Ben Feller, Canadian Press
President Bush speaks at Wall Street
Wed Jan 31, 2007 18:06

U.S. President George W. Bush visits traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) January 31, 2007 in New York City. Bush visited the city to give a speech on the economy.
Photograph by : Spencer Platt/Getty Images

President Bush speaks at Wall Street, visits New York Stock Exchange

NEW YORK (CP) - U.S. President George W. Bush visited Wall Street on Wednesday, taking aim at lavish salaries and bonuses for corporate executives and issuing a sharp warning for corporate boards to "step up to their responsibilities" and tie compensation packages to performance.

Bush, who was introduced by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, delivered his "State of the Economy" speech from the financial centre of the world, aimed at bringing his economic message out of the shadows of the Iraq war. For the second day in a row he focused on the economy, the government reported faster-than-expected growth of 3.5 per cent in the final quarter of last year.

Bush spoke to an audience of business leaders at the venerable Federal Hall - a symbol of both America's democracy and its economic resilience. The hall, which dates to 1842, is now a museum that helped provide emergency shelter when terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center, just a few blocks away.

And he spoke about tax cuts enacted by his government, noting that economic growth in the U.S. has burgeoned to the point where it outstrips Canada's whole economy.

"There's a lot of political debate about these tax cuts. But here are some of the facts: Since we enacted major tax relief into law in 2003, our economy has created nearly 7.2 million new jobs," Bush said in a prepared speech.

" Our economy has expanded by more than 13 per cent. That expansion is roughly the size of the entire Canadian economy. This economic growth has led to record tax revenues, which has helped us cut the deficit in half three years ahead of schedule."

" One fact should be clear when you look at the statistics: The fastest way to kill a recovery would be to raise taxes on the people who created it. Now is not the time for the federal government to be raising taxes on the American people."

Later, he stopped along Broad Street to shake hands with New York police officers and then ducked inside the New York Stock Exchange. The surprise visit caused a frenzy on the already chaotic trading floor. It was so crowded that traders standing just five feet from Bush had a better view of him on television screens.

The New York Stock Exchange faced an uproar over former CEO Richard Grasso's $187.5 million severance package. Former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, now governor, sued members of the NYSE board over the package given to Grasso when he quit as chairman in 2003.

Bush's words on pay were met with complete silence from the business crowd he addressed.

The annual salary of the president is $400,000.
The Canadian Press 2007

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