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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

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Aired November 3, 2003 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to go now live to Birmingham, Alabama. President Bush.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... people look at Americans and say, "Well, that's a mighty country because we got a strong military," or "It's a mighty country because our wallets are heavier than other people around the world."

No, we're a mighty country because the people who live here in this country are decent, caring, compassionate people who've heard the call to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself.

(APPLAUSE)

Jason Nabors works at a local law firm. And by the way, his law firm encourages the lawyers in that firm to find a way to contribute to the Birmingham community by helping somebody who hurts.

He's involved with First Look. It is a nonprofit organization that is created to increase the number of young -- youngsters and young adults in the service to the people of Alabama by encouraging them to follow their hearts, by mentoring a child, by helping somebody who may be addicted, by feeding the hungry and housing the homeless.

I see we've got scouts with us today. There's nothing better than being a Boy Scout leader and sending good signals and examples to the youth of America.

For all of you who take time out of your busy lives to help somebody in need, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are the strength of our country.

(APPLAUSE)

When we talk about our economy and the future of our country, it's important to remember what we have been through. We've been through a lot here in America.

The stock market started to decline about nine months before Dick Cheney and I showed up in Washington and the country was in a recession. That means three quarters of negative growth. That means we were headed backwards. That means people were not finding work. That means we had trouble on the home front of many homes across the country because people weren't able to do their job of providing food for their families.

They were looking for work. And then we began to recover somewhat. And the enemy hit us on September the 11th, 2001. And that hurt. It hurt us economically. Frankly, it hurt us psychologically, because most of us grew up in a period where we thought oceans would protect us from harm. We saw a problem overseas, we could deal with it if we felt it was necessary for our security, but we at home were secure. We were protected. It was a big blow to us. It hurt a lot.

We responded. We dedicated ourselves to the security of this country. We understood the challenge. America's a tough, resolved nation when we're challenged.

And then, we began to recover from that. And our confidence was shaken by the fact that some of our chief executive officers forgot what it meant to be responsible citizens.

They didn't tell the truth. They didn't tell the truth to their employees. They didn't tell the truth to their shareholders. They betrayed the trust.

We passed laws, by the way, that are sending a clear signal: "If you betray the trust, there will be a consequence. We will hold you responsible for not telling the truth." But the fact that some in corporate America betrayed the trust affected our confidence.

And then, as you well know, we marched to war in Afghanistan and Iraq for the security of our country and for the peace of the world, all of which affected our confidence and affected the economy.

I mean, Alabama's been hit hard by -- in the manufacturing sector, in textile sector. These are challenges.

But we met the challenges with action. We took tough action, in order to move this economy forward.

First of all, as I mentioned, we passed new laws that say, "If you're going to cheat, we'll hold you to account." And if you noticed, some of those whose behaved irresponsibly are now being held to account.

Secondly, we acted on principle. We said, "The best way to get this economy going, the best way to help people find work is to let people keep more of their own money."

We understand how the economy works. If a person has more of his or her own money they'll likely demand a good or a service. And when somebody demands a good or a service in this economy, somebody's going to produce the good or a service. And when somebody produces the good or a service, somebody is more likely to find a job.

And so, therefore I went to the Congress not once but twice and said, "In order for people to be able to find work here in the country, let's pass meaningful, real tax relief." And I want to thank the two senators and the members of Congress who are here today for joining me in passing tax relief so people can find work. (APPLAUSE)

We wanted tax relief to be as broad and as fair as possible, so we reduced taxes on everybody who pays taxes. We thought that was a fair principle. The government shouldn't try to pick or choose winners and losers on who gets tax relief. If you're going to reduce taxes, reduce them on everybody, which is precisely what we did.

We felt the marriage penalty sent the wrong signal. You see, we want people to be married. We think marriage is good. We think it's a part of a...

(APPLAUSE)

But the tax code penalized marriage, and so we reduced the marriage penalty.

We understand that as -- when the economy is slow and people are worried about the future, that it takes a lot to raise a child. And so we increased the child credit from $600 per child to $1,000 per child.

