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The Battle of the Budget in Plain English



Think Tank Transcripts:The Battle of the Budget



ANNOUNCER: 'Think Tank' has been made possible by Amgen, arecipient of the Presidential National Medal of Technology. Amgen,bringing better, healthier lives to people worldwide throughbiotechnology.

Additional funding is provided by the John M. Olin Foundation, theRandolph Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation.

MR. WATTENBERG: Hello, I'm Ben Wattenberg. The battle of thebudget rages in Washington and it has a vocabulary all its own: CBO,OMB, baselines, entitlements, scoring, debt ceilings, reconciliation.What does it all mean? Is it petty bickering or historic change? Andwhatever happened to plain English?

Joining us to sort through the conflict and the consensus are:Robert Reischauer, former director of the Congressional Budget Officeand a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Allen Schick,professor of public policy at the University of Maryland and authorof 'The Federal Budget: Politics, Policy, Process'; David Mason,director of the U.S. Congress assessment project at the HeritageFoundation; and Stephen Moore, director of fiscal studies at the CatoInstitute.

The question before this house: The battle of the budget, in plainEnglish. This week on 'Think Tank.'

The White House and the Congress have been fighting over abalanced budget. Republicans say that the budget battle is aboutfundamentally changing the direction of America toward fiscalresponsibility and less government.

SEN. BOB DOLE (R-KS): (From videotape.) We're not going to change40 years of a drift towards Washington in 6 months or 8 months oreven a year, but it will be done. We are going to balance the budgetin seven years. Make no mistake about it, it's going to get done.(Applause.)

MR. WATTENBERG: Democrats say it's about a tax cut for the richand stealing entitlements from the middle class and the poor.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: (From videotape.) The Republican Congress hasshut down the federal government because they haven't passed a budgetfor this year and because they want to make the price of opening thegovernment up my acceptance of seven long years of unacceptable cutsin health care, education and the environment, in research andtechnology.

MR. WATTENBERG: There is one thing both sides agree upon: spendingis outrunning revenues, creating big deficits. If nothing is done,the budget deficit would be $231 billion in the year 2002. UnderPresident Clinton's latest proposal, the deficit would still be at$115 billion. The Republican plan would balance the budget in sevenyears.

What is causing these continual federal deficits? Principally,they come from skyrocketing growth in entitlements, like SocialSecurity and Medicare. By the year 2010, if not corrected,entitlements would consume all the tax revenues not devoted to payingoff the national debt. That would mean the federal government wouldbe forced to run bigger and bigger deficits to pay for Defense,Education, the FBI, National Parks, and every other federal agency.

Allen Schick, what's the argument about?

MR. SCHICK: Republicans and Democrats say they're fighting overideology, but they're fighting over numbers -- a bigger or smallertax cut, more or less for Medicare and Medicaid. Behind the numbersstand programs and interests and my getting more or less from thegovernment, but at the end of the day, because they're fighting overnumbers, they'll reach an agreement.

MR. WATTENBERG: Stephen Moore, Allen says it's not theology. Isthat right?

MR. MOORE: Well, if you look at these two budgets that are on thetable, President Clinton wants to spend $13 trillion over the nextseven years; the Republicans want to spend $12 trillion over the nextseven years. That's enough money to fight World War II three times.So I would make the case that under either budget, big governmentwins.

MR. WATTENBERG: David Mason.

MR. MASON: I think there are fundamental differences here. You'reright, we're talking about small differences in terms of a percentageof the federal government, but there's a principle, and that is, isthe government ever going to start living within its means? Andimportantly, starting about the year 2002, baby boomers are going tostart to retire, and some of the bills for Social Security and someof the other entitlement programs will start swelling, and so if wedon't get the deficit under control before then, it probably neverwill be done.

MR. WATTENBERG: Bob Reischauer.

MR. REISCHAUER: I think there's more philosophy in this than thereis numbers, and I think there are huge differences between theRepublicans and the president on such things as whether certainentitlements, like Medicaid, should retain their current forms.Should we have a guarantee for health insurance for low-incomeAmericans?

MR. WATTENBERG: My sense is that the single most important changeis what they want to do with welfare. Would you buy that?

MR. REISCHAUER: Well, really, the president and the Congressaren't too far apart on welfare. The president, remember, is agovernor, a former governor, and he has signed on to the notion thatwe will have block grants for the welfare system.

