CINCINNATI, Ohio (AFP) — It will take time for the Wall Street bailout bill to be put into place and confidence to return to financial markets, US President George W. Bush said Monday.
Speaking as stock markets worldwide went into freefall, Bush said he was certain the 700 billion dollar package that cleared Congress on Friday will work.
"I believe this plan will work over time," said Bush, speaking in the midwestern city of Cincinnati ahead of a presentation on judicial nominees.
He recounted a meeting earlier in the day with small business owners in San Antonio, Texas.
"They were rightly concerned about our economy and their ability to get credit," Bush said.
"In the long run the economy is going to be fine. It is a resilient economy, a productive economy," he said.
In the meantime, Bush said, "I told them to keep selling your products and working hard."
In San Antonio, Bush personally cautioned the small business owners that the bailout plan would take time.
"It's going to take a while to get in place a program that, one, is effective and, two, doesn't waste taxpayers' money," he told them. "We don't want to rush into this situation and not have the program be effective."
Bush added: "It's going to take a while to restore confidence in the financial system -- but one thing people can be certain of is that the bill I signed is a big step toward solving this problem."
He told reporters that his chat with the proprietors of a San Antonio car dealership, an auto repair shop and two restaurants was "very illuminating."
"It's clear they're dealing with the effects of a credit crunch," he said. "They're having trouble getting money to be able to continue to expand their business or money to help their consumers be able to buy their products."
Bush, speaking outside San Antonio's venerable Olmos pharmacy and lunch counter, acknowledged that many Americans believed their tax dollars were being hijacked to bail out profligate Wall Street money barons.
"A lot of the people here in Texas and around the country aren't pleased with the government having to take the steps they took," he said.
"Their question is, 'I pay my bills, I pay my mortgage, why are you helping Wall Street?"
"The answer is because, had we not done anything, people like the folks behind me would be a lot worse off," he said, referring to the local entrepreneurs.
"We'll make sure that as time goes on, this doesn't happen again. In the meantime, we've got to solve the problem -- and that's why people sent me to Washington, DC. When you see a problem, put a team together and solve it."
The president "will stay very engaged on what's going on on the economic front," said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel, noting that he is scheduled to talk with business leaders in Virginia on Tuesday.
"Obviously, we watch very closely the economic situation not only in this country, but around the world. And the officials from Treasury, Federal Reserve, FDIC, and other agencies throughout our government are in regular contact with their counterparts overseas to work cooperatively to promote stability and confidence in our markets," Stanzel said.
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