Sen. Baucus is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

A lot of economists -- and a lot of regular Americans -- see that America’s economy is slowing down, and times are getting tougher for a lot of folks. Prices for food, gasoline, and home heating oil have skyrocketed right before our eyes. And there are many Americans -- our nation’s senior citizens -- whose only source of funds for these necessities is in a once-a-month envelope from the Social Security Administration. And any Social Security beneficiary will tell you she hasn’t seen the amount of her check increase enough to cover today’s rising costs.

This reality is just one reason why, when Congress acts on an economic stimulus package this week, we should insist on a $500 tax rebate for 20 million lower-income seniors who can use this money now.

But a rebate for seniors is more than a feel-good measure. Rebates for 20 million additional seniors will literally help our economic stimulus package work better. Seniors are among the Americans most likely to spend a refund right away and pump cash back into the economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans over 65 are responsible for 14 percent of all consumer spending. People over 65 spend 92 percent of their yearly incomes. People over 75 spend 98 percent of their incomes. In 2006, Americans over 65 had a combined income of $863 billion -- and those seniors purchased more than $800 billion worth of goods in the same year.

Congress needs to do the right thing by seniors, and by the American economy. We should extend a tax rebate to 20 million senior citizens living on Social Security.