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Treasury secretary optimistic


U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill praised the nation’s resilience to an ongoing recession during a discussion of the nation’s economic outlook before a large crowd Oct. 14 at the Renaissance Savery Hotel.

O’Neill’s Des Moines visit was hosted by the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Later that day, he toured the John Deere plant in Ankeny. His Iowa stops were among many in a continuing listening tour with business leaders across the country.

The secretary said despite the recession, the possibility of further terrorist attacks and a rash of highly publicized corporate scandals, consumer confidence continues to climb. O’Neill said 2002 will be a record year in the U.S. for new home sales and the second or third best year for sales of cars and light trucks.

“We’ve kept going quite well,” he said. “Our resilience shows the character of our country.”

O’Neill said, “Agriculture is good, too,” telling the crowd that his relatives who farm in Eastern Iowa are expecting higher-than-average corn yields this year. He said Congress’ decision to grant President George Bush authority to tear down trade barriers around the globe would benefit Iowa’s farmers.

“It’s important to Iowa because so much farm produce goes to markets around the world,” he said.

O’Neill said airlines, telecommunication companies and makers of semi- conductors and other computer equipment are suffering. Airlines, however, he said, report that they are running at 90 percent of their pre-9/11 levels. He also said he was encouraged by statistics that show consumers’ outstanding credit card debt is decreasing and record numbers of homeowners are refinancing their mortgages.

“These are huge blessings for Americans who want the opportunity to own a home,” he said.

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