Failed PolicyEditor: General Motors, once the world's...


February 15, 1992

Failed Policy

Editor: General Motors, once the world's automotive giant, suffers record-breaking losses. R. H. Macy, the nation's greatest department store, goes bankrupt. IBM, once looked upon as the model of a successful and well-managed business enterprise, loses money for the first time in its history.

Every day, hundreds of businesses file for bankruptcy or downsize, throwing more people out of work.

The national debt is so huge we may not be able to afford the funding necessary for programs to provide a safety net for the poor or to help the middle class survive.

These are the tragic results of almost 12 years of Reagan-Bush laissez-faire economics and greed gone berserk.

But what are the Bush responses to these disastrous times? So far, we have seen a poorly conceived presidential trade mission to Japan resulting in Japanese scorn and ridicule. And more Madison Avenue photo-ops and sound bites.

And in his State of the Union address, we are presented with an economic recovery plan which relies on the same tired Republican panaceas for curing economic ills: less government regulation of business and a reduction in the capital gains tax to encourage investment.

We all know the results of less government regulation in the Eighties: the savings and loan debacle, record fraud on Wall Street and drugs sold in the marketplace that can often kill.

As for tax policies which were supposed to encourage investment in new industrial capacity, instead we got leveraged buyouts, junk bonds, massive business debt and the selling of company physical assets.

& Alfred S. Sharlip. Columbia.

Showing Off the U.S. at Seville

Editor: Garry Wills certainly is entitled to his opinion about the legacy of the former administration (''In Seville, the U.S. Builds a Monument to Decline'' Jan. 16), but he should not let that opinion get in the way of facts about the U.S. Pavilion at Expo '92 in Seville, Spain.

To begin with, it is the United States Information Agency, not the Commerce Department, which is charged with coordinating U.S. exhibits at such expositions. And it is because such expositions, and particularly the one being mounted at Seville, are far more than trade shows that USIA has so been charged.

Expo '92, as Mr. Wills correctly notes, is an international exposition, the first one held since Osaka in 1970 and the first in Europe since Brussels in 1958.

While its central theme is the idea of discovery embodied in Columbus' voyages to the New World (the admiral planned them in Seville), the exposition will really be a festival of over 110 countries coming together to remind us once again that we are all travelers on the same planet.

Mr. Wills is correct to say the U.S. pavilion will be centered on two themes, but I take strong exception to his dismissal of them as ''a copy of the Bill of Rights and GM automobiles.''

If nothing else, the cataclysmic events that have changed the world since 1989 are testament to and resounding vindication of the ideas contained in the Bill of Rights.

A year after Americans celebrated their bicentennial, I can think of nothing more appropriate for the United States to trumpet at an international exposition than the first 10 amendments to the Constitution and what they have meant to us as a nation.

The other main display at the U.S. pavilion will contain far more than GM automobiles. Its showpiece will be the Discovery Theater experience being prepared by General Motors, the same American company that created the highly touted Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Many American companies, big and small, were invited to participate in the U.S. exhibit and chose not to. I think GM should be applauded for its decision.

Mr. Wills also dismisses as time-worn and outdated the two new geodesic domes that will house the main displays, comparing them unfavorably with the $50 million wooden structure that he says ''will showcase Japan's new products.'' The Japanese exhibit will actually be devoted to the country's history and culture. And what Mr. Wills does not say about our pavilion is that Congress gave us only $13 million in June 1990, by which time construction costs had skyrocketed, and for the first time in history told a U.S. pavilion at an international exposition to get the rest of its money from the private sector.

Artist Peter Max is donating two exciting panels of original art, each 152 by 30 feet. A performing arts stage featuring a continuing mix of classical, popular and avant-garde entertainment and a complex sports program from all regions of the United States will also help draw in what we expect to be more that 50,000 visitors per day.

& Frederick M. Bush. Washington, D.C.

The writer is U.S. commissioner general to Expo '92.


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