A Politician of Ideas Discusses Trade, Energy, and the US Economy

THE following are excerpts from an interview with Paul Tsongas:

On increasing the US savings rate:

Congress should pass laws which encourage savings over consumption. This will create a capital pool which will begin to match the resource base that countries with high savings rates enjoy. The lack of a capital pool is the economic equivalent of unilateral disarmament.... The savings ethic must be fully ingrained in the American culture forever, not just to get us through this difficult period. That means our children must be part of it.

On the capital-gains tax:

My approach is, A. We've got Japan, we've got Germany, we're falling behind. What do we have to do to channel investment into companies that compete? My position is a pro-capital gains tax position. But - unlike the Republicans - limited to those investments in companies that are in the corporate field, not art supplies, or art collections, on land, those kind of things. But you try to get your investments in those areas where you're going to be competing - productive sectors.

On trade protectionism:

I differ from some Democrats in the sense that I think some Democrats are protectionists in taking the position if only South Korea and Japan would open up their markets that our economy would be cured. I think you have to be very tough on reciprocity issues. But the problem is here, and we have to get our own house in order.

On being from Massachusetts:

To run for president and be from Massachusetts and be Greek is to guarantee that you're being mentioned by [comedian] Jay Leno. The greatest concern my kids have is Saturday Night Live.

On not being in office:

I know I've been out of office for a long time, but I also have never lost an election.... We'll raise money. I know I have to worry about it and spend a lot of time on it, but I think the need for money is inversely proportionate to whether you're brain-dead or not in your ideas.

On his campaign manager:

Dennis Cannon will be my campaign manager. He ran my congressional campaign, my Senate campaign, he's my AA [administrative aide] in Washington, and I think he has the best organizational minds in the country. To get me elected you have to be superb.

On Pax Americana:

We have to look to our economic well-being first, fill ourselves back up. We've always been involved in military affairs; we are in fact the leader. But the notion that our sons and daughters are at risk while other peoples, who have much more at stake in Persian Gulf than we did in terms of oil supplies - for them not to have a child in jeopardy while we lost what we lost, is unacceptable.

On getting public utilities to encourage energy conservation:

Rather than having government programs ... the way you get real conservation ... is to get the utilities to do it. One thing I learned from Boston Edison is that if you expect a rate of return, you don't have to worry about response.

What I would do would be to have the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission say to all of the utilities, it regulates, and lots of states do the same thing, that we call upon you through conservation renewables.

If you do it, if you now have a 11 percent rate of return, we'll give you 12 percent rate of return.

If you don't do it, we'll give you a 10 percent rate of return. But every CEO, every director, is going to know that if they don't get the 12, they're going to have a lawsuit on their hands.

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