What about the next 100 months? — with Jeff Eisenach (1995) | THINK TANK

Ben Wattenberg: Hello, I’m Ben Wattenberg. The first hundred days of the new Republican
Congress are over. Most of the Contract with America has been
passed by the House and awaits scrutiny by the Senate and the president. But is that all? Is this the beginning of the end or just the
end of the beginning? Are we perhaps moving into a new political
era, into uncharted political territory? Joining us to discuss this notion are William
Schneider, CNN political analyst, professor of political science at Boston College, and
resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; Thomas Mann, director of governmental
studies at the Brookings Institution and coauthor of the book “Renewing Congress”; James
Pinkerton, author of the forthcoming book “What Comes Next? The End of Big Government and the New Paradigm
Ahead” and lecturer in political management at George Washington University; and Jeffrey
Eisenach, president of the Progress and Freedom Foundation. Well, we know about the first hundred days,
so now the question before this house is: What about the next hundred months? This week on “Think Tank.” The late Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill
said, “All politics is local.” Well, it may be that the new speaker, Newt
Gingrich, has turned that dictum on its head. When the Republicans announced their Contract
with America, it began turning the 1994 election toward a national referendum about the Democratic-controlled
Congress, about President Clinton and about the contract itself. The Republicans won overwhelmingly, taking
control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years. Gingrich wasted no time converting the perceived
referendum into a mandate for action. The Republicans said they would honor their
contractual vows. The Democrats attacked. But 9 out of 10 contract items passed the
House, everything but term limits. Some analysts say that the first hundred days
was showbiz and that over the next few years, tougher issues may well tear the Republican
coalition apart, issues like abortion, a flat tax, school prayer, affirmative action, tax
cuts, and big spending cuts. Other analysts say that what Gingrich and
the Republican Congress have done signals a sea change in American thinking and a turn
toward progressive conservatism. It’s been an astounding political time,
and now we should ask, What is next? What is going to happen in the next hundred
months? And let’s go around the horn once quickly,
starting with you, Jeff Eisenach. Where are we going? Jeffrey Eisenach: This is a revolution. It’s a people’s revolution. It is not yet clear whether it will be a Republican
revolution. For a hundred days, they have acted like a
majority. If they continue to act like a majority, like
the new majority party they might be, they may be the majority party. What is clear, though, is the people are going
to have a different kind of government. Ben Wattenberg: All right. Jim Pinkerton, formerly the deputy director
of policy for the Bush administration. James Pinkerton: Well, Gingrich has clearly
moved the bully pulpit from the White House to H.204 in the Capitol. He’s got enormous political momentum moving
him now. It remains to be seen if the policy agenda
that the contract touches on will equal the challenge and the mandate that he sought for
himself. Ben Wattenberg: Tom Mann, Brookings Institution. Thomas Mann: Americans don’t take very kindly
to revolutions. They’re a pragmatic, practical lot. They want government to get a little smaller,
work a lot better. But revolutions are for the French, not for
the Americans. Ben Wattenberg: All right, Bill Schneider
of CNN and my colleague at the American Enterprise Institute. William Schneider: Ben, I think there is a
new majority coalition that’s governing that’s really in power now in the United
States. It’s a diverse coalition of interests that
have one thing in common: They all have a grievance with big government. Middle-class taxpayers want lower taxes. Gun owners don’t want the federal government
to take their guns away. Racial backlash voters identify the federal
government with promotion of the civil rights agenda, and they’re getting a payoff with
the attack on affirmative action. Religious conservatives want less judicial
activism. Businesspeople want less regulation. They will hold together as long as they see
a liberal threat, which they did in Bill Clinton, and that’s why they materialized as a majority. As long as they perceive a liberal threat
out there, that coalition is going to hold together, and it’s going to be very powerful. Ben Wattenberg: All right, let me ask one
question now. We all live in this sort of insular community
that over the last 20 years or so has spotted a sea change each week — you know, “My
God, the world is changing.” Is it possible and plausible that this one
is for real? William Schneider: Forty years — 40 years
it’s been since the Republicans had control of both houses of Congress. That’s a pretty big change to me. James Pinkerton: I think it’s also fair
to say that people in their bones sense that bureaucratic organizations, whether it’s
the Soviet Union, IBM, or the federal government, are in the process of collapse and that that’s
— the sense of slow-motion panic that people feel over that is much of what underlay the
Republican victory in 1994, just like it caused Bush to lose in ’92. Jeffrey Eisenach: I’d second that and come
back to what Tom said. I think this is a very pragmatic revolution,
that what people have seen — since 1976, they have elected reformer after reformer
after reformer. Jimmy Carter was a reform president, was going
to bring in zero-based budgeting. Ronald Reagan promised to fix it all. Bush said he’d continue that. When Bush failed, they brought in Clinton;
he failed. What they have is they have a government that
is wildly out of step with everything they see working around them. And in that sense, I think this is very pragmatic,
but the change is not a small one. They’ve tried small changes. Thomas Mann: The old Democratic coalition
has been dead for a long time, Ben, and it hasn’t been able to muster a majority, really,
in presidential elections since Lyndon Johnson. But finally this time, they managed to lose
their base in the House of Representatives, so that is a major change. I think people are more skeptical of government. In a sense, they’re more inclined to think
of themselves as conservatives than liberals, and therefore there is an opportunity for
Republicans now. There is a real market for change. But Republicans run the risk of thinking Americans
are economic libertarians. They’re not ideologues; they’re pragmatists. They may be skeptical of government, but they’re
solicitous of government as well. And so we’re going to have to see whether
the Republicans seize the opportunity or, in fact, whether some more centrist solution,
one actually identified originally by Bill Clinton in his presidential campaign, manages
to move into that open space. Ben Wattenberg: Jeff, you are the president
of the Progress and Freedom Foundation. You have been a longtime associate of now-Speaker
Gingrich and a conservative spokesman. Could you tell us: What is the nature of this
particular modern conservatism? We’re sort of agreed that there is a sea
change. It’s a sea change toward what, if you had
your way or in your judgment? Jeffrey Eisenach: I think it’s a sea change
away from big bureaucratic, centralized institutions of government actually hiring people, spending
money to accomplish things, towards a government which is much leaner, but ultimately much
more effective and much less ambiguous. I mean, one of the things people know about
our bureaucracy is you can’t — it’s not that you get the wrong answer. It’s you can’t get any answer. There’s nothing out there but a sea of ambiguity. I think what this revolution will do, if it
works, is it will bring in a much clearer and cleaner sense of what the law is and how
it’s implemented. And that’ll happen a lot, I think, through
the tax code. It will happen with legal reform, with tort
reform, with regulatory reform, so that what you’ll end up with is a government which
works a lot better and is a lot smaller in terms of the number of people working for
it. Thomas Mann: But the rhetoric isn’t that
pragmatism. The rhetoric is: “Government is terrible. Let’s knock it down. Government is the problem.” Americans don’t think the Social Security
Administration is a big, bad bureaucracy. They think it works just fine in getting their
checks out to them on time. So sometimes the rhetoric of the Gingrich
revolution gets away from the realities of Americans’ encounters with that government. James Pinkerton: Tom, you’re peddling a
little bit of inside-the-Beltway wisdom here. I mean, look at the polls that show that young
people think that they’re more likely to find a UFO in their backyard than they are
to collect their Social Security. Ben Wattenberg: Maybe they’re right. [Laughter and cross talk.] Everything else is changing, right. James Pinkerton: Well, if that’s the case,
then the politicians who are defending a system that is going to rip off an entire generation
of young people are going to wind up with their heads on pikes before all is said and
done. Jeffrey Eisenach: But I’d say something
else, and that is — because I think your point’s well taken, but the welfare debate,
I think, was a major stepping-stone for this new majority. Because for a week of debate, you have Republican
after Republican stepping up and, instead of talking about how we’ve got to starve
a few kids to save a few dollars, which is what this party has been saying for 30 years,
you had the entire Republican Party standing up and saying, “We’re reforming welfare
to do the right thing.” William Schneider: Well, people want to solve
problems. I agree with Tom. They want to solve problems, and Bill Clinton
was elected with a mandate. He said he could make government work. He had people with impressive credentials,
long lists of degrees. They were very smart. He won on brain power. George Bush didn’t have a clue — sorry. But that was what elected Bill Clinton. This was the brain power. He was it. Ben Wattenberg: It was Pinkerton’s fault. We know that, right, right. [Laughter.] William Schneider: And the deal was, we want
this guy because he’s smart and he says he can make government work. The message in ’94 was it ain’t working. The Republicans were elected with a mandate
to solve problems with less government. They said, “We know how to solve these problems. We can do it with less government.” I think the skepticism that Tom is talking
about is sometimes they go towards the rhetoric of saying, “We’re going to fix things
even if they’re not broken.” That’s the image of the school lunch program. What’s broken there? And transportation and environmental protection. Ben Wattenberg: All right, let’s go over
some of the things that Republicans in this new conservative wave have been saying over
the years. One of the things — and we sort of dealt
with that — is “We’re going to get the government off our backs.” Everybody seems to be agreed that that at
least is a goal, although how far that would go remains to be seen. What about that one about ending the welfare
state? They have said this is — the contract is
going to roll back the welfare state. Is that going to — I mean, is this where
we’re headed? Thomas Mann: May I make a prediction? A hundred months from now, the Social Security
system will be paying out a lot more money than it is now. The Medicare program will be paying out a
lot more money than it is now, and welfare recipients will not be greatly changed from
what they are now. Republicans are promising a sort of withdrawal
from — in some respects — from this system will transform these recipients. And you know, the hard truth is it’s going
to take a lot of work and a lot of money to help get people on their feet and working
in jobs. And that requires even government administration
to get it done. Jeffrey Eisenach: This is standard liberal
dogma. I testified — Thomas Mann: No, it’s conservative. It’s called big-government conservative. Jeffrey Eisenach: No, excuse me. I testified today before the Banking Committee
on the question of how — the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And there were Joe Kennedy and Barney Frank
up there criticizing, in the most vehement, vicious terms, Henry Cisneros for trying to
move in the direction of vouchers and empowering people, essentially defending the old system. And they were making the point that Tom’s
making: Everything’s terrible. Things are going to remain terrible. Nothing that you can do to try and make things
better is going to make any — Thomas Mann: No, no. I’m not saying that. Jeffrey Eisenach: Well, you said there will
be just as many welfare recipients. Medicare won’t be — Thomas Mann: I mean, I support vouchers and
decentralization, and there’s much — Jeffrey Eisenach: Well, but none of it will
make a big difference. Ben Wattenberg: Tom, hold on. If in the year — if a hundred months from
now, in the year 2003, we have got the same welfare system, a disaster that everybody
across the spectrum agrees with that is harming people — forget the wasted money; that is
harming people — if we have the same sort of a welfare system, but a little bit less
in 2003, then this is no sea change. William Schneider: There’s the welfare system
and there’s the welfare state. The welfare system will be changed. Even President Clinton was elected on a mandate
to change the welfare system. James Pinkerton: Exactly. William Schneider: What the welfare state
means is entitlements. Now, that the Republicans have made some headway
towards at least trying to change. What has Clinton accomplished as president? Really, two things: deficit reduction — he
reduced the deficit by one-third every year — and free trade. Those are the two biggest items on his agenda. Those aren’t exactly radical. He got in trouble for what he — Ben Wattenberg: And not exactly Democratic. William Schneider: And not exactly Democratic. So why did he get in trouble? I’ve spoken to a lot of conservatives, and
they’ll always give you the same list: gays in the military, Lani Guinier in the Justice
Department, the economic stimulus plan, comprehensive health care reform, big new crime-prevention
spending, the energy tax. You know what? He got in trouble for things he proposed. He didn’t deliver a single one of those
things. And liberals were dismayed. They said, “We liked that agenda, but you
didn’t deliver any of it.” That’s why he was in so much trouble. He got in trouble because he proposed things
that sounded like big government. Look at health care reform. Jeffrey Eisenach: Absolutely. Ben Wattenberg: All right, hold on one second. You have touched on an interesting point here. We’re just kind of going through whether
we’re going to see the fulfillment of certain bits of this conservative rhetoric. We’ve talked about getting the government
of four backs. We’ve talked about rolling back the welfare
state. What is also said about this revolution is
that it is going to change from a social welfare state to a social police state, and we hear
stuff from mainstream Democrats and more liberal people that the fight against abortion, the
treatment of homosexuality, school prayer, pornography, TV censorship, that this is all
embedded, implicit in the Gingrich revolution. Comments. Jeffrey Eisenach: Not part of the majority
agenda. If the Republican Party chooses to be the
party of social oppression, it will not choose to be — it will be choosing not to be the
majority party, and I don’t believe that’s possible. William Schneider: The Republicans get in
trouble — they got in trouble, I think, in Houston when their convention was perceived
or interpreted — there’s a lot of discussion about whether it really was stigmatizing,
but it was perceived as stigmatizing. Democrats always made the mistake in the past
of glorifying unconventional minorities —homosexuals, single mothers. Republicans get in trouble when they seem
to stigmatize those same groups, and that’s why they want to steer clear of that. Religion is an issue that drives a wedge right
through the heart of that Republican coalition, just as race does to the Democrats. James Pinkerton: The Contract with America
was an explicitly secular document. There’s almost no reference of any kind
on abortion or anything like that. The only chance I think that Clinton has,
