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Bush hits economy, security and energy issues in West Virginia

BELLE, W.

Wednesday, January 23, 2002

BELLE, W.Va. – Economic reform, national security, and energy issues topped President Bush’s agenda on his tubthumping stop in West Virginia.

Bush spoke yesterday, at both the National Guard Armory in Charleston and at Walker Machinery Co. in Belle, a town located a few miles from the capital city.

Surrounded by a sea of blue collar workers at Walker Machinery, the president told the audience what they wanted to hear: "American workers are the best in the world." The company sells and refurbishes heavy-duty machinery used in the coal mining and construction businesses. The speech came on the same day the Supreme Court shot down an appeal to hear a case on mountain top coal removal.

Bush said it is imperative the United States finds a way to become self-reliant when it comes to energy issues – something important to the men and women whose jobs rely on the coal industry. Bush said by fueling the country from internal sources, the United States puts more people to work and increases "national security."

Bush told the audience that the U.S. depends on energy supplies from countries that "sometimes like us and sometimes don’t." Then, Bush hit the bullseye for the West Virginians.

"(We) need to use coal; we’ve got a lot of it."

Bush said a good energy plan equals good jobs and the U.S. should explore natural gas and fuel supplies in Alaska, without making a major environmental impact.

Bush added that economic reform must also include increasing the educational standards and job training programs. Bush said a better educated workforce makes for more productive employees who earn a higher paycheck.

He added that the federal government, while leaving the bulk of educational decisions to the state, needs to make sure obstacles are removed for students and hold school accountable for the educational opportunities for children. He said some schools, "move children through" and give up on the "so called hard to educate" students. He said schools need to be held accountable for their actions and there shouldn’t be a child "trapped in a school that won’t teach."

Bush added that the federal government needs to keep more money in the pockets of workers by reducing the amount paid in tax. Bush said more money in the pockets of workers means more people will spend money, bolstering the economy.

Bush said his economic plan will also include a plan for retirement. He said the government needs to shore up social security money the elderly and reformed for the young. Bush touted his proposal to allow people to finance their own retirement instead of relying on social security for retirement.

Bush concluded by asking for the worker’s patience when it comes to the war on terrorism. He said America has sent a clear message to the world that terrorism will not stand. He told the workers that the United States will "stay the course" and hunt down the terrorists responsible for the attacks on Sept. 11. He said the fighting in Afghanistan is "noble and just," so that "(our) children and grandchildren grow up in a peaceful world."

Bush added, "We’re ready…steady…and resolve…to bring the enemy to justice."