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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
January 30, 2004
President Discusses Growing Economy with Economists
The Roosevelt Room
11:34 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for coming. I just had a very interesting discussion with some of our nation's finest economists about the state of our economy and how we can work together to make sure that the economy continues to grow. Today, we received news that indicates that the economy is strong and getting stronger. Fourth quarter growth in 2003 was at 4 percent.
We also discussed ways for Congress to make sure we sustain growth. We need to make sure the tax cuts are permanent. If Congress doesn't make the tax cuts permanent, they will have raised taxes on the working people of this country at the exact wrong time. We need to make sure we continue to be a nation which trades freely. We need to make sure that we have less regulation. We need to do things that are wise to control the cost of medicine without nationalizing health care.
We had a really good discussion. I want to thank you all for coming. These economists are optimistic about our future, and so am I. And the American people can know that we continue to work hard to make sure this economy is vibrant and robust and strong so our fellow citizens can find good jobs.
I'll be glad to answer a couple of questions. Scott, have you got one today, perhaps?
Q Yes, sir, I do. Thanks, Mr. President. Senator McCain, David Kay, among many others, say it's time for an independent investigation into weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and intelligence. Why resist this kind of inquiry now, when your own weapons inspector says it's needed?
THE PRESIDENT: I want the American people to know that I, too, want to know the facts. I want to be able to compare what the Iraqi Survey Group has found with what we thought prior to going into Iraq.
One thing is for certain, one thing we do know from Mr. Kay's testimony, as well as from the years of intelligence that we had gathered, is that Saddam Hussein was a danger. He was a growing danger. And given the circumstances of September the 11th, this country went to the United Nations and said, Saddam Hussein is a danger, let us work together to get him to disarm. He was defiant. He ignored the request of the international community. And this country led a coalition to remove him. We dealt with the danger, and, as a result, the world is a better place and a more peaceful place and the Iraqi people are free. And a free Iraq is in this nation's national interest. A free Iraq will bring a much needed change in a part of the world that has fostered terror.
Q Are you dead set against it?
THE PRESIDENT: Karen.
Q Ruling it out?
THE PRESIDENT: I want to know the facts. Karen.
Q Are you against the idea of a new --
THE PRESIDENT: Is this a follow up to Scott's question?
THE PRESIDENT: Let me repeat, I just -- let me repeat what I just said.
THE PRESIDENT: I want to know the facts. And I want to know exactly -- I want to compare what the ISG finds with what we thought going in.
Q Mr. President, are you concerned at all that the new ballooning cost of Medicare bill will get you in trouble, political trouble, with members of your own party who voted for it only on the assurance that it wouldn't go above $400 billion?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I, two weeks ago, received an estimate about Medicare. I asked two questions to the estimators. One, does the Medicare reform do what we want it to do still, which is to provide modern medicine for our seniors, and to introduce competition, which will eventually hold down costs of Medicare.
And, secondly, the new estimate of Medicare costs fulfilled my promise to reduce the deficit in half over a five year period of time. And the budget we'll submit on Monday does fulfill that promise, that we'll reduce the deficit in half.
Now, it's going to require Congress to be wise with the taxpayer's money. The Medicare reform we did is a good reform, fulfills a long-standing promise to our seniors. Congress is now going to have to work with us to make sure that we set priorities and are fiscally wise with the taxpayer's money. I'm confident they can do that if they're willing to make tough choices. And so the budget we submit will show that we can cut the deficit in half over a five year period.
END 11:39 A.M. EST