as Bill’s saying, is, you know, a few more Henry Fosters, you know, really could — the
Republicans could rise to the bait and say, “Aha, here’s our chance to take Houston
back into the people’s” — Ben Wattenberg: You think Henry Foster is
going to hurt the Republicans? James Pinkerton: I think there’s — the
danger of things like that is that it brings out, you know, the Christian coalition saying,
you know, “We’re against Henry Foster — and, by the way, we insist on an all pro-life
ticket in ’96.” William Schneider: He said it under pressure
from anti-abortion activists who are enraged by the nomination of Foster, and Clinton and
the Republicans didn’t really want to — the Republicans did not want to talk about abortion. And my guess is Ralph Reed didn’t either,
from what he subsequently wrote. He was forced into it because the anti-abortion
constituency was furious, outraged that the president would nominate a surgeon general
who had performed abortions. Jeffrey Eisenach: Ben, I do want to say this,
and that is, the Christian coalition, I believe, is a coalition of people who feel oppressed
by government imposing values on them that they disbelieve in very deeply. And what I believe they are looking for is
freedom, which is why education choice is so far at the top of the agenda, why they’re
pulling their kids out of schools and asking for their money back so they can do homeschooling. If that’s what the agenda is all about,
then I don’t think there is any conflict here at all. And I, frankly, just don’t see much of the
Christian coalition saying, “Here is the prayer your kids have got to say in school,
and we want to pass it into law.” William Schneider: That is the way they see
themselves. That’s not the way others see them. Jeffrey Eisenach: Absolutely. William Schneider: Others see them as attempting
to take over government to Christianize the country. Jeffrey Eisenach: Absolutely, that’s the
perception. Thomas Mann: Churchgoers are the most important
group within the Republican Party. Their interests are diverse, I agree with
you, but they will create a fissure within the Republican Party. It can’t be glossed over. The Republicans and the speaker did well in
the first hundred days in keeping these issues off to the side, but there will be demands
for votes on difficult issues that will at times divide the Republicans and potentially
cause problems in the presidential nominating politics. It’s a reality. But they are so important to the Republican
Party that they have to make peace with them. James Pinkerton: The issue for the Republicans
on education, both school prayer and school vouchers, is leadership. Somebody is going to have to get up and say
to the Christians — say, “Look, your idea of school prayer for everybody is not going
to work. The idea that will work is school vouchers.” And that argument has to be sold not only
to the Christian right but also to the rest of the country, which is impatient with the
stagnation of bureaucratic education in America. Ben Wattenberg: Let me ask you a question,
something we mentioned in the setup piece, this Tip O’Neill idea that all politics
is local. It occurs to me — you know, we all sort
of repeated that as a mantra for so many years. “Oh, all politics is local.” Of course, when you have a liberal majority
in the legislature, that becomes a very liberal statement. It says, if you take care of the person’s
Veterans Administration’s check, if you see to his Social Security check, you can
do any damn fool thing you want to in terms of national policy, which is what ultimately
got the Democrats in trouble. Now, with the apparent — underscore apparent
— nationalization of the Congress, does that then become a conservatizing movement
because you are talking issues, rather than did your VA check get delivered? William Schneider: Well, look, I think the
election was nationalized, principally, not by the contract, but by President Clinton. I think he was the central issue in all those
races. What happened was — Ben Wattenberg: But you can’t get the toothpaste
back in the tube. I mean, the next time we go around and have
national platforms, people are going to take them much more seriously. William Schneider: If the Republicans believe
they are going to get reelected without paying a lot of attention to constituency service,
they’re going to come in for a big surprise. Ben Wattenberg: No, I agree. Thomas Mann: Politics is always a combination
of local and national forces. National became more prominent in ’94 for
a host of reasons. In ’96, Republicans are going to do well
in the elections for the House and the Senate, partly on the basis of their strength locally
— good candidates, lots of money, and a story to tell. James Pinkerton: Let’s understand that a
guy like Tip O’Neill could get away with saying, “All politics is local,” because
he was operating within the paradigm that Franklin Roosevelt had set up. What Gingrich is trying to do is — well,
the paradigm has already crashed. The Democratic paradigm has crashed. What the Republicans are trying to do is create
their own paradigm so that equally ordinary, run-of-the-mill Republican politicians — Ben Wattenberg: Everybody here seems to be
convinced that the Democratic paradigm has crashed and so on and so forth. On the other hand, as we speak, the polls
for Clinton are going up. The polls against Gingrich are — the negatives
are very high. The Democrats have launched a rhetorical counteroffensive
about that this is really a war on kids, they’re balancing the budgets on the backs of the
poor, they’re taking away school lunches. Isn’t it plausible that just politically
we are way out ahead of our supply lines and that the Democrats are going to come back
with this stuff and terrorize the country about taking away your school lunches? The old ketchup argument with Reagan. Jeffrey Eisenach: The notion that Washington,
DC, is going to get too far out in front of the American people is so silly on its face
that — [laughter] — but the truth is I don’t think the numbers show that by any
stretch of the imagination. There were two polls in the last two weeks
that were very important and very under-attended to. The LA Times came out with a poll the same
week that The Washington Post poll came out that scared everybody saying that people were
running away from the Republican contract. The LA Times the same week came out with a
poll showing that 46 percent of Americans thought Republicans weren’t cutting enough,
compared to 14 percent who thought they were cutting too much; 29 percent thought they
were doing about the right thing. Three to one, not cutting enough. Next week you have a poll from Times-Mirror. In December 1993, 12 percent of Americans
wanted an independent presidential candidate. December 1994, 18 percent. March 1995, that number is up to 23 percent. I think those two numbers are related. I think people are looking at Washington,
and the question they’re asking isn’t “Are these people going too far?” The question they are asking is “Are they
doing enough?” William Schneider: Are they solving the problems? I mean, Clinton was elected to make government
work. People said he didn’t. The Republicans were elected to solve problems
with less government. They’re solving some problems, I agree — welfare,
unfunded mandates. They’re creating other problems. People don’t know why they’re attacking
the school lunch program. That’s becoming like midnight basketball. It’s a symbol of going too far. So I think Clinton may very well run the next
election — you were suggesting that the Democrats are not sunk — as a gigantic midterm
election in reverse. Democrats used to get elected and reelected
repeatedly during the 1980s because they would say, “You got Reagan in there. You got Bush. They may go too far. You got to elect us to make sure there’s
a check and a balance.” Clinton may run a campaign, to the dismay
of his Democratic colleagues in Congress, and say, “You’re pretty happy with the
way the Republican Congress is going, but they threaten to go too far; you’ve got
to keep me in there with my veto pen to make sure that doesn’t happen.” Ben Wattenberg: All right, let me — we are
running out of time. I want to go around the horn one more time
with the stipulation that no one, except perhaps me, knows the future and hear from you an
answer to the basic theme of this program, which is: Is this the beginning of a new conservative
era? And we’ll start with you, Jeff. Jeffrey Eisenach: Absolutely. A hundred months from now, government, the
federal government will be at or below 15 percent of gross domestic product, compared
with 22 percent today. A new majority party will be controlling both
houses of Congress and the White House, probably the Republican Party. That remains to be seen. And we will be seeing, I think, dramatically
faster economic growth. We will be seeing dramatic drops in the number
of people on welfare, and, by the way, Social Security will have been fundamentally reformed
because it has to be. James Pinkerton: We’re in post-bureaucratic
era. It remains to be seen whether the Republicans
or the Democrats can fill this void left by this crash of big government. The other question is: Can a conservative
movement, which is in fact a right-wing movement, impose the kind of leadership that takes the
country forward? Ben Wattenberg: Tom Mann, yeah, go ahead. Thomas Mann: The Republicans have an opportunity
to build a new majority in this country, but to do it they have to deliver. And delivering means dealing with the root
causes of insecurity and anxiety that Americans feel. I am not persuaded that simply saying, “less
government” will solve that problem. Americans are not ideologues. Republicans in Congress right now are. Until they demonstrate that they can deliver
in a practical sense, they will lose that opportunity. Ben Wattenberg: Bill Schneider. William Schneider: I agree with Tom. I think that the Republicans have an opportunity. We are entering a conservative era, and I
don’t think we’re going to go back to big government. But suppose they don’t solve the problems
they were elected to solve, or create new problems? What are Americans going to do? Well, I think they’re showing two kinds
of responses. One is, if they figure the Democrats —they’re
very skeptical that the Democrats can make government work, and the Republicans cannot
solve problems with less government. They’re going to say, “What we have to
do is get the politicians out of there.” That’s why Perot was very attractive. You want to make government work? Get the politics out of government is the
popular belief. Colin Powell is very popular these days — the
same appeal that Ross Perot had. Not a professional politician, knows how to
get things done. A revolt against politics is in the offing. The other thing they do is solve their problems
for themselves. They move to suburbs, and they buy their own
governments that they can control and put walls around themselves. They have their own schools, their own police,
their own fire departments. They buy a private government. That’s another solution. Ben Wattenberg: All right. In other words, “We’re going to get under
the hood and fix it.” Thank you, Bill Schneider, Jeffrey Eisenach,
Tom Mann, and Jim Pinkerton. And thank you. Please send your comments or questions
to New River Media, 1150 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036. Or we can be reached via email at [email protected] For “Think Tank,” I’m Ben Wattenberg. Announcer: This has been a production of BJW
Inc., in association with New River Media, which are solely responsible for its content.

Oceans and Fisheries Diplomatic Simulation: Marine Ecosystems and Food Security

So there’s a a significance in a relationship
between the health of fish stocks, the health of ecosystems, and general environmental sustainability
and good environmental governance. Whether it’s ensuring that agriculture is well-managed
so that excess nutrients don’t run off into the ocean ecosystem and disrupt the food web
or prevent fish stocks or corals or other habitat from being able to remain productive
to the effects of oceanic energy exploration, shipping, and other uses the ocean from also
having similar effects. We see that if countries focused on good governance of the marine environment,
it’s not only fisheries but in other uses the marine environment and it absolutely is
interlinked from our policy perspective. we’re working with other agencies right
now to develop a global food security strategy. And one of the main messages from the Department
of State is that healthy oceans, healthy ecosystems, and healthy fish stocks are absolutely vital
to food security and issues with governance, issues of lack of scientific capacity or enforcement
capacity or political will to enforce the rules absolutely has a link to food security. And so as consumers and as participants in
the global regimes that are intended to provide sustainable conservation management. We also
have to recognize that we have a responsibility to ensuring food security and not only directly
with countries, but also through the forums which we operate to establish
the rules for fishing.

The Evolution of Human Birth

Hey! So, a few weeks ago Bill and Melinda Gates reached out to us about making a collaborative video based on a theme in their annual letter. This is something that they write every year to share their philanthropic goals for the coming months. One of their priorities for 2017 has to do with maternal and infant health. They want to support initiatives that ensure women remain healthy throughout pregnancy and birth and in the first years of their child’s life—we put it in the description so you can go check it out for yourself. The Gates have been a lot of great work to elevate important topics around global health and education and I’m really excited to be working with them on this project, so check it out! So you might remember Dr. Robert Martin, who you’re familiar with from episodes like “Breast Episode Ever” and “Why did King Tut have a flat head?” He’s a biological anthropologist and has spent his career researching various aspects of Hominid evolution. A big part of his work focuses on the physical aspects of human reproduction and childbirth and how trends and practices in childbirth have changed throughout time. They got me thinking of that face that I made in the King Tut video. Before then, I’d never truly realized the logistical constraints of human child birth. I mean you’ve got to navigate this grapefruit sized head and shoulders through an opening of roughly the same size and make a turn to get around the tailbone in the process. When you compare the pelvic size and shape to that of our closest great ape relatives, ours is disproportionately smaller and more obtuse—and that’s because the act of walking permanently upright, known as bipedal locomotion, actually changed the shape of that pelvic opening. This, in addition to human babies having a longer gestation time, overall larger body size, and massive heads, leads to a lot of complications when it comes to human birthing practices. In fact, in a recent blog post, Dr. Martin wrote “astute analysis of brain size and pelvic anatomy and our fossil predecessors have confirmed that birth first began to become challenging when the genus Homo emerged around two million years ago.” This means that women may have
been relying on personal assistants in order to give birth for as long and 2 million years! So I started to wonder how has our inability to give birth easily impacted mortality rates for both mother and child. Save the Children estimates that a million babies die the day they’re born every year. So why does this happen and are things getting any better? Spoiler alert: these things are actually improving and I went to talk to Dr. Martin to get some answers. This is what a baby’s head looks like at birth and that head has to fit through the pelvis. So the baby goes in with his head facing sideways and then when it’s halfway through the pelvis it turns through 90 degrees to point backwards. It all boils down to a difficult passage through the pelvis because of this trade-off between adaptation of the pelvis for upright walking and this big brain. So all of that points to the need for some kind of assistance. We don’t know exactly when, but we can trace this process through the fossil record fairly effectively and my guess is that we started needing midwives about a million years ago, there’s some kind of help.
