Bush Upbeat On 2006 Economy

President Bush gestures as he addresses the Economic Club of Chicago in Chicago, Friday, Jan. 6, 2006.
President Bush shrugged off a report showing weaker-than-expected job growth on Friday and declared that "the American economy heads into 2006 with a full head of steam."

Mr. Bush rattled off a string of recent government reports suggesting a growing U.S. economy, and he used his speech to the Chicago Economic Club to prod Congress to extend his administration's tax cuts that are due to expire.

"In 2005, the American economy turned in a performance that is the envy of the industrialized world," Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush, who also visited the Chicago Board of Trade, spoke as he and leaders of his economic team fanned out to trumpet recent improvements in the economy despite Friday's mixed jobs report showing a slowdown in monthly hiring.

U.S. payrolls expanded by 108,000 jobs during December, about half of expectations. But hiring in November was revised sharply upward, to 305,000 new jobs instead of the earlier reported 215,000. And the unemployment rate declined last month to 4.9 percent from 5.0 percent in November.

By highlighting recent economic advances, Mr. Bush took an opportunity to turn attention away from the conflict in Iraq.

"By the way, we're going to win the war," he added as an aside.

He confronted Democratic critics and others who oppose extending tax cuts scheduled to expire in 2008, including lower rates on stock dividends and capital gains.

"Just as this economy is getting going, there are some in Washington who want to take the money out of your pockets," Mr. Bush said.

He said that to oppose extending the tax cuts was the same as "saying we're gong to raise taxes on you."

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said the president's speech failed to address the needs of middle-class families.

"While some corporations are enjoying increased profits, the benefits of economic growth still have not reached many hard working middle-class families," said Reid, D-Nev. "Instead of pushing to spend billions of dollars on tax breaks for millionaires and the special interests, Republicans in the White House and Congress should join Democrats in pursuing policies that will address the factors squeezing middle-class families today."

The day also featured appearances by Vice President Dick Cheney at a Harley-Davidson factory in Kansas City, Mo.; Treasury Secretary John Snow at the New York Stock Exchange; Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez in Louisville, Ky.; Labor Secretary Elaine Chao in Baltimore; and Energy Secretary Sam Bodman in Pittsburgh.