AT the Clinton-Gore campaign's Little Rock headquarters,
economic policy director Gene Sperling holds the dubious
distinction of putting in the longest and most frenetic day.
Mr. Sperling has to move fast during his 19-hour workday to pull
together the steady stream of proposals from the dozens of
economists and businessmen advising the Clinton organization.
The Arkansas governor draws from a diverse pool of advisers,
Sperling says, running down a list that includes Wall Street
bankers, CEOs, and economists, some of whom have long supported
more government intervention in the marketplace, such as would
result from industrial policy that helps business compete
aggressively in global markets. Some of them see the immediate need
to contain government costs and bring down the burgeoning deficit
while others put the highest priority on added government spending.
Just about the only common denominator in this group is the view
that government should be more active in promoting the private
sector and public financing - or as Clinton says, to address the
The candidate's plans range from federal mandates on employers
to cover workers' health insurance costs (or submit to a
commensurate federal tax) to investment tax credits that encourage
businesses to invest in their own development and expansion. They
say Uncle Sam should pour more public funds into education, job
training, and infrastructure projects such as transportation.
Advocates of Clintonomics see it as an attempt to bridge the
widening divide between America's rich and poor by creating the
conditions for business development and more jobs. For starters,
the Clinton plan calls for $219 billion in new government spending
for education, worker training, and other programs to enrich the
country's "human capital resources."
Where's the money going to come from?
Robert Shapiro, vice president of the Progressive Policy
Institute, the think tank of the Democratic Leadership Council,
says it won't come from higher income taxes, although Clinton's
plan includes raising the tax burden on the rich and trying to
crack down on foreign firms that avoid US taxes. "The bottom line
... is that every dollar of new spending will be offset by a dollar
of savings elsewhere in the budget."
Mr. Shapiro, who contributed to Clinton's economic plan and is a
likely candidate for budget director in a Clinton administration,
says "the problem is not sim-ply that we don't spend enough money.
The problem is also the way we spend money." Clinton would reduce
growth in government spending to curb the deficit and cut funding
for defense and discretionary programs. "Ultimately it's got to
come out of entitlements," Shapiro says.
Harvard economic policy professor Robert Reich, whose
association with Clinton dates back to their days as Rhodes
scholars at Oxford, disputes the view that deficits, by definition,
are dangerous. If anything, he says, the US economy is stalled
because government refuses to devote enough resources to building a
better educated, more competitive work force.
Mr. Reich identifies two primary reasons why worker productivity
and the US economy is slackening. First, wealthy individuals and
businesses have failed to invest a sufficient portion of their
windfall from the fat Reagan-Bush years into US factories,
machinery and equipment. At the same time, government is in a debt
stranglehold, and cannot muster adequate funding for human and
physical resources: education and training, early child and health
care, roads, tunnels, and bridges. …