EG: You mentioned earlier that we have a great record for knowing how, uh, how humans have evolved over time and how the evolution of birthing practices have evolved over time, so you can talk— can you talk a little bit about some of the examples that we have in the fossil record?
RM: So this here is— this is one side of the pelvis of Lucy, the famous Australopithecus from Ethiopia. So if you mirror image the pelvis and put it together, you can work out how big the birth canal was.
EG: Great.
RM: …and we can calculate how big the baby’s head was likely to be. But then, when you get up to Homo erectus, by 1.5 million years ago with early homo, we almost certainly had the beginnings of a difficult birth. They would have had slower births and maybe they already needed midwives at that stage, it’s quite possible. I think midwives have been undervalued. I mean has been a medicalization of birth and a drive towards having births in hospitals. It’s much better for women psychologically, at least, to be working with a midwife than to go into the impersonal environment of a maternity. There was a study in Holland which showed that if you had a midwife in hospital compared to an obstetrician in that same hospital, birth took twice as long with the obstetrician than it did with the midwives. I mean, it’s pretty dramatic evidence to me.
EG: Something like 300,000 women die because of pregnancy-related issues, but most of those are preventable. I mean sometimes you get blockage of the birth canal but a lot of that just has to do an access to basic health care and assistance in the process. It seems pretty logical to think that if you provide more access to healthcare and to nutrition, to decrease the number of children who are dying of malnutrition, then that would be beneficial all around. This is absolutely true. I mean medical science has made huge leaps forward but in industrialized countries we’ve managed to get birth related mortality down, so that we’re talking about a few per hundred thousand, so I mean these are really pretty low levels. But here’s the thing, if you just take industrialized countries where because of hospital services, we’ve managed to reduce mortality and the lowest country on the list for industrialized countries is the United States. How come the richest country in the world has one of the highest levels of mortality around? There was one drastic case which is the state of Texas. In the state of Texas, maternal mortality was actually not rising very much until 2011. And then it doubled.
EG: Wow. RM: It shot up and it stayed at that level ever since. There’s no health-related factor that can explain that and the only explanation I’ve seen is within 2011, a lot of prenatal clinics were closed. And, so I think there is a good possibility that a political decision in the state of Texas has actually doubled the rate of mortality and that stayed.
EG: Wow, so that’s kind of a shocking example of how decreasing the access to healthcare facilities actually exponentially increases the rate of infant mother mortality. Despite those kind of statistics, things are improving globally for, for women and for infant care. I mean especially if you’re looking in the scale of the last hundred years or so, the percentage of children that are dying between ages 0 and 5 had decreased forty percent in the last hundred years. From instances that might look like things might be getting worse but overall things are improving. Oh absolutely, and I, I don’t want to over- exaggerate things over in the United States is last on the [league?] list for industrialized countries which is still pretty low. Medical intervention and monitoring has got the death rate down considerably. It’s quite a bit worse in developing countries and the highest rates are in Africa. Africa has real problems with health provision, I think, and so we can see there the problems you get if you don’t have regular monitoring.
EG: We have the benefit of technology and medical resources that hypothetically could be available to everybody alive today. 122 million children have been able to live thanks to access to healthcare and education. So that, to me, seems like a huge progress. What do you imagine for the future of humanity if everybody could have access to health care, provided that, you know, you have some idea of what our evolutionary trajection [sic] might be.
RM: Yes, the first thing I would say is a key to the improvement you’ve mentioned is prenatal care. That has already reduced the problems enormously and improved the prospects of birth. Unfortunately a lot of people think the easy way out is to have cesarean births because then you don’t have any problem of passing through the pelvis.
EG: Yeah.
RM: That has got out of hand because WHO reckons that the medical reasons you might need to have cesarean every one in ten or one in seven births something like that. In the United States right now one in three births is by cesarean, so it’s, it’s increa—it’s more than tripled in, over the course of 40 years or so. You have full anesthesia for a cesarean and some major operation, and it has all kinds of side- effects. But the example I, I’ve given in my writings is that in bulldogs, dogs with with really wide heads, we’re talking about 85 to 95 percentages cesarean. And if we don’t watch it we’re going to end up like Bulldogs. [laughing]
EG: Wow. Man, I’m just, I’m grateful for mothers everywhere!
[both laughing] This episode of The Brain Scoop is brought to you by Bill and Melinda Gates and the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. … it still has brains on it.

How laws are made

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Once findings are gathered a white paper is published which outlines a firmer plan for
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1994 elections: Is it the end of an era? — with Karlyn Bowman (1994) | THINK TANK

Ben Wattenberg: Hello. I’m Ben Wattenberg.
Last week American voters sent congressional Democrats to a crushing defeat. Does this
lopsided election signal a major realignment in American politics, or was it simply a natural
swing of the electoral pendulum? Joining us to sort through the conflict and
the consensus are E. J. Dionne, a resident scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International
Center for Scholars and author of “Why Americans Hate Politics”; Michael Vlahos, senior fellow
at the Progress and Freedom Foundation; Karlyn Bowman, a colleague of mine and a resident
fellow at the American Enterprise Institute; and Stephen Hess, senior fellow at the Brookings
Institution and author of “Live from Capitol Hill: Studies of Congress and the Media.” The topic before this house: the 1994 elections.
Is this the end of an era? This week on “Think Tank.” Why did Americans vote the way they did? And
where does this election fit in the American electoral history? Is it a post–New Deal
realignment, the rise of neo-populism, or did fed up voters just want to throw the bums
out? Nasty, aggressive, and very expensive election
campaigns were the rule on both sides in 1994, but American voters turned out to register
their displeasure chiefly with the Democrats. The Republicans picked up well over the necessary
40 seats to wrest control of the House from the Democrats for the first time in 40 years.
In the Senate, Republicans gained eight seats. Across the country, powerful politicians lost
to upstarts. Voters in the 5th District of Washington ejected Speaker of the House Tom
Foley. Dan Rostenkowski’s Chicago voters ousted him after 36 years. Some threatened
Democrats, such as Ted Kennedy, Charles Robb, and Dianne Feinstein, held on to their seats;
but in January, Republican Bob Dole will be majority leader of the Senate, and Newt Gingrich
will be the next Speaker of the House. E. J. Dionne, was this election and earthquake,
a tidal wave, a so-called realigning election that you as a young man will have to live
with the consequences for the rest of your life? E. J. Dionne: Well, I think it was a tidal
wave, but like a lot of tidal waves, you don’t quite know what the effects are going to be
when it hits. I think part of it, especially in the South, was part of a continuing realignment
toward the Republicans. And I think part of it was an expression of discontent that’s
been out there for some years and could continue to take different forms as time goes on. Ben Wattenberg: Steve? Stephen Hess: Well, obviously any election
that produces a Republican House for the first time in 40 years has to be at least a tidal
wave. I think I may be a good deal more skeptical than some of my colleagues about realignment.
An electorate that throws out Republicans two years ago and elects Democrats, two years
later throws out the Democrats that they’ve just elected and elects Republicans? Well,
who knows what they’re going to do two years from now? Ben Wattenberg: Karlyn? Karlyn Bowman: Tidal wave, tsunami, watershed
— I’m not sure what the appropriate word is, but I’m not sure I’ll see another
election like this in my lifetime. The last time the Republicans won a majority of the
popular vote for the House was 1946. Ben Wattenberg: That’s almost half a century
ago. Karlyn Bowman: That’s right. A major change. Ben Wattenberg: Okay. Michael? Michael Vlahos: Well, it could be a realignment,
and it could be the beginning of a long Republican stewardship, but that is going to have to
be up to them to create the vision that follows the shift in Congress. This happened in the 1890s, and that’s Newt’s
favorite period. And he brings up Mark Hannah a lot. In the 1890s you had Democrats controlling
Congress for nine out of the 10 Congresses before then, and then suddenly it shifted
by almost 100 seats, more than 100 seats, in 1895. And that was followed up the next
year by a watershed presidential election, which decided the course for the country.
And — Ben Wattenberg: That was William Jennings
Brian versus — Michael Vlahos: Right. And McKinley. And basically
— Ben Wattenberg: Grover Cleveland — versus
McKinley, right. Michael Vlahos: But basically you had a struggle
going on between backward-looking populists and forward-looking sort of immigrant, urban
industrial Republicans, and the Republicans won out and set up 35 years of dominance. Ben Wattenberg: So what you’re saying is
that this will be a — may well be a realigning election only if a Republican wins in 1996? Michael Vlahos: No, no. No, only if the Republicans
capture a vision, and of course — Ben Wattenberg: Capture a vision? Michael Vlahos: Yeah, they could win in ’96
and still blow it, but — Ben Wattenberg: Oh, I understand. But if a
Republican president wins in ’96 and they keep control of both houses, Steve, would
you then — Stephen Hess: Well, when you talk — Ben Wattenberg: — be convinced that — Stephen Hess: Yeah, sure, because you’ve
got to have an event. When you talk about realignments, we talk about Jackson, we talk
about what happened in 1828 — Ben Wattenberg: Andrew, not Scoop. [Laughter.] Stephen Hess: Andrew, not Scoop. You talk
about a realignment that was the Civil War. You talk about the realignment that Michael
talked about with monetary and industrial policy after the panic of 1893. You talk about
the Great Depression producing an alignment. I don’t think that there is a comparable
issue today. I know Michael disagrees with me, but he does it by collecting a variety
of — Michael Vlahos: Issues aren’t always clear. E. J. Dionne: I think Michael’s right in
picking the 1890s as a relevant period, but I’m not sure we know it comes out quite
that way. Michael Vlahos: Yeah. E. J. Dionne: Because I think what we’re
going through now as a country is a kind of series of crises related to globalization,
technological change. That’s creating a lot of uneasiness among voters. It’s the
same kind of uneasiness that happened during industrialization in the period from the Civil
War to the 1900s. You can talk about the realignment toward
the Republicans with William McKinley, but that was also followed immediately by the
Progressive Era. And I think you can make a case that the country could move in one
of two directions. It could move toward a kind of conservative vision, or it could move
toward something like the progressives did in terms of reform, including social reform. Ben Wattenberg: Now, you talk about the globalization
of the economy and technological change, and I want to ask you all what caused the voters
to vote as they did. But I want to mention one or two polls beforehand so you might get
a slight clue as to what I think. Shortly before the election, a Washington
Post/ABC — E. J., you work for The Washington Post — an ABC — a Washington Post/ABC
poll showed 68 percent of the public regarded social issues as the most important problem,
while only 13 percent said it was economic issues. Michael Vlahos: But don’t confuse the two.
I mean, we’re in a period of economic transformation, just like the 1890s, and the social dislocation
that comes out of economic transformation is the issue that affects people. Their lives
are being torn apart. And that’s what’s going on. Ben Wattenberg: Hey, look, this social issue
stuff — I was just reading Barry Goldwater’s 1964 — Michael Vlahos: Right. Karlyn Bowman: Good choice. Ben Wattenberg: — speech to the convention.
He lists out the crime and the welfare and all of these social issues as if it was contemporary.
This is — this didn’t just start. Michael Vlahos: No, it didn’t, but now it’s
being — Ben Wattenberg: That’s 30 years ago. Michael Vlahos: I agree with you, and it didn’t
just start in 1896 either. That whole industrial transformation had been going on for decades
in the country. If you remember the labor disturbances of 1876, all the depressions
that went on — there were three depressions in the 1890s — it culminates over a period
of time. And what we’re seeing is that people are finally confronting a real watershed in
their lives, and the economic transformation, which we can call globalization, information
revolution, is all bound up in the change in American life. Americans are very uncertain.
They’re looking for a vision of where we go from here. Karlyn Bowman: But then I think — Ben Wattenberg: Let — Stephen Hess: Let’s have the micro picture,
though. Michael Vlahos: Okay, sure. Stephen Hess: We can get too macro about that.
We’ve just gone through an election where the polls, the most recent Washington Post
poll, showed that three out of four Americans couldn’t name their member of Congress,
where two out of three Americans who are eligible to vote didn’t vote — Michael Vlahos: Right. Stephen Hess: Where we have a uniquely unpopular
president, where 25 percent of the people simply detest him and detest him in a way
that’s very interesting. When they detested Ronald Reagan, it was ideological, so there
was a comparable group that loved him. There’s no comparable group here. These are really
very unique situations in which I think we have to be very gentle in looking — Ben Wattenberg: You don’t — Karlyn Bowman: Ben, I think you’re — Ben Wattenberg: Go ahead, Karlyn. Karlyn Bowman: I think you’re right that
issues involving moral disintegration of the society are weighing very heavily on people’s
minds. And if you look back to the ’50s, the last time this happened, Americans were
concerned about our science and technology — could we compete with the Soviets? And
now the overwhelming concern in the polls that I see is about moral fiber. I mean, that has many dimensions. It has economic
dimensions. Are we going to be able to compete with other people in Southeast Asia, for example?