MR. WATTENBERG: Yeah, but that is a huge change. I mean --

MR. REISCHAUER: That is a huge change in policy.

MR. WATTENBERG: And the fact that they both agree with it makesit, in some sense, even a huger change.

MR. REISCHAUER: Oh, it is, but it's not a source of disagreementin this current --

MR. WATTENBERG: Right.

MR. SCHICK: Welfare is a small part of the welfare policy.Medicaid is a much bigger part of federal assistance --

MR. WATTENBERG: In terms of dollars.

MR. SCHICK: -- to low-income people, in terms of dollars and interms of importance to the states.

MR. MOORE: But the importance of this, Ben, both with respect toMedicaid and welfare programs, is that for the first time, ifRepublicans get their way and we turn this back to the states in ablock grant, we will be de-entitling a program. This is somethingthat's never happened in Washington before.

MR. WATTENBERG: But you're the person who just said a minute agothat big government's going to win anyway. Now you're saying this isa revolutionary change.

MR. MOORE: I think the one area -- I would agree with the commentyou made -- the one area I think Republicans are making a verydramatic change in the way Washington works is with respect towelfare and Medicaid.

MR. WATTENBERG: What does de-entitling mean? I mean we have this-- the topic of the program is 'In plain English,' so we have to --

MR. MOORE: De-entitling means that we're not going to let theseprograms grow on a -- just on an automatic basis. We're going to puta cap on how much these programs can grow each year. And that's Ithink a very historic change.

MR. WATTENBERG: In other words --

MR. REISCHAUER: That's not really what de-entitling means.De-entitling means that an individual in a state will have no legalright to a benefit unless that state provides the individual with alegal right to the benefit.

MR. MOORE: When you get into the issue of philosophy of thisbudget versus Clinton's, I think here is a very basic philosophicaldisagreement. Republicans are running as sort of the anti-Washingtonparty, and they're basically saying, look, we've had 30 years of theNew Deal welfare state, the Great Society, and it hasn't worked, wethink that states can run the programs better. This is something thatthe special interest groups in Washington find most objectionable inthe Republican budget.

MR. SCHICK: I find it ironic that Republicans would run as theanti-Washington party, but say with respect to Medicaid, which willcost billions and -- tens and hundreds of billions of dollars, UncleSam, you still write the check and mail it to 50 state capitals.That's what disentitling means, that Uncle Sam pays the bill and thestate decides what to do with it. In fact --

MR. WATTENBERG: You are not a happy camper about the entitlementplan, I gather.

MR. SCHICK: No. In fact, under the Republican plan, the percentagepaid by Washington for Medicaid will rise.

MR. WATTENBERG: Let me pose this question to try to understandthis. In the early 1980s, President Reagan was fond of quoting MiltonFriedman by saying, 'There is no free lunch,' and he was talkingfrequently about the fact of these deficits.

In 1992, Governor then-candidate Clinton repeated again and againthe mantra, 'No more something for nothing.'

Does this budget bill, which has a glide path to a balancedbudget, is that the culmination of this kind of thinking, 'no moresomething for nothing,' 'there is no free lunch,' you got to pay forit. Is that fair?

MR. MOORE: Well, I think it is historic that this is the firsttime in 30 years that any Congress or any president has put abalanced budget on the table. Now, I don't believe --

MR. REISCHAUER: No, but let's put this in --

MR. WATTENBERG: Well, what about all those other budget bills? Imean, didn't the Bush bill have a balanced budget in the out years?

MR. REISCHAUER: Let's put this in perspective. This is the thirdinning of a game, and the two previous innings that we've played, the1990 budget deal and the 1993 budget deal, both reduced the deficitvery substantially and have contributed to getting us to the pointwhere we can with the next jump reach a balanced budget.

MR. MOORE: I strongly disagree with you.

MR. REISCHAUER: Now, we thought when we were enacting the 1990budget deal that it was going to get us very close to a balancedbudget, a deficit of something around $28 billion by 1995.

MR. SCHICK: And tell us what happened, Bob. We had a recession?

MR. REISCHAUER: You know, what happened was the economy --

MR. MOORE: We had a big tax increase that caused a recession.

MR. REISCHAUER: -- the economy fell apart, we had a recession,which took a long time for us to recover from, the spending on thesavings and loan fiasco was delayed and pushed into out years. MR.WATTENBERG: Well, I mean, but that's what happens --

MR. REISCHAUER: And a series of sort of unexpected increases inunemployment insurance, AFDC and food stamp spending --

MR. WATTENBERG: You say unexpected because of the recession; thattriggered it.

