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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.

John Snow
Secretary of the Treasury

September 17, 2004

John Snow

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:
Mr. Secretary, are jobs on the upswing in Ohio? I feel like things are getting better and us "buckeyes" are working hard...but having some definite confirmation would be great

Thank you.

John Snow
Hello, Megan - pleased to meet a fellow Buckeye... I see you hail from Cleveland. I was in Cleveland just this past July, when I met with some local business leaders and had a tour of a local company called Nanofilm, where employees are doing some really incredible work, developing new technologies.

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 writes:
The President promised many jobs at the beginning of his four years and I don't think we have reached that job goal. Is this true--and why is it if so?

Even if we haven't reached that goal, can our economy still be improving?

John Snow
Hello, Kevin... thanks for your question. The President wants every American who is looking for a job to be able to find one. And while we still have people looking for jobs - and we know jobs can't come fast enough for those families - our economy is indeed 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 writes:
People say the jobs that are being created are simply minimum wage jobs and nothing else. But I have a friend who is in his early 50's who just retired early (by choice) and he got three job offers immediately. Please share your input on this.

John Snow
Hello, Pat. I hope you and yours are safe down there in Florida during this terrible storm season. There really is no data whatsoever to back up the claim you sited about "simply minimum wage jobs and nothing else."

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 writes:
Secretary Snow,At this time of the year, I am very confused about the economy and jobs. The White House says jobs are being created and the Labor department can proove that, yet it seems many others say it's not true. Who should I believe?

John Snow
Thank you for your question, Abby. You can have confidence in the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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 writes:
Dear Secretary Snow,What curbs have been instituted to prevent further cheating in stock market transactions, particularly in mutual funds?


John Snow
Greetings, James, and thank you for your question. A few years ago, we saw the effect on our markets of a handful of corporate leaders deciding they were not going to play by the rules.

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 writes:
Mr. Snow, thanks for taking questions today. How can the Bush administration claim that the economy is strong and growing stronger, when there are 8 million unemployed Americans (including myself)? I would love to have a full-time job, but it is extremely hard to find one.

John Snow
Hello, Mike. Thanks for writing in today. First, let me say that I'm sorry to hear you're having trouble finding full-time work. I appreciate how hard that is on a person and I hope your search is rewarded with a job very soon.

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 writes:
Does the administration support flat tax proposals and has there been any analysis of such proposals' impact on homeownership? Thanks for your attention.

John Snow
Thanks for your interesting question, Jim. There is a lot of interest, all across this country, in changing our tax code.

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:
As a young person, I am worried that paying off the substantial debt our nation has accumulated will rest largly on my generation's shoulders just as we are entering the work force. If President Bush is re-elected, what help can people my age expect from the administration in this regard?

John Snow
Hello, Nick, and welcome to Ask the White House! I'm delighted that young Americans like you are engaged in these discussions about the policies that shape our country.

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:
My question is this:Why does the President have all these great ideas he uses to campaign on like how to improve job opportunities, improve health care, improve national security, yet does not do them now? What is he waiting for? He's had 4 years, why is he waiting to get started doing what he "says" he wants to do?

John Snow
Hello, Robert, and thank you for your question. In my position, I am not involved in the President's campaign for re-election, but I can certainly comment on his record in office, and I think that you are mistaken to say he is "waiting" to act on any of these critical issues.

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:
Why is it that the gas prices have gone up so much? I have a friend in the oil business, and it seems every time I talk to him, he mentions that the price has raised. Does any of it have anything to do with what's going on in Iraq?

John Snow
Hello, Megan. I understand your concern about gas prices.

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:
Why does the administration continue to subscribe to supply side economics? Dont most economists agree that government does not increase revenues by cutting taxes on the wealthiest?

John Snow
Thank you for this interesting question, Matt. In fact, almost all economists agree that incentives matter, and applying this idea to tax rates is the key insight of supply side economics.

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 writes:
Dear Secretary Snow: I am a 38 yr old school teacher and married father of two. I am happy to pay into Social Security in an effort to support our aging populus. However, I would rather have some of my money privatized because it could yield a BETTER return. Will we see such a program in the future?

John Snow
Thank you for this terrific question, Woody. President Bush is dedicated to achieving an ownership society where Americans are encouraged to own their own homes, their own businesses, their own health care... and their own retirement investments.

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:

  • President Bush will not change benefits for today's retirees or near-retirees.
  • The President wants to see Social Security permanently strengthened for our children and grandchildren, without raising payroll taxes.
  • The President favors voluntary personal accounts for younger workers. Personal accounts provide ownership, choice, and the opportunity for workers to build a nest egg for their retirement and to pass on to their spouse or their children.
  • Those who do not choose to have a personal account would continue to draw their benefits as they always have from the Federal Social Security program. President Bush believes that those who choose to have a personal account should have increased personal ownership and control of their nest egg within Social Security.

John Snow
Thanks so much for all of your terrific questions. I look forward to participating in "Ask the White House" again soon.

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