President Bush says the U.S. economy is fundamentally strong, despite recent corporate scandals and a declining stock market. While Mr. Bush was speaking in Birmingham, Alabama, the New York stock exchange continued its wild ride.
The president says throughout the 1990s, the United States was on an economic binge. Now, he says, the nation is paying the price. "America must get rid of the hangover that we now have as a result of the binge, the economic binge, we just went through," he said. "We were in a land where there was endless profit. There was no tomorrow when it came to the stock markets and corporate profits. And now we are suffering a hangover for that binge."
Speaking on the campus of the University of Alabama in Birmingham, the president pointed to recent statistics that show the economy is on the rise. He said inflation is under control, interest rates are low and productivity is up. "This economy has got the foundations for growth, so people who want to find work can find work, so the entrepreneurs in America can flourish," said President Bush.
Mr. Bush said the problem is a lack of public confidence in the business sector as a result of a series of corporate accounting scandals. He called for support of the steps he announced last week to crack down on wrongdoings, and once again urged business leaders to take more responsibility for their actions. "I expect, and you expect, and our country expects, the highest ethical standards in corporate America," he said.
Traders on the New York Stock Exchange seemed to pay little attention to the president's words. At one point while he was talking about economic growth, the market was down by about 250 points from the opening bell.
White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer downplayed the stock market slide, suggesting it is part of a normal cycle. He told reporters the public has seen market fluctuations before, and the president's focus is on long-term economic growth.