Created 2/21/1996
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Gene Sperling

is not an economist but deserves to be praised anyway: there is no one with a keener nose for how to make arguments for good economic policies that will be politically effective.

A passage from Robert Woodward's book, The Agenda, about the first nine months of Clinton Administration economic policy. The book shares the standard--major--defects of Woodward books: those who cooperated with him are far-sighted stewards of the public welfare; those who did not cooperate are malevolent and mean-spirited enemies of justice, democracy, and the American way. So the book needs to be taken with many grains of salt.

But this passage shows why Gene Sperling deserves praise. It describes the scene in the west wing of the White House just after the passage of the Clinton deficit-reduction plan...

[Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger] Altman was pulled along, mounted a chair, and held up a T-shirt.... The room exploded with wild cheering. He read a David Letterman-style top-ten list: The Top Ten Reasons Why Congress Really Passed the Economic Plan.... Not to offend Hillary. So congressmen won't be required to lunch with the president again. So congressmen won't have to negotiate with Bob Dole at Andrews Air Force Base...

"Lloyd! Lloyd!" the rhythmic chant went up for Bentsen.... The secretary of the Treasury was bubbling.... He said he respected the work particularly of the young people. "I've seen lots of presidents and lots of hard victories," Bentsen said, "but this is the sweetest!"...

McLarty took off his conservative dark tie and Dreyer his wild brightly colored tie, and they swapped.... "That's nothing," Dreyer said. "He says if we win health care, he'll wear my earring."

[Gene] Sperling was summoned to speak. He said that he knew he was teased all the time about being the numbers guy, but he wanted to read some numbers anyway. He had a little sheet of paper which he held out in front of himself as he read from it nervously. Because Bill Clinton had run and was elected president, Sperling said, 5 million people who worked full time at the minimum wage would receive the earned income tax credit, and 10 million would receive additional benefits so that every family with a full-time working parent would be above the poverty line. Another 100,000 children would get the intensive family-preservation counseling and soical services because of Clinton. Another 4.5 million children would get hunger relief through increased food stamps, 600,000 more poor women with children would get better nutrition, and 6.5 million children would be eligible for free immunization shots....

[Paul] Begala spoke next. "I want to follow up on what Gene said, and I want to make it personal. Let's all remember the faces you saw on the campaign. Those were the faces we worked for. Those faces stand for real people, and you've helped the lives of thoes real people. That's why we came here."

What I did in Washington


Created 5/17/1996
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Associate Professor of Economics Brad DeLong, 601 Evans
University of California at Berkeley; Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
(510) 643-4027 phone (510) 642-6615 fax