Thompson doubts need for economic stimulus

January 17, 2008 3:11:08 PM PST
Republican White House hopeful Fred Thompson made light of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's call for a quick economic stimulus Thursday and said it might be best to leave the economy alone for now. Thompson was answering questions in a restaurant where Bernanke could be seen on a TV urging short-term relief to avert a recession. Thompson was asked what he would do.

"You could probably get a 'Law & Order' rerun on TNT there if you wanted to switch that around a little bit," quipped Thompson, who acted on the series. When the host reminded him Bernanke is a South Carolina native, Thompson joked: "That looks a little boring to me. I don't care."

More seriously, he said he was not ready to embrace a stimulus package.

"We're all concerned about the direction of the economy," said the former Tennessee senator. "We've had a good run, but we can't take growth for granted." He said "we've got to have a potential stimulus package on the table to be discussed if it would make sense to be used in short order, but we're not quite there yet."

And doing nothing might leave the economy stronger, he said.

"There's a case to be made for that," he said. "And it just requires strong heads at the table and not snap judgments, you know, by politicians on the road trying to think of something smart to say in 30 seconds."

GOP rival John McCain, also campaigning in South Carolina ahead of the state's Republican primary Saturday, proposed cutting the corporate income tax to 25 percent from 35 percent and implementing other business tax breaks to expand the economy in the longer term.

McCain, too, appeared to resist a temporary fix, despite Bernanke's recommendation for "putting money into the hands of households and firms" quickly and on a short term basis.

Candidate Mitt Romney, in Columbia before flying to Nevada to campaign for the state's caucuses Saturday, said "it makes sense for Congress to take immediate action" and he'd have his own plan soon.