THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This weekend, millions of Americans will celebrate Labor Day. This holiday marks the traditional end of the summer season. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the contributions of hardworking Americans all across our country - from teachers, farmers, and health care professionals, to firefighters, police officers, small business owners, and workers on the assembly line.
The American workforce continues to be the marvel of the world. Yet many working families have been weathering tough economic times. There are families across our country struggling to make ends meet. There is an understandable concern about the high price of gas and food. And many Americans are worried about the health of our housing and job markets.
I share these concerns about our economy. Yet there have been some recent signs that our economy is beginning to improve. While the housing market is continuing to experience difficulty, the decline in home sales has leveled off recently, and sales are rising in some parts of the country. Orders for some durable goods, such as business equipment, are rising. And earlier this week we received a report that America's economy grew in the second quarter at an annual rate of 3.3 percent - surprising analysts who were predicting an economic recession.
These welcome signs indicate that the economic stimulus package that I signed earlier this year is having its intended effect. The growth package will return more than $150 billion back to American families and businesses this year. Many Americans who received tax rebates are spending them. Businesses are taking advantage of tax incentives to purchase new equipment this year. And there are signs that the stimulus package will continue to have a beneficial impact on the economy in the second half of the year.
Labor Day is also the traditional start of the election season. In the coming months, it will be tempting for some in Congress to try to score political points instead of getting work done for the American people. Our citizens deserve better. We still have time to accomplish important goals for our country. My Administration remains hopeful that we can work with Democratic leaders in Congress on bipartisan measures to help Americans cope with this period of economic uncertainty.
We need to work together on a comprehensive approach to our energy problems. I've called on Congress to permit us to tap vast, unused sources of oil and gas, expand domestic refining capacity, and encourage the development of alternative energy sources. Congress continues to stand in the way of this comprehensive approach. At a minimum, Democratic leaders in Congress should move forward on common-sense energy proposals that have bipartisan support - and it is not too late to do this. They should act responsibly by lifting the ban on offshore drilling, expanding access to oil shale, and implementing long-term tax credits to spur the development of alternative sources of energy like wind, solar, and nuclear power.
We need to work together to open up markets for American goods. Exports account for a greater share of America's gross domestic product than at any time in our history. It is not too late for Congress to approve free trade agreements with strong allies like Colombia, Panama, and South Korea - so that we can create more opportunities for American farmers, ranchers, and entrepreneurs.
We need to work together to keep your taxes low. At a time of economic challenge, the last thing American families need is a massive tax increase. It's not too late for Congress to make the tax relief we passed in 2001 and 2003 permanent.
Despite our economic difficulties, there is every reason to be optimistic about America's future. Our workforce is dynamic and productive. Our economy is showing that it is resilient. And our Nation is the most industrious, creative, and prosperous on earth.