- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. President Bush yesterday said encouraging signs that the American economy is coming out of its tailspin should not prevent Congress from passing his economic-stimulus package, stalled for months in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Taking his State of the Union message on the road, the president yesterday claimed credit for the economy's estimated fourth-quarter growth of 0.2 percent a rate that had been projected to fall by 1 percent or more.
"Thank goodness we cut taxes when we did," Mr. Bush yelled as he pounded the stage podium at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum, drawing a standing ovation from about 6,000 firefighters, police officers and supporters.
"For those who want to do away with tax relief, you don't know what you're talking about. You don't raise taxes in the middle of a recession."
Congress last spring passed the president's $1.35 trillion, 10-year tax-cut package, with Senate Republicans joined by 12 Democrats in the final vote. The first phase of the cut returned overpaid taxes to Americans at the end of last year, who poured the cash into the economy.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, this month said later phases of the tax cut should be canceled to prevent the federal budget from slipping into deficit spending.
But Mr. Bush said the Commerce Department's estimate for growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) released yesterday should not deter Congress from holding firm on its last tax cut and pushing hard for more cuts to further stimulate the economy.
"Today's GDP report is positive, but we cannot take growth and job creation for granted," the president said in a statement. "For the sake of America's workers, I call on Congress to pass an economic security package that will protect American jobs and prosperity because I remain concerned about the economy."
Mr. Bush's tax talk drew the largest ovations at yesterday's speech in North Carolina, especially when he reiterated his Tuesday night call to make permanent the tax cut passed last spring set to expire in 2010.
As he did in his State of the Union address, Mr. Bush yesterday also called on Americans to volunteer in their communities to aid police, emergency workers and Neighborhood Watch groups.
"If people want to fight terror, do something kind for a neighbor," he said. "Make yourself available to be a part of your emergency response teams. Stand up to evil with acts of goodness and kindness. We will show the world that universal values must be respected. History has called us to action, and action we will take."
The stop was the first in a two-day, three-state swing through the South to promote his $560 million proposal for a USA Freedom Corps.
While the president needs Congress to allot the money and the help of the man whom Mr. Bush called his "old rival," Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican the Corps will immediately begin matching volunteers with agencies in need using existing programs.
Under the proposal, two volunteer groups AmeriCorps and Senior Corps would add 125,000 new volunteers to their ranks.
In addition, the Peace Corps would double its membership to return to its all-time high of 15,000 in 1966, when the program was created.
In addition, Mr. Bush hopes to create a new Terrorist Information and Prevention System (TIPS), which would "enable millions of American transportation workers, postal workers and public utility employees to identify and report suspicious activities linked to terrorism and crime," the White House said.
Mr. Bush yesterday named John Bridgeland executive director of the USA Freedom Corps. He will report directly to the president on the status of the corps and help coordinate numerous volunteer groups across the country.
Mr. Bridgeland said the TIPS program will use the eyes and ears of 15 million truck drivers, for example.
Citing a successful Virginia program where drivers watch for suspicious activity along Interstate 81, he said: "We think that same principle can be applied all across America."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide