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Bush: Any Aid to Automakers Must Be Paid Back

WASHINGTON (AP) - Using the word "recession" for the first
time to describe the U.S. economy, President George W. Bush
demanded that Congress adopt his approach to an auto bailout and
require car companies to pay back any federal aid.
But he displayed skepticism about the wisdom of new aid, saying
he is concerned that some of Detroit's Big Three may not survive.
So while urging Congress to act next week to help the battered
industry, Bush urged a Congress controlled by opposition Democrats
to follow his plan.
The president supports adjusting an existing $25 billion loan
program for the automakers, 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 automakers are seeking from Washington a huge cash infusion
of up to $34 billion, beyond the existing loan program. Lawmakers
are considering the idea, but there is uncertainty about the level
of support on Capitol Hill for that approach.
The president spoke not long after the release of a government
report showing the biggest month of job losses in 34 years.
The White House refused to embrace the term recession until
Monday, when a panel for the National Bureau of Economic Research
gave official word that the economy is in a recession and has been
since last December.
"Our economy is in a recession," Bush said flatly. "This is
in large part because of severe problems in our housing, credit and
financial markets, which have resulted in significant job losses."
Reacting to the jobs report, which 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.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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