clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Clinton's budget plan is loaded with cradle-to-grave goodies

For baby, it may mean a subsidized slot in a day-care center. For his older sister, a smaller first-grade class. For Grandpa, it's a chance to buy into Medicare early.

President Clinton's budget is chock full of election-year goodies for the American family. Working for the first time without a deficit and its pressure to cut spending, the administration has a wealth of cradle-to-grave initiatives.There are child-care subsidies for poor parents and tax credits for the middle class. There are grants for after-school programs and grants to hire more teachers.

For immigrants who lost food stamps in the welfare overhaul of 1996, they're restored. Any family with children - even if they just arrived in this country - would qualify for food aid under the Clinton plan.

What family hasn't confronted cancer? Most will welcome a 10 percent boost in cancer research.

Even Congress, which is balking at much of Clinton's spending, is likely to go along with $1 billion more for biomedical research.

Republican leaders have already said, though, that most of the extra spending Clinton proposed is better earmarked for tax cuts, giving families the dollars to spend as they see fit.

In Utah, Lily Eskelsen likes Clinton's effort to reduce class size. An elementary-school teacher, she helped persuade the state Legislature to put up money to hire more teachers. She says it's made all the difference. In 1988, she had 38 sixth-graders in her suburban Salt Lake class; now she has 25.

With fewer children, she said, she has time to push those who are ahead of the class and provide extra help to those who fall behind. The other day, she was working with four students on their multiplication tables, and finally, after multiple attempts, one boy figured it out.

"He just looked up and said, `I get it! I get it!' I was just this `aha' moment for him. I thought, `I am so glad I have this time to do this for you.' "

Clinton's plan targets younger grades, trying to hire 100,000 teachers over seven years.

But the budget doesn't just focus on children. There's quite a bit for older Americans.

Older Americans - ages 62 to 65 - often cannot buy health insurance on the private market, but they could sign up for Medicare under the Clinton plan. People as young as 55 could buy in if they lose employer-provided insurance.

Clinton says the program will pay for itself, with participants paying the full cost of the premium. But experts and congressional Republicans are doubtful, saying the premiums will be so expensive that subsidies will be required.

For now, the initiative is being welcomed by older Americans who must wait until age 65 to qualify for Medicare.

"We've been gambling and going without" insurance for about eight years, said Wayne Frey, 64, in Pittsburgh. He and his wife, Deonne, can't afford the $500 per month private companies want to insure them.

"I think we've been extremely lucky that we haven't had any severe health problems," he said. "But now my wife is having some eye problems."