CHICAGO President Bush took a page out of his father”s political playbook yesterday, using the floor of one of the nation”s major trading hubs to warn that the economy is sputtering and needs the kick that he said a tax cut would provide.

Paul Wong
President Bush addresses traders on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange seeking support for his proposed income tax cut.<br><br>AP PHOTO

While he urged the traders to pressure Congress to support his proposal to reduce taxes by $1.6 trillion over 10 years, in Washington the House Republican leader was pressing for a larger cut.

House Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas said the apparent weakness in the economy justified cutting taxes even more.

“There is no reason for us to be boxed in by that number,” Armey said. “I will continue to prod everybody. We need to look at what we can do to move the economy along at a better pace.”

In what has become typical of his on-the-road campaign for the tax cut, Bush spent all of 13 minutes at the microphone, delivering a melange of political kidding aimed at Mayor Richard Daley, in this case presidential applause for the entrepreneurial spirit and red-flag warnings about the economy.

Speaking in the high-tech pit of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange where cattle futures are traded, Bush said:

“We”re facing a problem. And the problem is our economy”s slowing down. You all know that as well as anybody does. This kind of great boom is beginning to sputter a little bit.”

He added: “I think it is particularly appropriate to not only cut taxes to make sure there”s fiscal discipline in Washington, but it”s necessary to make sure this economy doesn”t continue to sputter. When you give people some of their own money back, or don”t take it in the first place, they will have money in their pockets to spend.”

The size and reach of the tax cut has begun to grip Republicans. As Armey argued to increase it, saying he would expand Individual Retirement Accounts and provide new tax breaks for investments in software to boost the high tech industry, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), said a bigger tax cut would not fly in the Senate.

Given the Senate”s 50-50 split, Grassley said efforts to increase the tax cut would simply split the GOP and drain support from Republican moderates.

President George H.W. Bush visited the Merc in December 1991, using it as a political stage during the 1992 primary election campaign while the nation was struggling to emerge from recession. During that visit, he acknowledged that the U.S. economy, under his watch, needed a “kick” to “get it started up again.”

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