WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson predicted Friday that the administration and Congress can come together quickly to enact a stimulus package that would bring help within weeks to an economy that’s threatening to topple into a recession.
Paulson said he had been consulting with leaders of Congress from both parties and felt confident that all sides can agree on a common objective to enact a temporary stimulus package that will be “robust and simple.”
Kicking off a major lobbying effort, Paulson appeared on the morning shows of all three major networks Friday morning to promote the package.
Interviewed on NBC’s “Today” show, he said the biggest part of the package should be focused on consumers, “getting money to them so they will spend it.”
The administration is examining providing rebates of up to $800 for individual taxpayers and $1,600 for families.
That would be significantly higher than the $300 per individual and $600 per family that was provided in an economic stimulus package in 2001 to fight the last recession.
Congressional aides to lawmakers participating in talks with the administration said the White House would like to eliminate the 10 percent income tax bracket for one year and quickly get the savings to taxpayers through rebate checks.
Advocates for the poor have criticized this approach, saying it will leave out millions of the working poor who do not earn enough to pay income taxes but do pay Social Security payroll taxes. Democrats in Congress are expected to propose an economic stimulus package that will get more relief to the poor and low-income households.
Paulson took issue with critics who say that the tax rebates in 2001 failed to stimulate the economy. He said studies showed that the rebates did work.
“The evidence was that people spent between a third and two-thirds of the money and spent it quickly,” he said.
Paulson said on CBS’s “The Early Show” that the business section of the plan would be focused on “giving businesses the incentive to hire people, to create jobs.”
On the economy, Paulson said that recent economic reports had been “mixed and more negative” after very strong growth in the summer. That was the reason Bush felt it was important to quickly approve a stimulus package, he said.
“We need to do something that’s going to be robust, we need to do something that’s going to be temporary, and we need to do something that’s going to get money into the economy quickly,” he said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
Asked whether such a plan could inject money into the economy within weeks, Paulson said, “Yeah, weeks.”
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