If you want to pass a deficit reduction plan, you might want to give the task to one set of experts whose ideas would get more notice than your garden variety think-tank white paper: President Bill Clinton's former Treasury staff. So that's exactly what the Center for American Progress has done.
On Tuesday, CAP unveiled a tax reform plan written by a rogue's gallery of Clinton vets, including former treasury secretaries Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, deputy treasury secretary Roger Altman, White House chief of staff John Podesta, commerce secretary Bill Daley and others. Summers and Daley, as well as report co-author and CAP president Neera Tanden, all held high-ranking posts in the Obama administration.
Watching the Republican and Democratic conventions, you might have thought there was nothing the two parties could agree on. But youd be wrong. They have adopted the same theory — at least in public — as to why unemployment remains so high. The only problem? That theory is wrong.
You heard it in former President Bill Clintons comments. Of course, we need a lot more new jobs, but there are already more than 3 million jobs open and unfilled in America, mostly because the people who apply for them don’t yet have the required skills to do them. In other words, the hold-up isnt that employers dont want to hire, but that they cant find the workers they need.
I’m going to depart from the conventional wisdom a bit. I don’t think former president Bill Clinton’s speech last night was so good. I think the vast majority of political rhetoric is just missing what made it work.
Go read the transcript of Clinton’s remarks. The rhetoric is unremarkable, both as prepared and as delivered. There are a couple of great lines, but not that many. The speech has a laundry-list like quality, and few overarching themes. The arguments weren’t particularly new nor particularly brilliant. If you open a book of “great speeches of the 20th century” or the like, this is not the kind of speech you’ll find in there.
One of the few outright false statements in Bill Clinton’s speech last night was his claim that unemployment remains high because workers just don’t have the right skills. “There are already more than 3 million jobs open and unfilled in America,” he said, “Mostly because the people who apply for them dont yet have the required skills to do them.” The overwhelming weight of the research says this isn’t what’s happening.
In his fact check of the second night of the Democratic National Convention, my colleague Glenn Kessler zeroed in on Bill Clinton’s claim that “[Obama] has offered a reasonable plan of $4 trillion in debt reduction over a decade.”
Kessler has three problems with this comment. First, he says, it is “counting some $1 trillion in cuts reached a year ago in budget negotiations with Congress.” Second, “the administration is also counting $848 billion in phantom savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the administration had long made clear those wars would end.” Third, “the administration also counts $800 billion in savings in debt payments (from lower deficits) as a ‘spending cut,’ which is a dubious claim.”
“People ask me all the time how we delivered four surplus budgets,” former President Bill Clinton said on Wednesday night. “What new ideas did we bring? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.”
That’s also the one-word answer to what Clinton brought to his convention speech. To a degree unusual in political rhetoric, this was a 48-minute speech about arithmetic. About math. About budgets.
Former president Bill Clinton is speaking at the Democratic National Convention tonight, and is sure to spark a lot of commentary about the contrast between the economic boom times of the Clinton administration and the rough economy of the last decade. But what actuallywas Clinton’s economic record?
The labor market was strong
Former President Bill Clinton is set to deliver tonights keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. That means you can expect to hear a lot of Democrats say some version of the following: Whats so bad about going back to the Clinton-era tax rates?
Its a good question. But when you hear it asked, remember that most Democrats — including the Obama administration — do not want to go back to the Clinton-era tax code. Not for the country, and not even for the rich.
You probably know that executive compensation has skyrocketed over the past 20 years. In 1991, the average CEO took in $2.6 million in total compensation. By 2011, that number had risen to $9 million. What you probably don’t know is that this rise occurred in spite of changes in the tax code meant to stop it.
As Barack Obama becomes the most polarizing president in recent American history, Bill Clinton is becoming one of the least polarizing. Fox News host Sean Hannity calls him “good old Bill.” Rep. Paul Ryan admits, “I enjoy Bill Clinton.” Sen. Orrin Hatch says “he will go down in history as a better president” than Obama. More than 60 percent of Americans have a positive view of Clinton — more, even, than approve of Ronald Reagan. This month, Esquire interviewed Clinton under the headline: “Bill Clinton: Someone we can all agree on.” Which just goes to show that how polarizing a president is has very little to do with how ideological they were, or are.
Economist Robert Barro thinks real recovery will only come from austerity. And not this weak sauce, supercommittee-and-discretionary-spending-cuts austerity. Real austerity. A consumption tax and an end to the mortgage-interest deduction and a rise in the retirement age and massive spending cuts. I don’t agree, but to each their own, obviously. The part of the op-ed that really confuses, though, is the grand finale: “This dream could become reality if our leader were Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton — the two presidential heroes of the American economy since World War II — but Mr. Obama is another story.”