Wheaton Wire, February 1994

President Clinton's proposed Economic Plan doesn't satisfy at least one member of the Economics department at Wheaton. Professor John Miller spoke on the proposal as part of the ongoing Faculty Lecture Series last Wednesday, and expressed the view that the plan "doesn't match up to campaign rhetoric or current problems," and is "timid." About thirty students and faculty members attended the lecture in the faculty dining room in Emerson to learn more about how the plan, if passed, will affect them and the country.

Professor Miller began his lecture by examining economic policies of past administrations, and contrasting them with the Clinton plan. He stressed the difference between Reagan/Bush era policies, and what Clinton's proposal entails. A dramatic spending change occurred while Reagan and Bush held office, said Miller. Defense spending rose under their presidencies, housing and job training was cut, the interest on the national debt rose from 9 to 14 percent, and health care costs skyrocketed. Such policies, stated Miller, lead to the dissatisfaction of many who labeled the programs as "borrow and squander" policies and the era as one where "the rich got richer, and the poor poorer."

Among these critics was Clinton, who, said Miller based his campaign booklet on economic reform, "Putting People First," largely on Anti-Reagan/Bush policies. The plan outlined in this campaign piece details what was, in Clinton's opinion, wrong with past fiscal policy. As the title "Putting People First" would suggest, the main emphasis was on a largely neglected work force, and lack of employment opportunities. Putting people to work also provides a theme for the current economic stimulus package.

Clinton's plan, said Miller, has several objectives. The first is to stimulate the economy through government spending that would lead to employment, the second would be to balance the budget by raising taxes, and the third objective is to create some kind of health care reform. In total, 16.3 billion dollars would be spent on extensions of jobless benefits, small business loan guarantees, summer jobs and loans for students, transportation, and health and human service projects. In addition, defense forces would be cut by 76 billion dollars over four years.

When evaluating this program, Professor Miller continually stressed that it "doesn't go far enough." While he conceded that cutting the deficit should be a priority, he felt that Clinton's program was "mainstream and inefficient" for that goal. In addition, he said that Clinton "might have gone after the Perot vote too hard with a promise to reduce the deficit quickly." Miller also said that the amount of money to be spent in the stimulus package was " nowhere near enough." He compared a recent economic plan in Japan, as they first dealt with a recession and noted that "they spent 115 billion... that's a stimulus package." He expressed concern for the fact that a full employment program is not in the package, and that job growth is still "lagging." He also criticized the amount of money involved in proposed military cuts, saying again that it "fell far short."

In conclusion, Miller threw out a few of his own ideas for reform, and pondered Clinton's future. "Basically," he said, "the program is a step in the right direction, but I wish it would just be applied more vigorously." He also questioned the raising of taxes as a means of stimulus, and said, "you don't have to be an economics major to know that raising taxes may dampen the economy instead of strengthening it." Concerning tax reform, Miller said he was in favor of furthering increasing of taxes on the richest Americans, and having financially secure Social Security recipients pay more in taxes. As far as Clinton's future is concerned, Miller leans to the pessimistic side. He said that we have to remember that "economic stagnation killed Bush, and if Clinton can't get something going, he'll be out the door, too."


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