Clinton proposes emergency spending plan

Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton on Friday proposed $70-billion in emergency spending to stave off a possible United States election-year recession, upstaging Republican rivals who clashed over the economy but offered few specifics.

The New York senator proposed $30-billion to help low-income families hit by the mortgage crisis and $40-billion in other spending, mainly for the poor and unemployed. As the United States heads toward the November presidential election, Clinton also urged Congress to prepare an additional $40-billion tax rebate for low- and middle-income residents if the economy declines.

Trying to build on her momentum after a narrow victory in the New Hampshire primary this week over Illinois Senator Barack Obama, the former first lady unveiled the proposal amid warnings that a recession is increasingly likely.

Federal Reserve chairperson Ben Bernanke hinted at “substantive” interest rate cuts on Thursday and President George Bush is considering his own economic stimulus package.

“Economists and politicians are finally waking up to what many of America’s families already know: that we might be sliding into a recession,” Clinton said in a statement. “We need an immediate strategy to get our economy back on track.”

Clinton released her plan, which aides said would be a one-time programme that would add to the deficit this year, a day after the Republican presidential contenders debated the economy.

Republican rivals John McCain and Mitt Romney duelled over the economy on Friday, but offered few specifics and focused their attention on the economic situation in Michigan and South Carolina, which hold the next state contests to nominate party candidates for the November election.

Republicans debate return of jobs

Returning to a theme of Thursday’s Republican debate, McCain criticised Romney for suggesting jobs in hard-hit industries like textiles in South Carolina and car manufacturing in Michigan could return to their previous levels.

“There are some jobs that left this state that aren’t coming back,” the Arizona senator told supporters at Applewood House of Pancakes in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina.

“For anybody to say that they’re all coming back and the textile industry is going to be restored where it was, you know better than that,” said McCain, calling for government aid to retrain people who lose their jobs to global competition.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and corporate turnaround specialist, told supporters in Warren, Michigan, “I’m not willing to accept defeat like that.”

“It is unacceptable to me to see any job go away, I will fight for every good job in Michigan and for America,” he said.

Romney, who placed second in the nominating contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, is under pressure to produce a victory and is pinning his hopes on Michigan, the state where he was born and where his father served as governor in the 1960s.
But he is trailing McCain in polls there and in South Carolina.

“I hear from time to time from Washington politicians that they’re aware of the difficulty that Michigan is having, but what have they done?” Romney said. “Michigan is in some respects like the canary in the mine shaft,” he added, warning problems there could spread to the rest of the country if not addressed.

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who won the Republican nominating contest in Iowa but trails elsewhere, defended his economic record and fired back after a cutting attack in the Republican debate by former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson, a rival for socially conservative voters in South Carolina.

“Fred’s finally waking up and realising there’s a race going on,” Huckabee told CNN, a dig at Thompson’s belated autumn entry into the Republican presidential race.

Huckabee, who also campaigned in Michigan, defended his proposal to abolish the Internal Revenue Service and replace US income tax with a sales tax. He rejected critics who say it would create a black market and would hurt small business owners, the source of much US job growth.

“Totally opposite. In fact, it would be the best thing that ever happened to small business,” he told CNN, adding that his poorly funded campaign had caught fire because of small business owners rather than his appeal to social conservatives. - Reuters) Reuters 2008.

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