Excerpts from Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, October 29, 2002 (Full transcript)
QUESTION: In light of Quest restating their earnings and consumer confidence a question at this point, what -- other than tax cuts, what does the President plan, or does he have any plans to think about stimulating consumer confidence in the economy?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, clearly, Congress has still left unfinished the business of terrorism insurance with the hundreds of thousands of jobs that that can create. And the President hopes that when Congress comes back for the lame duck session, they'll be able to finish the work on that. It got close, it didn't get finished.
The President hopes that Congress will fully fund the budget priorities the President has sent up to the Hill, which are pending, particularly in the area of homeland security, which has money for bioterrorism defenses and for first responders' needs. There are many issues pending up there that Congress has to address. And once they're finished with these important priorities, the President hopes that they will hold the line on spending, because the President worries about the effect of deficit spending and overspending can have on fiscal discipline.
The energy bill that is pending up in the Congress is also good for America. It represents energy independence. It also represents conservation. But the President still views the economy as the fundamentals remain strong; that the economy is not as strong as he would like it to be, but particularly, another area that can be effective is the acceleration and the making permanent of the tax relief.
QUESTION: Ari, on the economy, you mentioned a few moments ago measures are pending in Congress that could help stimulate growth. There are other measures out there that are being talked about -- extending unemployment insurance, rebates, et cetera. However, there is a column in the Wall Street Journal today by Allen Murray which says that the best way to reinvigorate the economy is not by changing monetary or fiscal policy in any of these ways, but to end the business and investment uncertainty that now exists because of our Iraq policy. If I may quote, he says that, "The best tonic for the U.S. economy would be a successful war or a bloodless end of the Saddam Hussein regime." What is the administration's response?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, the administration's response is that in the event that there is any military action in Iraq, it's not going to be driven by economic considerations, it's going to be driven by the need to protect the American people from the real-life threat involving Saddam Hussein in his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. That would be the factors that the President considers.
QUESTION: Do you believe, though, that in terms of business uncertainty, that a factor that contributes to it right now is this uncertainty as to whether or not the United States is going to war?
MR. FLEISCHER: I think that a variety of economists have looked at a variety of factors in the economy and tried to determine what has created the economy that we presently have. And there's no unanimity among the economists -- and I'm not an economist, so I wouldn't want to venture into what the exact causes are.