PRESIDENT-ELECT BUSH: Before I have a few comments about what Mr. Greenspan did today, I do want to announce that Larry Lindsey will be an assistant to the president for economic affairs. I look forward to Larry's advice and counsel. I'm so honored he's agreed to join the White House. He'll be a fine addition.
Secondly, I am pleased that the Fed has cut the interest rates. I think the cut was needed. It was a strong statement that measures must be taken to make sure our economy does not go into a tailspin.
One of the messages Mr. Greenspan sent was that we need bold action, not only at the Fed, but I would interpret that to mean bold action in the halls of Congress to make sure this economy stays vibrant.
And to that end, I think it's really important for members of the Congress to understand that the tax relief plan I've put forth is an integral part of economic recovery.
I say recovery because a lot of folks in this room brought some pretty bad news: that their sales are slowing, that they're having to trim back their work force. It's going to be important for the president to work with the Congress to do what's right to make sure that our economy grows. And tax relief, meaningful, fair tax relief will be a stimulus.
We need to make sure our nation is a nation of free trade and less regulation. We've got to make sure that our society where lawsuits don't drive capital out of the private sector, capital so needed to make sure the people can find work.
And so, one of the common themes here in this meeting was, was that in order to make sure Americans can find work that we've got to be mindful of the warning signs.
And today, Alan Greenspan was mindful of the warning signs by taking a bold step. When I get sworn in as president, I intend to take another bold step and that is to ask the Congress to work with us to enact tax reform and tax reductions.
I'd like to ask Larry to say a few words and I'd like to ask Jack Welch of General Electric to say a few, as well.
LAWRENCE LINDSEY, ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT-ELECT FOR ECONOMIC AFFAIRS: Thank you, Mr. President-elect. It's going to be an honor to work with you and it has been an honor to campaign with you. I think we have the right man to lead us the years ahead. So thank you for having me on your team. You've got some work to do, it sounds like from this morning.
JACK WELCH, CEO, GENERAL ELECTRIC: Well, we all appreciate the opportunity to come down here and have an open dialogue with the environment that we're facing.
It really has been a significant slowdown in the fourth quarter. Some people say we didn't come back for it very well from the vacation. And it's been steadily declining.
And I think the move by--as you pointed out, Mr. President--Mr. Greenspan was welcomed by everybody here. And we are going to need the bold action that you're proposing to get this economy back on track.
BUSH: Yes, Tom, a couple of questions.
QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, first, did you get a heads-up on this rate cut from Mr. Greenspan?
BUSH: No, I did not.
QUESTION: And second, do you think that this will possibly make it harder for you to rally bipartisan support for your big tax cut?
BUSH: Not in the least, because I think that--I think if you were to talk to the business leaders here, they'll tell you that a rate reduction of 0.5 percent is not enough to serve as a stimulus to encourage capital formation, economic growth, job creation; that it's going to require, not only monetary policy reform, but also, fiscal policy reform.
QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, will Mr. Lindsey be doing both jobs of the Council of Economic Advisors and the National Economic Council, or will you be appointing people to those position, too?
BUSH: We'll let you know.
Not to diminish Mr. Lindsey, no.
LINDSEY: Are you going to pay me double?
BUSH: As you can see that's the sticking point.
QUESTION: Mr. President-elect, good afternoon. When you talk about a bold first step when you talk to the members of Congress, in regard to your tax cut relief package, will you lay it out in the aggregate, in other words, the $1.3 trillion package as a single undertaking, or try to spread it out over a legislative year in order to do it incrementally?
BUSH: I think it's going to be important for us to cut the rates. And I think we are going to need to move quickly to do so. And I mean the rates on everybody who pays taxes.
I think one of the things you'll find when you talk to some of these business leaders is that there is deep concern about consumer debt; that folks are going to need to have more money in their pockets to not only live but to pay off their debts.
All rates--it will help small businesses. There are a lot sole proprietors that create a lot of jobs that are going to need relief in this environment. And so it's important for the Congress to hear that this is a economic recovery plan.
QUESTION: To follow up, is it your preference to do it in as large a part as possible as soon as possible as opposed to spreading it out over time?
BUSH: You're talking about the tactics there in the halls of Congress, and my preference is that we get the job done. That's my preference. And whatever it takes to get the full job done is what I support.
Obviously, I'd like to see the rates cut. I'd like to see us get rid of the death tax, and I'd like to see us do something on the marriage penalty as well. But the main part of the discussion here has been about cutting the rates on people who pay taxes.
Because the folks in this room understand that when you couple that with interest rate reductions, the fiscal ramifications of a tax rate cut will help spur this economy. And there is a unanimity here that we need to help spur the economy, that the warning signs are real, that people's bottom lines are being affected which hurts the ability for our American citizenry to find work.
STAFF: Thank you.
BUSH: Too bad.