WASHINGTON – President Bush's slimmed-down budget (search) proposal is just one of the conservative fiscal policies he plans to push in his second term as he tries to continue expanding the economy and improve the slowly recovering job market.
Bush scheduled a trip Tuesday to the manufacturing center of Detroit to lay out his vision for prosperity, which White House press secretary Scott McClellan said includes a clampdown on federal spending, along with tax cuts, deregulation, free trade (search) and more modern training for the work force.
Questions about the health of the jobs market dogged Bush throughout his first term and was a hot-button issue in the presidential campaign. Ultimately, the jobs situation and the economy wasn't enough of a concern to deny Bush a second term.
Employment figures released last week provided a reprieve to the White House. While the addition of 146,000 jobs was small, it gave Bush a net gain of 119,000 jobs during his first term and allowed him to escape being the first president since Herbert Hoover to have a net loss of jobs on his watch.
"We have overcome a series of challenges to our economy," McClellan told reporters Monday. "We must continue to act to build upon the results we have achieved."
Bush has offered a budget proposal for next year that would boost spending on the military and homeland security but cut many other programs. Items on the chopping block include subsidies paid to farmers, health programs for poor people and veterans, and spending on the environment and education.
Many of the programs Bush wants to cut are popular in Congress, which still has to approve his plan.
Gus Faucher, a senior economist at Economy.com, said Bush's plan to keep spending below the rate of inflation for programs outside of defense and homeland security is a change from the first term, when he oversaw large increases in federal spending.
"In that sense he has not been conservative at all," Faucher said.
But other aspects of Bush's plan for economic growth, which he was describing in a luncheon speech to the Detroit Economic Club, are classic conservative principles he's long advocated. McClellan said Bush also wants to build the economy by making his tax cuts (search) permanent, reducing jury awards in malpractice lawsuits (search) and expanding free trade. Those ideas face opposition from Democrats and labor unions.
"I don't think that the series of proposals that he's putting forward are responding to the very unbalanced and stagnant economic figures from the point of view of working families," said Ron Blackwell, chief economist at the AFL-CIO. "He's responding to his friends in business — they want the lawyers off their back, they want tax rates lower, they want less regulation."