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Bush in Mesa: Incentive checks starting to do the job

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

MESA – President Bush, sounding upbeat as consumer confidence swooned, said Tuesday in Arizona that the government’s effort to stimulate the economy is starting to kick in.

“It’s going to make a positive contribution to economic growth,” Bush said, referring to a package of rebate checks for families and tax breaks for business.

The most tangible part of the deal – checks in people’s mailboxes – began arriving this month.

Bush’s reassurance came as a new report put consumer confidence at its lowest level in almost 16 years. Soaring gas prices and gloomy job prospects were largely to blame.

A separate index released Tuesday showed U.S. housing prices dropped at the sharpest rate in two decades during the first quarter of 2008.

The slump in housing and a related credit crunch, which resulted in multibillion-dollar losses at large financial institutions, depressed the economy and raised worries about a possible recession.

The president chose a backdrop of the Silverado Cable Co., a 70-employee business that makes electrical wiring for airplanes and other industrial uses. He trumpeted new tax breaks that encourage companies such as Silverado to invest in new equipment.

And Bush brought up a familiar call, prodding Congress to extend his first-term tax cuts, due to expire in 2010. The Democratic-led Congress has shown little interest.

“We have times of economic uncertainty right now,” Bush said after taking a quick tour of the company’s plant. “And what creates more uncertainty for owners of businesses like these is whether or not their taxes are going to go up. And Congress ought to just declare once and for all we’re going to make the tax cuts we passed permanent.”

The event was a quick stop in between two fundraisers, including a private event for U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican presidential candidate.

Bush is on a three-day swing through five states, and McCain is the main beneficiary. The president is having three fundraisers for the senator, all closed to news outlets.

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