CNBC anchor Ron Insana sat down with President Bush on Monday to discuss a range of economic issues. You can read excerpts from his exclusive interview below. Watch CNBC at 5 p.m. EDT on Tuesday for the full interview.
Ron Insana: It's been five years since we hit the all-time highs for the Dow Jones industrial average or the Nasdaq. Someone joked earlier that the bad news is the stock market is going down, the good news is that my Social Security money isn't in there. Is it the wrong time to be talking about putting Social Security money in the stock market?
President Bush: No. Listen, now is the right time to talk about permanently fixing Social Security. Because every year we wait costs $600 billion more for the next generation. In other words, it's going to cost that much more money a year, if there's political delay. Secondly, I think most people will tell you if you hold money over a long term, the rate on a return of a conservative mix of bonds and stocks clearly is greater than that which the government earns on your behalf.
Insana: Do you think the retirement age should be raised to above 70 for those youngsters?
Bush: That's certainly one of the options. As I recall, President Clinton, my predecessor, suggested that might be a good part of the fix. There is a variety of things on the table.
Insana: Some of your loyal opponents on Capitol Hill made some cynical comments Monday that you don't mind high oil prices, because they help some of your friends in the oil business. How would you respond to a statement like that?
Bush: I am the president of everybody. Of course I'm worried about gasoline prices. And a high price of crude drives the price of gasoline. Listen, I've been talking to Congress for three or four years now about getting a plan in place, getting a bill to my desk, that reflects a comprehensive energy plan.
Insana: We sat down about 18 months ago to talk about the economy and things were starting to take on a much brighter tone than they had in years prior. I asked you at the time why Americans should rehire you as the CEO of the United States. How do you reassure them that their decision to rehire you was the right one?
Bush: Well, to keep pro-growth policies in place, to keep taxes low. It would be a disaster to raise taxes, in my judgment. It would take money out of the economy, it would give it to the government to spend, it would hurt small businesses and entrepreneurs. Secondly, to continue to push for tort reform. Third, work on an energy bill — an energy plan with Congress — and get a bill to my desk. You know something, Ron, in my position, as I say, there are all kinds of surveys saying all kinds of things. And the only thing I know to do is to stay true to my philosophy and continue to enhance the entrepreneurial spirit.
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