- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008

President Bush today said that the government might take more steps to avert economic collapse if events warrant it, despite his warnings against too much federal intervention in the economy.

“If there needs to be further action we’ll take it, in a way that does not damage the long-term health of our economy,” Mr. Bush said during a speech in Jacksonville.

The Federal Reserve today cut a key interest rate — the federal funding rate — by three-quarters of a point, the latest move by the independent central bank to prop up the economy.

The president’s promise to do more if necessary served as a clarification of his remarks last week in New York.

Mr. Bush said then that the government can act to help some Americans avoid home foreclosures, but should not do too much. The housing market, in particular, he said, needs some time to self-correct.

Democrats criticized that position, saying it amounted to inaction.

And some called JPMorgan Chase’s Fed-backed buyout of investment bank Bear Stearns over the weekend a government bailout for big business.

Mr. Bush, speaking to dock workers at the Blount Island Marine Terminal, said that in the Bear Stearns deal “the Federal Reserve and the Treasury acted swiftly to promote stability in our financial markets at a crucial time.”

Mr. Bush also offered reassurances that the current crisis will pass.

“I understand there’s short-term difficulty, but I want people to understand that in the long term we’re going to be just fine. People are going to still be able to work,” Mr. Bush said.

The president’s speech was aimed primarily at the issue of free trade, as Mr. Bush continued to make the case for an agreement with Colombia.

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