But it also has a great deal to do with the problems we have here at home, the ones that
we are not very confident that government can solve. And that’s a sea change. Ben Wattenberg: Look, Steve, you said that
it was unique — a unique election in part because Clinton was so detested by so many
people. Stephen Hess: Yeah, so to that degree it is
a vote of confidence. I mean — Ben Wattenberg: Well, but wait a minute. Wait
a minute. Stephen Hess: The beloved Tip O’Neill was
not right that all politics is local. Ben Wattenberg: Right, but — Stephen Hess: Neither is all politics national.
But there was an awful lot that had to do with Bill Clinton in this election. Ben Wattenberg: Yeah, but — Stephen Hess: Bill Clinton isn’t going to
be around forever. Ben Wattenberg: You’re telling me. But the
— but suppose — I mean, isn’t there an ideological component to not liking a politician?
Suppose Clinton had governed as a new Democrat, and he got all the liberals angry. He coalesced
with the Republicans in the center. In other words, he governed the way he ran, as a new
Democrat. I think three-quarters of those who hate him would be hailing him. Michael Vlahos: Well, what if it goes beyond
ideology? I mean, what if the old paradigm, to use a 25-cent word, of government, a bureaucratic,
enlightened state that came out of the Progressive Era — what if that just doesn’t work anymore
and in this period of economic transformation people see that it doesn’t work and they
wouldn’t throw it out? Ben Wattenberg: Would you accept this distinction,
that it is not simply an anti-government vote, but it is an anti-what-government-does vote?
And — Michael Vlahos: And an anti-bureaucratic-state
vote, because the bureaucratic state is collapsing in business. Businesses are not like IBM and
GM used to be — pyramids. They are now adopting a totally different architecture of relationship,
and that’s going into government. And what’s happening in this election is a reflection. Ben Wattenberg: Karlyn? Michael Vlahos: But — Karlyn Bowman: Well, I think Republicans have
to answer the question about whether this was an anti-Washington vote or an anti-government
vote, and I don’t think that that’s clear. For example, if you look at a lot of Republican
governors who were elected, they think government could do many things and they can do it well.
They streamline government. It’s a smaller government generally. Michael Vlahos: Right. Karlyn Bowman: But I think Republicans have
to answer that question about what the mood is about the city of Washington. E. J. Dionne: And Karlyn is right about — in
pointing to the governors. Because if you look at the governors elections, you didn’t
have a lot of incumbents thrown out, with a couple of notable exceptions like Mario
Cuomo. And the range of governors who were reelected — Ben Wattenberg: And Ann Richards. E. J. Dionne: And Ann Richards, yes. Michael Vlahos: Right. E. J. Dionne: But the range of governors reelected,
they tended to be, with a couple of exceptions, quite a moderate lot: Roy — on the Democratic
side, Roy Romer of Colorado, Dean in Vermont. You had people — and then on the Republican
side you had people like Voinovich or Jim Edgar. These are problem-solving governors,
and I think — Stephen Hess: E. J., you didn’t have a lot
of senators thrown out either. You had Sasser and Wofford, two senators, thrown out. In
other words, look what happened there. George Mitchell decided he wanted to be commissioner
of baseball or something else. He would have been reelected. The seat went Republican. E. J. Dionne: Boren might have been — Stephen Hess: Boren wanted to be governor
— wanted to be president of Oklahoma State University. Ben Wattenberg: Boren may run primaries as
— Stephen Hess: Okay, he — Ben Wattenberg: — against Clinton in my
judgment, right. Stephen Hess: He would have won. If Lloyd
Bentsen hadn’t decided he preferred to be secretary of Treasury, he would be in the
Senate. E. J. Dionne: Al Gore. Stephen Hess: Yeah, Al Gore. So, you know,
we could be sitting here today looking at a situation in which there’s a perfectly
logical — E. J. Dionne: Yeah, but, Steve — Michael Vlahos: But this is part of what happens
in Washington a lot, and this is one of the things you saw before the election. People
thought — and I looked at the last Cuomo push, for example. It was a whole hour, and
they thought that having all sorts of famous actors endorsing him, trying to really manipulate
and control people from the old standpoint of this ruling elite in Washington knowing
how to control elections, and it blew apart this time. Stephen Hess: Can’t you just conclude that
somebody after being in office for 12 years is worn out, that it wasn’t a massive question
of industrialization, but just that the people of New York were tired of Mario? Michael Vlahos: Well, I’m sure people in
the 1890s were — Ben Wattenberg: Steve, when all the dominos
or almost all the dominoes — you point to specific things, you know, Cuomo was 12 years
and — Stephen Hess: Yeah, that’s how politics
is. It’s a lot of little pieces we put together and make — Ben Wattenberg: Yeah, but you could put a
lot of little pieces on the other side, but when all the dominoes, or almost all the dominoes,
fall in the same direction, particularly in those open seats, where there’s no incumbency
advantage, and they all go roughly the same way — E. J. Dionne: Absolutely. Ben Wattenberg: I would say, you know, you’d
better start talking realignment. This is big-time stuff, particularly when you have
that lurking values issue that the Democrats had a shot at and Clinton blew it. Stephen Hess: But you started off by saying
that the Republicans are saying what Barry Goldwater said. All you did is have a party
that takes a majority. E. J. Dionne: But I think we — Stephen Hess: That’s not realignment. That’s
the party has been successful in basically what it stands for. It is a conservative party. E. J. Dionne: I also think one of the things
we’re going to have to look at more closely over time is what was the nature of the turnout
in this election. See, I think that Clinton and the Democrats have a very large internal
problem, that they got beat because they couldn’t come together around a coherent program of
government. And I think voters were angry about that independent of their ideological
position, although there is certainly some ideological component to it. And then Clinton’s problem in terms of his
unpopularity is that, if you think of the group that’s benefited most from the recovery,
they are by and large better-off people because they were in a better position to benefit
from the recovery. They didn’t like Clinton because he raised their taxes, or they were
Republicans. The people who would have been the natural Democrats — and I think many
of them didn’t vote — were the people who haven’t felt the recovery yet. So this
side is disappointed, and the other side doesn’t like Clinton’s policies. Ben Wattenberg: Speaking of this side, this
side of this panel is the technocratic side, all right? They say, “Well, there was all
these little” — E. J. Dionne: I would never have said that
— Ben Wattenberg: — “these little Rube Goldberg
machines, and it didn’t quite work. We didn’t quite get turned out.” And we some — E. J. Dionne: Oh, no, I don’t think it’d
be a Rube Goldberg — Ben Wattenberg: — ideologues over here. E. J. Dionne: No, no, no. I don’t think
it’s a Rube Goldberg problem. I don’t think this is, you know, pulling a few levers.
I think this is really a matter, a deep matter, of how can Democrats govern the country. Can — new Democrats have said you’ve got
to restructure the government; you’ve got to do a bunch of things differently. So-called
old Democrats have said we’ve got to solve some problems and use government. Clinton
promised a synthesis, which was, we’re going to reform government — that’s the new
Democrat side — and we’re going to use it — that’s the old Democrat side. And
it didn’t — Ben Wattenberg: Hold on. I want to hear from
some of the ideologues here. Karlyn? E. J. Dionne: Could I defend myself, though? Ben Wattenberg: Karlyn, was this election
a rise of conservatism, sort of round two of the Reagan revolution? Karlyn Bowman: I think we’ve seen a rolling
realignment, and I think the country is becoming more conservative over time, and — though
you don’t see that in the straight ideology numbers, but certainly you see that, I think,
in the election that we had last week. Michael Vlahos: It’s a different kind of
conservatism, though. It’s not fiscal conservatism. It’s not “let’s be 20 percent less than
the Democrats.” It’s not “let’s be 20 percent less than FDR.” It’s a different
kind of vision. You talked about governors. It’s because
people want to see power devolve to more local arenas. And when you look at realignments
in the past, at the time it occurs, it never seems as obvious as it does in retrospect. And basically, if you look at — you saw
the Times-Mirror survey, for example. You have different groups and constellation of
voters moving away from their former affiliations. The fact that Clinton was such a manifest
failure in his promise to keep the old coalition together is a sign of how far things have
gone. You have a whole group of Perotistas basically who are right there to be grabbed
by the Republicans. You have a divide that isn’t simply a divide of ideology; it’s
a divide of whether you look backward to the bureaucratic state or forward to a different
concept of American life. Ben Wattenberg: All right. E. J. Dionne: Can I — Ben Wattenberg: Wait a minute. Hold it. I
— Stephen Hess: I was writing that speech, though,
for Eisenhower, though. I mean, really, seriously. [Laughter.] Seriously. Ben Wattenberg: What did you say, Steve? Stephen Hess: I say I was writing that speech
for Eisenhower. Michael Vlahos: Oh, you still don’t get
it. [Laughter.] Stephen Hess: Let me say, is it not true that
in the South at least, as E. J. started our discussion, this is a continuation, the completion,
of a post — E. J. Dionne: It started in ’48. Stephen Hess: Certainly in ’52 when Eisenhower
took Texas and Florida and Virginia. E. J. Dionne: Virginia. Stephen Hess: So we had it at the presidential
level. Then it moved to the gubernatorial and senatorial. Now it’s at the House level. Ben Wattenberg: I should point out to our
audience that — Stephen Hess: We have completed — Ben Wattenberg: Stephen has — Stephen Hess: Yeah. Ben Wattenberg: Although he’s a man young
— short in tooth, a young man, started working in the Eisenhower administration. Stephen Hess: Yeah. Ben Wattenberg: He was three at that time.
But — and then you worked in the Nixon administration. Stephen Hess: Yeah. Michael Vlahos: Your micro-interpretation
is very persuasive at the micro level, but you have to understand, I would hope, that
there are these periods when things shift and break in America. Stephen Hess: Absolutely. But, Michael, I
— Michael Vlahos: And to deny that that’s
happening — Stephen Hess: No, no, no. Predictions — I
predict that tomorrow will be like today on realignments, which means that I’m only
wrong once every 40 years. Michael Vlahos: Right. Stephen Hess: I may be wrong now. Michael Vlahos: Okay. Stephen Hess: But the odds at least are with
me. Michael Vlahos: You see, the — E. J. Dionne: Could I throw one more element
into the pot? Michael Vlahos: Go ahead. Sure. E. J. Dionne: This is about a voter who realigned
in this election. I was on the phone with one of my oldest friends, a historic Democrat
who voted straight Republican on Tuesday, and he said he walked into his polling place
and he saw a lot of people hang around, mostly guys, he said — mostly middle-aged guys
— and he said these were people with kids. They were worried about bringing up their
families. They thought it’s their responsibility to do that. And he thinks a lot of these people
voted Republican simply as an expression of their deep belief that a certain kind of personal
responsibility should rule and that the government isn’t going to solve the problem that’s
in their heads. I think that — Michael Vlahos: You just hit it. Personal
responsibility is the — E. J. Dionne: I think that that — Stephen Hess: Did he move to the suburbs? E. J. Dionne: Well, yes. And exactly right. Michael Vlahos: No, wait. He said different. E. J. Dionne: I pointed out to him these were
people who didn’t need government at all — Michael Vlahos: This is a really important
point, though. E. J. Dionne: And that that’s the issue. Michael Vlahos: This is a really important
point. E. J. Dionne: That’s exactly right. Michael Vlahos: That’s the watchword of
the future, is individual — Karlyn Bowman: But government isn’t even
helping those people who need it, and I think that’s one of the most serious problems.
And that’s what part of this election was about. It’s not helping people who need
it. And people want to see responsibilities devolve to the states and local areas where
more can be done. New federalism may be back — Richard Nixon — long after his — Michael Vlahos: Yeah, individual responsibility
is really the watchword. Ben Wattenberg: Now, wait a minute. Hold it.
Let me just turn to something else. Who is going to be the next president and why? Karlyn,
you can tell us that, I know that. Karlyn Bowman: I wish I knew the answer. I
don’t know the answer to that question. Ben Wattenberg: How many party — how many
people are going to be running? Karlyn Bowman: Oh, I think you could see a
couple of independent candidacies. I think you could see Clinton challenged from both
the right and the left of his party. Ben Wattenberg: Who would challenge from the
right and the left? Karlyn Bowman: Casey in Pennsylvania. There’s
been some talk about that, that he might challenge from the right. Ben Wattenberg: Uh-huh. Karlyn Bowman: Jesse Jackson could run as
an independent. There’s been some suggestion that David Boren could run as independent.
Colin Powell — no one knows yet whether he’s a Republican or a Democrat. Ben Wattenberg: Bob Kerrey, we hear, might
challenge Clinton. Karlyn Bowman: Possibly. And the Republicans
have obviously a very large group, and it’s hard to — for me to see who wins. Michael Vlahos: Yeah, the Republicans have
two years to put together a vision, and whoever best offers that vision most forcefully and
most authentically will be the nominee. Ben Wattenberg: Is the — Michael Vlahos: No, no — Karlyn Bowman: I’d like to believe that
but — Ben Wattenberg: Go ahead. Michael Vlahos: No — Karlyn Bowman: I said I’d like to believe
that, but I think that who has a lot of money at the beginning of this process because the
primary process — Michael Vlahos: Hey, we all know that, but
let me finish on this though. Ben Wattenberg: Is the Contract for America
a vision? Michael Vlahos: The Contract for America is
something that was kind of a groundwork and a first step, but I think you’ve got to
go a lot farther than that. You’ve got to talk about what’s really happening to America.
