Economy and North Korea with Cabinet
The White House
August 1, 2003
11:20 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: We had a good Cabinet meeting, talked about a lot of issues.
Secretary of State and Defense brought us up to date about our desires to
spread freedom and peace around the world. And the economics team of Secretary
Snow, Evans and Chao, who have been traveling the country, reported back that
there's a positive feeling in America about our economy.
And my attitude is, is that even though some of the numbers are good, there
are still too many people looking for work, and so we're going to keep working
on the economy until people can find a job.
We took some strong action in the past. We reduced taxes on the working
people, and those tax reductions will be reflected in their paychecks soon.
Expansion of the child tax credit is helpful to people because checks are
now in the mail. Both of those events will enhance demand for goods and services,
which will make it more likely somebody will find work.
There is more to do here in Washington. I'm pleased that the House of Representatives
and the Senate both have now passed energy bills. It's time for them to reconcile
their differences when they get back from their August breaks, and get a
bill to my desk.
We need tort reform in America, so that our entrepreneurs are more likely
to focus on capital formation than lawsuits, frivolous lawsuits. We need
to make sure we get a Medicare bill passed, that's going to be helpful for
workers today to help plan for their future, to know there's a modern Medicare
I appreciate the fact that the Congress has passed trade agreements with
Singapore and Chile, which means there will be more markets available for
American entrepreneurs and farmers and ranchers. The more places for us to
sell products, the more likely it is somebody that's going to be able to
find a job.
And so even though there's been some progress made, in terms of numbers,
this administration focuses on lives. And when there are people looking for
work and they can't find a job, it means we're going to continue to try to
put pro-growth, expansive policies in place.
So I want to thank the Cabinet members who are focusing on these -- this
very important part of our agenda, and I appreciate your upbeat report.
Let me -- I'll answer a couple of questions. Tom and Patsy. Tom and Patsy
will be asking questions this morning, and then you won't be asking questions.
QUESTION: Mr. President, sir, are you surprised, and can you explain why three huge
tax cuts and 12 rate cuts by the Fed have not done more in creating jobs
to this point? And do you think that we're in a jobless recovery?
THE PRESIDENT: I think -- I think it's important to remember the history
of the last couple of years. In March of 2000, the stock market began a precipitous
decline. That was in March of 2000. And then the country went into a recession,
which would be the first quarter of 2001. And we acted. We called the Congress
together and passed a significant tax cut. Economic historians would say
that the recession of 2001 was one of the more shallow recessions. Some would
probably say, well, maybe you shouldn't have acted and let the recession
go deeper, which would have made -- may have made for a more speedy recovery.
Our attitude is that we're worried about people's lives; a deep recession
would have meant more people would have been out of work. We want people
to work in America, it's in our country's interest they do so.
Then as the economy kind of got going again, the enemy attacked us. September
the 11th had a significant impact on our economy. And then we discovered
some of our corporate CEOs forgot to tell the truth, and that affected confidence.
And then as you may remember, Tom, we had the steady drumbeat to war. As
I mentioned in my press conference the other day, on our TV screens there
was a -- on some TV screens -- there was a constant reminder for the American
people, "march to war." War is not a very pleasant subject in people's
minds, it's not conducive for the investment of capital.
In spite of all those obstacles, and because this administration has acted
firmly, our economy is growing. And we're confident that, over time, people
will be able to find a job. But we're not going to rest, and there's more
to do. We need an energy policy. We need tort reform. We need Congress to
join with the administration to promote pro-growth policies. But this economy
is vibrant and strong, just like our country is vibrant and strong. And we've
overcome a lot, but there's more to do. And there's no question there's more
to do. And we will do it.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Does your offer still stand for assistance to North Korea
if they give up their nuclear program? And how can you deal with someone
like Kim Jong-il, a many you don't trust?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. Thank you for bringing that question up, because we
had some, what we think as positive developments. As you know, we were very
concerned about trying to enter into a bilateral agreement with Kim Jong-il
because of the fact that he didn't tell the truth to previous administrations.
And so we took a new tack, and that was to work with our -- with China, primarily
China, initially, to engage China in the process so that there is more than
one voice speaking to Mr. Kim Jong-il.
And thanks to the Chinese leadership -- and we do applaud Hu Jintao and
his administration for agreeing to be a responsible party in the neighborhood
in which they live -- it looks like we'll have a multinational forum. What
that really means is that more than the United States and China will show
up to have a meaningful discussion with Mr. Kim Jong-il. That means Japan
will be there. After all, Japan is an important part of the neighborhood.
South Korea will be there. They've had a vested interest in having discussions
and dialogues with Kim Jong-il. And Russia has agreed to join, which means
there are now five nations in North Korea sitting at a table, all aimed at
convincing -- the discussions will be all aimed at convincing Mr. Kim Jong-il
to change his attitude about nuclear weaponry.
In the past it was the lone voice of the United States speaking clearly
about this. Now we'll have other parties who have got a vested interest in
peace on the Korean Peninsula. And so I would say the progress is being --
is good progress. And we're upbeat about the fact that others are assuming
responsibility for peace besides the United States of America. And we'll
see how the dialogue goes. We fully understand the past. We are hopeful,
however, that Mr. Kim Jong-il, because he's hearing other voices, will make
the decision to totally dismantle his nuclear weapons program, that he will
allow there to be complete transparency and verifiability. And we're optimistic
that that can happen.
Listen, thank you all for coming. For those of you in Crawford, I will see
you -- going to Crawford, I will see you soon. As you can tell, I got my
summer buzz. (Laughter.) I'm ready to get down there and enjoy the weather.