Back to the future

November 18, 1991

With the economy in a slump, consumer confidence down and Christmas shopping sputtering, George Bush has decided to wait until his State of the Union address in January to reveal his economic recovery plan.

Bush will be entering the third year of his presidency at that time. It is fair to wonder why it took so long, why the president didn't come up with an economic recovery plan in his first year of office, when things were already beginning to unravel. But the answer is obvious: 1992 is an election year.

The annual address to Congress and the nation ought to be nonpartisan. And using it to launch a re-election campaign is inappropriate, to say the least. Nonetheless, if the president is fixed on doing it, we hope the speech is more than a reiteration of the tired principles of Reaganomics. And we specifically commend to his attention Governor Schaefer's plan for Maryland, the major thrust of which is to kick-start construction projects like the building of schools, prisons and roads, thereby creating hundreds of jobs and pumping $271 million into the economy as well.

Come January, Bush could have a lot of explaining to do. With millions out of work, the quality of government services slipping and interest alone on the national debt an unprecedented slice of the budget pie (second only to defense spending), we suspect few Americans will be appeased with incantations about how the nation's economic problems can be solved with capital-gains cuts, bootstraps and a thousand points of light.

Bush can, and should, unveil a national project modeled on the one in Maryland. A federally generated jobs program to rebuild the country is not a new idea. But it is still a good one.

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