By Kelley Atherton
Triplicate staff writer
President Bush is set to put his seal of approval on the economic stimulus package Congress passed last week. What does that mean for the average taxpayer? $600. The country? $105.7 billion added to the budget deficit.
House and Senate leaders struggled to include as much as possible in the package and (mostly the Senate) ended up compromising away some important tax incentives. The Senate bill had included funding for clean-energy credits and green jobs. The measure was a vote shy of passage.
Friends of the Earth blame presidential hopeful John McCain, R-Ariz., for not voting (he was out campaigning) and therefore losing the green element in the stimulus package. Both Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., stepped off the campaign trail to vote in favor of the bill.
Democrats vowed to pick up where the stimulus bill left off with a new, more specific, one this week. The bill will reportedly include extending tax incentives to use renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and place heavy taxes on big energy companies.
Back to the stimulus, the $152 billion plan would give $600 to individual, $1,200 to couples and $300 per child under 17 years of age. Eligibility would fade at $75,000 in adjusted gross income for individuals and $150,000 for couples.
The rebates will be sent out separately from tax refunds, and will take several months to sort out. They are expected to start arriving in mailboxes by mid-May.
This package is quite similar to the one passed by the House several weeks ago. Senate leaders had their say, though, by adding $6 billion in benefits. Low-income seniors, disabled veterans and veterans' widows will receive $300 if they claim $3,000 in Social Security or veteran's disability benefits.
The Federal Housing Administration and federal mortgage consolidators Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are also now able to insure larger home mortgages.
The original Senate bill, in contrast, offered an even $500 for all taxpayers. Senators also gave up an extension for unemployment insurance and federal bonds for home construction.
Ultimately, will the stimulus package help to stave off a recession?
The president's Council of Economic Advisors is asserting is that slow growth doesn't equal a recession. However, economists at Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley believe a recession is imminent.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, said the president is looking at the economy with rose-colored glasses.
The president's report states that the economy needs time to work itself out as foreign markets continue to balance out from the January worldwide plummet. Bloomberg News predicts that stock prices will grow 0.5 percent over the first three months of the year and 2.7 percent in the next quarter.
Only time will tell at this point. Federal and state governments have done their part to jump-start the economy, along with the Federal Reserve, which cut interest rates for the second time in a month.