This summer, I remember going to Pennsylvania and -- where they were cutting the checks, and I said, "The check's in the mail." Fortunately, it turned out to be in the mail.

(LAUGHTER)

People got money back. Money in their pocket.

Yet if you had a child, then you got $400 per child. That meant you were in a position to demand the additional good or a service, which meant somebody was more likely to find work here.

We also wanted to encourage investment. If you're interested in job creation, then you must be interested in encouraging investment. When people invest, in plant and equipment, for example, it means somebody is going to have to produce the plant -- produce the equipment.

And so we encourage investment by quadrupling the expense deduction for small-business investment and we'll talk a little bit about that in a second. But we also cut taxes on dividends and capital gains to encourage investment. More investment means more jobs.

We also believe that if you're a small business or a farmer or a rancher, you ought to be able to leave your assets to whomever you choose, without the government getting in the way again. And therefore...

(APPLAUSE)

So we're phasing out the federal death tax. We don't believe the IRS should follow you into your grave.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)

We pass these measures to help individuals. But the measures we passed also are incredibly important to the small-business sector of America. The small-business sector of our country is vital for job creation.

See most new jobs in America are created by small businesses. Most small businesses pay a tax at the individual income tax level. See, if you're a subchapter S or a limited-liability corporation, just like the two small businesses I've spoken of today, then when we cut individual taxes, it's really a cut in taxes for small businesses.

It means small-business owners have got more money to invest. And when they invest, it means somebody is more likely to find a job.

It is essential for those politicians in Washington to know that individual income tax relief is incredibly important for job creation, not only because it stimulates demand, but because it provides a vital boost in the arm for the small-business sector here in America.

(APPLAUSE)

The Uptons have bought nine cranes last year in order to rent them out. And they told me that one of the reasons why is because of the tax relief. It provided an incentive for them to purchase additional equipment.

Now that means a couple of things. Somebody's got to make the equipment, which means somebody's working. Somebody's got to maintain the equipment, go rent the equipment. It means the people here at CraneWorks are more likely to keep a job, but in the Uptons'case, or this case, you've actually added 15 jobs this year.

Now, that's a lot for a start-up company. But it's really a lot when you think about the 15 jobs here and the 15 jobs there and this small business in another state. It's the compound effect of the hiring decisions of millions of small businesses that paint a good perspective for people to be able to find work.

If you're interested in job creation in America, you got to understand the role small businesses play in the creation of new jobs in this economy.

CraneWorks is such an example.

Steve Upton says about investing, "You go out there. You take your risks" -- these are his words, not mine. "You put people to work. You get aggressive and you get business."

That's the entrepreneurial spirit. That's what America's all about. That's just -- this is about by having a vision for a better tomorrow.

That vision was cleared up somewhat by the tax plan we passed. And I appreciate the congressmen understanding and the senators understanding the vital role that small business plays.

Now look, CraneWorks isn't going to succeed because of government policy.

It's up to the Uptons to figure out how to build a strategy that works. It's up to the Uptons to figure out a marketing plan. It's up to them to make wise investment decisions. It's up to them to treat their employees with dignity. But all government's doing is trying to put a little wind at their sails, and it seems to be working.

I appreciate Rom Reddy. He's an entrepreneur. He said the tax relief helped him gain confidence in making investments. As he said, leveraged up the opportunity to make investments. So he bought $6 million of new equipment so he can get in the artificial turf business.

I mean, somebody had to make the equipment when he purchased it. Somebody had to sell the equipment. In other words, it's part of economic activity when people make rational decisions in the marketplace. Tax relief encourages rational decisions to be made in the marketplace.

Rom's company has gone from zero sales -- zero turf sales to $17 million in a quick period of time. He's added 60 new jobs in one year. Sixty people are now working. The tax relief helped him to have the confidence necessary to move forward.

By the way, a lot of his sales are going in Europe and China. See, I'm going to talk a little bit about what it means to open up markets. But I just want you to know that his business is going to be more successful because he's developing a product that he's confident he can sell in other markets, which is good for job creation and it's good for the 60 he's got working for him and the some he intends to add.

