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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 20, 2008

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En route Alexandria, Louisiana

11:00 A.M. EDT

MS. PERINO: A couple things for you. We are on our way to Alexandria, Louisiana, where the President will meet with the Central Louisiana Chamber of Commerce and he'll participate in a roundtable on the economy. He will meet with local business leaders whose businesses have felt the impacts of the problems in the credit markets and stand to benefit from the unfreezing of these credit markets with the implementation of the financial rescue plan. He'll make a statement to the press pool at the end of that. Onboard, Congressman Rodney Alexander.

At 1:55 p.m., before we leave, the President is going to meet with families of the fallen military personnel before heading back to Washington this evening.

And then a couple of announcements, just to update you. As you know, over the last few weeks we've worked aggressively to implement the rescue package that Congress passed before leaving for their recess. This morning, Secretary Paulson is giving an update on the Capital Purchase Program that is a key component of that package that he talked about earlier last week. Treasury will make up to $250 billion in capital available to U.S. financial institutions in the form of preferred stock. We expect all participating banks to continue and to strengthen their efforts to help struggling homeowners who can afford their homes to avoid foreclosure. Foreclosure does not only hurt the families who lose their homes, but the entire neighborhoods, as well as the economy as a whole.

Secretary Paulson will emphasize that the needs of our economy require that our financial institutions not just hold this capital, but put it to work by making loans to businesses and consumers.

Secretary Paulson will announce that Treasury has finalized the application process for the purchase program and there will be a single application form for qualified financial institutions to use. So we consider this a very efficient process; standardized forms with standardized review that will encourage banks and thrifts of all sizes to participate in the program and by so doing they will increase their capital base so that they can provide the lending necessary to support the U.S. economy as we work through this difficult period.

Tomorrow, President Bush will host the White House Summit on International Development. It will be held at the Ronald Reagan Building. Let me give you just a little bit of a preview of that, since I won't have a chance later.

As you know, throughout the administration we've greatly expanded and strengthened our assistance efforts to help improve health and education and raise standards of living in the poorest countries. Given the recent economic downturn where there is concern that developing countries and their citizens will be more vulnerable, it's more important than ever that we and other developed countries keep our commitments and continue to fund development assistance programs, as well as work to increase trade.

The summit will have several leaders come together, including Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, musician and activist Bob Geldof, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Advisor Steve Hadley, and many other public and private sector leaders.

The summit will focus on the President's core principles for development that have transformed our approach to international development by linking assistance with measurable results. I'm talking about the Millennium Challenge Account program, amongst others. This approach is producing historic life-saving results for millions of people around the globe.

And one note for you -- the administrator of US AID, Henrietta Fore, she is going to have a briefing at the State Department today in a lead up to that conference, so I'm sure there will be a transcript that State Department will have for you later.

And that's it.

Q Dana, Chairman Bernanke this morning voiced support for a stimulus program, a second stimulus. Does President Bush support that idea?

MS. PERINO: We think that there's ample opportunity when Congress gets back to talk about lots of those ideas. What we've seen put forward so far by the leaders in Congress, the Democrats, were elements of a package that we did not think would actually stimulate the economy. So we would want to take a look at anything very carefully.

Q But does he -- does the President support the idea of a second stimulus, pending specifics?

MS. PERINO: Well, as I said, we've had an open mind about it, but what we are focused on right now is the urgent need to get this rescue package implemented. But we're continuing to have conversations with members of Congress and we're open to ideas that they would put forward that would -- both Democrats and Republicans alike -- that would stimulate the economy and help us pull out of this downturn faster.

Q Dana, does the fact that Chairman Bernanke, himself, though, has said it could be a good idea, does that make the President more amenable to the possibility? And does that kind of serve as a good endorsement of it?

MS. PERINO: I think that -- well, I think that, again, we'd like to see the details of what would be proposed, because there are several programs that have been recommended that are coming in a cloak of being stimulative, and we don't think that those would actually stimulate the economy. So anything that we would do, we would have to take a careful look at, and I'm sure the Fed Chairman would want to make sure that those elements of a program would actually stimulate the economy and meet that test.

So I think we just need to wait and see. We're open to ideas and we'll take a look at what comes our way.

Q Do you think that there has been anything put forward so far that has any, you know, appeal to the administration?

MS. PERINO: I don't know all the details of every single program that's been proposed. But obviously we were open to a stimulus package last January and one of the things that we agreed with Nancy Pelosi on was that the program needed to be targeted, temporary, and timely. And so we worked very closely with the Democrats and the Republicans on Capitol Hill. We were able to get a program put forward. We do think that it will have the effect of helping prevent what could have been even a worse downturn in our economy.

So we're focused on getting those elements into place now both -- we finalized the stimulus package from last January and got those checks out the door, and now we're -- you know, and businesses continue to take advantage of the provisions that were allowed for, like depreciation, from last February 2008, from that legislation. Now we're working on implementation of the rescue package, which has to happen immediately, and then we'll continue to talk with members of Congress about what might be put on the plate going forward.

