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Bush Defends Handling of Economy - 2003-08-13


President Bush is defending his handling of the U.S. economy as a new public opinion poll shows a decline in support for his economic policies. Mr. Bush says the remedies he has put in place to spur the economy will work, and he is upbeat about the future.

The federal budget deficit is rising, and there has been no decline in the national unemployment rate for some time. But President Bush said he is sure the economy will rebound and new jobs will be created. "And I believe we've laid the foundation for good economic growth and vitality. I think people are going to be more likely to find a job in the upcoming year," he said.

The president spoke to reporters at his Texas ranch after meeting with his top economic advisors. He said the American people understand that the cost of fighting terrorism and protecting the public has contributed to the federal budget deficit.

But he rejected the notion that the tax cuts he pushed through Congress made the situation worse by reducing federal revenues at a time of rising expenses. "The deficit was caused by a recession which we inherited and did something about," he said. "The deficit was caused because we spent more money on fighting a war. And the American people expect their president to do what is necessary to win a war."

All the same, a new Washington Post poll shows only 45 percent of the public supports the way he is handling the economy. Support for his policies among Republicans surveyed was much higher than Democrats, suggesting a strong partisan split and indicating the economy will be a big issue in next year's presidential election.

Mr. Bush indicated he plans no changes in his economic policies as the election draws closer. He shook his head when asked if another round of tax cuts was possible. "We believe that the tax relief plan we have in place is robust enough to encourage job growth," he said.

Contributing to the president's optimism is the fact the U.S. economy showed an unexpected growth spurt in the second quarter of the year. It grew at an annual rate of 2.4 percent, up from 1.4 percent in the first quarter.

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