Clinton Outlines New Taxes, Cuts

Harvard Responds

Harvard Professors interviewed last night gave President Clinton's first State of the Union address positive reviews, with economists praising his attack on the deficit and government experts drawing comparisons to the initiatives of the Johnson administration.

Monrad Professor of Economics Martin L. Weitzman said he approved of the economic focus of the speech and said Clinton's programs could definitely have some effect on the national debts.

"I was favorably impressed by the attempt to come to grips with the budget deficit," he said.

Assistant Professor of Economics Douglas W. Elmendorf agreed Clinton's tax increases will bring a "significant reduction" in the deficit, but said "the deficit is big, so significant is not enough."

No real cut can occur until big entitlement programs like Social Security are attacked, and Clinton said nothing about them in his speech, Elmendorf said.


The speech met with cheers from a crowd of about 300 who watched the telecast on a large screen at the Institute of Politics last night.

Although positive reactions dominated the response, boos and hisses arose from the crowd at Clinton's plan to cut the salaries of government positions.

Neither Elmendorf nor Weitzman was sure what effects the large tax increases proposed by Clinton will have on the fledging economic recovery.

Although Elmendorf said he is optimistic that the taxes will not stall the upswing, Weitzman said that no one can really predict the long-term effects of the raises.

"There's always the problem...we do not know for sure," Weitzman said. "But I really do believe the deficit is a real problem and closing it is a real priority."

But while both economic experts were reluctant to call Clinton a "tax and spender" and rejected comparisons to liberal administrations of the past, government experts said that in style and outlook. Clinton bears comparison to Lyndon B. Johnson.

"In some ways the speech sounded like LBJ's first speech," said Assistant Professor of Government Michael G. Hagen. "Johnson's speech was the last time a president proposed sweeping social's territory that hasn't been covered for quite a while."

Institute of Politics Fellow James Moody, who is offering a seminar on the first 100 days of the presidency, likened Clinton's call to sacrifice to Johnson's ideals of shared responsibility.

"He is asking much of Congress and of the country," Moody said. "He has a large ambitious program which reaches out into the future...these are all things that LBJ did."

But Clinton, despite his straight-forward approach to problems such as the deficit, glossed over other issues and retreated into vagueness, professors said.

Jayne Associate Professor of Government Mark A. Peterson said that the speech did not address the major difficulties of welfare reform, including the shift from welfare to employment.