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Bush gives prescription to cure economic ills

EAST MOLINE, Illinois (CNN) -- Robust national security, a good public school system, free trade, a domestic energy policy and an economic stimulus package that includes tax relief are key factors to help jump-start the U.S. economy and create jobs, President Bush said Monday.

In a brief but lively address, Bush spoke to workers at a John Deere heavy equipment plant in East Moline -- his first stop in a two-day trip focusing on economic issues.

The president noted that the region along "the mighty Mississippi River" is a key part of the American economy, where farm produce is grown, processed and shipped. Bush later is scheduled to visit a Missouri feed mill and the Port of New Orleans.

Bush said that the government should create conditions in which jobs can be produced.

U.S. President George W. Bush visited Illinois and Missouri to drum up support for his economic plan. CNN's Major Garrett reports (January 15)

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"The role of government is not to create wealth," he said. "The role of government is to create conditions in which jobs are created, in which people can find work. And I want to share with you some of my thoughts about how best to do that."

Pointing out that the September 11 attacks shook up the American consumer, the president said the work of law enforcement agencies "day in and day out" against terror will help restore confidence.

"The first condition to make sure that people can find work is to make sure our nation is secure, secure against an enemy that wants to attack us. That starts with having a robust, active, strong homeland security for our country," said Bush, who repeated his determination that the United States will hunt down and destroy terrorist groups.

"They can run, they think they can hide, but this patient, strong nation will stay on the job until we find them, root them out and get them."

Call for improved education, free markets

The president thanked Democrats and Republicans alike for helping to pass his long-sought education bill. Bush praised the legislation and said it will help improve the nation's public schools and eventually generate jobs.

"And what's good for the country is to make sure our education system produces smart, intelligent, literate children ...," he said. "This bill I signed goes a long way in helping."

Bush said opening up the world to American products also will help job creation.

"Fearful people want to build walls around America. Confident people believe we ought to tear them down," he said.

American workers, he said, can outproduce any in the world, and American farmers can raise more crops and are more efficient than others.

"We've got to get my friend [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to be buying John Deere products," he said.

Energy conservation, exploration urged

As for energy, Bush said the United States is "too reliant upon foreign sources of crude oil."

"It's in the national security interests of our country to have an energy policy," he said, one that encourages exploration as well as conservation. Congress needs to act on a good energy policy, he said.

"We've got to do a better job of not only conserving energy, but it seems to make sense to me that, when we've got energy on our own hemisphere and in our own states, we ought to explore for it."

The president also called for good economic policy "out of Washington, D.C.," and once more touted the idea of tax relief. "The tax relief plan we passed is going to be permanent," he said.

"When the economy slows down, one of the best things we can do is let people keep their own money, so they can spend it," Bush said. "If the economy slows down, one of the best answers is tax relief and [to] trust local people to spend the money.

"If you have more money in your pocket, you buy more things, which encourages more production. Consumer demand is stimulated by tax relief. And the great thing about our society is, when consumers demand, generally, somebody's there to produce. And so, there's more jobs as more production takes place."

Bush said extension of unemployment benefits and health care aid could help workers affected by the attacks.

But he said that "Americans don't want an unemployment check. Americans want a permanent paycheck, and that's got to be the mission of any good stimulus package."




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