The Breakfast Table

Don’t Dis My List

Dear Jon,

Just goes to show–never trust an online publication. Or an editor.

As a charter member of the neo-lib movement in this town, I did respond to the balancing-rights-and-responsibilities sub-theme of his speech and I especially liked the education standards proposal–futile as it is. I also give him special credit for at least sneaking in a mention of family planning. But, as you say, Clinton doesn’t know when to stop. He can’t keep himself from pandering to every interest group that might chuck him a dollar or an uptick in the polls. And in doing that he gives the lie to his own message of fiscal rectitude. (You might say, if you’ve a yen to use the phrase again, it smacks of hypocrisy.)

Sure, I (and my boring Brookings friends) believe in cutting the debt so as to make fiscal room for increases in Social Security and Medicare spending down the road. But by the time you got done funding the out-year costs of all Clinton’s promises (and tax subsidies cost just as much–usually more–than direct spending ‘cause you can’t control them), you’d be lucky to have a nickel left over for the trust funds. Remember it won’t be that many years before the funds stop throwing off surpluses to cover the costs of other things and begin to call in all those IOUs Clinton’s been depositing in them to pay for his ongoing initiatives.

Gee, I liked my list. I put a lot of effort into compiling it as I listened to the president for what seemed a very long time last night. And no, we don’t pay by the word–and we don’t pay me any extra at all (even though I’m typing my fingers to the bone while Jack Shafer is pressing me to get editing his trial dispatch and a dozen other authors and editors are asking for this and that and I haven’t given even a thought to getting ready for my move to U.S. News and World Report next month). If you think that list was dull, wait till I tell you about the video-conference and dinner I went to last night at the Council on Foreign Relations … Well, maybe I’ll spare you that if you promise not to complain anymore.