SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AP) - As global markets plunged, President Bush on Monday said "it's going to take a while" for the government's $700 billion financial rescue plan to bolster the troubled U.S. economy.
With the political work of getting a bailout deal behind him, Bush pivoted to how the federal government will go about using its new powers. The plan allows the government to buy up devalued assets from beleaguered financial institutions so that, in turn, credit will start flowing freely again to consumers.
Bush, who pressed Congress repeatedly to act swiftly, emphasized that the program should not be set up so fast that it wastes taxpayer money.
"We don't want to rush into this situation and not have the program be effective," he said. "It's going to take awhile to restore confidence in the financial system. But one thing people can be certain of is that the bill I signed is a big step toward solving this problem."
Bush signed the bill into law after Congress approved it last week.
The president, after a weekend at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, met with small business owners at an old-fashioned soda shop in San Antonio. He sought patience from a jittery country and reiterated that he understands why so many people are frustrated about why they were suddenly "helping Wall Street."
"The answer is because had we not done anything, people like the folks behind me would be a lot worse off," Bush said outside an old-fashioned soda shop in San Antonio, with the business owners standing with him. "We'll make sure, as time goes on, this doesn't happen again."
A proponent of free enterprise, Bush said the government intervention was necessary to get money moving again.
Bush's comments came as his top economic advisers pledged to work with their counterparts around the world to restore confidence and stability to financial markets roiled by tight credit and worries about a global economic slowdown.
To that end, the administration was expected to announce shortly that it had tapped a 35-year-old former Goldman Sachs executive, Neel Kashkari, to head the government's rescue effort on an interim basis, according to an official who asked not to be named.
The President's Working Group on Financial Markets said in a statement Monday it planned to quickly implement the expanded authorities granted to federal regulators by the $700 billion rescue package passed on Friday. The working group was formed after the 1987 stock market crash.