WASHINGTON – President Bush on Saturday said the government must guard against going too far in trying to fix the troubled economy, cautioning that "one of the worst things you can do is overcorrect." Democrats said Bush was relying on inaction to solve the problem.
Bush, in his weekly radio address, said the recently passed program of tax rebates for families and businesses should begin to lift the economy in the second quarter of the year and have an even stronger impact in the third quarter. But he urged caution about doing more, particularly about the crisis in the housing market where prices are tumbling and home foreclosures have soared to an all-time high.
"If we were to pursue some of the sweeping government solutions that we hear about in Washington, we would make a complicated problem even worse — and end up hurting far more homeowners than we help," the president said.
The economy has surpassed the Iraq war as the No. 1 concern among voters in this presidential election year amid big job losses, soaring fuel costs, a credit crisis and turmoil on Wall Street.
"In the long run, we can be confident that our economy will continue to grow, but in the short run, it is clear that growth has slowed," Bush said. He was spending the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains after delivering a speech in New York about the economy and helping raise $1.4 million for the national Republican Party.
Democrats said they would try to strengthen the economy with measures dealing with housing, energy efficiency and renewable energy.
"The president continues to convince himself that inaction is the cure-all for the economic problems hurting hardworking Americans," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a written statement. "But Democrats know that wait-and-see is not a responsible strategy for an economy that is teetering on the brink of recession."
"Wages and home values are down," Reid said, "but prices for everything from health care to tuition to energy are up. Just this week, oil and gas prices reached record highs while the value of the dollar reached historic lows. I hope the president, who has been slow to acknowledge this problem, joins us in recognizing how urgently we need a solution."
Bush said he opposed several measures pending on Capitol Hill to deal with the housing crisis. They included proposals to allocate $400 billion to purchase foreclosed-upon and now-abandoned homes, to change the bankruptcy code to allow judges to adjust mortgage rates and to artificially prop up home prices.
"Many young couples trying to buy their first home have been priced out of the market because of inflated prices," the president said. "The market now is in the process of correcting itself, and delaying that correction would only prolong the problem."
Bush said his administration has offered steps offering flexibility for refinancing to homeowners with good credit histories yet are having trouble paying their mortgage. He cited other measures which he said would streamline the process for refinancing and modify many mortgages.
He said there were steps Congress could take, as well.
"As we take decisive action, we will keep this in mind: When you are steering a car in a rough patch, one of the worst things you can do is overcorrect," the president said.
"That often results in losing control and can end up with the car in a ditch," Bush said. "Steering through a rough patch requires a steady hand on the wheel and your eyes up on the horizon. And that's exactly what we're going to do."