But on the Democrat side, if Clinton moves to the new Democrat to outflank the Republicans,
you’re going to see a third-party candidacy probably, and you’re going to see — Ben Wattenberg: By Jesse Jackson — Michael Vlahos: The Democrats split up. Ben Wattenberg: Right. Michael Vlahos: So that’s a real interesting
prospect for the next election. E. J. Dionne: First of all, I think Clinton
could still be the next president. Karlyn Bowman: Yes. E. J. Dionne: I think we are in such a strange
and volatile mood that I do not think we should rule that out as of now. Michael Vlahos: No, no, absolutely not. E. J. Dionne: But I think the — on the Republican
side, a lot of people are going to end up looking at these governors, because I think
it’s very important to see this election as a reaction against Democrats in Washington,
but not against incumbents in the statehouses with those couple of exceptions, and that
somebody like Lamar Alexander is out there, I think, talking in very interesting terms
about how do you assemble a new Republican program. In fact, he’s gone back to the
Progressive Era, too, and is talking about Herbert Crowley — Karlyn Bowman: Absolutely. E. J. Dionne: And what does a new Republican
program look like? I think that’s very interesting. Karlyn Bowman: E. J., is it possible that
those Republicans could run as favorite sons? Stephen Hess: Well, yeah, I would say that
Clinton — Ben Wattenberg: Hold on. Let’s get Karlyn’s
question. We’ll come to you. Karlyn Bowman: My question to E. J. is: Could
these Republican governors run as favorite sons? Because the primary process is over
so early this time, about 60 — what? Sixty-five percent of the delegates are selected by March? Stephen Hess: You won’t find that anymore.
That was the way it used to be — Karlyn Bowman: They just won’t buy it? Stephen Hess: Before 1952. That’s — E. J. Dionne: I think that’s very hard. Stephen Hess: It’s interesting, but it’s
not going to — Karlyn Bowman: But could they agree to think
about it as a group and — E. J. Dionne: But you could have — Karlyn Bowman: It’s — I mean, it’s just
an interesting idea. E. J. Dionne: It’s an interesting question
in the sense that they wouldn’t be favorite sons in the old sense, but Pete Wilson could
well carry California. Bill Weld could well carry Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Karlyn Bowman: Exactly. Christy Whitman. E. J. Dionne: So you would have the effect
of favorite sons without real favorite sons. Ben Wattenberg: What about some of those Midwestern
governors who are so popular? I mean — E. J. Dionne: Engler, Thompson — Karlyn Bowman: Thompson. Ben Wattenberg: Engler, Thompson. Stephen Hess: Yeah, they’re all good — Karlyn Bowman: Edgar. Stephen Hess: — vice presidential candidates. Michael Vlahos: Yeah, you’ve got — Ben Wattenberg: Yeah, and therefore, couldn’t
they say to their voters, “Look, you know, let me represent you out there; just — I’m
only running in this state. There are so many votes — so many, you know, convention votes
here. Don’t vote for any of those guys; vote for me.” And have a real convention? Stephen Hess: I would argue that, if Colin
Powell turns out to be a Republican, he’ll be the Republican nominee. And it’s not
a vision where we’re looking for, but it’s a leader. We haven’t got two years for vision. Michael Vlahos: They go together — Stephen Hess: I would say that — Michael Vlahos: Every time in America. Stephen Hess: Bill Clinton, although he’s
likely to get the nomination, is also a possibility to be the first incumbent president since
Chester Arthur in 1884 to be denied the nomination. So want to play games? We can play it either
way. Ben Wattenberg: All right. Let’s — we
started with E. J. on a sort of round robin. Let us try that again as we close this discussion.
What do you distill from this conversation that you agree upon and disagree upon as a
panel here? What would — how would you — E. J. Dionne: I think — Ben Wattenberg: Sum up what we have just heard? E. J. Dionne: I think we agree that these
elections were a big, big, big deal, and we don’t quite agree on what that deal means.
I think that there is a sense that something is roiling the country out there. I think
everybody agrees on that. Ben Wattenberg: Values, E. J. E. J. Dionne: Yeah, I knew you’d say that. Ben Wattenberg: Yeah, I know you knew — E. J. Dionne: And I think values is part of
it. I think the kind of economic change we’re going through is part of it and affects the
values. I think where we disagree is about how clear
the direction of this change is. My own view is that we’re in the middle of it, and we’re
not — it’s not clear, at least to me, what direction this change is going to take. Ben Wattenberg: All right. Steve? Stephen Hess: Well, I certainly think in the
short run, the next two years, that the president, blocked in terms of a legislative program,
is going to be ironically the foreign policy president and there invent government president. Michael Vlahos: Yes, absolutely right. Stephen Hess: And that otherwise we’ll go
into the 1996 election looking for vision on both sides. The vision that E. J. suggests
for Clinton sort of coming down the middle I think is much too subtle and nuanced. Ben Wattenberg: Karlyn, how do you distill
what we have learned this morning? Karlyn Bowman: I agree with the agreement
that we’ve just discussed thus far, but I think that the contract is a vision, albeit
an imperfect one. And there is some ground for Republicans to try to change things in
this city. But it’s a very imperfect vision at this point. Michael Vlahos: This was the last hurrah of
the progressive movement, and a historical era is finally over in American politics that
was protracted far too long. And whether or not you see the Republicans rise with a new
vision that carries them forward for 35 years of dominance or not, you’re still at the
end of an old era and the beginning of a new one. Ben Wattenberg: I agree we are at the end
of an era, which as Karlyn knows I’ve been saying for — what? How long? Fifteen years
that you’ve known me. Michael Vlahos: You’ve finally — [Laughter.] E. J. Dionne: You’re always in the middle
of a transition period. Ben Wattenberg: All right. Thank you, Stephen
Hess, Karlyn Bowman, E. J. Dionne, and Michael Vlahos. And thank you. We enjoy hearing from our audience. Please continue to send your comments to New River Media, 1150 17th Street, NW, Washington,
DC 20036. Or we can be reached via email at [email protected] For “Think Tank,” I’m Ben Wattenberg. Announcer: This has been a production of BJW
Inc., in association with New River Media, which are solely responsible for its content.

Is the press out of control? — with Robert Bork (1994) | THINK TANK

Ben Wattenberg: Hello. I’m Ben Wattenberg. The press is drowning us in Whitewater, the
latest media firestorm to sweep across American politics. Some call it a feeding frenzy. Others say journalists are just doing a necessary
job. Well, are media firestorms changing American
politics, and is political coverage getting too personnel? Joining us to sort through the conflict and
consensus are Judge Robert Bork, who experienced a media feeding frenzy firsthand when he was
nominated to the Supreme Court; Professor Lani Guinier, whose nomination to a high government
post also provoked a media storm; Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia,
author of “Feeding Frenzy: How Attack Journalism Has Transformed American Politics”; and
Dr. Suzanne Garment of the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Scandal: The Culture
of Mistrust in American Politics.” Our topic: Firestorm — is the media out
of control? This week on “Think Tank.” American politics has always been a rough
and tumble game, and the press has always done much of the pummeling, but something
has changed today. On certain kinds of stories the media seems
faster, meaner, more competitive and addicted to new rules and rituals. Many press barrages deal with alleged unlawful
acts committed by public officials, and some focus on personal and moral failings, while
others center on bitter differences over policy. What’s happened? Well, some trace the rise of attack journalism
back to the Watergate cover-up in 1974 when the press played a major role in forcing President
Nixon to resign. Richard Nixon (from videotape): I shall resign
the presidency effective at noon tomorrow. Vice President Ford will be sworn in as president
at that hour in this office. Ben Wattenberg: That led in the post-Watergate
era to politicians who to tried to regain the public trust. Jimmy Carter (from videotape): I’ll never
tell a lie. I’ll never make a misleading statement. Ben Wattenberg: But Carter himself was tainted
later when Bert Lance, director of Carter’s Office of Management and Budget, resigned
amidst reports of financial wrongdoing. The Iran-Contra hearings offered yet another
media fusillade, ending several public careers and launching at least one Senate bid in the
state of Virginia. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas became
the focus of the full blast of the media and of the Senate when, during his nomination
hearings, he was accused of sexual misconduct, a charge never proved and still in dispute. Clarence Thomas (from videotape): This is
a circus. It’s a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American,
as far as I’m concerned, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks. Ben Wattenberg: And, of course, President
Clinton himself has not escaped when the press put itself in overdrive. Early on, Zoe Baird, his first nomination
for attorney general, withdrew after the press disclosed that she had not paid Social Security
for her child’s nanny. And after less than a year and a half in office,
there has been “Travelgate,” “Hairgate,” “Troopergate,” and “Whitewatergate.” The result? It is probably more than mere coincidence
that Americans’ faith in their government has dropped. In 1964, 78 percent of Americans said they
trusted Washington to do what is right most or all of the time. But by 1994, that number had fallen from 78
percent to only 20 percent. Professor Larry Sabato, is the press out of
control these days? Larry Sabato: Absolutely. Or I’d to put it another way. I’d say the media’s excesses are out of
control, and they’re out of control because of the changes that have taken place in the
modern media. It used to be, at least in the modern era
— I don’t want to go back to the beginning of the American republic when the media were
far worse than they are today — but in the modern era, in the beginning you had a press
driven by the best, driven by those with the highest standards. Today you have a kind of lowest common denominator
journalism. Ben Wattenberg: What’s the difference between
a media firestorm and just a big story? Larry Sabato: Oh, I think it’s this: I guess
I do it by defining what a feeding frenzy is, which is what a firestorm is. A feeding frenzy is a critical mass of journalists
that leaps in unison to cover a scandalous topic and almost always does so excessively. Ben Wattenberg: Suzie Garment, in your book
“Scandal,” do you buy that definition and analysis? Suzanne Garment: I certainly do. Larry is the expert. Let me add, though, that other things as well
have changed in the political community. The rules among good politically active people,
not just journalists, have become more strict on questions of ethics for instance. We have much more information available to
us about the behavior of public officials. Ben Wattenberg: Have we set up a sort of scandal
industry structurally? Suzanne Garment: You bet. That is, we’ve not only created professions
like the press with the habits of investigation, but we’ve given them much more material
than ever before and many more rules on which to pin stories. So we shouldn’t be very surprised. Ben Wattenberg: And some of these are new
institutions, I mean independent prosecutors, independent counsels, new inspector generals. That’s — is that a fairly new development? Suzanne Garment: Some of these are, in fact,
new developments, and there was a whole series of them after Watergate, precisely because
we felt confirmed in our mistrust of government and we wanted plenty of institutions around
that were independent and were telling us whatever was wrong. And now we’re finding out. Ben Wattenberg: Do you all believe that government
today is more corrupt than it used to be? Robert Bork: Oh, no. Not by a long shot. Government was very corrupt, I think, for
a long period of time. I think the corruption now tends not to be
about money so much as it tends to be about power and ideology. Lani Guinier: I agree with that. Ben Wattenberg: More. Lani Guinier: Not that it’s corruption,
but that the contest which takes place is really a contest about policy. And yet the way the press often covers it,
it becomes a fight over personality. Robert Bork: But one reason for that, of course,
is that we have a new politics of moral assault. When people disagree, they don’t just disagree;
they accuse the other person of being basically evil. Larry Sabato: And campaigns have become contests
about moral virtue as much as about issues. Ben Wattenberg: Well, but isn’t the — I
mean, we can all do press bashing. I do it myself sometimes. But isn’t character, the so-called character
issue — isn’t that an important issue? Larry Sabato: Of course it is, but there are
lots of . . . Ben Wattenberg: So why shouldn’t they cover
it? Larry Sabato: But, Ben, there are lots of
ways to measure character. Do you have to go into the bedroom to measure
character? Or can you . . . Ben Wattenberg: It depends on what’s happening
in the bedroom. (Laughter.) Larry Sabato: That may be true, but I think
a better way to judge it is . . . Ben Wattenberg: And with whom, right. Yeah. Larry Sabato: By what men and women have done
in public life. They’ve either shown courage or they haven’t,
for example. Robert Bork: Well, in your excellent book,
one of the rules you give for when the private should become public is compulsive sexual
behavior. Larry Sabato: Absolutely. Absolutely. Robert Bork: So. Larry Sabato: You can step over the line. Robert Bork: Yeah. Larry Sabato: And I think compulsive sexual
behavior does, indeed, step over that line. Because there are public consequences when
you have compulsive sexual behavior. Robert Bork: It also indicates something about
a person’s mindset and character. Larry Sabato: Sure. Suzane Garment: The problem is not that character
doesn’t matter. Character does matter. When we elect a president certainly, or a
senator, we’re not just electing a policymaker. We are also electing a role model, and there’s
no way around that. The problem is that we haven’t figured out
very well how to measure it properly and make sure that our discussion is relevant to public
policy. Ben Wattenberg: But don’t we need, I mean,
I — let me play devil’s advocate. Don’t we need the press to keep that spotlight
on the public officials? I mean, isn’t that what they’re there
for? Robert Bork: Yeah, I don’t think we’re
talking about the right thing. It’s not when they go into a frenzy, because
sometimes they’re on to a real story and they go after it all out. And that’s fine. What’s troublesome is when they begin to
report rumors and gossip for which they have no confirmation. Larry Sabato: And that happens even on a legitimate
story. That’s the problem. There are excesses even when the press is
on to a legitimate story. They’re publishing and airing rumors without
sufficient proof. The standard of proof has dropped drastically. Ben Wattenberg: Let me — let’s move on
from this sort of analytical moment to go briefly to some personal experiences. And again, I want to stress that Lani Guinier
and Robert Bork were not accused of doing anything scandalous or even close to it or
anything wrong. Nevertheless, they were caught up in a media
firestorm as a result of bitter policy differences. And let me just ask you, Lani, starting with
you, what’s it like to be in the — in that kind of spotlight? Lani Guinier: Well, it’s very uncomfortable,
especially if you don’t have an opportunity to respond. In my case, I think my political opponents
successfully defined me, and I was under instructions from the administration that nominated me
not to respond. And, therefore, I had to watch this take place. And in my case, I observed other people talking
