Whitman on Michigan Radio, the ongoing erosion of support for public goods

April 28, 2017

Economist Marina v.N. Whitman is interviewed by Cynthia Canty, host of Michigan Radio's "Stateside" program, for a ten-minute segment on President Trump's proposed budget and the troubling outlook for public goods in America. The segment, "Nixon advisor: You don't make America great by undercutting public goods," aired on April 27.

President Trump's proposed budget "cuts virtually all of the money for cleaning up the Great Lakes," says Whitman. "He cuts vehemently the funding for the Environmental Protection Agency to minimize the effects of climate change. And not to mention that the proposed budget zeroes out things like funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Public Radio, by the way." All of these are public goods, says Whitman--goods that "are available to everybody, and which we would sorely miss."

Whitman, once a key economic advisor to President Nixon, goes on to describe how support for public goods--once a bipartisan priority--has eroded since the 1960s in the face of increasing partisanship, tightening budgets, and increasing diversity. "There have been a number of studies done which unfortunately tell us that when a population becomes more heterogeneous--that is, there are more people that are not just like us--support for public goods erodes," says Whitman. "Another word for that is racism."

Whitman offers advice for the current administration on why public goods still matter--how they have helped build America's reputation and standing in the world, and why they warrant our continued support.

--Also read Whitman's op-ed for The Conversation, "Public goods made America great and can do so again."

Marina v.N. Whitman is a professor of business administration and public policy at the University of Michigan. Professor Whitman served as a member of the President's Council of Economic Advisers from 1972-73 and as vice president and chief economist of General Motors Corporation from 1979-92.