- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 24, 2003

PHILADELPHIA — President Bush yesterday toured a check-processing plant that will begin mailing out 25 million tax rebates today, which he said would further stimulate the recovering economy.

“See, I think it’s very important for our fellow citizens to understand: We’re not just talking theory,” he said after inspecting facilities that print and package the U.S. Treasury checks.

“When people get checks,” he added, “it helps them with their lives.”

To prove his point, the president met with a sampling of the families who will be receiving a total of $12 billion when the first batch of checks are mailed out today. The taxpayers told Mr. Bush they would use the money for retirement, education, vacation and home renovation.

Mr. Bush spent considerable time explaining how these and other activities will have a ripple effect throughout the rebounding economy. The speech was the start of a monthlong victory lap to celebrate what the president called one of the shallowest recessions in history.

He delivered his remarks just hours after the Labor Department reported that the number of workers signing up for unemployment benefits has plunged to the lowest level in five months. Economists had expected the jobless claims to rise.

“That’s what we’re interested in,” Mr. Bush enthused. “We’re interested in creating jobs, so our fellow citizens can find work.”

Last week, the National Bureau of Economic Research announced the recession that began in March 2001 ended in November of that year, validating what the president has been claiming for many months. Yesterday, Mr. Bush also reveled in the strength of the stock market, which has risen significantly over the past year and especially since March.

“Investors are showing more confidence,” he said. “The stock market seems to be trending upward. That’s a positive sign.”

Even before the president delivered his remarks, the Democratic National Committee invited reporters to participate in a post-speech conference call with Reps. John D. Dingell and Bart Stupak, Michigan Democrats, “to discuss the negative impact of the Bush administration’s economic policies.”

Unfazed, the president rattled off a litany of encouraging economic developments that have taken place since he enacted two of the three largest tax cuts in history. These include low inflation, record productivity, rising home sales and rock-bottom mortgage rates.

After the speech, as the president’s motorcade was driving back to Philadelphia International Airport, a single-engine plane flew low over Mr. Bush’s limousine. A police helicopter was directly behind the Cessna four-seater, which was eventually intercepted and grounded by four F-16 fighter jets that were scrambled to protect the president.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the pilot was flying a routine patrol over an oil pipeline after neglecting to file a flight plan. He was forced to land at the Camden County Airport in Berlin, N.J., where 30 police officers with guns drawn made him lay on the tarmac.

The flight violated a temporary ban on air traffic within a 30-mile radius of the site between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. A pilots group complained that the Federal Aviation Administration did not issue the restriction until late Wednesday, which left some pilots unaware of the development.

The Secret Service was investigating the incident, the second security breach this month. The first occurred when a stowaway boarded the Bush press plane in South Africa and flew to Uganda.


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