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Stimulus Plan: How Big is Big Enough?

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Authored by Jon Mercer in Economy
Published on 01-11-2009

The House majority leader, Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, says that he has his doubts that the January 20, 2009 deadline for the economic stimulus package can be met. It could be very difficult to get a package together that soon, according to lawmakers, and many are hoping for a more “realistic” mid-February date. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada was cautious of giving any date for the package and said “we will work this just as quickly as we can.” As to the amount of the stimulus package, he would only say “It’s whatever it takes to bring this country back on a fiscal footing that’s decent.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, agreed with Hoyer that the January 20 goal was impractical. Mr. McConnell also had reservations about extending unemployment benefits to part-time workers or expanding government assisted health care insurance, saying “those are very big systemic changes.”

There is also caution being raised among many of the Senate and Congressional leaders that 20 percent of the jobs created by the stimulus plan be in the public sector. And some are calling for President-elect Obama to support a middle-class tax cut, which could lower the current 25 percent tax rate to a more modest 15 percent. But Mr. McConnell expressed his concern about Democrats trying to move too fast on the package, noting that without sufficient Republican input the bill would not receive the bipartisan support that it would need to become law.

There has been widespread debate about how to spend the economic stimulus monies. But one thing that is clear to both Democrats and Republicans: the taxpayers are in need of a stimulus rebate that will provide jobs and strengthen the weak economy. There is also much talk about building new schools and renovating older schools, along with other infrastructure projects.

Mr. Obama has already said that he will likely give a one time tax credit rebate to all Americans, proposing what he called in his campaign a “Making Work Pay” tax credit of $500 for individuals and $1,000 for couples. Those who earn too little to pay Federal income taxes would receive the credit in the form of a check, intended to offset the payroll taxes they pay for Social Security and Medicare.

Additional money to subsidize local governments’ education costs could become a regular fixture, increasing the federal role in local government. Besides education, money from the plan is also to be set aside to educate students with disabilities, and a wide variety of other “public investments.”

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