Live-blogging the president’s news conference

President Bush is holding a news conference this morning (9:20 a.m.). The news analysts say he’s going to try to allay fears about the economy.

This brings up the usual question: Is the economy really that bad, or is it just the case of the media being nattering nabobs of negativity?

Here are today’s economic headlines:

  • GM bleeding red ink, to cut more jobs.
  • Economy shows new signs of dreaded ‘stagflation’
  • Top Oil Exec: Quit rhetoric on energy policy
  • US Bancorp profit falls 18 percent

    Still, there must be some people out there doing well in today’s economy. If that’s you, contact me.

    9:01 a.m. – Update. Markets melting down. The Dow is below 11,000 now, and down 200 points on the day.

    Updates

    9:23 a.m. We’re underway. Bush urges Congress to pass oversight legislation for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Gives a shot to Congress to remove ban on sections of coastal oil drilling. “The only thing standing between the American consumer and these vast resources is the U.S. Congress.” Says Congress acting means “they’ve finally heard the frustrations of the American people.” (Note: It was just 4 1/2 months ago that the president was surprised to learn gasoline might hit $4)

    9:27 a.m. “Growth is slower than we would like, but it is growth nonetheless.” Says the 5.5% unemployment rate is still low “by historical standards”

    Q & A

    Q: Are American banks in trouble?

    A: Lots of people don’t understand how important Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are. We’re looking for stability in the mortgage markets. Reminds us that deposits are insured up to $100,000. “If you’re a depositer, you’re protected.” Says, “I think the system basically is sound.”

    Q: Do you still think U.S. is not headed for a recession?

    A: We grew in the first quarter.

    >> Free factoid: The current Minnesota unemployment rate is 5.4%. The all-time high was 9% in November 1982. The lowest was 2.5 percent in April 1999.

    Q: Are there other entities crucial to the economy that require government action?

    A: If your question is ‘should the government bail out private industry,” no, it shouldn’t. Troubled by possibility of increased taxes.

    Q: if Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are shareholder owned, should they be privatized altogether?

    A: We believe there should be a regulator. These institutions need to concentrate on their core mission.

    Q: You said at one point you hadn’t heard of $4 a gallon gasoline…

    A: Where are they now? (Bob: Whaaaat?) “Well, I have now.” Gas prices reflect demand. We’re going to change the psychology. The supplies of oil will increase. I’m reading about how car companies are beginning to change.

    >> Free factoid: The average price for gasoline is now $4.119. This is courtesy of the Bureau of Labor.

    Q: Any comment on Scott McLellan’s book.

    A: No.

    Q: What advice would you give to Barack Obama as he heads to Iraq?

    A: Listen to the generals. The Iraqis have invited us to be there. They share the goals with us to remove our troops as conditions permit.

    Q: When oil prices have gone up a lot, they go down a lot afterward. Do you think oil prices are going to come down a lot?

    A: No. Unless there’s a focused effort to bring more supplies to market, there’s going to be upward pressure on price. Says there’s a transition period from the hydrocarbon era and it hasn’t ended yet. “We knew the markets were going to be tight.” Gives props to ethanol technology.

    Q: What do you plan to do with Guantanamo?

    A: We’re still analyzing the effects of the Supreme Court decision.

    Q: Reaction to Russians blocking sanctions on Zimbabwe?

    A: It’s unacceptable. We need to analyze whether we can impose bilateral sanctions.

    Q: Do you believe troop levels in Iraq are hindering ability to put more troops in Afghanistan?

    A: The war on terror is being fought on two fronts that are noticeable to the American people, and other fronts that aren’t. Does this require full use of U.S. assets? Yes. These are two important fronts. We have to succeed in both. One front is going better than the other. Troops are coming home from Iraq based on success. Afghanistan is a tough fight. There wasn’t a lot of central government outreach to the people. Taliban will kill at the drop of the hat in order to influence behavior; it’s a little like what was going on in Iraq a couple of years ago.

    Q: Should Americans expect a troop surge in Afghanistan?

    A: We are. I hope whoever follows me understands we’re at war and now is not the time to give up. Just because we haven’t been attacked at home doesn’t mean some people don’t want to.

    Q: A second economic stimulus package?

    A: Let’s see how this one works and deal with the housing and energy legislation.

    Q: Why have you not called on Americans to drive less and turn down the thermostat?

    A: They’re smart enough to figure whether they want to drive less or not. The price of gasoline has caused people to drive left. The consumer is plenty bright. The marketplace works. People can balance their own checkbooks. I think people ought to conserve, absolutely.

    Q: Are you confident American oil producers are tapping all sources. Will you sign agreement Iraq’s al Malaki on America’s future in Iraq?

    A: Iraq: We’re in the process of working on a strategic framework agreement that will talk about cooperation on a variety of fronts. Part of that is a security agreement. If they want an aspirational goal on how quickly the transition takes place on how quickly “overwatch” takes place. It needs to be done prior to 2009.

    Re: Oil. With the price at $140 a barrel? Absolutely.

    Q: When will this country see a turnaround on employment?

    A: I’m not an economist but I do believe we’re growing. I remember people here yelling “recession” as if you’re an economist. I’m an optimist. Good policy will strengthen our economy. I hope it changes tomorrow.

    Q: Thoughts on Sudan?

    A: The U.N. needs to work with current government to get troops in to save those lives.

