3 VIPs Celebrate 'New Economy' - Clinton, Greenspan, Gates at forum

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3 VIPs Celebrate 'New Economy'

Clinton, Greenspan, Gates at forum


Washington-The three Americans with perhaps the greatest impact on the U.S. economy-President Bill Clinton, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Microsoft founder Bill Gates-celebrated the so-called new economy yesterday by debating its historic significance.

"We meet in the midst of the longest economic expansion in our history and an economic transformation as profound as that that led us into the industrial revolution," Clinton said.

Greenspan said, "This may be the most productive economy in history." Gates smiled and told a White House conference of 200 business and government leaders and economists, "The best is yet to come." Two days after the government's antitrust victory over Microsoft and one day after the most volatile trading ever on Wall Street, Gates never discussed his company's legal difficulties, but noted that "freedom enjoyed by innovators has been the key" to technological breakthroughs that have powered the strong economy.

The conference was organized to explore the forces at work in the national and global economies, including rapid increases in productivity, rapid changes in technology and expanding world trade that have combined to produce the lowest unemployment in 40 years, persistently low inflation and a record nine consecutive years of growth.

Unlike the past, the strong growth hasn't triggered inflation and has helped produce three straight federal budget surpluses, something that hasn't happened in half a century. The growth has been fueled by record-setting stock markets, which have continued to soar despite Greenspan's efforts to rein in the economy through five interest rate increases since last June.

In his carefully watched remarks yesterday, Greenspan again warned that stock prices remain too high and hinted that the Fed would likely raise rates when it meets again next month.

Others at the conference echoed his concern. "Are there any clouds on the horizon?" asked William Nordhaus, former economic adviser to President Gerald Ford and now a Yale University professor. "We don't know when or where or how the economy will slow down. But I think the betting odds are long against another four years as strong as the last four years." New York investment banker and former deputy Treasury secretary Roger Altman warned, "There's going to be a correction, probably a sharp one." Clinton deflected concerns about the burgeoning U.S. trade deficit-now $28 billion-and argued that global trade had created jobs and helped minimize inflationary pressures.

While much of the day-long conference was devoted to the search for ways to expand the economic benefit, most of the conferees were watching for any signs of tension between Clinton and Gates.

The invitation to Gates had been extended weeks before Monday's antitrust ruling, White House aides said. He and his wife, Melinda, have donated $750 million to help protect poor children against disease and he joined a discussion of methods for closing the growing gaps between rich and poor, and between those with and without easy accesss to computer technology and the Internet. He and Clinton met briefly before the conference for "a friendly conversation" which included no mention of the antitrust case, according to Clinton economic adviser Gene Sperling.

During their panel discussion, Clinton said, "This economy has produced more billionaires than ever before-and scads of people making millions, which for me is real money." He then asked Gates what could be done to encourage this new generation of wealthy entrepreneurs to match the record of philanthropy attained by John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie.

Gates replied, "When you are making money, it keeps you very busy. It's really a full-time thing."

-- (Life@in.2000), April 06, 2000

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