Frank envisions post-election stimulus from Democrats
October 24, 2008 6:00 AM
NEW BEDFORD — After the November election, Democrats will push for a second economic stimulus package that includes money for the states' stalled infrastructure projects, along with help paying for healthcare expenses, food stamps and extended unemployment benefits, U.S. Rep. Barney Frank said Thursday.
In a meeting with the editorial board of The Standard-Times, Rep. Frank, D-Mass., also called for a 25 percent cut in military spending, saying the Pentagon has to start choosing from its many weapons programs, and that upper-income taxpayers are going to see an increase in what they are asked to pay.
The military cuts also mean getting out of Iraq sooner, he said.
"The people of Iraq want us out, and we want to stay over their objection," he said. "It's extraordinary." The Maliki government in Iraq "can't sell (the withdrawal deal with the U.S.) because it sounds like we're going to stay too long."
"I was teasing (U.S. Rep.) Jack Murtha (a key supporter of military budgets) and I said to him, 'For the first time, somebody else has got a bill that's almost as big as yours.' We don't need all these fancy new weapons. I think there needs to be additional review."
Rep. Frank called on President Bush to appoint a senior official to guide the economic stimulus packages through the transition to the Barack Obama or John McCain administration when it takes office in January.
And he said that if the Democrats can't find an adequate agreement on a stimulus package in the lame-duck Congress, they would rather wait until the new Congress takes over — likely with many more Democrats, if polling results bear fruit in the November voting.
The new package, he said, will be aimed at easing fears about lending and investing. "The psychological problem is even worse than the real problem," he said.
"There is money to lend and projects worth borrowing money to do. But people are afraid to lend. That's what we're trying to unfreeze."
States have many infrastructure projects — bridges, highways, etc. — that have been shut down because of a cash-flow problems, he said. So it is not the case that a stimulus will take months or years to wait for design and approval, since projects are already in progress or ready to go.
Also, he said, "we'll increase the federal share of medical care so states won't have to lay off people." Unemployment insurance benefits won't increase, he said, but the period of collecting them will, and eligibility requirements might be relaxed.
And, ultimately, there will be tax increases on the upper brackets. "We'll have to raise taxes ultimately. Not now, but eventually," he said.
Contact Steve Urbon at email@example.com
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