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Bush, Democrats Promote Conflicting Economic Plans


Republicans and Democrats agree that help is needed for the sagging U.S. housing market and the ailing American economy in general. But President Bush and a Democratic lawmaker have made it clear they differ on what kind of help is needed. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.

The year's first major government effort to strengthen the U.S economy quickly passed both houses of Congress last month and was signed by President Bush. The legislation is intended to give Americans more money to spend, by providing about $168 billion in tax rebates and business incentives.

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush said he believes the part of the initiative which gives business owners tax breaks for investing in new equipment this year will be especially helpful to the economy. "As more businesses begin taking advantage of these incentives, investment will pick up and so will job creation. And together with the individual tax rebates, these incentives will help give our economy a shot in the arm," he said.

The Bush administration has also proposed giving the U.S. central bank sweeping new powers to more tightly regulate the country's financial industry. One provision of the plan would give the Federal Reserve the power to examine the books of financial institutions whose problems could threaten the nation's economic stability. Democrats are also calling for tougher supervision of Wall Street and the mortgage lending industry.

Differences between the two parties appear in their approaches to strengthening the U.S. housing market. Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both backing a $30 billion proposal for the government to refinance mortgages for up to two million homeowners who are in danger of defaulting on their loans.

Representative Bill Foster, elected in a special vote three weeks ago, said in the Democrats' radio address that his party's plan will help a large number of at-risk homeowners. "Next week, the House of Representatives will continue to work on a comprehensive plan to help families who are on the brink of losing their homes. Our plan will help more families avoid foreclosure and give cities the chance to rehabilitate foreclosed homes and put them back on the market," he said.

Republicans say the Democratic plan is irresponsible, and amounts to a bailout. President Bush says he will veto that proposal. "The problems in the housing market are complicated, and there is no easy solution. But by supporting responsible homeowners with wise policies, we will help them weather a difficult period. We will help get our economy back on track, and we will ensure (that) America remains the most prosperous nation in the world," he said.

In his Saturday address, Mr. Bush promoted two of his administration's policies to help homeowners. Under a voluntary program called Hope Now, participating lenders freeze at-risk borrowers' interest rates at a low level. Another program, called FHA Secure, helps credit-worthy borrowers refinance so-called subprime mortgages that have a low introductory interest rate but later re-set at higher rates.