Are there any Americans left who are still enthusiastic about having either George Bush or Bill Clinton in the White House for the next four years?
In recent days, both candidates appear to have revealed what they truly believe about economic policy, the most important issue in the campaign. The revelations are not encouraging.Try as I might to get excited over the "Agenda for American Renewal" the president presented on television last week, I found myself both uninspired and unconvinced.
A 1 percentage point tax cut? And only if Congress follows Bush's recommend-a-tions for $130 billion in spending cuts?
First, when in the past 40 years has Congress followed anybody's recommendations for a spending cut? Second, while letting a family earning the median annual income of $43,000 keep an extra $261 would be nice, it wouldn't have any real impact on the national economy.
But Bush's key act of economic self-revelation, I'm afraid, was his promise to rebuild south Florida's Homestead Air Force Base.
Long before Hurricane Andrew blew it away, the Homestead facility was a good candidate for destruction, one of many military bases we don't need now that the Cold War is over. I talked with several military officers last week, and even they couldn't bring themselves to defend the decision to spend nearly half a billion dollars resurrecting Homestead.
If all this is starting to turn your fancy toward Clinton, however, consider the big idea he proposed last week: establishing 170 "manufacturing extension centers" modeled on the federal government's agricultural extension centers.
Just what this country needs: another bureaucracy. I talked with a number of business people and, here again, not one thought the answer to their problems was more "help" from government officials earning and spending tax dollars.
What all this suggests is that neither Bush nor Clinton really offers a meaningful change from the outdated and statist mindsets of the past.
If Bush had learned his lessons, he would have responded to the destruction of Homestead Air Force Base by seeking innovative ways to encourage entrepreneurs to replace the Pentagon as the key employer in the area.
And if Clinton were really a new breed of Democrat, his approach to job creation would not be to propose a further expansion of government at a time when the deficit is nearing $400 billion and the average American is already working from January to May just to pay tax bills.
A poll sponsored by the National Council on Economic Education and released last week found that most Americans have shockingly little understanding of even basic economic concepts.
In this respect, if no other, Bush and Clinton may indeed be close to grassroots America.