CHICAGO – President Bush said Monday that economic indicators are "increasingly mixed," causing anxiety for many Americans. But he said the economy is resilient and the U.S. has dealt with anxiety before.
Bush said it was important, in a time of economic uncertainty, to send a signal that taxes will remain low.
"A lot of Americans are anxious about the economy," the president told business leaders in Chicago. "This frankly is not unprecedented," he said, pointing to the recession in the early months of his administration, terrorist attacks, corporate scandals, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and natural disasters.
"In seven years we've had experience in dealing with anxiety," Bush said.
Bush scheduled the speech to try to calm fears that his administration would stand by and let the economy slip downward or that a recession is inevitable.
"We've had experience in dealing with anxiety. Every time, our economy has absorbed those shocks and dealt with then," he said to a gathering organized by the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.
The president spoke after having lunch with Chicago business leaders at the stately, art-filled Union League Club of Chicago, a private club in the heart of the city's financial district.
His newly sober commentary on the economy reflected a consensus among advisers that Bush needed to acknowledge the economy's shaky performance of late, rather than only tout its strengths, in order to inspire confidence in both his administration and the economy's resilience.
"Recent economic indications have become increasingly mixed," he said.
He argued that this bolsters the need to make all the tax cuts passed during his presidency permanent.
"A mixed report only reinforces the need for sound policies in Washington, which do not create more regulation and more lawsuits," Bush said. "We don't need more uncertainty in an uncertain market."
He made no mention of the fact that he and his advisers have been discussing whether a short-term stimulus package may be necessary.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Bush wants more time and more information before making a final decision about what, if anything to do. But Fratto said Bush regards his State of the Union address to Congress at the end of the month and the release of his new budget proposal shortly after as a sort of deadline for making that call.
"He wants to look at the data. He hasn't made a final decision," Fratto said. He wouldn't comment on the White House view of any of the stimulus ideas that have been floating around, nor would he say with whom the White House is consulting as it examines the situation.