Bush: acknowledges recession, automakers' troubles
By JENNIFER LOVEN, AP White House Correspondent Jennifer Loven, Ap White House
Dec 5, 2008
WASHINGTON – President George W. Bush publicly acknowledged for the first time
Friday that the U.S. economy is in a recession and worried aloud that Detroit's Big Three
automakers may not all survive their mounting troubles.
Four days after the government made the long-suspected existence of a recession
official, Bush used the word himself.
"Our economy is in a recession," Bush said flatly, speaking to reporters on the South
Lawn only hours after the release of a government report showing the biggest month of
job losses in 34 years. "This is in large part because of severe problems in our housing,
credit and financial markets, which have resulted in significant job losses."
While repeatedly listing the serious problems in the economy, the White House has
refused to embrace the actual term until Monday, when a panel for the National Bureau of
Economic Research said the recession began last December and is ongoing.
With automakers, particularly General Motors, in fear of bankruptcy, they are seeking
from Washington a huge cash infusion of up to $34 billion, beyond an existing $25 billion
loan program. Lawmakers are considering the idea, but there is uncertainty about the
level of support on Capitol Hill for that plan.
Bush displayed skepticism about the wisdom of new aid to companies that still need to
make "hard choices on all aspects of their business." So while urging lawmakers to act
next week to help the battered industry, Bush urged a Congress controlled by opposition
Democrats to follow his approach.
The president supports adjusting the $25 billion loan program, so that the money would
be available more quickly and for more urgent needs than its original long-term purpose
of helping to retool factories to produce more energy-efficient cars.
"I am concerned about the viability of the automobile companies," he told reporters on the
South Lawn. "I am concerned about those who work for the automobile companies and
their families. And likewise, I am concerned about taxpayer money being provided to
these companies that may not survive."
With only 46 days left in office before President-elect Barack Obama takes over, Bush
declared: "It's important to make sure that taxpayers' money be paid back if any is given
to the companies."
The president spoke not long after the release of a government report showing the
biggest month of job losses in 34 years. Reacting to the jobs report for November, which
also showed a huge jump in the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent, Bush expressed deep
concern for Americans who have lost jobs, but also said there are some encouraging
signs about the credit markets. "There is still more work to do," he said. "My
administration is committed to ensuring that our economy succeeds."
At 12 months, the current recession is already the longest since a severe 16-month
slump in 1981-82. Many economists say this downturn will ultimately set a new record for
the post-World War II period.
During Bush's eight years in office, the United States has fallen into two recessions. The
first one started in March 2001 and ended in November of that year.