(AFP) – Mar 13, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — With the sour US economy topping the Iraq war on the list of voter worries, US President George W. Bush heads to New York Friday for a speech aimed at reassuring them that things will get better.
Bush will call for confidence that the world's richest economy will, in a matter of months, recover from woes like the worsening housing crisis, the anemic dollar, and skyrocketing oil and gasoline prices, aides said.
But he was not expected to announce any major new proposals.
"We understand that your confidence can be shaken when you see volatility in markets, and you see record-high prices for things that we all use, like oil," said spokesman Tony Fratto.
But "even as we acknowledge weaknesses in the economy, as we've been saying, the underlying fundamentals of this economy are still pretty strong and still should support growth in the future," he told reporters.
The president delivers his speech at 11:05 am (1505 GMT) to the Economic Club of New York, an organization comprising roughly 700 members drawn from the top ranks of the business and financial sectors.
In the face of growing fears of a recession, Bush will say that "Americans should know and Americans should have confidence that this economy will return to stronger growth," said Fratto.
The remarks come with just eight months before the November US elections, with control of the White House and US Congress at stake and Bush's Democratic critics eyeing the economy and the vastly unpopular war as winning issues.
According to a late February poll by CBS television, 33 percent of Americans believe that the economy is the biggest problem facing the country, against 20 percent who say it is the conflict in Iraq.
An ABC television/Washington Post poll last month found that 67 percent dislike Bush's handling of the economy, and found 52 percent of the public trust Democrats more on the economy, against 33 percent for Republicans.
And a CNN poll in February found that the public feels that the economic stimulus package passed by the Democrat-controlled Congress and signed by Bush does not do enough. All three surveys had an error margin of plus or minus three percentage points.
At the same time, the administration has turned aside questions about whether the US economy is in a recession, with Fratto saying Thursday that: "We know lots of people want to try to find labels for headlines, but we're going to be focused on policy."
Buffeted by a stronger-than-expected drop in monthly US retail sales, the White House also urged US consumers -- a key engine of the world's largest economy -- to shop.
"We do want to see the consumer spend, and that's one of the reasons for the rebate checks," Fratto said, referring to a key component of the stimulus package, which is valued at 152 billion dollars for 2008 and 16 billion dollars next year.
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