THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT IN LUNCHEON PHOTO WITH THE VICE PRESIDENT
12:30 P.M. EST
Q Mr. President, with productivity soaring and factory orders up, does this mean it's a strong recovery and you might have to adjust your economic plan?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we haven't -- it could mean that more evidence will come in the deficit will be smaller. But there's no -- it could mean that we'll have more jobs, which is the real issue. But we don't see it yet.
I think the real issue, what appears to be the case is that American productivity is up and that a lot of Americans are refinancing their homes or buying new homes because of low interest rates. But so far, we're not adding jobs to the economy. That's the critical thing.
I think it means we need to take a real close look at the credit crunch for small business. I think it means we need to redouble our efforts on health care cost restraints because that's one of the things that's preventing small business from hiring more people. But if you look at the downsizing going on in a lot of these big companies, we still need a program which will help us to generate jobs and higher-income jobs. And that's the focus that I had for several months now.
I'm happy that the productivity rates picked up, and I'm glad that people are able to finance their homes at lower interest rates. But I'm still not convinced that this country is yet set on the right course in terms of generating the jobs. And that's the key thing -- jobs.
Q What if the markets, which seem encouraged by your commitment to deficit reduction, go down if you don't live up to your promise of 145,000 jobs?
THE PRESIDENT: I think they want us to have a steady, disciplined, downward path on the deficit. But I also would point out that sometimes when the markets have been up, the job market has been down. The market that counts is the market that affects ordinary Americans -- do they have jobs, are their incomes going up. And that's why I think we have to increase investment for jobs and decrease the debt. And we're going to do our best to do both. On February 17th I'm going to --
Q -- Warren Christopher to the Middle East? What do you hope to get from Mr. Christopher's trip to the Middle East?
Q Are you more optimistic after these numbers today, Mr. President?
Q Enjoy your lunch.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 12:32 P.M. EST