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Bush Defends His Economic Record

Despite four months of job losses and barely positive economic growth, President Bush said today that Americans should have confidence in the long-term outlook of the economy.

He's pinning his hopes to an economic "surge" being delivered starting this week in the form of tax rebate checks.

"Most economic experts predict that the stimulus will have a positive effect on the economy in this quarter and even a greater impact in the next," Mr. Bush said.

In his Saturday radio address the president defended his record and his rhetoric, saying that his administration has been "clear and candid" about the nation's economy.

"We saw the economic slowdown coming, we were up front about these concerns with the American people, and we've been taking decisive action," Mr. Bush said.

The president's comments appeared at least partly in response to a drumbeat of criticism from Democratic leaders, who say his view of the economy is rosy and unrealistic.

Mr. Bush sounded an upbeat tone following a modest uptick of economic news this week.

The economy grew in the first quarter of the year, but only by a meager 0.6 percent. Yet it was not the contraction that some analysts feared. Employers slashed fewer jobs in April than they had in earlier months. The unemployment rate in April also fell slightly.

"No temporary setbacks can hold back the most powerful force in our economy - the ingenuity of the American people," Mr. Bush said. "Because of your hard work and dedication, I am confident that we will weather this rough period and emerge stronger than ever."

Consumer confidence, a vital part of the economy's health, has hit record lows. And in the public's mind, the president's handling of the economy has taken a serious blow, too.

In Mr. Bush's final year in office, families have been hit from all sides - soaring gas prices, crumbling mortgages, rising grocery bills, struggles to afford college loans.

The president is counting on a short-term economic boost to help. In a deal he reached with Congress back in February, tax rebate checks of up to $600 for individuals and $1,200 for couples are on their way to more than 130 million households.

"This package will help American families increase their purchasing power and help offset the high prices that we're seeing at the gas pump and the grocery store," Mr. Bush said.

The true effect of those rebates remains a hotly debated question in economic circles.

Indiana Rep. Andre Carson said more is needed.

"While these recovery rebate checks are a significant first step, we know we must do more to help workers who have lost their jobs and families who are at risk of losing their homes," Carson said Saturday in the Democrats' weekly radio address. "Democrats are also fighting for a second economic stimulus package and are working hard to enact comprehensive housing legislation that will help more Americans avoid foreclosure and hold on to the American Dream."

Carson also noted last Thursday's anniversary of Bush declaring "mission accomplished" in Iraq.

"If we took even a fraction of the billions of dollars we spend in Iraq and used them here at home, we could make real progress and help get our nation out of our economic slump," the Democrat said.

Mr. Bush used the bulk of his weekly radio platform to pressure Congress, once again, into approving legislation he says would help the sluggish economy rebound even more.

CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller said Mr. Bush argued once again for making permanent his tax cuts, set to expire in 2010, and to allow drilling for oil in a protected region of northern Alaska.

He also encouraged more oil refining capacity, and asked lawmakers to modernize the Federal Housing Administration to allow some additional homeowners to refinance from subprime loans into government-backed mortgages.

The president has made such arguments for weeks, to no avail on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Bush taped the radio address in Washington on Friday before delivering an economic speech outside of St. Louis and then heading to his Texas ranch for the weekend.

  • Click here to read the full text of President Bush's radio address.
  • Click here to read the Democratic Party's response, by Rep. Andre Carson of Indiana.