Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is a Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His website can be found here and his blog can be found here.
B ill Clinton plans to spend $219 billion on educating and training Americans and on rebuilding the infrastructure of the nation. George Bush plans to cut taxes. In assessing the two plans, much of the media-along with Paul Tsongas, Warren Rudman, Pete Peterson, ross Perot, and a group of vocal academic economists-have focused on one deceptively simple question : Which plan will cut the budget deficit the most? On this criterion, Clinton's proposal is obviously superior because he has specified where the revenues would come from to pay for his plan; as of this writing, Bush has not-a difference that elicited belated, if not whole-hearted, support for Clinton's plan from Paul Tsongas, among other deficit fretters. But it's safe to assume that Bush soon will be compelled to offer his own laundry list of proposed spending cuts and "revenue enhancers" (no taxes, please), regardless of how gimmicky. The moment Bush's list is released, the debate about the two plans will shift to...
D emocrats should draw a bright line: No tax cut. Period. The surplus should be used instead for the three things regular working families need most: affordable health care (including prescription drugs), child care, and better schools. Instead Democrats are putting all their energies behind keeping Bush's tax cut closer to the $1.2 trillion they squeezed it down to in the Senate several weeks ago rather than the $1.6 trillion passed by the House. The $1.2 trillion "was a great victory for us," one prominent Democratic senator assured me recently. "In the end, if we can just keep 51 votes together, we'll triumph." Triumph? How can a tax cut anywhere near $1.2 trillion be considered a Democratic triumph? The public won't see any significant difference between it and Bush's $1.6 trillion proposal. Besides, either way, Republicans (who, let us remind ourselves, have the majority in both houses of Congress, plus the presidency) will make sure that most of its beneficiaries are people in...
One party claims that the budget surplus will be small and that the most important goal is to eliminate the debt. The other says the surplus will be big and we can do ambitious things with it. You'd be forgiven if you thought that the first party was the Democrats and the second the Republicans. But it's actually the reverse. The Democrats are marching under the banner of fiscal austerity, and the Republicans proclaim this the era of large ambition.
"Here's the facts," says George W., pointing to the latest estimate from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) showing that the nation could well afford his plan to trim income taxes by $1.3 trillion over 10 years and still have enough money to fund social programs.
The White House claims the surplus is far less. And it says retiring the debt should be the nation's first big priority. "Let's make America debt-free for the first time since 1835!" the president exuded in his State of the...
The New York TImes
The way a debate is framed and choices are posed is often more important than which
option is chosen. That's because the framing of the debate sends a powerful message to
the public about what's at stake. It sets the boundaries of discourse. For politicians to stray
beyond requires too much explaining and runs the risk of appearing irrelevant or radical.
The debate over what to do with the Federal budget surplus offers a case in point.
Congressional Republicans want to use almost all of it for a tax cut. President Clinton
argues that it should be used to pay off present and future obligations. "Save Social
Security. Save Medicare.... And get America out of debt for the first time since 1835," he
said last week in response to the Republican proposal.
Both alternatives cutting taxes and paying off obligations are attractive, if done equitably.
Once the posturing is over, any final compromise...
In Washington, a "gaffe" occurs when a high-level official accidentally says what he means. The Bush administration has been remarkably gaffe-free so far, with almost everyone sticking to the same bland script. All except Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, that is, whose gaffes offer a glimpse into the real philosophy of the Bush corporation that now runs the United States. O'Neill's latest occurred in a recent interview with the Financial Times in which he questioned why the government should provide Social Security, Medicare or any other social insurance. "Able-bodied adults should save enough on a regular basis so that they can provide for their own retirement and, for that matter, health and medical needs," he said. The Treasury secretary's candor goes a long way toward explaining why Bush's giant $1.3-trillion tax cut--most of whose benefits will go to multimillionaires like O'Neill--hasn't caused more worry in the White House about what will happen to Social Security and Medicare...