Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. took on a feisty pro-Kennedy crowd at Yale today, where he introduced a sweeping "new economic order to stabilize oil prices and lick inflation."
But then he grappled with what he called "the basic question of this election," posed by a person in the audience at ivy-covered Battel Chapel. Once he got to Washington, could he actually do any of it?
Brown's seven-point formula, which he called "neither perfect, nor final," would work as follows:
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would agree to hold prices constant for five years. In exchange, the United States would protect the value of the dollar by statbilizing its currency and slowing inflation.
Brown charged that inflation in the United States coupled with the Carter administration's economic policies, had promoted recent oil increases.
"The producing nations have continued to increase oil prices in order to protect themselves against the eroding value of the dollar," Brown said.
Under Brown's proposal, oil would no longer be purchased only with dollars but, as a result of negotiations with OPEC and other countries, with "at least three" other currencies. A plan of this type has been pushed by some oil cartel countries.
This would reduce the incentive other nations have now to drive down the value of the dollar in order to minimize their own real cost of oil, Brown said.
The California governor offered four ways the United States could keep its part of the bargain, that is, to reduce inflation, including: prohibiting new government spending, forbidding tax reduction unless spending also is reduced, balancing the federal budget, and "selective credit" to encourage only productive investments.
"Absurd," said student Chris Willrich, echoing the sentiments of several in the crown about Brown's economic plan. "But he's an impressive speaker. And I agree with his [anti-nuclear] energy policies."
"He's too wishy-washy, swings with the tide," said student Jane Merdinger, of San Diego, who once voted for Brown for governor of her state.
Many in the crowd said it was just too early to commit themselves to any candidate.
But Brown did win some souls in the hall, which was festooned with Kennedy banners.
"I'm signing up," said Chris Biedan, 18, a student of economics and political science.
"He's the only viable choice for the Democratic Party. He can run on fiscal responsibility, as he's demonstrated in California."