Party Like It’s 1999

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WASHINGTON: Will this be Bill Clinton’s finest hour? The President presents the first balanced budget in 30 years to Congress Monday, a whopping $1.73 trillion package with a $9.5 billion surplus. And despite his “save Social Security first” soundbite, Clinton does not appear to be able to resist splurging a bit on child care, education and medical research.

This, as the GOP points out, gives the lie to Clinton’s claim three State of the Unions ago that “the era of big government is over.” Senate Budget Chair Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) called the 1999 budget a “magnificent contradiction.” That it is, but Clinton’s populist proposals -- 100,000 new teachers, child care tax credits for working families -- will be hard to fight head-on. The Republicans would do better to concentrate on Clinton’s fiscally risky use of the proposed tobacco settlement; although that $368.5 billion deal is nowhere near being inked, the President has already earmarked nearly a quarter of it for new spending plans. The White House has already prepared its spin on that one -- if the settlement goes up in smoke, Congress looks like the villain for snatching money out of teachers' paychecks. With a scam like that, Clinton has clearly lost none of his chutzpah.