to be committed to improving the lives of all Americans. I'll take your questions now.

Tesha, from Seattle writes:
I heard on the news today that the winner of the NOBLE PRIZE in Economics said that your tax cuts do not go far enough. He said there eeds to be more taxe relief to stimulate the economy. Is this true?

Don Evans
Thanks for the question Tesha. Professor Edward Prescott, who won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Economics, agrees with President Bush that if you tax Americans less, the result will be stronger economic growth and more robust job creation.

During the past four years, the President has aggressively pursued pro-growth economic policies and our strengthening economy is proof these policies are working. Nearly two million new jobs have been created over the past 13 months. The unemployment rate is 5.4%. That is significantly below the averages of the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s!

Dr. Prescott also believes that tax relief is good policy, but it must be permanent tax relief that allows families and small business owners to plan for the future. For example, small business owners need to be able to plan with certainty for the future so that they can expand, invest, save and hire new workers. President Bush is committed to making sure that all of the tax relief he has signed into law becomes permanent.

The President strongly opposes efforts to repeal either all or parts of his tax relief. Small businesses create seven out of ten jobs in our economy, and raising taxes on upper income taxpayers will also raise taxes on more than 900,000 small business owners. This is exactly the wrong time to be raising taxes on America’s job creators.

Melissa, from Oklahoma City OK writes:
I do not understand the notion that our economy is so bad. I look around and see people driving expensive SUV's, Humvees, expensive foriegn cars. I see "Help Wanted" and "Now Hiring" signs virtually everywhere. There are construction sites with new homes being built, new businesses going up, there are record numbers of students attending colleges and universities (at least here in Oklahoma)and even my 16 yr old son has gotten a raise at his job, and he has only been on the job 2 months. Please explain to me where and why our economy is so bad.

Don Evans
Melissa, you’re exactly right about the state of our economy. President Bush believes that the job of the President is to solve problems. And when the President came into office, we had a serious problem when it came to our economy.

The stock market had been in significant decline six months prior to our arrival. Then a recession took place. And then we had some corporate scandals, which shook the very foundations of trust that allow our economy to be the envy of the world.

In response, the President signed into law the most far-reaching reforms for Corporate America since FDR was in the White House. This legislation makes clear that we won’t tolerate dishonesty in the boardrooms of America.

And then we got attacked, and those attacks cost our economy nearly one million jobs in the three months after September 11th. But President Bush did what strong leaders do and he acted. He acted decisively and Congress responded with the largest tax relief in a generation.

Because of the President’s tax relief the economy is strong and it is getting stronger everyday. Our economy is the fastest growing major industrialized economy in the world.

Over the past 4 quarters, the economy in Europe grew 2.0%. This compares to 4.8% in the U.S., nearly its strongest growth in 20 years. Unemployment rates are down across all levels of education, race and age. Take-home pay is up by more than 10% since President Bush took office. Homeownership, including minority with over half of all minorities now owning their own home.

The President knows that there’s more work to do. Anytime there is anyone in America without a job we know there is more work to be done. But our country, under the President’s leadership, is on the right track and we’re not looking back.

Zach, from Illinois writes:
What does the President percieve to be the back bone of our economy, my opinion is the farmers

Don Evans
Thanks for the question Zach. The President believes the backbone of our economy is the American worker. Our workers are the most effective and productive in the world.

Right now there nearly 140 million Americans at work. In August, this was more than at any time in our history. We are the world's leading manufacturing nation and we lead the world in the development of new innovations and technology.

And you are certainly right to highlight the importance of America's farmers. President Bush has called farming the "first industry" of America and his policies are driving our agricultural economy forward.

Our farmers had a record-breaking year last year and we are expecting U.S. farm exports to hit an all-time high this year.

Richard, from Charlottesville va writes:
Hi, I am just wondering about the tax cuts. I know that President Bush is trying to help raise the economy by giving a tax cut in the middle of the war, but wont that just raise our national debt? Dont get the wrong idea. I think he is doing a great job at an abnormally hard job. Thank you for your time.

Don Evans
Great question, Richard. While the deficit isn’t welcomed, it is certainly understandable given the period our country is going through.

The President’s budget reflects America’s most important priorities: fighting the war on terror and ensuring economic growth and job creation. The President will continue to provide whatever it takes to defend our country, protect our homeland and promote economic security.

In addition, the President is committed to cutting the deficit in half over the next five years. Economic growth, fiscal discipline and good stewardship of taxpayers dollars will help us meet this goal.

