America is in the early days of a revolution—more precisely, a counterrevolution—and seems not even to know it. Indeed, much of the intellectual energy being poured into the battle over President Bill Clinton’s tax-and-spend proposals is being wasted on purely peripheral arguments. Is raising the taxable portion of Social-Security income to be regarded as a tax increase or a spending reduction? Is allocating money for the inoculation of children to be counted as new spending or as an “investment”? Will higher taxes reduce consumption and jobs, or lower the deficit and interest rates, thereby stimulating consumption and creating jobs?
These questions have the charm of being almost unanswerable with any confidence, and the added attraction that, in years to come, so many forces will be operating on the economy simultaneously that no one will ever know who was right in the first place. But discussing such issues is far from harmless. For it directs attention away from what the Clinton budget tells us about this new administration’s fundamental socioeconomic plans for America, its vision of the future, the legacy that it would like to become known as Clintonism.
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