CRAWFORD, Texas, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Amid a U.S. economy that continues to give mixed signals, President George W. Bush said after meeting with economic advisers at his Texas ranch Wednesday that his tax relief package is having a positive impact on economic growth.
"We believe strongly that the tax relief plan that was approved by Congress in '01, and most recently in '03, is going to have a very positive effect on economic growth and vitality," Bush said. "We believe it is more likely in the upcoming year that people are going to be able to find a job, and that's exactly what -- where we focused our policy."
The high profile meeting of the administration's key economic officials and advisers, including Treasury Secretary John Snow, Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, comes as the summer closes out on an economy that has been showing stronger growth, but which also continues to report high unemployment.
Bush told reporters at the Prairie Chapel ranch he calls home, that the nation also needs an energy policy and good tort reform. He praised the House and Senate for passing energy bills, and he urged them to reconcile their differences.
Bush said he would also work with Congress to get health care plans passed that would make it easier for small business to write "affordable" health care for their workers.
"I you'll remember the tax relief plan that was passed was called the jobs plan, growth and jobs creation plan -- that's what we are interested in. We are interested in people being able to work in America," Bush said. "So there are something's we can do to make sure the economy continues to grow so people can find work," he added.
Asked about a second round of tax cuts, Bush said he had confidence that the current measure would spur job growth.
"We are discussing a lot of things," he said. "And we believe that the tax relief plan that we have in place is robust enough to encourage job growth."
"Well, thus far we - in the discussions today, we feel like the tax relief plans that we have passed will be robust enough to create the conditions necessary for economic growth, and therefore people will find a job," the president added.
Yet despite the tax cuts, job creation has been languid, as the unemployment rate reached 6.2 percent in July, or over 9 million Americans are still out of work.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate and former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt dismissed Bush's economic meeting as "photo-op economics."
"With 3.1 million jobs lost, it is ironic that this White House views an economic summit as a special occasion. A Gephardt administration will have a laser-like focus on our economy every single day to make our economy work again for middle class Americans," Gephardt said. "President Bush's public relations cover-up for the worst jobs record since Herbert Hoover isn't working. The American people see right through it."
But White House chief of staff Andrew Card counter-argued such claims, pointing out that the talks were "a comprehensive and well organized discussion, and we also talked about the challenge of fiscal discipline."
Card also noted that the terrorist attacks of nearly two years ago were still hampering growth to its potential.
"Part of the reason it was not as strong as it might have been is because of the shock of Sept 11, 2001, an that's why the president has pushed hard for economic opportunity to grow the economy.
As for Commerce's Evans, he noted that there was a lot of a discussion in the meeting about the energy bill pending before Congress and tort reform because of the impacts they have on small business.