Clinton Was Right
Monday, as the stock market failed to find purchase amidst the darkening clouds of the European debt crisis, there was devastating news underscoring just how bad things really are in America.
According to a report issued by the Federal Reserve, the median family’s net worth in American dropped nearly 40% between 2007 and 2010 – with a significant element of that decline coming on the heels of the housing collapse.
While millions of Americans who remain out of work, or who have lost their homes, have been living this statistic since 2007, perhaps the fact that the Federal Reserve has now confirmed what Americans have known will have some impact on the occupant in the White House.
Last week, former President Bill Clinton made it clear that the economic conditions in America were such that the need to extend Bush era tax cuts were a critical aspect of keeping the economy from sliding further off the cliff.
In an appearance on CNBC on June 8th the former President said that because of the recession, “What I think we need to do is find some way to avoid the fiscal cliff, to avoid doing anything that would contract the economy now, and then deal with what’s necessary in the long-term debt-reduction plans as soon as they can, which presumably would be after the election.”
The previous day, in testimony before the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke made it clear that “The potential expiration of the so-called Bush tax cuts—the 2001-2003 tax cuts—is the single biggest item in the fiscal cliff and would have, if everything else held constant … an adverse effect on spending and growth in the economy that would be significant.”
The fiscal cliff.
Long ago President Obama blamed nearly every bad thing that happened in the economy on his predecessor claiming, among other things, that he had driven the economy into the ditch.
It might be a quaint sentiment indeed to long for the days of the economy in the ditch.
At least one can get out of the ditch and back on the road.
Unfortunately, this Administration’s policies have put us on the perch of the fiscal cliff –offering little in the way of opportunity to recover once it lurches into the perilous darkness below.
What’s frustrating is that former President Clinton’s comments smacked of something that is needed right now in Washington: Honesty.
President Clinton was right when he made his comments. While it would be a mistake to suggest that the former President has suddenly embraced the commonsense conservative values that are becoming more vogue today than ever before, he does understand the devastating impact of populist rhetoric and policies on our fragile economy.
The Administration pounced hard on Clinton after his remarks. Forcing him, in fact, to recant his blunt assessment in favor of a tepid apology to the President for speaking the truth to the American people.
Somehow, someone, has to get through to this President and his Administration that the fiscal cliff that our economy is perched upon is becoming increasingly treacherous.
What’s truly frightening, however, is that the most august member of the President’s own party – arguably one of the most successful Democratic Presidents in modern history – who has maintained an impressive level of support among the American people – gave truth to what must be done to preserve whatever anemic recovery is underway.
It may be the President truly does not “get it”.
His remarks last week that the private sector was doing just fine was not, in my opinion, simply a glib use of words.
I truly believe he believes what he said. He thinks the private sector is doing just fine – and because it is – more taxes are just fine, too.
The President desperately hoped his”clarifying” remarks hours later would make his initial comments seem benign. Sadly, they were as damaging of comments to the psyche of the American economy and people as any that have been made since the economic recession began.
Lincoln, faced with a country coming apart at the seams, had the maturity and the humility to embrace the often contradictory views of his political enemies in the hope it might result in a policy consensus that was in the best interest of the nation.
Obama, faced with an economy that is nearly careening off the cliff, can’t even muster the grudging acceptance that a former President – of his own party – may have a point that raising taxes in a recession is not in the best interest of the nation.