For those anxious about the country's long-term investment priorities, Mr. Clinton's approach is a clear break with the Reagan-Bush years. The president of the United States is no longer indulging our destructive national habit of scapegoating the public sector. For the first time in years we have a president who understands that public investment makes a vital contribution to private economic growth.
Mr. Clinton's definition of what constitutes an investment with future payoff is a little looser than many economists would
prefer. Using a somewhat more conservative definition, I calculate that he is proposing to spend some $24 billion more on public infrastructure and $36 billion more on education, training and children between now and 1997.
Given how we've been starving these areas, this new spending is welcome. But it's still below the levels needed to keep us from falling behind our major international competitors.
To finance these investments, Mr. Clinton has exceeded his campaign pledge to reduce military spending, which will now be cut some $76 billion below Mr. Bush's intentions over the next four years.
To sum up, the Clinton proposals lean pretty hard in the direction of deficit reduction and a fairer distribution of the burden of sacrifice. He has also made some real progress in shifting priorities in line with the new post-Cold War world we live in.
The big question mark is job creation. He is a little short on the stimulus and cuts it off a year sooner than may prove wise.
But he did what he said he'd do: he gave the country a serious, specific plan to start arguing over. Let the radio talk show phones start ringing.
Jeff Faux is president of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.