Background: Boosting the Economy
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KWAME HOLMAN: With Congress considering wide-ranging legislation aimed at injecting life into the economy, there’s been no shortage of groups at the Capitol this week suggesting their sector is the place to apply federal aid. But the 100 or so travel agents from around the country who gathered on the Capitol’s west front this morning said they’re different.
SPOKESPERSON: We’re not here to ask for a handout. I think we’re the only group in town right now that can say that. (Laughter and applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: However, they do want the airline industry to share with hard-pressed travel agents some of the billions in post-attack relief air carriers received from Congress two weeks ago.
SPOKESPERSON: We’re not here for a handout because the airlines have already done that.
SPOKESPERSON: They got it all!
KWAME HOLMAN: On Wednesday in New York City, President Bush outlined his plan for stimulus, a package totaling between $60 billion and $75 billion. And yesterday at the Labor Department, Mr. Bush talked about where some of the money should go.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: In the post-attack economy, some workers need more help for more time. So I propose extending the unemployment benefits by 13 weeks in states that have been hardest hit by job losses related to the September 11 attack.
KWAME HOLMAN: Members of Congress will decide the particulars of the stimulus package. And Democrats have criticized as too little the President’s call for about $15 billion for the unemployed.
REP. DAVID BONIOR: I think it’s woefully inadequate, and I don’t think there’s enough resources there. The whole unemployment compensation picture is very cloudy in this country. Very few people are eligible for it today. People would be shocked to know that less than 40% of the people, workers, in this country are eligible for compensation.
KWAME HOLMAN: But some Republicans are against new spending and prefer tax cuts, including extending President Bush’s tax cut package of last spring.
SEN. PHIL GRAMM: It looks to me as if we’re moving toward a package, which I’m not going to vote for. Now, if we want to talk about how to stimulate the economy and do it without exacerbating all of our other problems, to me the obvious starting point is to make the tax cut permanent.
KWAME HOLMAN: Speaking in the rose garden this afternoon, the President emphasized the tax cut approach.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Tax relief should come in this kind of form; one, that we ought to stimulate demand by cutting or accelerating the marginal tax cuts that we passed, and I signed, as well as there ought to be a provision in the tax relief package to make sure that low- and moderate-income workers get tax relief as well. And on the business side, we need to stimulate investment by allowing for enhanced expensing of capital expenditures. And we believe they ought to eliminate alternative minimum tax on corporate America. This is a package, which will dovetail nicely with the marginal cuts and the increased child credit that will kick in next year as well. The American people expect us to act, and here’s a way for us to act.
KWAME HOLMAN: A stimulus package could be before the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee by next week.