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Bush Lays Out His Stimulus Plan

George Bush
CBS
President Bush put forward a "growth and jobs" economic stimulus plan on Tuesday that would provide tax relief to an estimated 92 million Americans by accelerating income tax rate cuts, wiping out all federal taxes on stock dividends paid to investors and boosting the child tax credit by $400 per child.

"I proposed a bold plan because the need for this plan is urgent and I urge the Congress to act swiftly and pass this bill," Mr. Bush told business leaders at the Economic Club in Chicago.

Mr. Bush said his $674 billion, ten-year plan would reduce taxes for all Americans who pay them, brushing aside Democratic criticism that the plan favored mainly the wealthy.

"We can preserve the hard won gains our economy has made and advance toward greater prosperity," he said.

The president said the centerpiece of his proposal — the complete elimination of federal income taxes on stock dividends — would help correct an imbalance in the tax code that currently results in lower taxes on profits made from stock sales and higher rates for income received in dividends.

As CBS News Correspondent Bob Schieffer reports, the President called for urgent action, but new Senate Republican Leader and Tennessee Senator Bill Frist warning to the White House: this could take awhile.

Frist likes the plan in general, but he sees it as just a starting point and says there will have to be compromises along the way.

"Will there be adjustments? Absolutely. Again that is what the purpose of the United States congress is all about to debate look at and examine," he said.

Democrats spent the day saying the plan was tilted toward the rich, a charge Frist rejects. They also say it will drive up the deficit, but Frist says that will be worth it if it gets the economy growing again.

What ever the case, says Schieffer getting this passed won't be easy. Some Conservative Republicans believe it will take even bigger tax cuts to jump-start the economy.

While some moderate Republicans and many Democrats believe more of the cuts should be directed to those in lower tax brackets. They also worry about increasing the deficit just when the possibility of war with Iraq could drive it even higher. Bottom line--no part of this plan is yet a done deal.

Though he said the nation's economy is the strongest and most resilient in the world, Mr. Bush said it needs help. To encourage consumer spending and spur investment, he called for all the taxes in the pipeline for the next three years to take effect now.

"Americans deserve to know their taxes will not be taken away," he said.

The price tag on the Bush plan was nearly twice as large as White House advisers had been considering as recently as a week ago, representing a go-for-broke effort by Mr. Bush to seize and control both the domestic and political agenda in the run-up to his 2004 re-election campaign.

Even before the president gave details of his plan, Democrats criticized his proposal as favoring the rich and doing too little to help lower-income Americans.

"The president really is investing $600 billion on an old, old Republican theory of trickle-down economics," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. Give it to the people who need it."

On Monday, the Democrats offered a rival plan that would expand unemployment benefits by 26 weeks and give all workers a refundable income tax rebate of up to $300 per person or $600 per working couple. States would get $31 billion for homeland security, highway, Medicaid and unemployment insurance programs.

The Democratic plan would not eliminate the taxes on stock dividends, which is the biggest element of the president's plan, and is estimated to cost $364 billion over 10 years.

On Monday, the administration estimated that under its proposal 46 million married couples would receive an average tax cut of $1,716 this year while 23 million small business owners would receive tax cuts averaging $2,042.

The administration said its package would provide $1,100 in tax relief this year to a typical family of four with two wage earners making a combined income of $39,000.

In addition to the tax relief for individuals, the president's package would boost tax relief for small businesses by expanding the amount of equipment purchases they can write off as deductions from the current $25,000 to $75,000 and index future increases to inflation.

The president's Council of Economic Advisers estimated that all the tax relief, by providing consumers and businesses with more spending power, would boost economic growth and create an additional 2.1 million jobs over the next three years.

The president also proposed as part of his plan reinstating the extended unemployment benefits which expired on Dec. 28, making the benefits retroactive for the nearly 800,000 laid off workers who lost their benefits last month.