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A. What came out of the economic summit here made me think that there might be more receptivity to it, and it might be something we can look at in the context of an overall program that seemed fair to people. But you've got to understand what most voters brought to this election, at least most people who voted for me. They brought a keen awareness that while most of them were worse off than they were 10 years ago, there had been a big divergence in income in America. Inequality had got worse, and all the tax breaks had gone to the people who were doing better anyway. This is a much more unequal country than it was 10 years ago. I just don't want to see us raise the gas tax through the roof on top of what has already been done to middle-class people and small- business people without some effort to put fairness back in the system.
Q. Do you think that in the short run you'll ask, say, the veterans and the older people and whoever is going to have to take a hit to accept a bit of pain that they might not like?
A. I expect to lead with a program that will maximize jobs and income growth as we try to come out of this recession in the short run and, secondly, will fundamentally change the patterns of spending not only of government money but, to whatever extent we can influence it, private expenditures toward more investment over the long run. And thirdly, we will offer a multiyear deficit- reduction plan. I might even go, in terms of the framework, beyond four years in what I recommend. Because if you look at the numbers we're looking at now, two things have basically changed dramatically since we got the numbers on which we put out Putting People First ((the Clinton-Gore campaign book)).
One is that because the recession went on longer than was anticipated, the short-term deficit is considerably bigger than anyone thought it was six or seven months ago. (Mrs. Clinton enters the room and sits in an armchair next to the President-elect.) The second thing that happened on this deficit is that in the out years -- that is 1997, 1998 and beyond -- it also looks bigger than they originally thought, given the assumptions on health care. Now I think we can fix a lot of that. People know it took 12 years to get into this trough we're in. And I think they'll tolerate taking maybe eight years to get out of it. But I need to put together a framework that goes beyond the typical discussion of long run.
Q. So you're basically looking at a tougher situation than you thought?
A. On the deficit stuff yes, but the short-run economic situation may not be quite as bad. The underlying reality has not changed. The difference between my view of this economy and ((the views of)) most people who talk to me about it is that I do not see the short-term recession, the built-in structural deficit and the other issues as isolated. I see them as all of a piece. I'm not trying to avoid what you might call the hard choices. I'm just trying to say, What we've got to do is to put all these things together. It's got to be a short-term economic plan in which everything you do is consistent with the long-term objectives, which is why you have to be careful about how big a stimulus you put into this thing.
Q. What are you most anxious about as you approach the presidency? What can go wrong?