President Bush says the U.S. economy is not in recession, although it is in a slowdown. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports the state of the economy has become the lead issue in the U.S. presidential campaign.
New economic data shows the U.S. economy barely grew in the last quarter of 2007.
Some economists say that is another sign the nation is moving toward a recession, but President Bush is more optimistic.
"I don't think we're headed to a recession, but no question we're in a slowdown,"
At a White House news conference, the president said robust action has been taken to prevent a recession, a reference to the economic stimulus package recently passed by Congress that will put rebate checks into the hands of many taxpayers and provide businesses with investment incentives.
"Consumerism is a significant part of our GDP growth, and we want to sustain the American consumer, encourage the American consumer and, at the same time, we want to encourage investment," he added.
Mr. Bush was asked if growing public unease about the economy might hurt his Republican Party in this year's presidential election.
He refused to answer directly, saying his concern when dealing with the economy is not politics but the welfare of the American people. And yet, it is clear that the upcoming election may, in part, prove to be a referendum on the president's economic policies.
The two remaining candidates for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination - Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton - have both warned of a pending recession and have laid the blame squarely on the Bush administration.
At a recent campaign debate in Texas, Obama spoke at length about the country's economic woes.
"You don't need an economist or the Federal Reserve [the central bank] to tell the American people that the economy is in trouble, because they have been experiencing it for years now," he said.
Clinton followed up with a list of specific economic trouble spots that must be addressed, starting with corporate tax regulations.
"We are going to rid the tax code of these loopholes and giveaways," she said. "We are going to stop giving a penny of your money to anybody who ships a job out of Texas, Ohio or anywhere else to another country."
Both said that tax cuts championed by President Bush have helped only the richest Americans, and vowed to put more of a focus on tax relief for the middle class.