Show business as usual
The fourth quarter almost certainly will confirm that the United States is struggling through its first recession in more than a decade. ... There is a message in that for Congress: Take a deep breath before foisting a lobbyist-inspired tax giveaway on the country in the name of a fiscal "stimulus" package.
The House last week approved a $99.5 billion stimulus package that is heavy on tax cuts, but would do little to shove the economy into a growth pattern. "Show business," Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill called it. ... The administration wants to push a $75 billion package that also is, at best, loosely targeted toward encouraging business and personal spending that would contribute to economic expansion. ...
Most of the House package is aimed at business tax cuts and subsidies that would help corporate bottom lines, but wouldn't prod businesses to invest or expand. ...
At a time when the federal budget is plunging back into the red after just four years in surplus, Congress doesn't have the luxury of throwing $100 billion into a goody package that is laughingly billed as an economic stimulus.
-Today's Chicago Tribune
Security as economic stimulus
President George W. Bush seized on Wednesday's economic dip as an opportunity to pressure Congress to pass his economic stimulus package right away. But around the same time, the fourth inhalation anthrax death occurred. Americans are worried about protecting themselves and their loved ones. Unless their fears are assuaged, a tax cut isn't likely to make them head out and spend.
No doubt the economy needs stimulating Wednesday's 0.4 percent drop in the gross domestic product was the biggest since recession years. But ... terrorism ... is far and away people's biggest concern. To boost the economy, the government needs to help unclench the collective knot in the country's stomach by putting a priority on national security.
People need concrete reasons to believe the country will weather this crisis, and confidence comes from security. Instead of fighting over which party's tax package will inspire the markets, the government should make people feel safe enough to leave their homes, visit their families and patronize their favorite stores and restaurants. That's the best way to get cash flowing again.
-Today's Detroit Free Press
If this is stimulus, skip it
The president and Senate Republicans made a show of distancing themselves from the stimulus bill the House passed a couple of weeks ago. They suggested they agreed with those who found the bill excessive; their moderation won them praise.
Yet now they have embraced an alternative to the House bill that is seriously worse. The moderation turns out to have been feigned. The new bill would confer an even-larger share of its benefits on the richest people in the country not just the top half or top quarter, but the top 1 percent, the least in need and least likely to spend as opposed to saving the extra funds. That isn't stimulus. It's a large and cynical gift to a core constituency. In the short term it would do little economic good, and in the long term it could do considerable fiscal harm. If this bill is the serious choice, it would be better not to have a stimulus package.
-Today's Washington Post
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