Video: Pushing Social Security reform

updated 12/18/2004 8:39:00 PM ET 2004-12-19T01:39:00

President Bush, looking to build momentum in Congress for his second-term economic agenda, pledged Saturday not to ignore challenges to the nation’s financial health and “leave them to another day.”

“We have a duty to the American people to act on these issues, and we will get results,” Bush said in his weekly radio address.

The remarks were a continuation of a broad campaign by Bush, begun earlier in the week with a two-day economic conference sponsored by the White House, to boost support for his economic plans.

In the radio speech and at the forum, Bush and his economic team made a pitch for major second-term priorities such as overhauling Social Security, simplifying the tax code, making previously passed tax cuts permanent, limiting alleged lawsuit abuse and curbing the growth of government spending.

“I will work with members of both political parties to confront these problems so we can keep our economy flexible, innovative and competitive, and so America remains the best place in the world to do business,” the president said Saturday. “I will not ignore these challenges and leave them to another day.”

The forum featured hardly a dissenting view to Bush’s second-term proposals or his optimistic assessments of the economy. But he characterized it as “an important conference on America’s economic future” that allowed discussion with people from many backgrounds.

Many of the president’s proposals are highly controversial.

Democrats argue that the administration should be focusing on rolling back tax cuts that went primarily to the wealthy as a better way to control budget deficits — and thus spur on the economy — rather than trying to make them permanent at a cost of more than $1 trillion. Some also say Bush’s plans for Social Security appear too expensive and won’t solve the problem.

Democrats also have criticized Bush for a net job loss during his presidency. More than 2 million jobs have been created in the past year, but Bush remains 313,000 jobs short of making up all those that have been lost since he took office in 2001.

The economy has struggled to create new jobs during the recovery from the 2001 recession and, on Friday, the administration significantly reduced its forecast of jobs that will be created next year, saying the economy will produce 2.1 million new jobs. A year ago, it said 3.6 million jobs would be created in 2005.

“Our economy has come through a lot these past four years and now our people are benefiting from solid economic growth, steady gains in new jobs, record home ownership, and rising family incomes,” Bush said.

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