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"It’s a strong economy. And the fundamental question is—what are we going to do to keep it strong? It’s one thing to say today’s economy is strong—I say it because inflation is down, interest rates are down, wages are on the increase, unemployment rate nationally is low, people are working and putting more money in their pocket. And the question facing the country is—what are we going to do to make sure it’s strong tomorrow? As I said to Congress, we don’t need more government, we need more enterprise."
—President George W. Bush in a speech at Caterpillar’s Building SS, January 30, 2007

These were some of the opening words of President Bush’s speech when he visited Caterpillar’s track-type tractor facility in East Peoria a few weeks ago. It had been more than two decades since a sitting President was in the greater Peoria area, and it was truly an honor to have President Bush take the time to visit with residents in our community.

The President’s visit was meant to underscore the fact that Caterpillar is a shining example of an American company helping to lead our resurgent economy by creating jobs here at home. Caterpillar and their 48,000 American workers have benefited mightily from the pro-growth policies of this President. With more than $10 billion in exports, revenues of over $41 billion and the third straight year of record sales, 2006 was a banner year for Peoria’s largest employer.

The fact that the President could come to Caterpillar in January 2007 to trumpet the American economy certainly proves we have come a long way since 2002, when, after a year on the job, President Bush faced an economy recoiling from recession and terrorism. When the President took office, the U.S. was already in a recession following a major economic decline during the last year of the Clinton presidency. Nine months after taking office, the President was faced with the worst terrorist attack—and one of the worst economic hits—in our history. In the three months that followed the September 11th attacks, our economy shed more than one million jobs. As the nation sought to recover from the tragedy, our business community continued to suffer from corporate scandals like Enron. This was certainly not the recipe for economic success that the President and his team had hoped to face.

Yet as we fast-forward to 2007, the President’s Caterpillar speech underscores something that has been suprisingly lost among the major news stories of the past few months. Despite the media’s daily barrage of negative stories regarding events in Iraq, our own country’s economy continues to be the envy of the world. The United States can boast of an economy that has added jobs for 41 straight months, kept inflation in check and has seen after-tax income rise by 9.8 percent under this President. Since August 2003, more than 7.4 million jobs have been created in our country, a higher total than the jobs created in the European Union and Japan combined during the same time.

It is my belief that the reason our economy is doing so well today is due to the tax cuts and free-trade initiatives championed by this President. This is not the same economy that our parents lived through. Global forces are at work which have shaped our jobs and employers into different entities than past decades. Mergers, competition and technology have brought a new meaning to being employed. But the American worker has adapted, learned new skills and moved our economy forward.

I am hopeful we can continue this positive economic climate. The successes we have experienced under this President have come with a Republican Congress helping to enact his economic plan. With the Democrats now in control on Capitol Hill, economic priorities may change. The President has called for making permanent the tax cuts that all Americans have experienced over the past few years. He has put forward plans to expand trade opportunities with other countries and seeks to reform the healthcare system to address the issue of those who are either uninsured or under-insured. Finally, the President wants to strengthen public education to ensure our workforce continues to be the best in the world.

This is a solid plan for continuing our economic growth, and it represents the look towards the future that the President referenced during his speech at Cat. I hope the new majority shares this forward-looking vision and will work with the President to keep our nation’s economy strong. IBI

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