For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 10, 2001
Press Gaggle to the Travel Pool
Justina Road Elementary School
3:28 P.M. EDT
Q -- reduction of Social Security?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President is going to continue to keep his eye on the economy, because he believes that the economic recovery plan will bring the economy back and is bringing the economy back. And he'll be open-minded about possible other ideas.
Q Has he talked to Senator Lott about his idea?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, as you know, he met with Senator Lott on Friday, but the -- two-year change of the payroll tax.
MR. FLEISCHER: That did not come up Friday.
Q But cap gains did?
MR. FLEISCHER: Correct.
Q Has he talked to Senator Lott since Friday about that idea?
MR. FLEISCHER: If he did over the weekend, I don't know.
Q Under the President's -- I mean, obviously, he doesn't set economic policy, but he leads. At what point does he say, okay, it's not working, we're not seeing growth picking up by the end of the year?
MR. FLEISCHER: You've got to go back to the way I started to answer the question, which is that the President has faith and confidence that the economic recovery plan that is still going into effect, that is still being received, will get the job done.
Q Are you hearing from a lot of Republicans worried about the election next year, saying, well, fine, wait; but wait may not be soon enough for us?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's eyes are on the big picture, on the economy, on doing the right things to promote growth now and in the long term.
Q Does he hear that from the Republicans who are up for election next year?
MR. FLEISCHER: He knows that Republicans want to have reasoned, sound judgment and any short-term rushes --
Q But he's not hearing any drum beat from the rank and file, do something now?
MR. FLEISCHER: Well, he's hearing, do the right thing.
Q -- the President did not address the economy today in the photo ops. Is there a danger in talking too much about it, so that --
MR. FLEISCHER: No, but the focus today is on reading, on education. And the American people have a number of top concerns -- improving education, particularly in our nation's public schools, is one of them. This, too, is a top national priority, and the President will not let it go unaddressed.
Q So no words on the economy from him here?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President's focus today will be on reading and on education. As I've indicated, the President is going to focus on education, the economy, on security and on opportunity. That's his focus.
Q Is it now a given that this fiscal year you're going to have to dip into Social Security, by as much as $9 billion?
MR. FLEISCHER: No, the President's budget indicates that it won't. We'll have final figures, of course, after the fiscal year closes on September 30th. That's when we'll get the most accurate --
Q But is that not what Mitch Daniels told members on the Hill last week?
MR. FLEISCHER: I can only talk about what --
Q Doesn't he represent the administration and the President on Capitol Hill?
MR. FLEISCHER: The administration also knows we'll get the most accurate read after September 30th, when the books close.
Q So nobody has gone to investigate whether or not Mitch actually said that?
MR. FLEISCHER: The point is, September 30th, when the books close, is when we'll know.
Q You've got no intention of submitting a new budget; do you, Ari, in response to the Democrats --
MR. FLEISCHER: No. The people who are asking for a new budget are the people who voted on the existing budget and whose position did not prevail. Everybody always wants a do-over if they come up on the wrong side of a winning vote.
Q Is the President heartened by hearing Democrats calling for tax cuts, as well?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President was heartened that so many Democrats voted with him on the economic recovery package that included tax relief. So there are some Democrats in the leadership -- Gordon's playing with children his own age. (laughter) -- some Democrats in the leadership, of course, who oppose the tax cut that would be the cure for the economy. But there are many other Democrats who voted with the President, and he's heartened by that.
Q What do you think about Senator Daschle's position, which is to basically leave it all up to the President to come up with a recovery plan?
MR. FLEISCHER: The President has already put in place a recovery plan. But it does seem odd for Democrats to criticize without offering any plans of their own. Do the Democrats have an alternative package for economic growth, or is their only package criticism?
Q On whom, Ari, is the President relying when you say that he is so confident that his economic plan will, in fact, turn the economy around? On what basis does he rely? Is that Larry Lindsey telling him -- because he, himself, is not an economist.
MR. FLEISCHER: A wide variety, actually, Jay. There is a long series of private sector forecasters who have indicated that the tax cut is coming at the right time, and they do predict that it adds to growth.
And, especially given the fact that there are additional rebate checks going on and there's another round of incumbent tax rate reductions scheduled already for January 1st. This tax cut continues to be felt and continues to benefit the economy.
Q Thanks, Ari.
END 3:34 P.M.