Column: Coming through for hard-working Americans

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 20, 2008

By Tim Walz, Guest Column

At kitchen tables across America and right here in southern Minnesota, middle class families are making tough decisions about how to make ends meet.

The truth is, you don&8217;t have to look too far beyond your own kitchen table to see the evidence that our economy is in the doldrums: the housing market is in crisis; unemployment is growing; and a drop in household income has led to the slowest economic growth since 2002.

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The dollar just doesn&8217;t go as far as it used to.

Everyone knows that bipartisan cooperation in Washington isn&8217;t what it used to be either.

That is why I&8217;m immensely pleased that in this case, Democrats and Republicans in Congress worked together with President Bush to get something done for hard working people across America.

Economists agree that one of the best ways to help working Americans is to get the economy moving.

We&8217;ve taken action by passing an economic stimulus package that will help get the economy back on track by putting money into the pockets of 130 million middle and lower income American families. As people spend money, employers hire more to meet the demand and bring back laid off workers.

What is good for the middle class is good for business.

Fighting to improve our economy isn&8217;t just about seeing the Dow Jones Average go up.

Fighting to improve our economy means fighting to improve the lives of people &8212; especially those that most need a helping hand getting a job, paying their heat bill or covering the cost of their medication.

The economic stimulus package provides tax rebates of up to $600 to individuals and $1,200 to couples who earned in 2007 a maximum of $75,000 and $150,000 respectively.

Additionally, families will receive $300 per child for every child under the age of 17.

What does this mean for Minnesotans? In our state, 2.1 million households will receive an average tax rebate of more than $950.

This package is fair to families, seniors and disabled veterans alike.

I am pleased that the stimulus package provides rebates for 20 million additional senior citizens who receive Social Security benefits.

It also provides a rebate for veterans who receive disability payments.

Including seniors and veterans in the stimulus bill was a priority of mine, and I am pleased that this legislation does just that.

Many American families will sit around their kitchen table and work out ways to cut costs and pay the bills.

But others are about to lose their kitchens when their homes go into foreclosure.

Foreclosures due to predatory lending are neither fair nor desirable. To help address the mortgage crisis, the House recently passed a bill that protects consumers by requiring that lenders meet tougher requirements and adhere to higher ethics standards.

I am hopeful that the Senate will work with the same urgency to pass this important legislation.

Fixing regulatory problems and putting money in people&8217;s pockets are the two easiest and most obvious things leaders could do to give middle class families a helping hand.

To create lasting stability for middle class families, we must return some fiscal discipline to our government.

In the last seven years, President Bush has added an incredible $4 trillion to our national debt.

I&8217;m pleased that Congress, under its new leadership, has started to get a handle on spending by passing pay-as-you-go budget rules that require new government spending to be paid for.

This is a good start, but more needs to be done.

With the passage of this stimulus package, it seems that Congress and President Bush have begun to realize that we&8217;re all in this together.

The stimulus package is one example of the good things that can happen when Congress and the President work together, but we can&8217;t stop there.

Next, we need to build on that accomplishment, set aside our differences and take some hard steps to balance the budget and reduce our national debt.

It won&8217;t be easy, but the work we do now will have a lasting impact on the economy and the types of economic opportunities our children have available to them.

Tim Walz is the congressman for the 1st District of Minnesota.