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Friday, January 18, 2008

Boostin' the economy!

Bush wants fast tax aid to boost economy

With recession fears rising and the stock market tumbling, President Bush on Friday called for up to $150 billion in tax relief for consumers and business — and said there was no time to waste.

Bush's urgent remarks gave fresh impetus to congressional leaders already hard at work on an economic rescue package that would include extra money for food stamps and jobless benefits in addition to tax rebates of hundreds of dollars each for millions of Americans. The hope is that people would immediately spend those rebates and give the economy a badly needed boost.

"I believe we can come together on a growth package very quickly, and we're going to need to," Bush said.

Bush said the rescue effort should be both quick and temporary, a one-time boost for a national economy that is in danger of sliding into the first recession since 2001 if it hasn't already edged across that line. The president's tone was somber in his remarks at the White House, but his mood was upbeat later in the day when he visited a factory to underscore his focus on the economy.

"Crank this sucker up," he exclaimed, an exhortation that could fit his hopes for economic revival, though he was referring specifically to a huge riding mower at Wright Manufacturing. Once the engine was roaring, Bush jumped on and steered the mower playfully.

Despite darkening economic reports, he said that if Congress passes a quick federal relief package, "We're gonna be just fine."

For a stimulus package to have much impact, he said it would need to represent roughly 1 percent of the gross domestic product, or about $140 billion to $150 billion.

On Capitol Hill, Democratic leaders pledged to cooperate with Bush and congressional Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had criticized Bush on Thursday for deciding to speak publicly on the package before a deal had been struck, but Reid said Friday he was encouraged by the president's remarks.