President Bush said Thursday the country is not recession-bound and, despite expressing concern about slowing economic growth, rejected for now any additional stimulus efforts. "We acted robustly," he said.
"We'll see the effects of this pro-growth package," Bush told reporters at a White House news conference, acknowledging that some lawmakers already are talking about a second stimulus package. "Why don't we let stimulus package 1, which seemed like a good idea at the time, have a chance to kick in?"
Bush's view of the economy was decidedly rosier than that of many economists, who say the country is nearing recession territory or may already be there. "I'm concerned about the economy," he said. "I don't think we're headed to recession. But no question, we're in a slowdown."
The centerpiece of government efforts to brace the wobbly economy is a package Congress passed and Bush signed last month. It will rush rebates ranging from $300 to $1,200 to millions of people and give tax incentives to businesses.
On one issue particularly worrisome to American consumers, there are indications that paying $4 for a gallon of gasoline is not out of the question once the summer driving season arrives. Asked about that, Bush said "That's interesting. I hadn't heard that. ... I know it's high now."
Bush also telegraphed optimism about the U.S. dollar, which has been declining in value.
"I believe that our economy has got the fundamentals in place for us to ... grow and continue growing, more robustly hopefully than we're growing now," he said. "So we're still for a strong dollar."
Bush also used his news conference to press Congress to give telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the government eavesdrop after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Bush criticized the Democratic presidential candidates over their attempts to disassociate themselves from the North American Free Trade Agreement, a free-trade pact between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Bush said the deal is contributing to more and better-paying jobs for Americans.
Following his news conference, Bush traveled to the Labor Department to meet with his economic advisers.
Afterward, he expressed confidence in the nation's ability to weather the economic downturn.
"We'll make it through this period just like we made it through other periods of uncertainty during my presidency," Bush said.