David, from Troy Michigan writes:
As it seems obvious that the price of energy - oil in particular - underpins the whole of the US and global economy, my question is why are we not seeing more being done to reduce the cost of oil and gasoline?? Justifying it by saying that the US has the lowest gasoline prices in the world just doesn't cut it and lends credence that the President (whom I support and will vote for again)is in the back pocket of the big oil interests. People generally live by their wallets and will vote based on that. With energy costs taking the lion's share of income next to taxes, I would think it would behoove President Bush to hit those prices hard.

Don Evans
Troy, gas prices are something the President is very concerned about. High gas prices place a burden on families, businesses and the economy. High gas prices are also a problem that can’t be fixed overnight. We need comprehensive solutions.

More than three years ago, this administration proposed a comprehensive energy plan that we have been urging Congress to pass. In the near term however, the most important thing government can do is ensure that the markets work as effectively as possible.

The U.S. Department of Energy will continue to monitor the markets and energy supplies and keep industry, consumers, and policy-makers informed. And this administration will continue to ensure that consumers are not subject to “price gouging.”

Kathy, from Carlsbad, California writes:
Am I better off today than I was 4 years ago? The answere is yes. I have 3 children in 4 year colleges, 1 child graduated and got a job right out of college, and one child in high school. I see their opportunities as great and their future is bright. The economy is growing here so fast and developement so quick. My husband's business is thriving. I am able to discuss politics with them (something I had to avoid during the previous administration - more information in the news than we cared to talk about). Thank you to the present administration I also feel more secure due to the thorough response to attacks on our nation - simply closing down Sadams open bank to terrorist was brillant. Am I better off than I was 4 years ago - you bet

Don Evans
Kathy, it's great to hear that you and your family are doing so well. It's especially encouraging to hear that your children are thriving in school and finding rewarding opportunities. That is what it is all about.

I can just tell you that we are more committed than ever to moving America ahead. The President's principles are straightforward and sound: he is committed national and economic security of every person living in this country.

And as someone who has known President Bush for many years, I can assure you that he'll never let up on these objectives.

David, from Green Bay WI writes:
What is the plan for the growth of the economy granted people who lose their jobs which go overseas get training for new hightech jobs. what about those who are affected by the job losses indirectly for example the tourism industry of door county wi? Or the unemployed who are not "experienced" or not qualified for jobs? what is going to happen to the hundreds without work.

Don Evans
Thanks for the question David. President Bush's top economic priority is the creation of more jobs for American workers. Free and fair trade will help create more higher-paying jobs for American workers by opening new markets for American products and services, bringing lower prices and more choices to American consumers, and attracting foreign companies to invest and hire in the United States.

For example, in your state of Wisconsin, $11.5 billion in goods were exported to 198 foreign markets in 2003. Nearly one-sixth of all manufacturing jobs in Wisconsin depend on exports. There are 660 foreign businesses that employ 112,500 workers in Wisconsin, approximately 52% of which are in manufacturing.

The President also recognizes that any job loss from economic change - whether arising from trade or technology or increased productivity - is painful for some workers and their families. The President has proposed and passed several programs that assist workers in our changing economy.

The President's FY 2005 budget commits significant resources to help displaced workers find jobs, including: $23 billion for job training and employment assistance. Trade Adjustment Assistance, passed in 2002, will provide $1.1 billion in FY 2005 for training and cash benefits for workers dislocated by increased imports or a shift of production to certain foreign countries. Workers are also eligible to receive a Health Coverage Tax Credit covering 65% of the premium for qualified health insurance.

A pro-growth economic agenda, a strong education system, and help for American workers to gain the skills to secure good jobs are the right ways to respond to the challenges of our growing and changing economy.

Chris, from Rancho Palos Verdes, CA writes:
Have you been to Ben's Chili Bowl off the U Street metro stop? That place rocks.

Don Evans
I haven’t yet been to Ben’s Chili Bowl, but I’ve heard great things about their chili dogs and their half-smokes.

I know Ben’s is another American small business success story and a true landmark in Washington D.C. Chris, thanks for the recommendation and I’ve just made another executive decision as the Secretary of Commerce – I will go to Ben’s for lunch in the coming weeks.

George, from Nevada writes:
What is going on with the markets?

Don Evans
Thanks for the question. While markets tend to fluctuate daily, broadly speaking, the markets have added roughly +$4.5 trillion in new wealth since January of 2003 when the President announced the Jobs and Growth tax relief package.

Our economy and the financial markets have weathered some major shocks in the past 4 years, but I believe this economy is strong and getting stronger.

Don Evans
Thanks for all your great questions! Looking forward to doing this again.

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