    Q: Is the Afghanistan president correct that Pakistan is responsible for increased terrorism?

    A: We’ll investigate his charge. No question some extremists are coming out parts of Pakistan. That should be troubling to Pakistan. Al Qaeda is there. We have hurt al Qaeda hard and hurt them around the world. We’ll continue to keep the pressure on them with our Pakistani friends.

    “I’ve enjoyed it. Thank you very much for your time.”

    • Joel

      IF G. Bush says it is, then the economy is FINE, just fine. He should know. He’s got his finger on the pulse of this bustling economy. HA. Not that he has anything to worry about.

    • Bob Moffitt

      “Is the economy really that bad, or is it just the case of the media being nattering nabobs of negativity?”

      The two are not mutually exclusive…

    • Tyler Suter

      Money in the bank is insured up to $100,000. He said your money is safe if you deposit because it is protected, then he slipped in under $100,000.

    • Hard not to feel bad for President Bush during these press conferences because you can hear how nervous he is and how much he fears impromptu public speaking.

    • nt

      All of a sudden, a good answer on energy.

    • Bryan

      after the $4 gas price question, i think bush actually said “well, i have now” not “where are they now.”

    • JustinCB

      Really? “I don’t want to be a told-you-so” on gas prices?

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/02/28/bush-on-4-gas-i-hadnt_n_88907.html

    • bsimon

      How about a question like:

      Can you comment on how the devaluation of the dollar has affected commodities prices like oil & food & how US Federal deficit spending affects the value of the dollar?

      (Bob: Going back on the TiVo now, but that makes sense)

    • brian

      “Do you agree or disagree with this statement: America’s best days are behind it.”

      I answered No, but that doesn’t mean I think our place in the world isn’t going to change. I think we are getting close to the point where we won’t be the world superpower anymore, but I don’t think that is a bad thing. We should get used to sharing again. Our country needs to go back to Kindergarten.

      As long as we can learn to share nicely and live slightly below where we were (but still comfortabley) then I think America’s best days are actually ahead of us.

    • Lawrence

      Yes, the economy is poor. Any time the cost of living and goods and services go up and people have to conserve because there just is not that many resources available, the economy is not doing well. That said, American Corporations have enjoyed windfall profits for some time, having engineered mergers and layoffs and rampant speculation since the mid-1980s. Big oil will do just fine without offshore oil. And many Americans will find alternative means of travel and work in order to live, but the middle class is evaporating, and that will affect the growth of cities, like New York, Chicago, Phoenix, that reversed their rust belts during the 1990s and early 2000s.

    • “we won’t be the world superpower anymore, but I don’t think that is a bad thing.”

      I’m curious as to who you would nominate to take our place, and why you think it would be an improvement.

      For all of our presumable faults, none of the alternatives (China, Russia, etc.) really seem as if they’d be more responsible and/or beneficent.

      Or are you saying that there will not be a superpower? That’s possible, I suppose, but it seems as if it would be a vacuum begging to be filled by a more aggressive nation.

    • brian

      I didn’t have a specific successor in mind. That just seems like the direction we are going. No country can stay a super-power forever. I suppose the near future I was imagining was one with us being first among equals.

      Economically, I guess I would probably put my money on the European Union. It already has a larger GDP than the US. But it isn’t a cohesive unit, so I’m not sure if it could count as a super-power. I don’t know about militarily. I don’t think a totalitarian regime could stay on top for long… they aren’t innovative enough. It may be wishful thinking, but that is why I think China or Russia would change enough before they take the reigns that they would be ok world leaders.

      What I really mean I suppose is that we could use a little humbling. We are a great country, but it only reflects poorly on us to abuse our power in the world.

    • daveg

      it only reflects poorly on us to abuse our power in the world.

      That’s a glass half full argument, of course. We never seem to get any credit for the good that we do in the world, and in my opinion, there’s far, far more good than there is bad, even if it is primarily of the financial aid and disaster response type of thing. Those are inarguably good, I believe, while I find “abuse of power” to be in the eye of the beholder.

    • Bob Collins

      Isn’t the U.S. leadership on AIDS in Africa THE most underreported story of the Bush presidency?

    • Zeb

      Bob,

      Pardon me if I hold a more cynical view on this administration’s motives and methods for preventing and treating AIDS in Africa. Wait a year. Then we will see some real leadership.

    • Bob Collins

      And how will you measure that leadership where AIDS in Africa is concerned?

      Ain’t the facts the facts on this issue?

    • Zeb

      The funding as a dollar amount has increased. I will give you that. But there are impractical and irrational restrictions placed on the funds.

      Real leadership would be an all-out effort to facilitate family planning clinics, clean needle programs, and education resources for women. There are some truly awful things happening in Africa and I can’t help but think how many lives could be saved with the money we’re throwing at Iraq, placed in the hands of practical-minded health experts on the ground.

    • So the desire to do good in the world, the sacrifices required to share our wealth with others is not what makes our country great, then. It requires flawless execution as well. And our greatness is only as good as the current administration’s motives and methods?

      If you define “greatness” as deriving from our government (which I very much do not! In many cases, I would use ‘despite’ instead of ‘from’), our greatness will be by definition far more transitory than I had ever imagined, what with it being up for renewal every four years.

    • Zeb

      Dave,

      I’m not sure if you directed those comments at me, and if you did, I don’t see how they are applicable. We were discussing a specific policy from a specific President, not the “greatness” of America itself.