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News Link • Economy - Economics USA

Does The Strengthening Economy Still Need Congress?

• by Marilyn Geewax

Congress is poised to approve legislation to continue a payroll tax holiday and extend benefits for the long-term unemployed.

The goal is to make sure Americans have enough spending money to keep the recovery from faltering. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation.

And most economists are applauding, saying Congress should pass the measure to stimulate growth, even though many indicators already are pointing up. Recent data show job creation is accelerating, retail sales are improving and even housing is perking up a bit. The stock market has been advancing sharply.

But all of it is fragile.

"If you withdrew the stimulus, consumer spending would be less," said Ann Owen, a professor at Hamilton College and a former economist at the Federal Reserve.

And this economy needs every possible penny of consumer spending because it remains so far from healthy, she said. "Consumer confidence is growing, but we're not there yet," she said. "There would be a real risk if you withdrew this stimulus."

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