Clinton carries on the campaign with talk-in

BILL CLINTON yesterday opened his extraordinary 'electronic town-hall' conference, to which the corporate, financial and academic cream of America have been summoned, warning that, for all the recent signs of recovery, the country still faced massive economic difficulties, short-term and long-term alike.

It was 'far too early' to assume the US was shaking free of the recession, the president-elect said. And even if it was, the improvement offered no respite from underlying problems, notably the budget deficit and runaway health care costs, which undermine the country's competitiveness.

The occasion was unprecedented in recent US history. For two days, 330 corporate and financial leaders, bankers, small businessmen, unionists and scholars have come together for a talk-in on the economy, a seminar carried live on television and radio to the nation, chaired and orchestrated by the man who in 36 days will take over as the 42nd President.

Little of immmediate concrete import will emerge from the discussions in Little Rock. No decisions will be taken; any conclusions will be broad-brush in the extreme. But if all goes well, the conference will serve many purposes: informative; educational; and as a signpost for the economic measures promised early on in the next administration.

Above all, it is a new opportunity for the US to witness Mr Clinton in the two roles he likes best, the brainstormer with an awesome grasp of policy, and the politician for whom campaigning is an addiction. Theoretically the battle was won on 3 November; but the Little Rock spectacular in many ways is an extension of it.

Indeed, a cynic would detect the first attempt to win over for the 1996 election that 19 per cent of voters who backed Ross Perot. The Texas billionaire made the most dazzling use of direct television to convey his message of economic hard truths. That technique and those themes were uppermost in what Mr Clinton called a 'process to reconnect the American people to their government'.

Armed with charts and graphics, Ivy-League professors and business chiefs trooped to the lectern to make their assessments. Four main worries predominated: the federal deficit; health spending; the deteriorating infrastructure; and flagging educational and training standards. Unless they were tackled, speakers warned, the US' relative economic decline was likely to continue.

Harvard University's John White, architect of Mr Perot's harsh economic therapies but now a convert to Clintonism, said the deficit, far from decreasing, would stick at around dollars 300bn (pounds 198bn) and rise further at the end of the decade if nothing were done. Central to the problem was health care, which will consume more than 13 per cent of America's GNP in 1992, half as much again as any other industrialised nation.

If the conference hastens resolution of these and other issues, it will be worthwhile. But, analysts say, the president-elect is taking a risk. As the economy improves, the sense of crisis is receding. Mr Clinton may end up reinforcing a public impression he has fought to dispel: that he is a man who is all talk, and little action.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
science
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
tv
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

SAP BW BO

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

HSE Manger - Solar

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: HSE Mana...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried