PRESIDENT BUSH IS INTERVIEWED ON FOX NEWS.
Thanks to Fox Business for providing us the full transcript below
I’m glad to see the President adamant about keeping taxes lower. I agree with him in saying that the economy is strong. I don’t agree that it will come around on its own. Read the transcript and judge for yourself.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH TELLS FOX BUSINESS NETWORK THAT HIS BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT IS NOT GETTING A SOCIAL SECURITY PACKAGE
In a television exclusive with FOX Business NetworkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s David Asman, President George W. Bush talks about his biggest disappointment while in office, his effort to promote democracy in Pakistan, making the tax code Ã¢â‚¬Å“more progressiveÃ¢â‚¬Â, and his expectations that the weak dollar will grow stronger. Excerpts are below. The full transcripts is below
On what Bush considers his biggest disappointment:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The biggest disappointment is not getting a Social Security package, Social Security reform, because that truly is the big deficit issue. I’m sorry it didn’t happen. I laid out a plan to make it happen, to enable it to happen. I’m the first president to have addressed it as specifically as I did. I wish Congress wasn’t so risk-averse on the issue.Ã¢â‚¬Â
On democracy in Pakistan:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He’s [Musharraf] agreed to hold elections in January, and he’s agreed to take his uniform off. And our judgment is, is that the sooner he can suspend his emergency decree, the faster Pakistan gets back on the road to democracy. And it’s an ever-changing situation. And if you follow the news, as I know you do, it’s changing all the time.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“And our purpose, of course, is to promote a democracy in Pakistan, and at the same time as a valuable ally in fighting the extremists, who have tried to kill President Musharraf three or four times.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He understands the stakes of the war, and I do believe he understands the importance of democracy.Ã¢â‚¬Â
On making the tax cuts more progressive:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We felt like that the tax cuts I passed would make the tax code more progressive rather than less progressive, and made that case.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now, a lot of people didn’t want to hear it because they didn’t want us to lower taxes in the first place. But the tax code is now more progressive than it was in the past, prior to the tax cuts.Ã¢â‚¬Â
On the weak dollar:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Well, we have a strong dollar policy, and it’s important for the world to know that. We also believe it’s important for the market to set the — to set the value of the dollar relative to other currencies. And if people would look at the strength of our economy, they’d realize why, you know, I believe that the dollar will be stronger. And it is low inflation, low interest, 15 months of uninterrupted job growth, 3.9 percent GDP growth in the third quarter.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Here is the full transcript
QUESTION: Appreciate you coming to talk to me.
BUSH: Good to be with you.
QUESTION: You call yourself a supply sider. You speech today was all about tax cuts. But were even you surprised at how much revenue came into the Treasury when you lowered those tax rates?
BUSH: I felt like a growing economy would yield more tax revenues.
I wasn’t certain how much. And if you look at our budget projections, we constantly undershot.
And so not only was I pleased, but I think the, you know, the budgeteers were surprised at how much more revenues came in than anticipated.
The key, of course, is to keep the economy growing by keeping taxes low. But the additional revenue should not be used an excuse to expand government. It ought to be used to pay down debt and reduce the deficit and that sort of thing.
QUESTION: Now, in addition to bringing in more revenue, the rich, surprisingly, are paying more tax revenue. They were encouraged to get into the economy as the rates went down. Does that surprise you?
BUSH: Not really. We felt like that the tax cuts I passed would make the tax code more progressive rather than less progressive, and made that case.
Now, a lot of people didn’t want to hear it because they didn’t want us to lower taxes in the first place. But the tax code is now more progressive than it was in the past, prior to the tax cuts.
QUESTION: If you listen to Charlie Rangel and some others in the Democratic Party, they say, no way. They say that income distribution is greater than it ever has been, we need new tax increases in order to equalize the income in the United States. Do you have anything to tell them?
BUSH: I tell them that if you’re interested in raising taxes, you can find any excuse to do so. But I also tell them that raising taxes would be bad for the economy. We don’t need to be taking money out of the pockets of investors and savers and consumers.
Secondly, I would tell them that I would much rather have the American people spend their money than the federal government.
And thirdly, I tell them, if we’d only set priorities, if the Democrats in Congress would be willing to set priorities, you’ll find that we got ample money to meet our needs.
QUESTION: Now, you say — you talked about spending. A lot of folks put some blame on you, particularly conservative folks, saying you spent too much (OFF-MIKE) Republicans (OFF-MIKE)?
What do you say?
BUSH: I say that I think you look at the facts. First of all, we did spend money, but it’s primarily to make sure our military had what it takes to do the job. And we spend money to protect this homeland.
But on non-defense discretionary spending, we actually reduced the amount of spending for the first time (OFF-MIKE) history. Certainly the first time recently, anyway — and that we reduced our deficit dramatically and by growing the economy, being wise about spending money
— now look, in my first six years, I had had a Congress with whom I could reach budget agreements, and they hit our top line every year.
And so, there was — I didn’t have to veto bills because I didn’t like the slices of the pie. But in so doing, you’re going to make it harder to negotiate the size of the pie the next time.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) to sign bills that you have these bridges to nowhere in it (OFF-MIKE)?
BUSH: Absolutely. It was. And that’s why I argued for the line-item veto. Again, you see, when you negotiate a budget bill, if somebody says, “I’m going to meet your top line,” and they meet your top line, there’s no big pieces to the pie that I don’t like; no question about it.
But I wanted to make sure that I was in the negotiating session into next year. If I had vetoed a bill when they met the top line, they’d say, “Why wouldn’t you negotiate with?” It didn’t do us any good, and I wanted to make sure at least we started getting down to reducing the deficit, which we’ve done.
By the way, the deficit, today, is about $1.2 percent of GDP, which is low.
To put it in perspective, I think, the last year of President Reagan’s term, it was over 2 percent. And now it’s 1.2 percent.
And so, yeah, we’ve got — you know, (OFF-MIKE) for Medicare
(OFF-MIKE) for example, which I was (OFF-MIKE) to sign because it modernized the system for…
BUSH: Absolutely. It modernized a medical system for our seniors.
We have made a promise to our seniors, and this bill modernized the program (OFF-MIKE) prescription drugs ought to be a part of your health care.
He wouldn’t like that, because it was too expensive, and it was expensive, but having said that, we have reduced the deficit dramatically.
And that’s really a measure of whether or not there’s fiscal (OFF-MIKE).
QUESTION: The Republicans ran a (OFF-MIKE) government, the, sort of, the Ronald Reagan brand of really cutting back spending tremendously.
Has that brand been diluted at all through your administration?
BUSH: I think there’s a — I think when people look at the facts, they’ll realize that we’ve done a remarkable job of cutting taxes.
We’ve raised (OFF-MIKE). We’ve reduced our deficit dramatically. We’ve overcome recession. And we’re fighting a war.
I mean, we’ve got a lot of good people in harm’s way, and we have had, since the liberation of Afghanistan and, of course, Iraq, and yet this government is funding that war. And it’s expensive, as it should be. We don’t want our kids going in there with lack of equipment or, you know — when we find equipment shortfalls, we’ve addressed them.
And we’ve done all that and reduced the deficit.
So when people take an objective look, a stand-back look at whether or not, you know, we’ve handled the fiscal side of the equation, well, they’re going to say, yes, we have, unless, of course, you believe in bigger government and more taxes, in which case they’ll give me low marks because I’m resisting tax increases.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) back your funds on the supply side, your dad used to call that “voodoo economics.” Has he changed his mind now?
BUSH: I haven’t asked him. But if he looks at the facts, he’ll realize that you can cut taxes, grow the economy, increase tax revenues. And the key is to make sure that, on the spending side, that you’re disciplined.
QUESTION: You know, if he can (OFF-MIKE) he can change his mind on something like that.
BUSH: He’s something else, isn’t he?
QUESTION: He sure is.
QUESTION: A lot of folks are worried that it’s fallen too far. Is there anything more that you can do, as president, to assure the world that the dollar should maintain its value and increase in value?
BUSH: Well, we have a strong dollar policy, and it’s important for the world to know that. We also believe it’s important for the market to set the — to set the value of the dollar relative to other currencies. And if people would look at the strength of our economy, they’d realize why, you know, I believe that the dollar will be stronger. And it is low inflation, low interest, 15 months of uninterrupted job growth, 3.9 percent GDP growth in the third quarter.
I mean, the underpinnings are strong. Now, we in the U.S.
government, my administration, believe the market ought to set the relation of the dollar to other currencies.
QUESTION: Even if the dollar is weak — excuse me, if the economy is weak, shouldn’t the dollar be strong?
BUSH: Well, all I can tell you is, is that the policy of this government is a strong dollar, and that we believe that the marketplace is the best place to set the exchange rates.
QUESTION: So you’re satisfied with the exchange rates as they are now?
BUSH: Well, I am satisfied with the fact that we have a strong dollar policy and know that the market ought to be setting the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and other currencies.
QUESTION: Big problem now, a lot of foreclosures. What should the federal government do, if anything, to help those folks who have the adjustable rate mortgages who suddenly have a big uptick in their mortgage?
BUSH: Well, the federal government should help people renegotiate loans by encouraging the nonprofit NGOs to reach out to those who have had these adjustable rate mortgages to explain to them that there’s an opportunity to refinance their homes if they’re creditworthy.
Secondly, the federal government ought to change tax policy that says if you renegotiate your loan, you get paid — you have to pay an extra tax.
Loan forgiveness through renegotiation is a taxable event. If you’re trying to help people stay in their homes you shouldn’t be taxing them when they renegotiate their mortgage.
Thirdly, we ought to modernize FHA, the Federal Housing Authority, so that people who qualify are able to get help in refinancing their mortgages. Look, we have to do everything we can to help people stay in their homes without bailing out lenders. And I was willing to help the person that borrowed the money, and those are three constructive ways to do so.
QUESTION: Some of the folks who are borrowing money at these adjustable rates were — had plans to flip the house (OFF-MIKE).
Can you separate out the speculators from the real families who…
BUSH: Yes, yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. And we should. And the best place to separate that out is, of course, through the lender, as the lender sits down with families, with U.S. guidance, to renegotiate
— that they’ll be able to determine the difference between somebody who had a primary home and speculators who came in, took advantage of what looked like (OFF-MIKE).
QUESTION: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — do you have plans for the Treasury to oversee those organizations?
BUSH: Well, that’s exactly part of our reform package that was submitted to Congress. We think that OFHEO ought to regulate them, not because I’m such a pro-regulation guy, but I do think they ought to be playing on the same field as other lenders.
And we ought to make sure we understand the products that get (OFF-MIKE).
QUESTION: Iraq. Can you switch to Iraq now?
QUESTION: Foreign policy. The surge, is it working?
BUSH: Yes. And it’s measurable. Whereas violence is declining and the attitudes of people are changing — when people have more security, they’re more willing to forego hedging their bets, affiliation to violent groups, and willing to reach out and reconcile with their neighbor.
I’ve always believed that most people want to live in peace. An Iraqi mom wants to raise her child in peace, and that, if given the chance — given what looks like a secure future — that people will make the necessary changes to live in a — coexist with somebody else that may be, you know, an adversary, in a peaceful way. And that’s what you’re seeing. The politics hasn’t followed as quickly as I’d have liked, at the federal level, although they are passing law and they are sharing potential revenues with the provinces.
But the amazing thing is what’s happening at the grassroots level, where Sunni sheiks and Shia sheiks are coming together and trying to forge a future that is hopeful for their people.
And national politics will eventually follow local politics, by the way.
QUESTION: Now, when Democratic leaders, like Nancy Pelosi and particularly Senator Harry Reid, say that the war is lost…
QUESTION: How does that affect the war effort?
BUSH: Well, I was saddened when I heard that. Because you’ve got kids in harm’s way who are risking their lives. And leaders have got to be very careful about the words they use.
We don’t want somebody out there risking their life, thinking that it’s not worth it.
After all, these kids volunteered knowing full well that it’s best to defeat an enemy overseas so we don’t have to face them home — here at home — and also understanding that, you know, the way to defeat an ideology of hate, an ideology of darkness, is with an ideology based upon hope, and that’s freedom, and that a free society in Iraq or in Afghanistan or elsewhere in the world, or particularly in the Middle East, will serve as the great alternative to these killers that killed 3,000 of our people.
And so these kids are risking their lives. They volunteered in this cause, a noble, necessary cause, and then they hear voices saying we’ve
(ph) lost. As they sacrifice, it’s counterproductive.
You know, you don’t hear those voices, however, in Washington, now.
It’s becoming apparent that the surge is working, that the plan — to the point, by the way, where the commander on the ground has — suggests that we can do the same amount of work with fewer troops, over time.
And so, look, words matter. And my words in particular matter. And I want our troops to understand that, if you’re in harm’s way, then I’m going to make decisions based upon the recommendations of our military commanders, not based upon politics or a Gallup poll. It’s really important for those troops to understand that.
Secondly, Iraqis have got to understand that, while we want them to work hard at reconciliation and get some laws, so long as they’re willing to do hard things, we’re standing with them.
And third, the enemy’s got to understand that politics isn’t going to run George Bush out of Iraq.
QUESTION: Do you think you can wait too long to change strategies from the old strategy to the (OFF-MIKE)?
BUSH: It’s an interesting question. Coming out of ’05 — you know, the lessons in ’05 — it looked like we were in pretty good shape.
Millions of people went to the polls. And then there was the lag in time for the Iraqis to get their governments to them, coupled with the fact that simmering violence began to boil over as the result of the Samarra mosque bombing.
And, you know, the — I thought we didn’t actually have less troops in Iraq, and then it became apparent we needed more.
BUSH: Historians are going to have to judge whether or not we waited too long to move. The point is, we didn’t.
You know, I used to tell people at the end of ’06, at the run-up of
’06 — of ’06 — the lessons had you asked me, I would have disapproved of Iraq (OFF-MIKE) endless approval polls.
I would have said, “Well, I disapprove. And I disapprove because we are winning.” (OFF-MIKE) somebody in harm’s way, we better have a strategy that succeeds.
In my case, I listened to advisors and, particularly, the military people, like General Petraeus and Secretary Gates, and said, “I don’t approve.”
And they said, “Well, here, let’s try this.” And that was asserted. And I do approve now.
QUESTION: Musharraff has said, “Don’t look at Pakistan with European eyes,” stating to mean that democracy doesnt’t work here. What do you tell Musharraf when you talk to him?
BUSH: Well, first of all, President Musharraf has got Pakistan on the road to democracy (OFF-MIKE). And when I talked to him, I said, “You got to get Pakistan back on the road to democracy as quickly as possible.” And that means elections, and that means that, in my judgment, the road to democracy means you can’t be the head of the military and the president at the same time.
He’s agreed to hold elections in January, and he’s agreed to take his uniform off. And our judgment is, is that the sooner he can suspend his emergency decree, the faster Pakistan gets back on the road to democracy. And it’s an ever-changing situation. And if you follow the news, as I know you do, it’s changing all the time (OFF-MIKE).
And our purpose, of course, is to promote a democracy in Pakistan, and at the same time as a valuable ally in fighting the extremists, who have tried to kill President Musharraf three or four times.
He understands the stakes of the war, and I do believe he understands the importance of democracy.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) telling me we’ve run out of time. Can I just…
QUESTION: … one more?
I host a show called “Scoreboard” on the new Fox Business Channel, and we have hits and misses. What do you think, looking back, your greatest hit was, when you really hit one out of the park, and what do you think your greatest error (OFF-MIKE)?
BUSH: Well, I would rather go disappointments rather than errors.
The biggest disappointment is not getting a Social Security package (OFF-MIKE), Social Security reform, because that truly is the big deficit issue. I’m sorry it didn’t happen. I laid out a plan to make it happen, to enable it to happen. I’m the first president to have addressed it as specifically as I did. I wish Congress wasn’t so risk-averse on the issue.
Success, there’s been a lot. Tax cutting. No Child Left Behind.
You know, I would say the advance of liberty. The working hard to secure the homeland from attack, putting in place, you know, tools necessary to protect us, and at the same time be strong in the advancement of liberty as a great alternative to an ideology of hate.
It’s going to be hard, by the way, for — it’s going to take a while for history to analyze my administration. I’m not all that worried about the short-term scorecard. I read three books on Washington last year. My attitude is that, if they’re still writing about number one, the 43rd guy doesn’t need to worry about it.
QUESTION: We talked on Air Force One about restoring a sense of dignity to the office itself. Would you count that among your successes?
BUSH: History is going to have to judge. I do know that its important for the president to guard the institution of the presidency.
It’s important to realize that the office is bigger than the person.
And that’s what brings great stability to the United States. I go to work every day in the Oval Office. It’s such a grand institution. It’s been an honor to serve. I have fourteen more months. I’m going to give it my all.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir.
BUSH: Thank you very much.