MR. SCHICK: Not only the recession.

MR. REISCHAUER: It was more than could be explained by therecession.

MR. WATTENBERG: Social conditions generally.

MR. SCHICK: Social conditions, a rise in food stamp recipientsfrom 19 million to 27 million, and that rise did not go away when therecession went away.

MR. WATTENBERG: Triggered perhaps by --

MR. SCHICK: Social breakdown of family structure.

MR. WATTENBERG: -- this increase in out-of-wedlock birth, thosesorts of social conditions.

MR. SCHICK: Things like that, as well as the recession.

MR. MOORE: But the supply-siders, who were critics of both the1990 and 1993 budget deals, said, look, if you impose these veryrecord tax increases, it's going to destroy the economy, and youcan't balance the budget if you don't have the economy growing.

MR. WATTENBERG: Well, but we had --

MR. MOORE: And that's exactly what happened. So -- MR. WATTENBERG:We had eight prior recessions to this one. Why do you say that thattax cut -- that that tax increase caused -- I mean what caused theother eight recessions?

MR. MOORE: Well, we had, prior to this recession, remember, Ben,we had a record expansion after the Reagan tax cuts. And the point isthat this budget deal the Republicans put on the table is verydifferent. They're going to balance the budget by cutting taxes,whereas the previous budget deals that never came close to balancingthe budget raised taxes.

MR. SCHICK: You mean they say they're going to balance the budgetby cutting taxes. I don't think that what Congress is doing with thepresident in 1996 is going to assure a balanced budget in 2002 unlessthe economy cooperates and the economy is running on its own steam.

MR. WATTENBERG: Let me ask a question, a factual question onbehalf of the tens of millions of people who are watching thisprogram. Is there anything to prevent a future Congress from changingthis whole deal?

MR. MOORE: No. That's the problem.

MR. SCHICK: Absolutely nothing.

MR. MOORE: A seven-year -- this is one thing I agree with Allenon.

MR. WATTENBERG: I mean, next year there's a presidential election.New Congress comes in, Democratic Congress, it's a more conservativeRepublican Congress, they say, hey, here's a clean blackboard, let'sgo play.

MR. REISCHAUER: Even if we were to enact this major deficitreduction proposal, this would not be the end to end all futureproposals. We will have mid-course corrections. Priorities willchange, the state of the economy will change, parties will changewhat they want, and --

MR. WATTENBERG: But it would be politically much more difficult togo to an unbalanced budget in the future, is that right?

MR. REISCHAUER: That's correct.

MR. SCHICK: But this will not be the battle of the budget.

MR. REISCHAUER: That's for sure.

MR. SCHICK: This will be not the last battle over the deficit, andCongress and the president will lock horns over it again and again.

MR. MOORE: Ben, I think that --

MR. MASON: The one place where I think the change could be kind ofpermanent is in these entitlement programs because if we change thoseand we say no longer are we going to say that every person in Americawho meets this category is going to get a check from the government,I don't think a future Congress as a political matter is going to goback, simply because it'll be too expensive. So we could make somechanges here that'll really stick.

MR. MOORE: I think everyone would agree that entitlements are whatare blowing up our budget, and the one thing that I would giveRepublicans credit for and I think the left has been irresponsible onis, for once we have a Congress that's taking on the entitlements. Imean, they're taking on Medicare, they're taking on Medicaid, they'retaking on welfare, and what's happening is the left is saying, oh,you can't take on these programs.

MR. WATTENBERG: Do you agree with that, Bob, that this -- is thatan accurate rendition of what happened? I mean, everybody was sayingyou got to deal with entitlements, and now they're dealing withentitlements and they're catching hell for it.

MR. REISCHAUER: We have dealt with entitlements in the 1980s, wehave dealt with them in 1990, we dealt with them in 1993. This is nota difference in kind, it's a difference in magnitude. I'd just liketo add that it's not all entitlements that are running amok. TheAFDC, or welfare program and food stamp programs are not expected togrow faster than the economy over the next 5 or 10 years. The problemis the health care programs, Medicare and Medicaid. And the proposalis, of course, to de-entitle Medicaid, but we don't know if thepresident will accept that, and I doubt that he will. And withrespect to Medicare, the Republicans had an innovative proposal,really, to fix the budget for that, to say each year we will spend acertain amount of money on health care for the aged and the disabledthrough the Medicare program. That would be a major step towardscontrolling that program.

