March 17, 2003

MARCH 17, 2003 — As he considers another run for the White House, Former Colorado Senator and two-time presidential candidate Gary Hart came to The Anderson School at UCLA recently to “test the waters” and share his views on politics, the economy, health care, taxes and a possible war with Iraq before an audience of 350 in Korn Convocation Hall. The event was hosted by the Los Angeles Chapter of Anderson Alumni and sponsored by The Economist Intelligence Unit, a division of The Economist.

Mr. Hart discussed the need for the United States to create a new security — beyond protecting its freedom from aggression to “restore the values of the republic, the civic virtues.” He proposed creating a “set of organizing principles forming an economic framework meant to provide a theme for economic security in this new century.”
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He described this new security in terms of creating a public legacy that secures the livelihoods and communities of Americans and “leaves our children with a healthy planet and a healthy economy.” Mr. Hart noted that in its current state, the country “is on course to do neither.”

Since retiring from the United States Senate in 1987, Mr. Hart has been extensively involved in international law and business, as a strategic advisor to major U.S. corporations, and as an author and lecturer. Mr. Hart is senior counsel with Coudert Brothers, a multinational law firm. He was co-chair of the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century. The Commission, which performed the most comprehensive review of national security since 1947, predicted the terrorist attacks on America, and proposed a sweeping overhaul of U.S. national security structures and policies for the post-Cold War new century and the age of terrorism.

After his speech, Mr. Hart participated in a panel discussion in which he matched wits and traded points of view with Professor Edward Leamer, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast, and Merli Baroudi, director of country risk services for a unit of The Economist magazine. The group discussed a variety of issues including waging war with Iraq, improving public education, and privatizing the Social Security Administration.

Ms. Baroudi noted that for all its greatness, the United States is sorely lacking in providing adequate health care for all citizens, yet “consumes 14 percent of gross domestic product on health care — more than most developed countries.” Hart admitted that that in all of his years in public life, health care is the one issue for which all politicians have had trouble finding a solution.

Regarding the economy, Ms. Baroudi noted “Americans cannot feel secure until the rest of the planet is secure in its economy.” She also noted that those involved in politics have a “vested interest” in one thing or another, and she questioned Hart as to why during his comments he “did not talk about how campaigns are financed and how it distorts economic decision-making” in Washington.

Dr. Leamer chimed into that discussion as well, asking Mr. Hart, “Who gets access?” Dr. Leamer suggested that there “needs to be some mechanism for controlling access” to America’s legislators.

Agreeing with both of his fellow panelists, Mr. Hart said, “putting special interests ahead of the public good is massively corrupting government in this country.”
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The issue of economic security, the focus of Mr. Hart’s talk, came into play significantly during the panel session. Mr. Hart proposed a number of initiatives designed to provide a plan for “securing America through savings and investment,” including:

  • Providing a $1,000 tax-free government account for every child born in America
  • Making every American eligible for a government account that would be matched up to $1,000 by the government
  • Doubling the Earned Income Tax Credit to a maximum of $8,000
  • Enabling families to deduct health care costs as they do home mortgages

Of his plan, Mr. Hart said, “this is an investment in Americans and the future of our children.”
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In looking at the costs of his initiatives, the panelists all agreed that it would be difficult to support and pay for all of these initiatives.

Dr. Leamer, in particular, discussed a paradox he calls “the politics of abundance versus the reality of scarcity,” noting that state and federal governments are trying to finance spending through tax cuts — without making cuts in programs or raising taxes. Mr. Hart acknowledged with this dilemma, saying, “being able to afford it all is a fallacy.”
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