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The Baltimore Sun

For a Congress that's been short on accomplishments, the relatively fast bipartisan agreement between leaders of the House of Representatives and the White House to jump-start the nation's ailing economy is welcome.

In typical political fashion, there are a lot of goodies to go around, but some groups, particularly low-income families, could still use more help.

The proposed package can't possibly achieve all the lofty goals - from creating tons of jobs to strengthening the middle class - that its most ardent supporters tout. But the determination to come up with something seemed to be enough to keep markets steady for now, even though more work needs to be done.

President Bush praised the economic growth agreement as if it was just the swift kick that the lagging economy needs. The proposed tax rebate of up to $600 for individuals, $1,200 for couples and an extra $300 for each child is an improvement over a plan floated by the administration last week that would have left out a lot of low-income families. But even this version, which could help an estimated 117 million families, might not be enough of a jolt to the economy. After all, it's not exactly a monthly payment for those reeling from the subprime mortgage crisis. And even on a fast track, rebate checks from any agreement are not likely to be in the mail before June.

The proposal's most critical shortcoming is its failure to extend unemployment benefits or to provide more food stamps - two components that even the Congressional Budget Office says would give a big bang for the buck. House Republican leaders apparently insisted on omitting these elements, which is consistent with their refusal to override Mr. Bush's most recent veto of the proposed expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. But Senate Democrats such as Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Charles E. Schumer of New York should push to provide more aid to the out-of- work and those who need help putting food on the table.

Giving low- and moderate-income families more buying power is the quickest way to stimulate the economy. The final package should encourage them to spend, not pocket their dollars.

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