WASHINGTON – Declaring that "America's economy is strong and getting stronger," President Bush told Congress Monday in his annual economic report that last year's tax cut was doing the job in reviving business growth.
This year's 412-page "Economic Report of the President," is considerably more upbeat than Bush's report a year ago, issued at time when the country was still mired in a lackluster recovery with the unemployment rate (search) continuing to rise.
In the new report, written as a strong defense of Bush's economic stewardship, the president says that the country has been able to overcome a series of shocks starting with the bursting of the stock market bubble in early 2000 followed by the first recession in a decade, the terrorist attacks, two wars and corporate accounting scandals.
"Americans have responded to each challenge and now we have the results: renewed confidence, strong growth, new jobs and a mounting prosperity that will reach every corner of America," Bush wrote in the message transmitting the report to Congress.
The release of Bush's economic report, prepared by the president's Council of Economic Advisers (search), came on a day when the president was appearing in Missouri to tout the country's economic rebound, one of three such trips he has scheduled this week.
Bush took note of a number of encouraging developments in recent months, including strong economic growth beginning last summer which has finally begun to encourage the nation's businesses to start rehiring laid off workers.
The unemployment rate is now falling, hitting 5.6 percent in January, a month in which the economy managed to create 112,000 new jobs. However, even with the job growth of recent months, the country still has 2.2 million fewer payroll jobs than when Bush took office in January 2001.
Acknowledging his jobs' deficit, Bush said, "We are moving in the right direction but have more to do. I will not be satisfied until every American who wants a job can find one."
The president credited last year's tax cut for making a sizable contribution to boosting economic growth.
Democrats and Bush's first Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neill (search), have attacked that tax cut as being unnecessary and have charged that it made the deficit problem worse. Bush fired O'Neill in December 2002 after he raised objections to going forward with further tax cuts.
The economic report came a week after Bush sent his new budget to Congress, a document that projects that this year's deficit will hit a record $521 billion.
Bush blamed the huge deficit on the recession and the costs of boosting security at home and fighting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He said that his budget contained a plan to cut the deficit in half over the next five years, a task he said would be made easier by the growing economy.