- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 4, 2001

NEW YORK President Bush yesterday proposed adding new personal and corporate tax cuts to his $60 billion to $75 billion economic stimulus package, geared toward providing a "kick-start" for the economy.
"We've just finished passing out $40 billion of rebate checks [and] there is going to be tax relief started next year as a part of the package that the Congress and I agreed to. We believe there ought to be more, to make sure that the consumer has got money to spend, money to spend in the short term," Mr. Bush told a group of chief executive officers at Federal Hall, across the street from the New York Stock Exchange.
"Now we've just got to be aggressive and make sure we do what we need to do at the federal level to provide a kick-start to give people reasons to be confident. And we will do that."
The proposal appeared to have the backing of House and Senate leaders from both parties, who say they want nonpartisan reactions to the attacks.
"We need to leave behind our favorite partisan proposals and act together," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat.
But in a twist, rank-and-file Democrats sounded more supportive of the proposal than conservative Republicans.
"I think the president has found a way to have a stimulus package in a bipartisan way," said Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat.
Sen. Phil Gramm, Texas Republican, said flatly: "It looks to me as if we're moving toward a package which I'm not going to vote for."
Searching for a way to end the economy's freefall since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and on the Pentagon, Mr. Bush said businesses and laid-off workers need help fast.
"We've got to recognize that as a result of September 11th, folks have been laid off, and we need to make sure they're able to survive until this economy gets going again," he said, adding that he is working closely with Congress to get a package passed "as quickly as possible."
"One person laid off is one person too many, and, therefore, we've got to do what it takes to make sure that that person who got laid off is able to find work. And that's why I believe we need additional stimulus beyond some of the spending that we've already put in place, to the tune of about $60 billion to $75 billion."
While another $70 billion in tax relief kicks in next year, Mr. Bush said immediate relief is needed "to bridge into next year."
Mr. Bush said the concerns of a month ago locking away money for Social Security and preventing deficit spending have gone out the window with the terrorist attacks.
"As I said in Chicago during the campaign, when asked about should the government ever deficit-spend, I said only under these circumstances should government deficit-spend: If there is a national emergency, if there is a recession, or if there's a war.
"We've now got a reason to do what it takes to not only provide security at home, to do what it takes to win the war on terrorism, but we've also got to do what it takes to make sure this economy gets growing, so people can find work," Mr. Bush told the leaders of some of America's largest companies.
Mr. Bush said the leaders brought up ways to aid the flagging economy, which economists say is in a recession.
"They do believe we need to stimulate the economy through boosting consumer confidence with some kind of money in the hands of consumers. There's rebates, there's acceleration of the tax cuts," he said.
The group also talked about encouraging investment through allowing companies to write off more quickly purchases of software, computers and other equipment, one-time investment tax credits and corporate tax relief.
Kenneth Chenault, chief executive officer of American Express, called the meeting "productive" and said the president is "giving us a great deal of hope."
"Your team is moving very quickly and decisively on a range of actions to help stimulate the economy. We have a number of specific actions that you are putting in place that we have confidence will restore the economy, will restore the growth for our nation," he said.
But the package may not engender the type of bipartisanship evident on Capitol Hill since the attacks.
Democrats want tax cuts to be temporary and want a split between tax cuts and new spending. But Republicans want the cuts to be permanent and think Congress has spent enough, saying the package should be tax cuts alone.
And there are a host of other policy differences on everything from tax rebates to poor families to capital-gains-tax cuts.
Still, there appears to be support for a package as long as it is tightly focused and provides a demonstrable, immediate impact on the economy.
"If we're willing to focus on a serious package that is effective, efficient, expeditious, then we can get there," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican. "But if we have a Christmas tree or use it to advance partisan agendas, I think then it's doomed."
By promising to address key Democratic concerns keeping the long-term impact of the package down and helping unemployed workers Mr. Bush has won rank-and-file Democratic support.
But Mr. Gramm said the package appears to be short on stimulus.
"I understand that if we've got $50 billion, that we're going to have to spend at least half of it on things that have nothing to do with stimulating the economy as a 'tribute.'
"But to save my life, when I listened to Chairman Baucus' list, it's all tribute and no stimulus. These are all the same old ideas that were rejected in the last tax package, primarily giving tax cuts to people who do not pay taxes."
Said one House Republican leadership aide: "Wouldn't it be ironic if we passed an economic stimulus bill and a majority of Republicans voted against it?"
* John Godfrey contributed to this report.

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