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Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, September 26, 2003 (Full Transcript)

QUESTION: Scott, there's a new Census Bureau report that says 1.7 million people slid into poverty last year. Is the President surprised by these numbers?

MR. McCLELLAN: Steve, a couple things. I think, one, that the numbers do reflect the economic slowdown that we have been through and the unemployment situation. Unemployment is a lagging indicator. But let me remind you that the action that we have taken to boost the economy and to create jobs is essential to turning this around.

We have also worked on a number of fronts, besides putting forward the economic packages that we have, to create an environment for job growth. We have also worked on a number of initiatives to build upon the successes we have made in moving people from welfare to work. We have worked to expand home ownership for low-income Americans so that more Americans can realize the American Dream and participate in what the President refers to as an ownership society. We've also pursued historic education reforms to improve the quality of education, which I think is key in the long-run as well. We've worked to reach out to faith-based groups. We passed a child tax credit to increase the child tax credit for families.

QUESTION: He's asking about jobs, jobs. Not home ownership -- jobs, more jobs in this country.

MR. McCLELLAN: And I just addressed that. The President --

QUESTION: Are you saying there are going to be more jobs?

MR. McCLELLAN: If you look at the latest indicators on GDP, which were revised today, you see that the economy continues to grow and it continues to pick up, grow stronger.

QUESTION: And will there be more jobs?

MR. McCLELLAN: So the economy is moving in the right direction. And unemployment is always a lagging indicator, particularly when you have high productivity --

QUESTION: How far is it lagging?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- which the President has talked about. But, remember, when you're coming out of recession, like we did, when the President inherited it -- and he acted to make it one of the shallowest and shortest in history -- you see unemployment as a lagging indicator. But there are a lot of other positive signs about the way the economy is --

QUESTION: Well, what do you think that --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- there are a lot of other positive signs about the way the economy is moving. But the President is not satisfied as long as people who are looking for work cannot find a job when they're looking for it.

QUESTION: We understand that, but I want to know

MR. McCLELLAN: And that's why there's more that we can do, and that's why the President has continued to press for additional action on the economic front.

QUESTION: When do you think there will be more jobs?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think economists have talked about as the economy continues to pick up steam and grow at a faster rate, then you will see more job creation come into the mix. But it's important to create the conditions for job growth, and that's why the President continues to say there's more that we need to do. We need to work to pass a comprehensive energy plan. That's important not only to our national security, but our economic security. We need to move forward and make the tax cuts permanent. That provides certainty for people, so that they can plan. And it's important that we make those tax cuts permanent.

We need to work to --

QUESTION: It hasn't had any effect yet.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me finish, Helen. We need to work to expand trade and make sure that there's a level playing field for our manufacturers, and that's what the President has been working on. We also need to work to streamline regulations. We need to pass lawsuit reform. There are a number of steps that we can continue to work on to make the economy grow even faster and create a environment for job creation.

QUESTION: Scott, to follow on that, one of the central and longest lasting arguments for tax cuts, going back to the first big package in 2001, is that cutting taxes would create jobs. Clearly, that hasn't happened, indeed, the economy continues to shed jobs, even as -- even as various indicators are undeniably moving in a positive direction. Is the President wrong to suggest that job creation would happen? And --

MR. McCLELLAN: I think we've pointed out that there would have been additional 1.3 or 1.4 million people would have been without a job if we hadn't taken the action we did. The first thing you've got to do is turn the economy around. The President acted, he led, and he acted and we passed those tax cuts to get more money back into people's pockets so they can spend it on a good or service. The economy is growing. And when that -- the unemployment is a lagging indicator. As I said, that's going to come along, and as the economy picks up even more steam, the economists will tell you then that creates an environment for job creation.

QUESTION: Is he concerned about --

MR. McCLELLAN: When people have more certainty, then they can plan, they can invest and so forth.

QUESTION: A growing number of economists on Wall Street, who study this for a living, say that it appears that we may be undergoing a fundamental change in the American work force, and that we may have a recovery. But because of increased productivity those jobs may be going away and going away for good.

MR. McCLELLAN: That's something the President has talked about often, about the high productivity rate and why we need to get -- why we needed -- why unemployment has been lagging because of that high productivity rate, and because of the direction our economy is going. But that's also why he will continue to emphasize there's more that we can do to improve our economic security. And that's why he will continue acting on those fronts, as well.

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