Republican presidential hopeful Fred Thompson says he recognizes that the economy is headed in the wrong direction, with unemployment up to 5 percent nationwide and the consumer credit market tightening.
"It's reason to be concerned. I think that we have to be prepared to act," Thompson says in an NPR interview.
If he became president, he tells Robert Siegel, his plans for stimulating the economy could include adding $500 to the child tax credit, or giving a tax rebate to put money in people's pockets and encourage spending.
But Thompson says he's wary of outlining a specific stimulus package, telling NPR that too often, such a package "becomes like a Christmas tree. It becomes more of a pork barrel operation than something that affects the economy."
An economic stimulus package, Thompson says, must be planned in conjunction with economic advisers and must be mindful of the consequences of long-term inflation.
"The economists that I talk to are divided on the subject. For example, in the housing market, it would create a bigger bubble in the future," he says. "If these things were black-and-white issues, we would not be having these discussions."
Campaign Style: Walking vs. Running
Republicans are holding their first Southern primary Saturday in South Carolina, a state that has foretold the GOP nomination since 1980. Thompson has staked his presidential candidacy on the state.
When asked about criticism from South Carolina voters that the pace of his campaign is too slow, Thompson defends his campaign style.
"We're doing our thing, doing it the way we have always done it, which allowed me to win two races in Tennessee by 20 percent margins," he says
From Law & Order to Presidential Candidate
Many voters know Thompson from his role as New York's district attorney on television's long-running drama Law & Order. Thompson left the show last year to focus on his presidential bid.
"I've been sorely disappointed that they've been able to struggle on with that show without me," Thompson said, before laughing.
NPR asked Thompson if he thought Jack McCoy — the Law & Order character (played by actor Sam Waterston) who took over as the fictional district attorney — would ever run for president.
"It's a lot easier to run in television than it is in real life, but the rewards are greater in real life, too," Thompson says.