about someone who was using my name, but it wasn’t me. And yet I was not in a position to intervene,
and the reporters unfortunately were not curious enough to find out whether, in fact, they
were describing the real Lani Guinier or someone else’s projected caricature of her. Ben Wattenberg: Bob Bork, speaking of caricatures,
I wanted to read something here that came about early in the Bork affair by your dear
friend, Senator Ted Kennedy, and I’ll read it quickly, but just to give a little flavor
of how tough these things can get. Senator Kennedy said: “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which
women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters,
rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could
not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of government,
and the doors of the federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.” That’s what happened — what? The day you were nominated? Robert Bork: Yeah, within 45 minutes of the
nomination. Yeah. Well . . . Ben Wattenberg: Do you think he just wrote
it out right then or maybe they were ready? (Laughs.) Robert Bork: No, I think they were ready in
advance. But, you know, the interesting thing was that
that was — there was not a line in that that had any resemblance to the truth, but
no newspaper or television station, to my knowledge, ever analyzed it to see what relationship
that bore to the record. They just reported it. And that was pretty much the way the whole
thing went. Ben Wattenberg: What . . . Robert Bork: The accusations were reported. I, like Lani, was under orders not to talk
back. And — Ben Wattenberg: Although, of course, you did
get . . . Robert Bork: A hearing, yeah. But that wasn’t the kind of . . . Ben Wattenberg: You got your day in court
as we say. Robert Bork: Yeah, but that wasn’t the kind
of thing we discussed at the hearing. Ben Wattenberg: Could you not have brought
that up? Robert Bork: I suppose I could have brought
it up and started a fight about that, yes. Larry Sabato: But they both received very
foolish advice, because one of the best lessons of Watergate is that you must get everything
you possibly can out to refute a charge as quickly as possible. And apparently your media advisers didn’t
know that. Suzanne Garment: Well, but the media advisers
weren’t out to protect the nominees. The media advisers are out to protect the
White House and the president. Larry Sabato: That’s a good point. Suzanne Garment: And somehow — I mean, sometimes
that’s done by separation. Ben Wattenberg: Bob, just personally, what
was it like? Robert Bork: Well, it got to the point where
I couldn’t look at the paper in the morning. I would just tell my wife, “Pass me the
sports section.” (Laughter.) And — but she then began to have the idea
of reading a Psalm every morning, and I liked it when she got to the 3rd Psalm, which is
a plea to God to “break the teeth of mine enemies.” (Laughter.) Ben Wattenberg: Did you ever feel that way
about the press when you were going through this? Lani Guinier: It was a nightmare, but I continued
to read the articles. And as I said, even my own mother couldn’t
recognize me from them. And I subsequently spoke inadvertently to
someone who turned out to be a professor of psychology, and I had told him that when I
was in high school my nightmare — my anxiety dream had always been that I would show up
the first day of school and not have on my skirt and just have a slip and all the kids
in high school would be pointing at me and laughing. And he said, well, after what I went through,
I must be cured now. (Laughter.) Ben Wattenberg: Is it possible in the strange
way that fate works out that these horror shows may have been in your own cases for
the better? Let me just give you an example. Today — we — any time there is a new Supreme
Court vacancy, the first guy they want on the panel is Judge Bob Bork, this great, wonderful,
learned jurist amongst people who had trashed you. You have written a book, a bestselling book,
describing your legal views. You have a lot of impact on the public debate. Lani Guinier, that trial by fire that you
went through and people said, “Oh, she’s a quota queen and it’s terrible.” Lani Guinier: And the czarina of czeparatism. Ben Wattenberg: The czarina — ah, well,
now I . . . Lani Guinier: I gave you an opening. Ben Wattenberg: You gave me an opening. I will tell you one paragraph that I wrote
about Lani Guinier, which I thought — it was one paragraph in a long story, and Lani
has been quoting it: the czarina of separatism. The whole quote — I rather like it — said: “Bill Clinton should quietly ask Professor
Lani Guinier, alias the quota queen, the princess of proportionalism, the duchess of diversity,
the vicar of victimization, the czarina of separatism, to withdraw her name from Senate
confirmation as chief of the Civil Rights Division.” What was my question? I do not — how’d this come up? Lani Guinier: You were trying to tell me that
I was better off. . . Ben Wattenberg: Yeah . . . Lani Guinier: Having heard you read that to. . . Ben Wattenberg: Right. Okay, now . . . Lani Guinier: A national audience . . . Ben Wattenberg: Right, but . . . Lani Guinier: For a second time. (Laughter.) Ben Wattenberg: All right. But now we see you on the front cover of The
New York Times magazine. You have published a book, which is, I gather,
doing very well. There was a big article in the paper the other
— was it The New York Times — the other day that said, “Hmmm, Lani Guinier’s ideas
about cumulative voting, maybe those were pretty good ideas.” Are you getting more exposure and more influence
for your ideas than you ever would have gotten at the one, two, three, fourth level of the
Justice Department? Lani Guinier: I don’t think you can calculate
it that way. Certainly one of the messages of both my experience
and that of Judge Bork is that, once the media has martyred you, then they are prepared to
give you a hearing. And in that sense, if you take advantage of
the opportunity to be heard, you have a platform. But if Judge Bork had been on the Supreme
Court or if I had been given a hearing and been confirmed, then you are in a position
not only to talk about some of these ideas but to do something about them. And I think that we miss the ability of government
officials not only to talk about ideas but actually to talk about them in a context in
which there are resources behind them to implement those ideas if just trivialize the experience
and say, “Oh, well, now you’re a celebrity and you can talk whenever you want.” Ben Wattenberg: Yeah, but I’m not talking
about celebrity status. I am talking about your ability to put forth
the serious ideas you want to put forth. And as we all know, our government is driven
by what’s in the newspapers and what’s on television. And when they see — when they’re a headline
saying, “You know, Lani Guinier’s ideas, those happen to be pretty good,” doesn’t
that also give you a certain form of influence . . . Lani Guinier: Yes. Ben Wattenberg: And power? Lani Guinier: Yes. And in some ways what you’re describing
is the Chinese character for crisis, which is a combination of danger and opportunity. And you’re saying, “Well, look at the
opportunity.” And I don’t deny that it creates an opportunity
and that those of us who are in a position to take advantage of it are, in fact, very
fortunate. Ben Wattenberg: Until very recently, it was
sort of an article of faith in the conservative and in the neoconservative community that
this was all a plot by liberals against conservatives. Now we have something called Whitewater, which
we will take about in a minute. Is it — is this a bipartisan phenomenon,
or are liberals more — are conservatives more likely to get hit than liberals? Suzanne Garment: For some time during the
1980s, it was a phenomenon of liberals attacking conservatives, partly because conservatives
were in power in the executive branch. But during the course of the 1980s, more and
more Democrats started to get involved. Ben Wattenberg: Jim Wright was a big one. Suzanne Garment: That’s right. Now, on Whitewater, there are many conservatives
who believe that the press has been soft on Clinton, that the stop-and-go nature of the
coverage shows a kind of ambivalence that wouldn’t have been there had it been a conservative
president. But I don’t think it’s possible to say
that the press has just lain down in front of him. There has been a lot of coverage. Ben Wattenberg: Is this phenomenon going to
keep good people from running for office? Larry Sabato: I absolutely believe that that’s
the case. It’s impossible to prove, but just consider
it from the point of logic. It seems to me that those with the most to
lose, those who spent their whole lives making their friends and family proud of them, achieving
a lot in the community they now recognize that they can have it all thrown away for
them with a single headline one morning’s newspaper, one evening news broadcast. Why are they going to run? All right. Let’s talk for a minute now about this Whitewater
situation, because we are again right smack in the midst of a media firestorm. The Clinton people say it’s all trivial,
nothing’s been proved, there is no charge. On the other hand, when you go through the
list of some of the things that are at least being talked about, you end up with obstruction
of justice, swindle, sexual harassment, cover-up, bribery, lying, illegal commodity trading,
illegal campaign financing, and massive philandering. That’s just a list that I — and I’m
not saying any of that or all of that is true. Is the press now overreacting to that story,
Larry? Larry Sabato: I think they’re overreacting
to the Whitewater part of it, the financial dealings part of it. And why is that true? They went to Whitewater as a way to avoid
Troopergate. To get back to Judge Bork’s comment, I think
Troopergate is the tip of an iceberg, and there is massive and compulsive sexual activity
involved in Clinton’s past that probably should have been discussed during the campaign
and was not. The press doesn’t want to deal with that
after Gennifer Flowers. But to avoid looking as though they were in
the tank for Clinton they diverted to Whitewater. Ben Wattenberg: Now, you used the word “compulsive.” You are a professor, and you did not use that
word by accident, did you? Larry Sabato: No. I, as you can imagine, in investigating those
aspects of it for my book, I came across various trails of this, that, and the other myself. So I feel comfortable in using that adjective. Lani Guinier: Well, could I ask a question? Why do you think the press is disinterested
in that particular story if one of the claims is that the press goes after what is most
titillating and what is most sensational? Larry Sabato: Normally they do, but they were
burned badly during the Gennifer Flowers affair. They really got it in the neck during the
Gennifer Flowers affair. Lani Guinier: From? Larry Sabato: From, I think, people generally
who wanted to focus on broader issues like the economy. Certainly from the Clinton people. And, of course, they have to deal with the
Clinton administration. And many of those same campaign aides are
now in senior White House positions. So there are a lot of factors at work here. Robert Bork: Well, there’s another factor
at work, and that is the New Republic writer said that one reason they gave Clinton a break
on the sex stories is they like him as they like his policies and they don’t want to
bring him down. Larry Sabato: That’s part of it. Suzanne Garment: Besides . . . Lani Guinier: But then why are they going
after Whitewater? Suzanne Garment: Because there it is. Say you don’t want to deal with Troopergate,
right? Because it’s messy and you don’t know
how you feel about adultery anyway. There, shimmering on the horizon, is Whitewater,
a clean scandal, a nice scandal, a scandal fit for a family newspaper. Robert Bork: A Pulitzer Prize scandal. Suzanne Garment: Yes. It’s unbeatable. Ben Wattenberg: Does all of this then, I mean,
in terms of the way it affects Bill and Hillary Clinton, is this in to — to a resurfacing
of the character issue? Is that what the sum and substance of this
whole argument is about? Larry Sabato: It’s a resurfacing, but you
have to ask yourself why. And the reason why is because the character
issue was never resolved during the campaign of ’92. The American people wanted to get rid of George
Bush. At first they turned to Perot and thought
that he would be the alternative. Then they found out he was the political equivalent
of a drive-by shooting, and they were left with Bill Clinton. He was the only choice. That was it. And at a certain point the American people
told the press, or maybe the press told themselves, no more information about Bill Clinton because
he’s the only choice left and, unless we want mass suicides, we need to keep it here. So the questions were unresolved, and they’re
going to dog him throughout his presidency. Ben Wattenberg: So you’re saying that the
press made a partisan judgment that they did not like Bush or Perot and they purposely
laid off an existing story? Larry Sabato: No, I believe the American people
made that judgment and the press picked up on it. I think it was the American people every bit
as much, if not more so than the press, who rejected George Bush and decided Clinton was
the only real alternative. Ben Wattenberg: Lani, do you think the Clintons
are being treated fairly by the press in this episode? Lani Guinier: Well, I was very persuaded by
the piece in The Wall Street Journal by Arthur Schlesinger suggesting that the focus on business
deals 15 years ago, which predated the presidency, is a misdirection of the resources of the
press, that that’s something that should be the subject of an election campaign, not
the subject of a governing question. But on the other hand, I was also persuaded
by Larry’s point that, if there is a subtext, if there is a concern, a lingering concern
that is unresolved, then the press is going to continue to look for opportunities to develop
that subtext. Ben Wattenberg: I admit . . . Robert Bork: Well, there are two things that
should be said about the Whitewater. It’s true that it was 10, 15 years ago,
but it’s also true that it displays characteristics that they denounced in their opponents, the
decade of greed. Ben Wattenberg: And it involves things like
. . . Robert Bork: Hypocrisy. Ben Wattenberg: They said and did even in
the White House. Robert Bork: The second part is they’re
giving a wonderful impression of a cover-up. If it isn’t a cover-up, they sure know how
to impersonate one. Lani Guinier: One of my concerns — and this
is what makes me empathetic with Schlesinger’s criticism — I think we need to have a focus
on the issues. If the issue is character, let’s talk about
character. If the issue is health policy, let’s talk
about that rather than using these sensational stories to personalize policy disagreements
and do in a way what a Canadian journalist told me, which is “make America a marketplace
for emotions rather than a marketplace of ideas.” Ben Wattenberg: Can the American people — to
use an old phrase — walk and chew gum at the same time? Can we deal with, whether you agree with him
or not — major issues Bill Clinton has put on the agenda and at the same time deal with
a big-time firestorm scandal? Larry Sabato: It’s tough, although we’re
starting to do it. But what comes between public policy like
health care and the character issues that are being discussed is a word — trust — and
you have to have trust in your leaders that they’re telling you the truth about policy,
and that goes to character. And that’s why I think we still have all
these unresolved questions about the Clintons. And until we resolve them, we’re not going
to be able to fully focus on their policy proposals. Lani Guinier: The unresolved question is what? Larry Sabato: The unresolved question is:
Can we trust Bill Clinton, and is he a good and moral leader? Ben Wattenberg: Well, on that note, thank
you, Professors Lani Guinier, Sabato, Dr. Garment, Judge Bork, and thank you for joining
us. For “Think Tank,” I’m Ben Wattenberg. Announcer : This has been an production of BJW Incorporated in association with New River Media, which are solely responsible for its content.

