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Strengthening the Economy: Jobs and Economic Growth
Economy and Budget Press Briefing Excerpts

Excerpts from Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, October 3, 2002 (Full transcript)

MR. FLEISCHER: Good afternoon. I want to give you a report on the President's schedule, and then I have an opening announcement about Hurricane Lili.

The President began his day with a phone call to the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, followed by an intelligence briefing and an FBI briefing. And then the President spent a good portion of the morning urging Congress to focus on the domestic agenda. The President made the case to the Congress about the importance of passing legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security, as well as to create 300,000 jobs in the economy by passing the terrorism insurance legislation that's pending on the Hill.

Break in Press Briefing

QUESTION: With respect to the administration's economic policy, as you know, former Vice President Gore yesterday widely criticized your current course, called for a mid-course correction, suggested a stimulus package which would include extending unemployment benefits after they run out in December when Congress is not in town. What is the White House reaction to some of their suggestions which, as you know, the President himself has proposed, particularly the small business tax relief?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I addressed this earlier. I was asked about a UI extension and I talked about it earlier, so there's really no change from what I said just before. Q But as you know, it runs out in December, when Congress isn't in town. So is there an urgency to get something on the books before –

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as I indicated, we're going to continue to work with Congress on all issues involving the economy and restoration of growth. But the President thinks that the number one, most concrete thing that can be done now is to create jobs. And Congress has within its power right now the ability to create some 300,000 jobs, particularly in the hard-hat and construction industry.

QUESTION: But, as you know, that's just one income sector and unemployment benefits would extend in a broad spectrum to others that are unemployed.

MR. FLEISCHER: There are a number of issues that have been talked about on the Hill that can create growth and opportunities for people so they don't have to collect unemployment, so they can collect paychecks. And there remain a number of conversations on the Hill about all these topics.

QUESTION: Secondly -- I'm sorry -- but –


QUESTION: -- point -- thirdly -- that was made in his speech yesterday is that it would not be unprecedented, particularly in a time when the deficit is moving upward, to increase taxes to offset previous tax cuts. And the precedent he set was that of President Ronald Reagan, who in '82 did increase taxes to offset previous tax cuts. Is that something the administration at any point in time would ever consider doing?

MR. FLEISCHER: Well, I think there is no question that there is a growing movement inside the Democratic Party to raise taxes, and President Bush is going to resist that. I think many Democrats have tried to talk around the issue by saying they're not really raising taxes, they're just stopping the tax cuts that have been promised the American people from ever going into place. And that's like saying to an American worker that if your boss says you're about to get a pay raise next year and he takes it back -- well, you were never going to get that pay raise anyway, so you won't miss it.

Well, that's taking money away from somebody that was promised to them. And when Washington does that, it's called a tax hike. And the President will strongly fight those who believe that we should raise taxes.

QUESTION: So are you saying President Reagan, then, did that?

MR. FLEISCHER: There's no question President Reagan raised taxes in 1982. That's a historical fact. He did cut taxes much larger in 1981.