Clinton sends phalanx of economists backing his plans against Bush battalion

October 09, 1992|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Engaging in numerical combat, the Clinton-Gore campaign tried to out-economist the Bush-Quayle team yesterday.

To answer the "l00 leading economists" in a Republican campaign commercial who have recently been warning television viewers that the Democrats would introduce higher taxes and larger deficits, the Clinton-Gore team produced 556 economists to say just the opposite. They included nine Nobel laureates.

The message: Mr. Clinton is no traditional tax-and-spend Democrat, but has his economic priorities in correct order -- stimulate the economy to make it strong enough to reduce the deficit.

"I would strongly favor a short-run stimulus. It would be a very good idea," said Robert M. Solow, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a 1987 Nobel prizewinner.

Mr. Solow denied that the Clinton plan would raise taxes generally and said that only the richest 1.25 percent of taxpayers would face higher tax bills under the current proposal.

"I would hope the Democratic party would not shrink from asking for taxes to pay for desirable things. But the [Clinton] program does not have that in it. The massive expenditures aren't there," Mr. Solow said.

The Clinton program is based on stimulating growth through public spending and private investment incentives. It depends for extra revenues mainly on taxing $20 billion from the rich, collecting $10 billion more from foreign corporations, reforming health care to reduce costs, and slimming down government.

At a news conference to announce support from economists on campuses around the country, Robert Eisner, of Northwestern University, a former president of the American Economics Association, took aim at independent candidate Ross Perot's focus on deficit reduction.

"The bottom line is employment, income, investment," said Mr. Eisner, adding that an immediate austerity campaign to achieve huge deficit cuts would be "disastrous" for economic recovery.

"It's like trying to cure the overweight of a person by telling him you will cut off his legs. That's no way to get the economy moving," he said.

In their statement, the 556 economists said: "We believe that Governor Clinton's program is a good foundation for rebuilding the U.S. economy over the next four years, and reflects a solid understanding of the need to increase both public and private investment."

The Clinton-Gore support was drawn mainly from academic economists. Among the signatories were economists from Johns Hopkins and Towson State universities and the University of Maryland.

One of them is Arnold Packer, senior fellow at Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, who was executive director of the Bush administration's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, which recommended educational and training standards for the young.

"The things that were recommended to be done tend to need an activist policy," said Mr. Packer, who worked with the commission until earlier this year. "Now my concern . . . is who has got the program that is going to impart those skills?

"The program that Clinton has is more likely to make it possible for kids to get those skills."

Mr. Packer, a registered Democrat who served as assistant secretary for policy at the Labor Department during the Carter administration, said he was not sure whether Mr. Clinton would achieve his economic goal of halving the deficit in four years, but added: "The important figure is jobs. How many jobs is he going to produce in four years, and how much wage increase and productivity increase are going to be associated with those jobs?

"The deficit will be a function of growth and other things, but the emphasis has to be on productivity, wages, employment and prices."

Among the other Maryland academics endorsing the Clinton-Gore program were:

* At the University of Maryland, College Park, Martin N. Baily, professor of economics; Lee E. Preston, professor of business and management; Thomas Schelling, professor of economics; Robert E. Scott, assistant professor of business and management; Susan K. Taylor, graduate fellow, economics.

* At Johns Hopkins University, Stephen R. Blough, assistant professor of economics; Carl F. Christ, professor emeritus, economics; Richard G. Frank, professor of health policy and management; Martin S. Gaynor, assistant professor of health policy and management; Allison S. Jones, research assistant, health policy and management; Louis Maccini, professor of economics; David Salkever, professor of health policy and management.

* At Towson State University, Louise Laurence, assistant professor of economics.

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