The battle of the budget in plain English (1996) | THINK TANK

Ben Wattenberg: Hello, I’m Ben Wattenberg. The battle of the budget 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? And whatever happened to plain English? Joining us to sort through the conflict and
the consensus are Robert Reischauer, former director of the Congressional Budget Office
and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution; Allen Schick, professor of public policy at
the University of Maryland and author of “The Federal Budget: Politics, Policy, Process”;
David Mason, director of the US Congress assessment project at the Heritage Foundation; and Stephen
Moore, director of fiscal studies at the Cato Institute. The question before this house: the battle
of the budget, in plain English. This week on “Think Tank.” The White House and the Congress have been
fighting over a balanced budget. Republicans say that the budget battle is
about fundamentally changing the direction of America toward fiscal responsibility and
less government. Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) [from videotape]: We’re
not going to change 40 years of a drift towards Washington in six months or eight months or
even a year, but it will be done. We are going to balance the budget in seven
years. Make no mistake about it; it’s going to
get done. [Applause] Ben Wattenberg: Democrats say it’s about
a tax cut for the rich and stealing entitlements from the middle class and the poor. President Bill Clinton [from videotape]: The
Republican Congress has shut down the federal government because they haven’t passed a
budget for this year and because they want to make the price of opening the government
up my acceptance of seven long years of unacceptable cuts in health care, education, and the environment,
in research and technology. Ben Wattenberg: There is one thing both sides
agree upon: spending is outrunning revenues, creating big deficits. If nothing is done, the budget deficit would
be $231 billion in the year 2002. Under President Clinton’s latest proposal,
the deficit would still be at $115 billion. The Republican plan would balance the budget
in seven years. What is causing these continual federal deficits? Principally, they come from skyrocketing growth
in entitlements, like Social Security and Medicare. By the year 2010, if not corrected, entitlements
would consume all the tax revenues not devoted to paying off the national debt. That would mean the federal government would
be 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? Allen Schick: Republicans and Democrats say
they’re fighting over ideology, but they’re fighting over numbers — a bigger or smaller
tax cut, more or less for Medicare and Medicaid. Behind the numbers stand programs and interests
and my getting more or less from the government. But at the end of the day, because they’re
fighting over numbers, they’ll reach an agreement. Ben Wattenberg: Stephen Moore, Allen says
it’s not theology. Is that right? Stephen Moore: Well, if you look at these
two budgets that are on the table, President Clinton wants to spend $13 trillion over the
next seven years; the Republicans want to spend $12 trillion over the next seven years. That’s enough money to fight World War II
three times. So I would make the case that under either
budget, big government wins. Ben Wattenberg: David Mason. David Mason: I think there are fundamental
differences here. You’re right, we’re talking about small
differences in terms of a percentage of the federal government. But there’s a principle, and that is: Is
the government ever going to start living within its means? And importantly, starting about the year 2002,
baby boomers are going to start to retire, and some of the bills for Social Security
and some of the other entitlement programs will start swelling. And so if we don’t get the deficit under
control before then, it probably never will be done. Ben Wattenberg: Bob Reischauer. Robert Reischauer: I think there’s more
philosophy in this than there is numbers, and I think there are huge differences between
the Republicans and the president on such things as whether certain entitlements, like
Medicaid, should retain their current forms. Should we have a guarantee for health insurance
for low-income Americans? Ben Wattenberg: My sense is that the single
most important change is what they want to do with welfare. Would you buy that? Robert Reischauer: Well, really, the president
and the Congress aren’t too far apart on welfare. The president, remember, is a governor, a
former governor, and he has signed on to the notion that we will have block grants for
the welfare system. Ben Wattenberg: Yeah, but that is a huge change. I mean — Robert Reischauer: That is a huge change in
policy. Ben Wattenberg: And the fact that they both
agree with it makes it, in some sense, even a huger change. Robert Reischauer: Oh, it is, but it’s not
a source of disagreement in this current — Ben Wattenberg: Right. Allen Schick: Welfare is a small part of the
welfare policy. Medicaid is a much bigger part of federal
assistance — Ben Wattenberg: In terms of dollars. Allen Schick: — to low-income people, in
terms of dollars and in terms of importance to the states. Stephen Moore: But the importance of this,
Ben, both with respect to Medicaid and welfare programs, is that for the first time, if Republicans
get their way and we turn this back to the states in a block grant, we will be de-entitling
a program. This is something that’s never happened
in Washington before. Ben Wattenberg: But you’re the person who
just said a minute ago that big government’s going to win anyway. Now you’re saying this is a revolutionary
change. Stephen Moore: I think the one area — I
would agree with the comment you made — the one area I think Republicans are making a
very dramatic change in the way Washington works is with respect to welfare and Medicaid. Ben Wattenberg: What does de-entitling mean? I mean, we have this — the topic of the
program is “in plain English,” so we have to — Stephen Moore: De-entitling means that we’re
not going to let these programs grow on a — just on an automatic basis. We’re going to put a cap on how much these
programs can grow each year. And that’s I think a very historic change. Ben Wattenberg: In other words — Robert Reischauer: That’s not really what
de-entitling means. De-entitling means that an individual in a
state will have no legal right to a benefit unless that state provides the individual
with a legal right to the benefit. Stephen Moore: When you get into the issue
of philosophy of this budget versus Clinton’s, I think here is a very basic philosophical
disagreement. Republicans are running as sort of the anti-Washington
party, and they’re basically saying, look, we’ve had 30 years of the New Deal welfare
state, the Great Society, and it hasn’t worked. We think that states can run the programs
better. This is something that the special interest
groups in Washington find most objectionable in the Republican budget. Allen Schick: I find it ironic that Republicans
would run as the anti-Washington party, but say with respect to Medicaid, which will cost
billions and — tens and hundreds of billions of dollars, Uncle Sam, you still write the
check and mail it to 50 state capitals. That’s what disentitling means, that Uncle
Sam pays the bill and the state decides what to do with it. In fact — Ben Wattenberg: You are not a happy camper
about the entitlement plan, I gather. Allen Schick: No. In fact, under the Republican plan, the percentage
paid by Washington for Medicaid will rise. Ben Wattenberg: Let me pose this question
to try to understand this. In the early 1980s, President Reagan was fond
of quoting Milton Friedman by saying, “There is no free lunch,” and he was talking frequently
about the fact of these deficits. In 1992, governor-then-candidate Clinton repeated
again and again the mantra, “No more something for nothing.” Does this budget bill, which has a glide path
to a balanced budget, is that the culmination of this kind of thinking? “No more something for nothing,” “there
is no free lunch,” you got to pay for it. Is that fair? Stephen Moore: Well, I think it is historic
that this is the first time in 30 years that any Congress or any president has put a balanced
budget on the table. Now, I don’t believe — Robert Reischauer: No, but let’s put this
in — Ben Wattenberg: Well, what about all those
other budget bills? I mean, didn’t the Bush bill have a balanced
budget in the out years? Robert Reischauer: Let’s put this in perspective. This is the third inning of a game, and the
two previous innings that we’ve played, the 1990 budget deal and the 1993 budget deal,
both reduced the deficit very substantially and have contributed to getting us to the
point where we can with the next jump reach a balanced budget. Stephen Moore: I strongly disagree with you. Robert Reischauer: Now, we thought when we
were enacting the 1990 budget deal that it was going to get us very close to a balanced
budget, a deficit of something around $28 billion by 1995. Allen Schick: And tell us what happened, Bob. We had a recession? Robert Reischauer: You know, what happened
was the economy — Stephen Moore: We had a big tax increase that
caused a recession. Robert Reischauer: — the economy fell apart. We had a recession, which took a long time
for us to recover from. The spending on the savings and loan fiasco
was delayed and pushed into out years. Ben Wattenberg: Well, I mean, but that’s
what happens — Robert Reischauer: And a series of sort of
unexpected increases in unemployment insurance, AFDC, and food stamp spending — Ben Wattenberg: You say unexpected because
of the recession; that triggered it. Allen Schick: Not only the recession. Robert Reischauer: It was more than could
be explained by the recession. Ben Wattenberg: Social conditions generally. Allen Schick: Social conditions, a rise in
food stamp recipients from 19 million to 27 million, and that rise did not go away when
the recession went away. Ben Wattenberg: Triggered perhaps by — Allen Schick: Social breakdown of family structure. Ben Wattenberg: — this increase in out-of-wedlock
birth, those sorts of social conditions. Allen Schick: Things like that, as well as
the recession. David Mason: But the supply-siders, who were
critics of both the 1990 and 1993 budget deals, said, look, if you impose these very record
tax increases, it’s going to destroy the economy, and you can’t balance the budget
if you don’t have the economy growing. Ben Wattenberg: Well, but we had — Stephen Moore: And that’s exactly what happened. So — Ben Wattenberg: We had eight prior recessions
to this one. Why do you say that that tax cut — that
that tax increase caused — I mean, what caused the other eight recessions? Stephen Moore: Well, we had, prior to this
recession, remember, Ben, we had a record expansion after the Reagan tax cuts. And the point is that this budget deal the
Republicans put on the table is very different. They’re going to balance the budget by cutting
taxes, whereas the previous budget deals that never came close to balancing the budget raised
taxes. Allen Schick: You mean they say they’re
going to balance the budget by cutting taxes. I don’t think that what Congress is doing
with the president in 1996 is going to assure a balanced budget in 2002 unless the economy
cooperates and the economy is running on its own steam. Ben Wattenberg: Let me ask a question, a factual
question on behalf of the tens of millions of people who are watching this program. Is there anything to prevent a future Congress
from changing this whole deal? Stephen Moore: No. That’s the problem. Allen Schick: Absolutely nothing. Stephen Moore: A seven-year — this is one
thing I agree with Allen on. Ben Wattenberg: I mean, next year there’s
a presidential election. New Congress comes in, Democratic Congress,
it’s a more conservative Republican Congress, they say, hey, here’s a clean blackboard. Let’s go play. Robert Reischauer: Even if we were to enact
this major deficit reduction proposal, this would not be the end to end all future proposals. We will have mid-course corrections. Priorities will change, the state of the economy
will change, parties will change what they want, and — Ben Wattenberg: But it would be politically
much more difficult to go to an unbalanced budget in the future, is that right? Robert Reischauer: That’s correct. Allen Schick: But this will not be the battle
of the budget. Robert Reischauer: That’s for sure. Allen Schick: This will be not the last battle
over the deficit, and Congress and the president will lock horns over it again and again. Stephen Moore: Ben, I think that — David Mason: The one place where I think the
change could be kind of permanent is in these entitlement programs. Because if we change those and we say no longer
are we going to say that every person in America who 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 go back, simply because it’ll be too expensive. So we could make some changes here that’ll
really stick. Stephen Moore: I think everyone would agree
that entitlements are what are blowing up our budget, and the one thing that I would
give Republicans credit for and I think the left has been irresponsible on is for once
we have a Congress that’s taking on the entitlements. I mean, they’re taking on Medicare. They’re taking on Medicaid. They’re taking on welfare. And what’s happening is the left is saying,
“Oh, you can’t take on these programs.” Ben Wattenberg: Do you agree with that, Bob,
that this — is that an accurate rendition of what happened? I mean, everybody was saying you got to deal
with entitlements, and now they’re dealing with entitlements and they’re catching hell
for it. Robert Reischauer: We have dealt with entitlements
in the 1980s. We have dealt with them in 1990. We dealt with them in 1993. This is not a difference in kind; it’s a
difference in magnitude. I’d just like to add that it’s not all
entitlements that are running amok. The AFDC, or welfare program, and food stamp
programs are not expected to grow faster than the economy over the next five or 10 years. The problem is the health care programs, Medicare
and Medicaid. And the proposal is, of course, to de-entitle
Medicaid. But we don’t know if the president will
accept that, and I doubt that he will. And with respect to Medicare, the Republicans
had an innovative proposal, really, to fix the budget for that, to say each year we will
spend a certain amount of money on health care for the aged and the disabled through