MR. WATTENBERG: Let's move on to some of the questions that to anoutsider are almost impenetrable. The Democrats say these are deepcuts particularly aimed at the middle class and particularly thepoor, and the Republicans say it is merely a decrease in the rate ofincrease.

MR. MOORE: Well, Ben, over the next --

MR. WATTENBERG: Are either of those things true or both of them or--

MR. SCHICK: Both of them are true.

MR. WATTENBERG: -- neither?

MR. SCHICK: Both of them are true because health care, which --Bob is right -- are the drivers of the deficit, goes up because ofinflation, because of technology, because of use of medical servicesyear after year, and the question is, what should be the rate ofgrowth of these programs over the next five or seven years andbeyond? So we are talking about --

MR. MASON: So in fact, both aren't true. Both aren't true. We'retalking about --

MR. WATTENBERG: Both are true, you say?

MR. MASON: No, both aren't. He said both are true, and I'm sayingno, both are not true. In fact, the question is the rate of growth.And last year, when President Clinton and Hillary Clinton had theirhealth care plan, they were talking about beginning to limit the rateof growth in Medicare spending. That's what the Republicans aretalking about today. And it is very significant because the programis so big. But this idea of politically coming in and banging on theRepublicans and saying there are going to be children in the streetsand families put out, people without medical care is ridiculous andirresponsible.

MR. SCHICK: That's not true. That's not true. If we're talkingabout --

MR. MASON: They're talking about small changes in the program.

MR. SCHICK: No, you can't have it both ways. You can't say it'sthis big policy with small changes. We're talking about, in the caseof Medicare, the middle-class program, the changes, in my judgment,are relatively small. In the case of -- in effect, Medicare will betransformed into a service which most Americans who work are familiarwith, managed care. An increasing portion of Americans are already inan HMO.

MR. WATTENBERG: So it's not a huge deal?

MR. SCHICK: It's not a huge deal. Medicaid is a different story.Medicaid, if the spending is capped, if the states have greaterdiscretion in how or to limit services, we will indeed find a lot oflow-income people, particularly during periods of recession, withoutaccess to some of these services.

MR. WATTENBERG: Isn't the argument made that so many people stayon welfare because the Medicaid is so attractive, so if the Medicaidis made less attractive, more people would leave welfare.

MR. MOORE: Ben, if --

MR. SCHICK: Let's take a closer look.

MR. WATTENBERG: Is that the way the argument is made?

MR. MOORE: Look at the numbers on welfare.

MR. REISCHAUER: There is an argument made that way. I don't thinkthere's a lot of empirical evidence that supports the argument.

MR. SCHICK: But let's look at the numbers on Medicaid.

MR. MOORE: No, let's look at all welfare. If you look at --

MR. WATTENBERG: Steve.

MR. MOORE: We just published a study at Cato that shows theaverage person on welfare is receiving about $9 an hour in terms ofwhat -- the equivalent of a job. Now, it's very difficult to getpeople off welfare when you're providing a very generous benefit.

MR. WATTENBERG: I saw that study, where it's about -- the medianstate is about $22,000 in pre-tax income if you count everything.

MR. MOORE: That's right. This is a fairly -- now, that includesMedicaid, AFDC, food stamps, the whole range.

MR. WATTENBERG: Right.

MR. REISCHAUER: That's if you get everything, but the averageperson doesn't get everything. MR. MOORE: But even if you take out --no, if you get --

MR. REISCHAUER: Doesn't get housing assistance. MR. MOORE: If youget AFDC, you also get food stamps, you get Medicaid, and those arethe three major programs, even if you take out housing. But let mejust make one quick point. I think most people --

MR. REISCHAUER: But if we're going to make that kind ofcomparison, we should include in your salary and my salary the fringebenefits we're getting from our employer, like the health insurance.

MR. MOORE: Right. Right. This is --

MR. REISCHAUER: And we are. And that is not -- you can't --

MR. MOORE: -- without any fringe benefits. But a lot of people atsix dollars an hour don't get fringe benefits.

MR. WATTENBERG: Steve Moore, why don't you finish up? Then I wantto ask one other question.

MR. MOORE: Okay. Well, Ben, I think Dave Mason is right. Mostpeople do think that this budget is making dramatic cuts in spending.Over the next seven years, the federal budget will go up by $350billion. That's larger than the entire budget as recently as 1970, so--

MR. WATTENBERG: Yeah, but is that -- that's not corrected forpopulation growth.

