Clinton, Obama Turn to Economy


By: Wall Street Journal

Both Seek Quick Action On Stimulus Measures As Recession Fears Mount
By JACKIE CALMES

WASHINGTON — Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are both calling for Congress to take quick action on economic stimulus.

With the ailing economy emerging as the 2008 campaign’s top issue, Sen. Clinton said Friday she will call in the Senate for $70 billion in emergency funds directed to housing, energy and unemployment assistance. If conditions worsen, she said, Congress should also provide a one-time $40 billion tax rebate for low- and middle-class workers to spur consumer spending.

Mr. Obama’s campaign said he will unveil proposed stimulus legislation in coming days. His plan would likely include expediting a $500-a-person tax credit already proposed by the Illinois senator for low- and middle-class workers. He says the tax credit would benefit an estimated 150 million Americans.

The plans of the two leading Democratic presidential contenders mostly serve as clues about how they would react if they were in the White House. Until then, any stimulus package is likely to be written by Congress, with President Bush having the final word. On Friday, Democratic leaders in Congress wrote Mr. Bush to ask that he work with them on bipartisan stimulus legislation as soon as he returns from his current Middle East trip.

Democrats began their nominating race nearly a year ago with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the main issue. By last fall, they were talking more and more about the economy, as the subprime mortgage crisis took hold. Republicans continued to emphasize terrorism and illegal immigration.

Recent economic news — including last week’s report showing anemic job creation and a higher jobless rate for December — has jolted both parties. The campaign calendar has also focused attention on the economy. The next Republican showdowns include Tuesday’s primary in long-suffering Michigan and a Jan. 29 primary in Florida, which has one of the nation’s highest rates of home foreclosures.

Democrats are competing for the caucuses in Nevada, another place with many foreclosures and falling property values. On Friday, Sen. Clinton campaigned in California, the most coveted of the 22 states holding Democratic nominating contests on Feb. 5, “Super Tuesday.”

A statement from the Clinton campaign outlining the senator’s stimulus proposals said, “While economists may still be debating whether we’ve met the technical definition of a recession, for hard-hit middle-class families that question has already been answered.”

Her $70 billion plan includes $30 billion for a housing-crisis fund to provide grants to states, cities and community groups. The money would assist families in danger of foreclosure and buy vacant properties to rent to needy families. Another $25 billion would aid low-income families facing increased home-heating costs; $10 billion would supplement unemployment assistance to workers out of jobs for extended periods, and $5 billion would be aimed at promoting energy efficiency while creating “green industry” jobs.

In past months, Sen. Obama has made comprehensive proposals on middle-class tax relief, health-care insurance, energy and more. But some advisers privately acknowledged after his narrow defeat in New Hampshire last Tuesday that he hadn’t done a good enough job, in the few hectic days of the campaign there, in going beyond his well-received stump speeches to detail what he would change in Washington.

Obama advisers say the candidate is getting ready for a series of policy speeches to outline the substance behind his slogans about change. “There are a number of things in the queue, on the economy, foreign policy, energy,” said one senior Obama adviser.

Write to Jackie Calmes at jackie.calmes@wsj.com

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