Tag Archives: Bill Clinton

Is Bill Clinton an Authority on the Economy?

In reviewing Bill Clinton’s new book, Back to Work:

What sort of authority does Mr. Clinton bring to writing this book? His admirers will argue that he is the ideal author for a book about fixing the economy, and will point to his record as president — reducing the federal deficit, overhauling welfare, blunting his party’s reputation for profligate spending and presiding over the longest economic expansion on record with falling unemployment, rising incomes and improved competitiveness on the world stage. Moreover, as president and later as founder of the Clinton Global Initiative, he understands the politics and economics of globalization and the dynamics of the technological information age.

But critics will argue that the deregulatory policies promoted by Mr. Clinton’s administration — under the treasury secretaries Robert E. Rubin and later Lawrence H. Summers — contributed to conditions that led to the Wall Street meltdown of 2008 and the subsequent recession. In this book Mr. Clinton skims over these issues lightly. Of his signing of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act repealing part of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act that prohibited commercial banks from engaging in the investment business, he argues that it is not self-evident that “the mortgage crisis was hastened and enlarged by the end of the division between commercial and investment banks.”

On the matter of failing effectively to regulate financial derivatives, Mr. Clinton writes, “I can be fairly criticized for not making a bigger public issue out of the need to regulate” them. But he adds the rationalization that he “couldn’t have done anything about it, because the Republican Congress was hostile to all regulations, going so far as to threaten to leave the S.E.C. with no budget because the commissioner, Arthur Levitt, was vigilant in doing his job.”

It’s a fair question. I certainly think he deserves to be heard, as do both Bushes. (Jimmy Carter? Not so much. I prefer that we hear less from him.) The more intelligently we speak of our difficulties the better off we are. Based on this review alone, I’m not sure the book adds that much to the debate. It seems – again, I have not read the book – that it might be a lot of Clinton triangulation and poll-driven writing. I wonder whether there are any unpopular opinions in his conclusions, and how he addresses Medicare and entitlements.


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Filed under Economy

Brooks on a Grand Bargain Strategy

Obama, who sounded so fresh in 2008, now sometimes sounds a bit like Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi. Obama, who inspired the country, now threatens to run a campaign that is viciously negative. Obama, who is still widely admired because he is reasonable and calm, is in danger of squandering his best asset by pretending to be someone he is not. Obama, a natural unifier and conciliator, seems on the verge of running as a divisive populist while accusing Mitt Romney, his possible opponent, of being inauthentic.

It’s misguided. It raises the ideological temperature and arouses the Big Government/Small Government debate. It repels independents, who don’t like the finance majors who went to Wall Street but trust the history majors who went to Washington even less.

Obama would be wiser to champion a Grand Bargain strategy. Use the Congressional deficit supercommittee to embrace the sort of new social contract we’ve been circling around for the past few years: simpler taxes, reformed entitlements, more money for human capital, growth and innovation.

Don’t just whisper Grand Bargain in back rooms with John Boehner. Make it explicit. Take it to the country. Lower the ideological atmosphere and get everybody thinking concretely about the real choices facing the nation.

If you don’t trust voters to be serious, they won’t trust you.

Read the rest of David Brooks’ op-ed here.

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Filed under Election 2012

Bill Clinton Calls on Celebrity Creativity?

This has got to be a joke.

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Filed under Humor