Saturday, February 2, 2008

Is the President’s Economic Package Up for Public Scrutiny?

President George Bush aimed to start 2008 with a shot in the arm when he proposed a $150 million economic growth package, on January 18. The package is a one-year disbursal of personal tax rebates and business tax incentives. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson believes the package “will counter the effects of higher gas prices, the capital market downturn,” subprime mortgage lending terms, tanking housing prices and nationwide home foreclosures. Key to the package’s impact is immediate release of money, specifically, “sixty days after the legislation is enacted.” The House and Senate must vote quickly in its favor and the IRS must process both tax filings and rebate checks. Middle-income individuals and families look forward to $800 and $1,600, respectively.

House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA 8th District) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (OH, 8th District) made separate triumphant statements about the January 24 bipartisan House approval. Pelosi described it as “an agreement to immediately jumpstart the slowing economy. Over 100 million households will soon receive ‘recovery’ rebates.” Boehner concedes, “The economic growth package will put money in the hands of middle-income families and give small businesses incentives to create new jobs.”

President Bush used the 2008 Congress of Tomorrow Luncheon, held January 25 in West Virginia, as an opportunity to press the Senate “to move quickly on the economic growth package.” The Senate shares the concerns of average Americans and wants add-ons for unemployment benefit extensions and increases in food stamps. Senate Democrats recognize roughly 65 million working Americans would get partial to zero rebates.

One college administrator who requests anonymity asked, “Are you talking about the money that they [IRS] were supposed to be giving back as a rebate but found a way to keep it?” She suggests a reprisal of the effects of the 2001 tax rebate. Councilwoman Letitia James (35th District) said simply, “It’s too little, too late.”

Americans riddle the “Ask the Whitehouse” page on the Whitehouse Web site with questions about the package’s soundness. Here in New York, Brooklyn resident Audrey Taitt-Hall remarks, “I have reservations about the package. What will we have to give up to get this money? Presently, childcare centers and senior citizen centers are either closed or significantly cutback. There are many cuts in education programs like music and sports. Is this the price to get these rebates?”

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