MR. MOORE: Over the next seven years, under the Republican budget,spending goes up by roughly the rate of inflation. It's notunprecedented in our history, Ben, that we had periods of time whenwe reduced spending.

MR. WATTENBERG: No, I understand.

MR. MOORE: We're in a post cold war era. We should be cuttingspending across the board. You could make a strong argument that weshould be not only running a balanced budget, but running a surplusnow. That's what we normally do after war periods.

MR. WATTENBERG: Right. Let me go on to another question that comesup all the time. The Democrats say it's a tax cut for the rich, andthe Republicans say, oh, no it isn't. This $500 tax credit forchildren is, what, for families under $80,000 income, something likethat.

MR. MASON: 95,000.

MR. WATTENBERG: Excuse me?

MR. REISCHAUER: 95,000.

MR. WATTENBERG: $95,000. It's principally a middle-class tax cut.That involves two-thirds of the total tax cut. Who's right? Are bothright again?

MR. MASON: Well, the Democrats criticize in particular the capitalgains tax cut. They argue about the $500-a-child, but their figures--

MR. WATTENBERG: But wait a minute. Two-thirds -- let's just nailone thing down. Two-thirds of the Republican tax cut is going as achildren's -- a European-style social democrat, $500-a-child taxcredit to people of under $95,000 income. So that's a fact. We agreewith that. Okay --

MR. MASON: And it was designed so that just as much of a tax cutwould go to poor people as to upper-middle-income people makingalmost a hundred thousand dollars a year. The reason it was a taxcredit --

MR. WATTENBERG: But the really poor people don't get $500 becausethey don't pay taxes, because it's a credit.

MR. MASON: If they don't pay taxes, but the reason it was a taxcredit was so that someone making 30 or 40 thousand dollars a yearwould get $500 off their tax bill, and somebody making 70 or 80 or 90thousand dollars a year would get the same $500.

MR. REISCHAUER: I think the real issue on the tax cut is should webe having one at all? Because both the president and the Congresswant a tax cut, we're having to cut programs even more than weotherwise would have to cut them.

MR. MOORE: That's the argument for the tax cut.

MR. REISCHAUER: Hmm?

MR. MOORE: That's my argument for the tax credit.

MR. REISCHAUER: Well, I mean, but your goal is not a balancedbudget, it's a smaller government.

MR. MOORE: To get government -- right.

MR. REISCHAUER: And many of us would think first things first,let's reduce the deficit.

MR. WATTENBERG: But, Bob, what on earth is wrong with giving theirparents -- it's targeted to families with children -- some greendollars?

MR. REISCHAUER: Tax credits are fine, you know, if you can affordthem. You know, lower taxes are fine if you can afford them. Thequestion is, can we afford that right now?

MR. MASON: There are two reasons why this is important right now,and number one is because we want to do something to try to help theeconomy out while we're balancing the budget.

MR. REISCHAUER: That does nothing --

MR. MASON: And the whole tax package does that.

MR. REISCHAUER: -- that does nothing to help the economy.

MR. MASON: The other reason is that, to the extent that we'regoing to cut middle-class welfare programs, we're going to cutstudent loans, which President Clinton complains about all the time,we want to put something back into the pockets of the families andsay, here, we're going to give you this $500 a year, which in fact ifyou started saving it when a child was young, could pay for a collegeeducation at a state university, to put that back money back in --

MR. SCHICK: Dave, let's talk in plain English.

MR. WATTENBERG: Oh, okay, here we go. English.

MR. SCHICK: There is one reason why you want the tax cut, andthat's because you want to take money out of Uncle Sam's pocket.

MR. MASON: That's right.

MR. SCHICK: The federal government should be smaller, should haveless to spend, not only in 1996, but on into the future.

MR. MASON: And taxpayers should have the choice about how theyspend that money.

MR. SCHICK: You don't like government and --

MR. MASON: We don't like government taking money frommiddle-income taxpayers, out of their pay check on Friday and givingit back to them on Monday and -- (inaudible).

MR. SCHICK: But there's no way to finance government unless it hasrevenue.

MR. MOORE: Allen, the real issue is here, who can spend $500better, a federal bureaucrat in Washington or a family on theirchildren themselves? I mean, that's what it's coming down to.

MR. WATTENBERG: No obscenities, like 'bureaucrat.' Now, do youdisagree with that notion that it's better for people to spend theirmoney than for the government to spend it?

MR. SCHICK: But drive it to its conclusion. That means we shouldhave zero government.

MR. WATTENBERG: No, that's not what they said. They said less.

MR. SCHICK: What?

MR. WATTENBERG: They said less government.

MR. SCHICK: Yeah, but what do they -- how are they defining less?They are going to cut programs like Medicaid. Let me tell you whatMedicaid is. Half or more of Medicaid spending is not the dirty wordwelfare. Half or more of Medicaid is old people in nursing homes andlong-term care institutions. That's what Medicaid spends money on,and that is what is going to be cut.

MR. WATTENBERG: Will you conservatives deal with that? I mean,what are you going to do with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, who don't have anymoney and they're 85 years old and their health is broken? What arethey going to do? And they don't have children to support them.

MR. MOORE: This isn't going to throw Mrs. Jones out on the street.The states can take care of these problems. It's not like sayingthey're going to go to the nursing homes and throw people out. It'ssaying, look, we've determined in Washington we can't control thecost of this program. It's bankrupt in the federal government andit's bankrupt in the states. We're going to turn it over to thestates and let them run the program. That doesn't mean that they'regoing to throw people out on the streets, Ben.

MR. WATTENBERG: All right.

MR. MASON: That's the important part of the whole idea ofde-entitlement. Give the states enough flexibility to figure out ifthey can do a better job. States are going to try differentapproaches. Some will work, some won't work. But I'm willing to makethe bet, and to a certain degree it may be a bet, that the states canfigure out how to save enough money in these programs to make adifference and still take care of the needy elderly.

MR. WATTENBERG: Okay now, we are running out of time. I want to goaround the room one more time, starting with you, Bob Reischauer,with one simple question. What are -- and you can pick either -- theRepublicans or the Democrats being most disingenuous about in thisargument?

MR. REISCHAUER: Ooh. (Laughter.)

MR. WATTENBERG: That's a good question, huh? Your colleagues havea chance to think while you're talking, but --

MR. REISCHAUER: Okay, I think the public is being misled the mostby those who are saying, if we adopt a balanced budget plan likethis, we will be in heaven: the economy will perform wonderfully,wages will begin to grow, mortgage payments will begin to fall. Ijust don't think we're going to see a huge effect on the economy. Theeffects are going to be quite small. They're important, they're thereason to do this, but they mount gradually over a 10-, 15-, 20-yearperiod. And I think there's going to be a lot of disappointment amongthe American people if we were to pass something like the plan that'sbeen proposed.

MR. WATTENBERG: Okay. David Mason.

MR. MASON: I'm most disappointed in Bill Clinton, who says he'sfor a balanced budget, but --

MR. WATTENBERG: Surprise.

MR. MASON: -- then says he's against every single cut that'snecessary to get there, doesn't come up with his own alternative thatreally gets to a balanced budget, and then demagogues against theRepublicans. And so you're sort of stuck in this atmosphere where hesays, I'm for all the good things, I'm against all the bad things,and it just doesn't add up.

MR. WATTENBERG: Okay. Steve Moore.

MR. MOORE: The people who have been most irresponsible in thisdebate have been the Washington establishment, including the media,who keep running stories every night on the news saying thatRepublicans are throwing widows and orphans and grandmothers out onthe street. That's not going to happen under the Republican budget.Spending continues to grow, and the real beneficiaries of this budgetare our children and our grandchildren.

MR. WATTENBERG: Allen Schick.

MR. SCHICK: Ben, there's enough blame to go around, to theRepublicans for saying and implying that this will assure a balancedbudget in 2002 -- we're not going to get a balanced budget because ofwhat's done in 1996. We'll get a balanced budget if the economycooperates; and to the Democrats, particularly Bill Clinton, forsaying that the Republicans are killing Medicare. The changes inMedicare, unlike Medicaid, are mild, they're doable, and they willassure that the program can continue.

MR. WATTENBERG: Okay. We have solved all those problems, mostly inplain English. Thank you, Robert Reischauer, David Mason, StephenMoore, Allen Schick.

And thank you. Please send your comments and questions to: NewRiver Media, 1150 17th Street, N.W., Washington, DC, 20036. We canalso be reached via E-mail at thinktv@aol.com, or on the World WideWeb at www.thinktank.com.

For 'Think Tank,' I'm Ben Wattenberg.

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