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US Democrats Seek To Define Economic Stimulus Policy

by Mike Godfrey,, New York

13 December 2002

US Democrats from the House of Representatives held a two-day economic forum on Capitol Hill, and said they would soon propose a short-term economic stimulus as an alternative to the "failed" policies of the Bush administration.

Even though Democrats have suffered losses in both houses of Congress, and are now in the minority in both, the tone of the gathering was upbeat at least among the 140 members persuaded to return to Washington during a recess.

House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said Democrats plan to move ahead on economic issues. "There was some fear that Democrats would come here and wring their hands and look back — look at the fact that we didn't take back the House," Mr. Hoyer said. "That's not what Democrats are doing. They're looking forward as to how we can grow this economy, how we can reach out to working families, how we can create jobs."

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday that the President is looking for Democrats who are prepared to work with him on an economic stimulus package, but that he thinks Democrats are divided over whether to raise taxes. "I think these are questions that Democrats are still trying to sort through," he said.

Democrats agreed among themselves that unemployment benefits, which will expire for many claimants at the end of December, should be immediately extended, but Mr Hoyer was greeted by ridicule from Republicans when he said: "This does not require additional dollars, and it will stimulate the economy."

'Think before you speak!' said a budget expert for the 335,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU).

“Apparently Steny Hoyer and his colleagues believe that the best way to bring jobs and prosperity back to America is to pay Americans not to work,” quipped NTU Director of Congressional Relations Eric V. Schlecht. “If this is what passes for sound economic logic among Capitol Hill liberals, it’s no wonder Americans rejected their senseless and failed policies.”

Schlecht also pointed out that some Republicans, especially on the Senate side, have “embraced Keynesian economics” with only slightly less dubious proposals for small, one-time tax rebates.

“Limited-duration handouts – whether in the form of tax rebates or benefit checks – are no substitutes for pro-growth tax policies that will truly put people back to work,” Schlecht concluded. “Making 2001’s tax cut permanent, accelerating 2005’s scheduled rate reductions to 2003, ending the double-taxation of dividend income, providing tax relief for middle-class investors, and phasing out the Alternative Minimum Tax, should all be at the top of next year’s early tax agenda.”

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