A bipartisan commission gave the White House high marks Wednesday for trying to make America more competitive, but it urged President Clinton to keep his eye on the prize amid intense wrangling with Congress.
"The United States is taking significant steps to enhance its competitiveness," the Competitiveness Policy Council said. "Nevertheless, much remains to be done."
The bottom line: Spend more money now to ensure a better tomorrow, but don't give up on all-important deficit reduction.
The council is a bipartisan national commission created by Congress. Its 12 members include corporate leaders, labor unionists, government officials and public representatives.
The council's study, written for both the President and Congress, urged government to adopt measures to boost public investment--seen as vital to the nation's long-term prosperity--without backtracking on pledges to cut the budget deficit.
As for specific recommendations:
* Improving the education system tops the list. The council backed student assessment and performance standards--a variant on the Clinton mantra of measured success--as well as enhanced teacher training and accountability for schools.
* Worker training and a full program to help Americans who lose out under policies that benefit the economy as a whole, be it defense cutbacks or trade liberalization.
* A greater emphasis on technology. Although Congress rejected Clinton's request for extra funding, the council urged lawmakers to approve new money for civilian technology and to make permanent a research and experimentation tax credit.
* Beef up the gasoline tax. The council said the public could stomach a new rise in the tax if the funds were earmarked for specific infrastructure programs.