America's Post-Deficit Disorder

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WASHINGTON: When Bill Clinton unveiled that "surplus clock" last week, he gleefully recalled all the bad-mouthing America took from Europe in the '80s for holding back the world economy with high deficits. But the transatlantic sniping has started again -- this time for saving too much. "Running a surplus right now could be inappropriate," says TIME business reporter Bernard Baumohl. "When the U.S. and world economy is slowing, tax cuts could help stimulate domestic growth and make sure the U.S. is still a good market for Asian and Latin American exports."

So it looks as if the President's recent rallying cries -- "Save Social Security first" and "Save the global economy" -- may be mutually exclusive. Even more ironic is that the tax-cut-peddling Republicans, who won't even chip in a lousy $18 billion to save the IMF, seem to be more global-minded than they give themselves credit for. But the tax-cut plan faces opposition from the last world leader with enough credibility left to kill it: Alan Greenspan, who single-handedly bullied Clinton into fiscal discipline six years ago. The Fed chairman is worried enough about inflation, now that he's cutting interest rates; he's not about to add more fuel to the fire. And very little U.S. economic policy gets made without Alan Greenspan's endorsement.