Brown Releases National Investment Plan
Yesterday, September 25, 1996, Congressman George E. Brown, Jr. (D-CA), ranking Democrat on the House Science Committee, released a proposal for a six-year National Investment Plan. This plan would both increase funding in domestic national investments and balance the budget by FY2002. The Brown proposal was developed to demonstrate the feasibility of reorienting national priorities towards investment rather than consumption. It also stands as a clear alternative to the competing budget proposals floated by Republicans in Congress or by candidate Dole.
A central feature of the Brown Investment Plan is a 5% annual increase for all Federal R&D. Brown noted, "This provides about $38 billion more than the President and $49 billion more than the Republicans for R&D over the six-year period. This is hardly a radical spending plan - if enacted it would only hold national R&D investment at the current level of 2.4% of national GDP. Because approximately half of economic growth can be traced to science and technology breakthroughs, this plan promises to build a solid base for future economic growth."
In releasing his proposal, Brown said "This proposal for increased spending in R&D is intended to ensure that our investment in science and technology will keep pace with the growth of the overall economy. The objective here is to encourage all R&D expenditures, both public and private. This stands in stark contrast to the Dole budget plan, which would require a cut of more than 40% in Federal support for R&D. A cut of that size would have damaging consequences on our science and educational communities today and would be a drag on future economic performance. I believe my plan is a responsible way to guarantee continued economic growth and an improving quality of life for our Nation."
The Brown proposal also provides for stable funding in other areas of domestic discretionary spending throughout the six-year period. The Brown plan provides about $33 billion more than the President and $103 billion more than the Republicans for other investment areas of domestic discretionary spending. Brown commented, "I advocate investment not just in R&D, but in other domestic programs that will enhance our economic vitality." Thus, under the Brown plan, domestic funding is adequate to fund investment categories such as physical capital (infrastructure), and education and training that have long-term economic benefits. The resulting recommendation for overall discretionary spending still provides $187 billion in savings over the current baseline.
When asked if he expected President Clinton to move towards the Brown plan, Congressman Brown cited a recent interview with the President published in the October Atlantic Monthly. [James Fallows, "A Talk With Bill Clinton," The Atlantic Monthly, October 1996, pp. 20-26.] Brown said, "I am just helping the President with my proposal. The President has said he will try to make the case for a 'dramatic increase' in research spending by 'elevating the argument that I've been making that economics is part of our national security.' I believe that my plan may show him the way towards what he knows we need to do."
The plan calls for Defense discretionary spending to be held at the President's 1997 request level throughout the six-year period. This spending profile includes neither the reductions contained in the President's proposal in the next two fiscal years nor increases in the out years built into the current Presidential or Republican proposals. Brown commented, "This funding level is more than adequate to maintain our forces in a high state of readiness while adjusting to a world in which we no longer face threats from any major world power. There are some in Washington who have begun to call for radically deeper cuts in defense spending, but I am not convinced that would be prudent."
For Mandatory spending, this proposal adopts the recommendations of the Conservative Coalition budget that was offered on the Floor of the House on May 16, 1996. For revenues, this proposal adopts the recommendations of the Coalition budget. This includes several revenue enhancing initiatives such as spectrum auctioning and elimination of tax loopholes but is most heavily influenced by the absence of a tax cut. "Tax cuts during the time frame of this budget proposal would be counterproductive to the goal of balancing the budget; after the budget is balanced there will be ample opportunity to reduce taxes," Brown added.