Tax relief puts money into the pockets of those who are hiring new people.

We've got a consistent and effect strategy and we're making progress. Remember, just last week the surprising announcement -- at least it's confounded some of the experts -- our third quarter economic growth was vibrant.

And that's good. Inflation is down, and that's good. After-tax incomes are up, people keeping more of their own money. And that's really important for economic growth.

We've got the best workforce in the world here in America, incredibly high productivity gains, which is vital for competition and job creation in the long run. By reducing taxes, this administration kept a promise. We did the right thing at the right time for the American economy.

(APPLAUSE)

And our country's approaching a choice now. Just as our economy is gaining some momentum, some in our nation's capital, some in Washington, are saying now is the right time to raise taxes. To be fair, they think any time is a good time to raise taxes. They're consistent.

(LAUGHTER)

So am I: I strongly disagree. Raising taxes now will wreck economic recovery and will punish hardworking Americans and endanger thousands of jobs.

(APPLAUSE)

There are some other things we can do to make sure the momentum in our economy continues and I want to talk about them right quick. It's what we call the six-point plan. I laid it out for Congress to consider.

First, in order to make sure our small-business sector is strong and vibrant and make sure they continue creating new jobs, we must allow small businesses to form what we call associated health plans. It will allow small businesses to pool risk so that they can better control the cost of health care.

We also must have medical liability reform. I'm worried about the -- what I call frivolous lawsuits that make it hard for docs to practice medicine and run up the cost of medicine. It makes medicine less affordable and less available.

And by the way, frivolous lawsuits increase the cost of the federal budget, in Medicaid and Medicare and veterans' health benefits. You need your day in court when you run into a bad doc, but we've got to control these frivolous lawsuits because they're making health care too costly.

Since it affects the federal budget, medical liability reform is a national issue that requires a national solution. The Senate needs to pass that bill.

(APPLAUSE)

And the Senate needs to get after the junk lawsuits that make it hard to do business. It's important that we have a judicial system that's fair and balanced. Class-action lawsuits oftentimes are not fair and balanced. After all, the money goes to the lawyers and not to the people who got hurt. We need a system that's fair and balanced and the Senate needs to act on that.

We've got to cut useless government regulations. We need to do it at the federal level. Riley needs to do it here at the state level. We need to make sure our entrepreneurs are focused on job creation, not filling out needless paperwork.

(APPLAUSE)

Look, I believe if you're good at something, you ought to promote it. We're great farmers. We're really good ranchers. We're great entrepreneurs. We ought to be opening up markets for U.S. products.

If you're interested in job creation, companies ought to be encouraged to sell overseas. If you're good at something, let's promote it.

I'm concerned, like you are, that trade is not on a level playing field. So this administration is spending a lot of time to make sure that trade is a two-way street, that it's fair, that it's open.

But I want you to know that 220 foreign companies from 30 nations have located right here in Alabama, in factories and offices, which means jobs for Alabama citizens.

Trade, if it's done right, can help create new jobs. And that's what this administration is committed to doing.

We also ought to make sure that tax relief is permanent. Look, it's hard for me to explain the rules in Washington. Let me put it to you this way: The Congress giveth and the Congress taketh away. Not because of these members, by the way. But much of the tax relief we passed is scheduled to go away, and that's a problem if you're a small-business owner.

The Upton boys need to have certainty in the tax code so when they plan in the future they know what the rules are going to be. If you're raising a family you don't want the child credit to go back down again. If you're married you don't want the marriage penalty to raise.

And yet, because of a quirk in the law, the taxes we passed will steadily increase over time. And we got to make the tax relief permanent. For the sake of job creation, the Congress must make the tax relief permanent.

KAGAN: We've been listening into President Bush. He is speaking to a group, about 350 who work for a small business, a crane operator in Birmingham, Alabama. The topic today, the economy, which has very encouraging numbers, and also tax cuts.

So far, no word yet that helicopter attack that took place in Fallujah in Iraq that took the lives of 16 soldiers and injured 20.

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