the Medicare program. That would be a major step towards controlling
that program. Ben Wattenberg: Let’s move on to some of
the questions that to an outsider are almost impenetrable. The Democrats say these are deep cuts particularly
aimed at the middle class and particularly the poor, and the Republicans say it is merely
a decrease in the rate of increase. Stephen Moore: Well, Ben, over the next — Ben Wattenberg: Are either of those things
true or both of them or — Allen Schick: Both of them are true. Ben Wattenberg: — neither? Allen Schick: Both of them are true because
health care, which — Bob is right — are the drivers of the deficit, goes up because
of inflation, because of technology, because of use of medical services year after year. And the question is: What should be the rate
of growth of these programs over the next five or seven years and beyond? So we are talking about — David Mason: So in fact, both aren’t true. Both aren’t true. We’re talking about — Ben Wattenberg: Both are true, you say? David Mason: No, both aren’t. He said both are true, and I’m saying no,
both are not true. In fact, the question is the rate of growth. And last year, when President Clinton and
Hillary Clinton had their health care plan, they were talking about beginning to limit
the rate of growth in Medicare spending. That’s what the Republicans are talking
about today. And it is very significant because the program
is so big. But this idea of politically coming in and
banging on the Republicans and saying there are going to be children in the streets and
families put out, people without medical care, is ridiculous and irresponsible. Allen Schick: That’s not true. That’s not true. If we’re talking about — David Mason: They’re talking about small
changes in the program. Allen Schick: No, you can’t have it both
ways. You can’t say it’s this big policy with
small changes. We’re talking about, in the case of Medicare,
the middle-class program. The changes, in my judgment, are relatively
small. In the case of — in effect, Medicare will
be transformed into a service which most Americans who work are familiar with, managed care. An increasing portion of Americans are already
in an HMO. Ben Wattenberg: So it’s not a huge deal? Allen Schick: It’s not a huge deal. Medicaid is a different story. Medicaid, if the spending is capped, if the
states have greater discretion in how or to limit services, we will indeed find a lot
of low-income people, particularly during periods of recession, without access to some
of these services. Ben Wattenberg: Isn’t the argument made
that so many people stay on welfare because the Medicaid is so attractive? So if the Medicaid is made less attractive,
more people would leave welfare. Stephen Moore: Ben, if — Allen Schick: Let’s take a closer look. Ben Wattenberg: Is that the way the argument
is made? Stephen Moore: Look at the numbers on welfare. Robert Reischauer: There is an argument made
that way. I don’t think there’s a lot of empirical
evidence that supports the argument. Allen Schick: But let’s look at the numbers
on Medicaid. Stephen Moore: No, let’s look at all welfare. If you look at — Ben Wattenberg: Steve. Stephen Moore: We just published a study at
Cato that shows the average person on welfare is receiving about $9 an hour in terms of
what — the equivalent of a job. Now, it’s very difficult to get people off
welfare when you’re providing a very generous benefit. Ben Wattenberg: I saw that study, where it’s
about — the median state is about $22,000 in pretax income if you count everything. Stephen Moore: That’s right. This is a fairly — now, that includes Medicaid,
AFDC, food stamps, the whole range. Ben Wattenberg: Right. Robert Reischauer: That’s if you get everything,
but the average person doesn’t get everything. Stephen Moore: But even if you take out — no,
if you get — Robert Reischauer: Doesn’t get housing assistance. Stephen Moore: If you get AFDC, you also get
food stamps. You get Medicaid. And those are the three major programs, even
if you take out housing. But let me just make one quick point. I think most people — Robert Reischauer: But if we’re going to
make that kind of comparison, we should include in your salary and my salary the fringe benefits
we’re getting from our employer, like the health insurance. Stephen Moore: Right. Right. This is — Robert Reischauer: And we are. And that is not — you can’t — Stephen Moore: — without any fringe benefits. But a lot of people at $6 an hour don’t
get fringe benefits. Ben Wattenberg: Steve Moore, why don’t you
finish up? Then I want to ask one other question. Stephen Moore: Okay. Well, Ben, I think Dave Mason is right. Most people do think that this budget is making
dramatic cuts in spending. Over the next seven years, the federal budget
will go up by $350 billion. That’s larger than the entire budget as
recently as 1970, so — Ben Wattenberg: Yeah, but is that — that’s
not corrected for population growth. Stephen Moore: Over the next seven years,
under the Republican budget, spending goes up by roughly the rate of inflation. It’s not unprecedented in our history, Ben,
that we had periods of time when we reduced spending. Ben Wattenberg: No, I understand. Stephen Moore: We’re in a post–Cold War
era. We should be cutting spending across the board. You could make a strong argument that we should
be not only running a balanced budget, but running a surplus now. That’s what we normally do after war periods. Ben Wattenberg: Right. Let me go on to another question that comes
up all the time. The Democrats say it’s a tax cut for the
rich, and the Republicans say, oh, no, it isn’t. This $500 tax credit for children is, what,
for families under $80,000 income, something like that. Stephen Moore: 95,000. Ben Wattenberg: Excuse me? Robert Reischauer: 95,000. Ben Wattenberg: $95,000. It’s principally a middle-class tax cut. That involves two-thirds of the total tax
cut. Who’s right? Are both right again? David Mason: Well, the Democrats criticize
in particular the capital gains tax cut. They argue about the $500 a child, but their
figures — Ben Wattenberg: But wait a minute. Two-thirds — let’s just nail one thing
down. Two-thirds of the Republican tax cut is going
as a children’s — a European-style social democrat, $500-a-child tax credit to people
of under $95,000 income. So that’s a fact. We agree with that. Okay — David Mason: And it was designed so that just
as much of a tax cut would go to poor people as to upper-middle-income people making almost
a hundred thousand dollars a year. The reason it was a tax credit — Ben Wattenberg: But the really poor people
don’t get $500 because they don’t pay taxes, because it’s a credit. David Mason: If they don’t pay taxes, but
the reason it was a tax credit was so that someone making 30 or 40 thousand dollars a
year would get $500 off their tax bill and somebody making 70 or 80 or 90 thousand dollars
a year would get the same $500. Robert Reischauer: I think the real issue
on the tax cut is: Should we be having one at all? Because both the president and the Congress
want a tax cut, we’re having to cut programs even more than we otherwise would have to
cut them. Stephen Moore: That’s the argument for the
tax cut. Robert Reischauer: Hmm? Stephen Moore: That’s my argument for the
tax credit. Robert Reischauer: Well, I mean, but your
goal is not a balanced budget. It’s a smaller government. Stephen Moore: To get government — right. Robert Reischauer: And many of us would think
first things first, let’s reduce the deficit. Ben Wattenberg: But, Bob, what on earth is
wrong with giving their parents — it’s targeted to families with children — some
green dollars? Robert Reischauer: Tax credits are fine, you
know, if you can afford them. You know, lower taxes are fine if you can
afford them. The question is: Can we afford that right
now? David 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 the economy out while we’re balancing the budget. Robert Reischauer: That does nothing — David Mason: And the whole tax package does
that. Robert Reischauer: — that does nothing to
help the economy. David Mason: The other reason is that, to
the extent that we’re going to cut middle-class welfare programs, we’re going to cut student
loans, which President Clinton complains about all the time, we want to put something back
into the pockets of the families and say, here, we’re going to give you this $500
a year, which in fact if you started saving it when a child was young, could pay for a
college education at a state university, to put that back money back in — Allen Schick: Dave, let’s talk in plain
English. Ben Wattenberg: Oh, okay, here we go. English. Allen Schick: There is one reason why you
want the tax cut, and that’s because you want to take money out of Uncle Sam’s pocket. David Mason: That’s right. Allen Schick: The federal government should
be smaller, should have less to spend, not only in 1996, but on into the future. David Mason: And taxpayers should have the
choice about how they spend that money. Allen Schick: You don’t like government
and — David Mason: We don’t like government taking
money from middle-income taxpayers out of their paycheck on Friday and giving it back
to them on Monday and — [inaudible] Allen Schick: But there’s no way to finance
government unless it has revenue. Stephen Moore: Allen, the real issue is here:
Who can spend $500 better, a federal bureaucrat in Washington or a family on their children
themselves? I mean, that’s what it’s coming down to. Ben Wattenberg: No obscenities, like “bureaucrat.” Now, do you disagree with that notion that
it’s better for people to spend their money than for the government to spend it? Allen Schick: But drive it to its conclusion. That means we should have zero government. Ben Wattenberg: No, that’s not what they
said. They said less. Allen Schick: What? Ben Wattenberg: They said less government. Allen Schick: Yeah, but what do they — how
are they defining less? They are going to cut programs like Medicaid. Let me tell you what Medicaid is. Half or more of Medicaid spending is not the
dirty word “welfare.” Half or more of Medicaid is old people in
nursing homes and long-term care institutions. That’s what Medicaid spends money on, and
that is what is going to be cut. Ben Wattenberg: Will you conservatives deal
with that? I mean, what are you going to do with Mr.
and Mrs. Jones, who don’t have any money and they’re 85 years old and their health
is broken? What are they going to do? And they don’t have children to support
them. Stephen 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 saying they’re going to
go to the nursing homes and throw people out. It’s saying, look, we’ve determined in
Washington we can’t control the cost of this program. It’s bankrupt in the federal government,
and it’s bankrupt in the states. We’re going to turn it over to the states
and let them run the program. That doesn’t mean that they’re going to
throw people out on the streets, Ben. Ben Wattenberg: All right. David Mason: That’s the important part of
the whole idea of de-entitlement. Give the states enough flexibility to figure
out if they can do a better job. States are going to try different approaches. Some will work; some won’t work. But I’m willing to make the bet — and
to a certain degree it may be a bet — that the states can figure out how to save enough
money in these programs to make a difference and still take care of the needy elderly. Ben Wattenberg: Okay now, we are running out
of time. I want to go around the room one more time,
starting with you, Bob Reischauer, with one simple question. What are — and you can pick either — the
Republicans or the Democrats being most disingenuous about in this argument? Robert Reischauer: Oh. [Laughter] Ben Wattenberg: That’s a good question,
huh? Your colleagues have a chance to think while
you’re talking, but — Robert Reischauer: Okay, I think the public
is being misled the most by those who are saying, if we adopt a balanced budget plan
like this, we will be in heaven. The economy will perform wonderfully, wages
will begin to grow, mortgage payments will begin to fall. I just don’t think we’re going to see
a huge effect on the economy. The effects are going to be quite small. They’re important. They’re the reason to do this. But they mount gradually over a 10-, 15-,
20-year period. And I think there’s going to be a lot of
disappointment among the American people if we were to pass something like the plan that’s
been proposed. Ben Wattenberg: Okay. David Mason. David Mason: I’m most disappointed in Bill
Clinton, who says he’s for a balanced budget, but — Ben Wattenberg: Surprise. David Mason: — then says he’s against
every single cut that’s necessary to get there, doesn’t come up with his own alternative
that really gets to a balanced budget, and then demagogues against the Republicans. And so you’re sort of stuck in this atmosphere
where he says, I’m for all the good things, I’m against all the bad things, and it just
doesn’t add up. Ben Wattenberg: Okay. Steve Moore. Stephen Moore: The people who have been most
irresponsible in this debate have been the Washington establishment, including the media,
who keep running stories every night on the news saying that Republicans are throwing
widows and orphans and grandmothers out on the street. That’s not going to happen under the Republican
budget. Spending continues to grow, and the real beneficiaries
of this budget are our children and our grandchildren. Ben Wattenberg: Allen Schick. Allen Schick: Ben, there’s enough blame
to go around, to the Republicans for saying and implying that this will assure a balanced
budget in 2002 — we’re not going to get a balanced budget because of what’s done
in 1996. We’ll get a balanced budget if the economy
cooperates. And to the Democrats, particularly Bill Clinton,
for saying that the Republicans are killing Medicare. The changes in Medicare, unlike Medicaid,
are mild. They’re doable, and they will assure that
the program can continue. Ben Wattenberg: Okay. We have solved all those problems, mostly
in plain English. Thank you, Robert Reischauer, David Mason,
Stephen Moore, Allen Schick. And thank you. Please send your comments and questions to
New River Media, 1150 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC, 20036. We can also be reached via email at [email protected]
or on the World Wide Web at www.thinktank.com. For “Think Tank,” I’m Ben Wattenberg. Announcer: This has been a production of BJW
Inc., in association with New River Media, which are solely responsible for its content.