WASHINGTON – President Bush said Friday that while there is some uncertainty about slowing economic growth, the nation's "financial markets are strong and solid."
Bush spoke after meeting with his top economic advisers about possibly drafting a package to stimulate the U.S. economy as it weathers the housing slump, rising oil prices and an uptick in unemployment.
"This economy is on a solid foundation," Bush said. But he also said it can't be taken for granted, and there are some signs of concern that require the administration and Congress to be careful to ensure economic strength.
"There are signs that cause us to be ever more diligent in making sure good policies come out of Washington," he said.
Sitting around a table with his economic advisers in the Roosevelt Room, the president warned Congress against taking steps that would increase taxes. "If the foundation is strong yet indicators are mixed, the worst thing Congress could do is raise taxes," Bush said.
He said legislation could be passed to help Americans refinance their homes. He also called for expanding petroleum refining capacity and exploring for energy in "environmentally friendly ways."
Bush met with the group of advisers — his first with them as a group — the same say that the Labor Department reported that hiring practically stalled in December, driving the nation's jobless rate up to a two-year high of 5 percent. The report, which fanned fears of a recession, indicated that employment conditions are deteriorating, strained by the housing crisis and credit crunch that are sapping economic strength. On Wall Street, stocks tumbled.
"While there is some uncertainty, the report is that our financial markets are strong and solid," Bush said.