THE CAMPAIGN DEBATE ABOUT WHO should get credit for the economy left someone out. It's not Bill Clinton's economy or, even now, Newt Gingrich's. If anyone in Washington guides the economy, the man is Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, and his stewardship is increasingly under siege.
The Clinton administration is miffed. Despite a strong economy, the president is low in the polls and isn't reaping the political benefits. "I don't think that the president has gotten the credit that he has deserved," grumbled Commerce Secretary Ronald Brown at a recent White House briefing called to rectify this oversight.
THE CLINTON ADMINISTRATION'S LATEST EXCURSION into industrial policy is its most troubling. The Pentagon proposes spending $587 million over five years to enable U.S. companies to capture 15 percent of the world market for "flat-panel displays." These are used for laptop computers, videogames, advanced instruments-and cockpit displays for jet fighters.
WE LIVE IN A WORLD OF REAL DANGERS AND IMAGINED fears. The dangers are often low and falling, while the fears are high and rising. We are hounded by what I call "psycho-facts": beliefs that, though not supported by hard evidence, are taken as real because their constant repetition changes the way we experience fife.
WE REMAIN FASCINATED BY THE HUGE SUMS PAID TO many of our athletes, movie stars, corporate executives, lawyers and doctors. The Wall Street journal reported last week, for example, that Disney chairman Michael Eisner was the best-paid CEO in 1993, receiving $203 million (most came from the exercise of stock options).
To understand Bill Clinton, you need to recognize that he aspires to be the Franklin Roosevelt of the late 20th century. He wants to be a pivotal president: someone who changed history, someone who used government to better the lot of millions of Americans and someone who created a new political alignment by winning voters' loyalty with new programs.