George W. Bush... well, maybe you can call it "speaks"... but maybe not:
Press Conference of the President: Q Mr. President, in the upcoming elections I think many Republicans would tell you one of the big things they're worried about is the national debt, which was $5.7 trillion when you took office, and is now nearly $8.2 trillion, and Congress has just voted to raise it to $8.9 trillion. That would be a 58-percent increase. You've yet to veto a single bill, sir -- I assume that means you're satisfied with this.
THE PRESIDENT: No, I'm not satisfied with the rise of mandatory spending. As you know, the President doesn't have the -- doesn't veto mandatory spending increases. And mandatory spending increases are those increases in the budget caused by increases in spending on Medicare and Social Security. And that's why -- back to this man's question right here -- it's important for -- "this man" being Jim -- (laughter) -- sorry, Jim, I've got a lot on my mind these days. That's why it's important for us to modernize and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, in order to be able to deal with the increases in mandatory spending.
Secondly, in terms of discretionary spending, that part of the budget over which Congress has got some control, and over which the President can make suggestions -- we have suggested that the Congress fully fund the troops in harm's way. And they have, and for that the American people should be grateful.
Secondly, we suggested that Congress fund the reconstruction efforts for Katrina. They have spent now a little more than $100 billion, and I think that's money well-spent, a commitment that needed to be keep [sic]. Thirdly, we have said that other than security discretionary spending, that we ought to, last year, actually reduce the amount of discretionary spending, and were able to do so. Ever since I've been the President we have slowed the rate of growth of non-security discretionary spending and actually cut discretionary spending -- non-security discretionary spending. Last year I submitted a budget to the United States Congress. I would hope they would meet the targets of the budget that I submitted, in order to continue to make a commitment to the American people.
But in terms of the debt, mandatory spending increases is driving a lot of that debt. And that's why it's important to get the reforms done.
Q Thank you, sir. For the first time in years, interest rates are rising in the U.S., Europe and Japan at the same time. Is this a concern for you? And how much strain are higher interest rates placing on consumers and companies?
THE PRESIDENT: First of all, interest rates are set by an independent organization, which --
Q -- still, are you concerned about that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm not quite through with my answer yet.
Q I'm sorry.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm kind of stalling for time here. (Laughter.) Interest rates are set by the independent organization. I can only tell you that the economy of the United States looks very strong. And the reason I say that is that projections for first-quarter growth of this year look pretty decent. That's just projections, that's a guess by some economists, and until the actual numbers come out we won't know. But no question that the job market is strong. When you have 4.8 percent unemployment -- 4.8 percent nationwide unemployment, that indicates a strong job market, and that's very important.
One of the measures as to whether or not this economy will remain strong is productivity. And our productivity of the American worker and productivity of the American business sector is rising. And that's positive, because productivity increases eventually yield -- eventually yield higher standards of living. Home ownership is at an all-time high. And there has been all kinds of speculation about whether or not home ownership would -- home building would remain strong, and it appears to be steady. And that's important.
In other words -- and so to answer your question, I feel -- without getting into kind of the -- kind of micro-economics, from my perch and my perspective, the economy appears to be strong and getting stronger. And the fundamental question that those of us in Washington have to answer is, what do we do to keep it that way. How do we make sure, one, we don't put bad policies in place that will hurt economic growth? A bad policy is to raise taxes -- which some want to do. There are people in the United States Congress, primarily on the Democrat side, that would be anxious to let some of the tax relief expire. Some of them actually want to raise taxes now. I think raising taxes would be wrong. As a matter of fact, that's why -- and I think it's important for us to have certainty in the tax code. That's why I'd like to see the tax relief made permanent.
You know, it's a myth in Washington, for Washington people to go around the country saying, well, we'll balance the budget, just let us raise taxes. That's not how Washington works. Washington works raising taxes and they figure out new ways to spend. There is a huge appetite for spending here. One way to help cure that appetite is to give me the line-item veto. You mentioned vetoing a bill -- one reason why I haven't vetoed any appropriation bills is because they met the benchmarks we've set. They have -- on the discretionary spending, we've said, here is the budget, we've agreed to a number, and they met those numbers.
Now, sometimes I didn't -- I like the size of the pie, sometimes I didn't particularly like the slices within the pie. And so one way to deal with the slices in the pie is to give the President the line-item veto. And I was heartened the other day when members of both parties came down in the Cabinet Room to talk about passage of a line-item veto. I was particularly pleased that my opponent in the 2004 campaign, Senator Kerry, graciously came down and lent his support to a line-item veto, and also made very constructive suggestions about how to get one out of the United States Congress.
Let's see here. They told me what to say. David.
Interesting that he cannot remember "Federal Reserve" on the fly. Also interesting that he does not know that the Federal Reserve controls the overnight federal funds rate, but does not control--it influences--long-term rates. Interesting that he thinks his power to veto appropriations bills is the power to "make suggestions" about spending levels.
Who is the "they"? And did "they" really tell him to say that?