- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2000

"We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there's not a program for every problem," President Clinton said in his State of the Union address four years ago. But that was then. At the time, the White House, which was forecasting a fiscal 1997 deficit of $140 billion, did not expect a surplus to materialize until 2001.

What a difference four years make. As it happens, the federal government has been flush with money for several years. And yesterday's projections by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirm that the federal budget surpluses, including the non-Social Security surplus, will be increasing at a much faster rate than the CBO projected just last year.

Right on cue, Bill Clinton is now acting as though big government does have all the answers. As far as he is concerned, today there is a federal program for every problem. Tonight, the president will offer his wish list in his final State of the Union message. He will unveil what his Great Society would look like, although he will surely describe his grandiose spending plans as "necessary investments." Rhetoric aside, if Mr. Clinton and either of the two Democrats hoping to succeed him have their way, the federal government will be much bigger than Mr. Clinton envisioned four years ago. Indeed, since the beginning of the year, the White House has been announcing its intention to expand one program after another.

Despite the fact that state budget surpluses cumulatively totaled $35 billion last year and are expected to total another $27 billion this fiscal year, Mr. Clinton wants to spend $1.3 billion of federal money renovating public schools. He will resubmit another proposal that will cost nearly $4 billion over five years to modernize other schools.

Despite the fact that states have spent only $1.2 billion of the $8.4 billion in federal funds allocated to them during the past two years to finance health-insurance programs for children, Mr. Clinton will ask Congress to provide an additional $50 billion over the next 10 years to increase the Children's Health Insurance Program. It would be an expansion above and beyond the $40 billion Congress authorized over 10 years in 1997 for the program. The president has proposed spending $28 billion in subsidies for long-term care. And he would spend an additional $28 billion to insure others deemed to have difficulty obtaining coverage, including people as young as 55 years old, who would become eligible for the overburdened Medicare program. Mr. Clinton will also seek to expand Medicare by spending $118 billion over 10 years to cover prescriptiondrug subsidies.

Mr. Clinton will seek to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit program by more than $20 billion over the next decade. Mr. Clinton also plans to resurrect his Universal Savings Account (USA) redistribution scheme. Unveiled in last year's State of the Union address, USA accounts were projected to cost $500 billion over 15 years. The president has lately been describing this program as a "tax cut," which it most definitely is not. The White House would allocate $31 billion over 10 years to subsidize tuition increases by colleges and universities. After subsidizing school lunches for the wealthiest students for years, the Agriculture Department is now embarking on a "pilot program" that will provide free breakfasts to every student in a school, regardless of need.

In describing his new vision tonight, Mr. Clinton will surely confirm the worst fears of Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan. Testifying before Congress last summer regarding how to deal with the growing budget surpluses, Mr. Greenspan expressly declared that "the least desirable [outcome] is using those surpluses for expanding outlays." Mr. Clinton plans to do just that.

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