President Bush called world leaders on Tuesday to coordinate a response to what has become a global economic crisis, and gave a speech aimed at reassuring anxious Americans.
“Right now we’re in tough, tough times, no question about it,” Mr. Bush said, speaking to employees at a small business in Chantilly, Va. “But you can’t convince me that in the long run we’re not going to get back on our feet again.”
“And if anybody says that, they don’t understand the American spirit,” Mr. Bush said.
The president did not present any new actions by the government, seeking only to explain the nature of the economic crisis as best he could and calm nerves.
Anxiety was on display as the president took questions from the audience. One audience member asked Mr. Bush, “Is my bank account safe?”
The president explained that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has raised its insurance ceiling for bank accounts from $100,000 to $250,000.
“FDIC has never failed to make good on its promise,” Mr. Bush said.
Yet some financial observers say the economic challenge is so severe that in the short term, FDIC should use special authority called a “systemic risk exception” to issue blanket coverage for all bank accounts, to reassure investors.
Echoing comments made Monday, the president said in his speech that the economic rescue plan passed by Congress and signed into law on Friday will take time to implement, calling the bill’s passage the first step in “a process that unfolds over several stages.”
“Thawing the freeze in the financial system is not going to happen overnight,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Bush spoke by phone with French Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi.
The White House divulged little of what was said in the conversations, other than that the leaders were working to “coordinate” the response of Europe and the U.S. to the global economic crisis.
“I have been in close contact with European leaders. I was on the phone with them this morning to ensure that our actions are closely coordinated,” Mr. Bush said during his speech.
The economic downturn that originated in the U.S. and rocked Wall Street for the last two weeks spread over the weekend to European and Asian markets, as the German and British governments worked to bail out large financial institutions.
The Federal Reserve also took further action on Tuesday, announcing it would begin buying short-term debt directly from corporations in an effort to jump-start the credit markets.