How To Spend $100 Million

Cut the deficit for the kids or prop up social programs for the poor? It's a toss-up.

November/December 1996

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Our bimonthly poll may be unscientific, but when it comes to tapping into the national ambivalence about federal spending, we seem to be on to something.

More than a third of the 50 we polled said an extra $100 million should be spent on expanding poverty programs. Investing in education for the poor appealed to many. "That is going to be the name of the game, to see that we can train everybody as much as they can be trained," said a retired movie director, '33.

Another big contingent said a federal windfall should go toward cutting the deficit. Many in this group were younger alums who worried that mind-numbing deficits would engulf their generation. An investment adviser and publisher, '43, summed up the majority view of the deficit: "It's going to have to be faced sooner or later."

Just like the real polls, ours found that few want to cut taxes at the cost of increasing the deficit. Those who favored tax relief subscribed to the theory that tax cuts spur growth. But one tax-reducer, a retired business exec, '38, added, "Don't cut 'em for the very rich."

A few people had their own ideas for disposing of a stray $100 million."I would use it to field a women's America's Cup team," offered a homemaker, '58. A veterinarian, '63, suggested spending the money on crime prevention. But it was a small business owner, '80, who may have figured out why federal spending is so hard to control: "A hundred million seems like a small amount compared to the billions of debt," he said."You figure you might as well spend it on something."

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