Bush Blasts High Salaries for Corporate Chiefs

President Bush made a surprise visit to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday, scolding corporate America for lavish salaries paid to its chief executives. "America's corporate boardrooms must step up to their responsibility," Bush said. But he said the government should not force executives to give up their perks and high pay.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Our last word in business comes from George W. Bush.

The president made an unannounced visit to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange yesterday. He scolded corporate America for the lavish compensation paid to its chief executives. CEO pay is making headlines because it's reached - well, the stratosphere. Mr. Bush says, "America's corporate board rooms must step up to their responsibility." That's a quote. Still, the president said the government shouldn't force executives to give up their perks and high pay.

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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On Wall Street, Bush Declares Economy Healthy

President Bush visits traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. i i

I'll Take Five: President Bush visits traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Later, he delivered a speech on the economy. Spencer Platt/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Spencer Platt/Getty Images
President Bush visits traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

I'll Take Five: President Bush visits traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Later, he delivered a speech on the economy.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

At a low point in the opinion polls, President Bush found a warm welcome on Wall Street, where he delivered an updated State of the Economy speech at Federal Hall before getting a rock star's reception on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

A booklet distributed to go along with the speech was full of positive numbers: more than 7 million jobs created since the middle of 2003; an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent; real-wage growth.

"Just today, we learned that America's economy grew at an annual rate of 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006," Mr. Bush said. "That means our economy grew at 3.4 percent last year, which is up from 3.1 percent in 2005. Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our economy is strong."

Not all Americans believe that, though. Polls suggest many people are unsettled about the state of the economy. Mr. Bush responded to such concerns by saying the economy's going through a period of transition, that could make some uncomfortable.

"For many Americans, change means having to find a new job, or to deal with a new boss after a merger, or to go back to school to learn new skills for a new career," the president said.

Democrats say that the problems are actually worse than that, and that job recovery since the last recession has been the slowest on record.

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