In addition to that, we also have this other track running, which is on preparing for the summits that the President announced on Saturday. So we have lots of different things moving forward.

Q On that summit, has there been any determination for a date or a venue yet --

MS. PERINO: We're working towards it and we're trying to consult with a lot of other countries to make sure that those details would work for them. So we're not ready to announce anything yet, but we're getting closer.

Q And has the President -- one of the things the statement said was the leaders should reach out to other leaders. Has the President reached out to anybody today on this?

MS. PERINO: I'll have an update for you a little bit later today. We're trying to get a lot of those things scheduled and organized, just trying to work out getting people on the phone.

Q I'm sorry, go ahead.

Q Actually, I'm going to go on to a different topic.

Q Okay, I just want to go back to the stimulus. Beyond being open to discussing things, does the President think a second stimulus is needed?

MS. PERINO: I haven't spoken to him about that in particular. I think what he would look to is -- all of his advisors -- obviously Ben Bernanke is a key one, Secretary Paulson, Keith Hennessey, and others to advise him best as to whether or not they think, collectively, that there is a need for a stimulus package right now. I don't know if that conversation has taken place yet, but I know that they talk regularly and so we'll remain open to the idea and then we'll just have to see when Congress gets back, if they decide to move forward, what sort of package they want to draft into legislation -- whether it be principles or actual legislation -- and then see if it actually would stimulate the economy.

Q On another issue, there were reports over the weekend that there was going to be some announcement out of North Korea on Monday, and there's been a lot of speculation on the health of the leader, Kim Jong-il. Have you heard anything about --

MS. PERINO: I have not. I have not.

Q -- a sense of him or anything?

MS. PERINO: I have not heard anything, no.

Q Dana, does the President have any reaction to Secretary Powell endorsing Senator Obama?

MS. PERINO: No, no, and I didn't talk to him about it on the way over, but what I would say is that in America the great thing is everybody is able to think about their -- who they're going to endorse in a election, weigh all the issues and come to their own conclusion, and then have the freedom to be able to express them. And that's the great thing about our country.

Q Well how would you -- sorry, how would you characterize the relationship these days between Secretary Powell and President Bush?

MS. PERINO: It's very good. Yes. Last thing I knew -- I think that the President was just over at his house for dinner not too long ago. Maybe it was a little while; it may have been more than a year ago. But I think they have a good relationship. The President greatly respects General Powell, as we all do.

Q Is it possible that the U.S. would host more than one of these summits before the President --

MS. PERINO: I guess that's possible. I don't know. I know that they said there would be -- we would host the first one, I know for sure. But where the others would take place I'm not positive. And hopefully, we'll have more details on that for you. I don't anticipate them today. But maybe the next couple or three days.

Q Does the President support Ed Lazear's comments yesterday on "Late Edition," that parts of the country are in a recession?

MS. PERINO: I think from the federal government's perspective, we give the federal number -- we do it every six months out of OMB -- in terms of the outlook. I think what the chairman was saying is that there are parts of our country that are hurting right now.

And the Bureau of Economic Statistics -- whatever it's called; I can't remember the acronym -- they do a lot of number crunching as to how the housing industry is affecting different parts of the country: different states, different neighborhoods even. They break it down into that type of granularity.

So the press is welcome to look at all of those. And from our perspective, our concern is about the people who are hurting, and what can we do about it. So the first thing we do is the stimulus package last January and February, when we recognized we were heading into a downturn. Economic cycles always have -- someone is on the up and someone is on the down, even when you have a country that experienced, as we did, 52 consecutive months of job growth, you end up with some regions of the country not doing as well as others. And our concern is about those individuals.

One of the things we've done over the past week was increase Social Security benefits, as well as LIHEAP money for people that might be hurting this winter. Our main focus is to try to get people back to work if they are looking for a job, if they've been laid off or if they've been looking for a while, to try to help those regions.

Another thing that we're concerned about in the housing market is this whole issue of supply and demand that we've talked about. We have a glut of housing supply, and that cuts down on the amount of houses that are being built, that cuts down on construction jobs, and it has a downward, spiraling effect. So that's what we're concerned about.

Q So is this the first time that someone in the administration has used the word "recession" in the recent --

MS. PERINO: I think he was just talking about reality, and that there are some regions of the country that are hurting more than others, and our focus has to be on trying to help them.

Q So were you thinking about something specifically, to sort of put a floor in the housing market?

MS. PERINO: No. I'm just talking about the -- well, look at the announcement that I had today, in terms of what Secretary Paulson is doing, where he's talking to the banks and encouraging them to make sure that people who can actually afford their home, if they need a work-out, that the banks have an obligation to try to make that happen, so that we can keep people in their homes.

Q Is there anything to be done about what you describe as the glut of housing?

MS. PERINO: Well, that's just something that has to work its way through, and the market has a way of doing that.

Okay. All right, see you there.

Q Thanks, Dana.

END 11:12 A.M. EDT