Jan. 12, 2003 -- Will President Bush's economic package, unveiled this week, do the trick in stimulating the economy, or do its benefits tilt too much toward the wealthy?
ABCNEWS' Michel Martin said on the This Week with George Stephanopoulos roundtable that when it comes to assessing the president's $674 billion plan, there are as many views as there are economists.
"It is true that the wealthiest families in America pay most of the taxes and they pay a lot more of the taxes than they did 30 years ago," said Martin. "It is also true that they get a bigger share of the nation's income than they did 30 years ago."
Martin noted the Democrats have said very little about addressing fundamental inequalities in the income distribution in the country.
Todd Gitlin, a professor at Columbia University and contributing writer at Mother Jones magazine, said, "It is a stimulus for the country club and the traditional Republican view that if you serve those who don't need to be served that the little people will benefit as well. … In the meantime, the states are starving."
As for the size of the president's plan, ABCNEWS' George Will said, "It is big but not relative to the size of the economy."
More than a stimulus package, said Will, it is a "way of changing the structure of the economy and that's all."
"I think the Democrats really are making a distributive argument when they say this tax cut favors the rich," Will said, adding that he thinks the Democrats' "class warfare" argument will fall flat.
"Americans don't envy, they aspire," he said.
The roundtable then turned to the re-nomination of federal judge Charles Pickering as an appellate court judge.
Will said if Democrats carry out a threat to filibuster the Picketing nomination, it would set a dangerous precedent.
"This is a man who testified against the Klan, and he is being attacked for being insensitive," said Will.
The issue is not sensitivity, said Martin.
"The bigger question is do groups [like the NAACP] have a right to question someone's record without accusing him of being a racist," said Martin. "Their argument is that his judicial philosophy would expand discrimination and limit penalties."
Finally, the roundtable focused on the University of Michigan's affirmative action program.
"The University of Michigan has a huge equal protection problem," said Will of the school's policy. "This is a blatant racial preference in the interest of diversity and there's no diversity exception, either in the Constitution or constitutional law for violating equal protection."
The issue of whether or not the White House should weigh in on the university's program is clearly a politically sensitive one, said Martin. She added that affirmative action in higher education is a political third rail for African Americans and Hispanics because they see educational opportunities as "so critical to their advancement in society."
ABCNEWS' Gayle Tzemach contributed to this report.