February 18, 2008

Bill Clinton Again Takes Credit for the 1990s Economy; He Deserves Little of It

I see that ARIFPOTUS (Accused Rapist and Impeached Former President of the United States) Bill Clinton is once again taking credit for everything good that happened in the 1990s, as Jack Tapper at ABC’s Political Punch reports:

"There are two competing moods in America today," Clinton said. "People who want something fresh and new — and they find it inspiring that we might elect a president who literally was not part of any of the good things that happened or any of the bad things that were stopped before. The explicit argument of the campaign against Hillary is that ‘No one who was involved in the 1990s or this decade can possibly be an effective president because they had fights.  We’re not going to have any of those anymore.’ Well, if you believe that, I got some land I wanna sell you."

I also see that Tapper is letting Mr. Clinton’s claims pass as if they are undeniable facts, as others in Old Media have done for so many years:

Presumably, by "any of the good things that happened" in the 1990s, Clinton is referring to the things he did as president (except for the ones his wife now distances herself from, such as NAFTA).

The “good things” that happened in the 1990s were primarily economic. There’s little doubt that Mr. Clinton’s latest brags capitalize on the established folklore that his administration is responsible for the good things that happened in the 1990s economy, but not for the difficulties that became evident during the final year of his stewardship and carried into the administration of George W. Bush.

So let’s recount the economy of the 1990s:

  • First, give him credit for NAFTA (sorry, anti-free traders), which helped set the table for feast to come later.
  • That said, really good things didn’t start consistently happening until 1996, shortly after the 1994 Gingrich Revolution, when the GOP took over Congress and the Senate.
  • During its first couple of years, the GOP-controlled Congress made progress in getting the federal budget under a semblance of control, especially on the spending side of the ledger. The economy and the stock market responded positively; unfortunately, the non-defense spending improvements didn’t last.
  • For four years starting in 1997, welfare reform, which Clinton only signed once it was clear that his political survival depended on it (4th para at link), stimulated the economy to an underappreciated degree. First, it put an average of over 500,000 new adults per year into the workforce during that time. Second, the addition of so many new workers with additional spending power had a unquantifiable but very real multiplier effect. Finally, the two points just mentioned improved the federal budget situation, as it reducted dependency outlays while increasing tax collections from the newly productive and their multiplier-effect beneficiaries.
  • The gutting of the military (something, it should be noted, Congress failed to adequately resist) had a positive economic impact, but a horrible longer-term effect on national security.
  • Also in 1997, a GOP-driven supply-side capital gains tax cut (8th para at link), not exactly the Clintonians’ favorite idea, further fueled the prosperity and created yet another tax-collections boomlet.

Sadly, by early 2000, investment community hype (check the party affiliations and political contributions of many of those most involved in it sometime), investor greed, and lax Clinton Administration SEC enforcement led to the bursting of the NASDAQ/Internet bubble, which officially began on March 10 of that year.

By the third quarter of 2000, the economy was in near-recession. Only years later did we see that the economy contracted 0.5% during that quarter. The government’s final revision at the time said that the economy grew 2.2%. Hmmm.

The historical record shows that besides helping to push through NAFTA, Bill Clinton and his administration had very little to do with the good things that happened in the mid/late-1990s US economy, and quite a bit to do with how it came tumbling down from 2000-2002.

Moving to the present, a Hillary Clinton Administration probably won’t have a fiscally conscious GOP-led Congress around to make her look good. Little if anything in what Mrs. Clinton wants to do would substantively improve the economy, and many of her ideas would clearly make things worse.

Following a long tradition with Democratic presidential contenders, Old Media isn’t exploring the potential negative economic impact of what Mrs. Clinton is proposing.



  1. TB,

    All true, but the one thing that people forget about – and may be the most important event – is the incredible innovation and its adoption of miniaturization and computerization throughout business and society.

    Comment by Joe C. — February 18, 2008 @ 1:41 pm

  2. #1, It seems intuitive that innovation picked during the 1990s, but that’s tough to quantify (productivity, maybe?).

    Also, it should be noted that Reno & Klein v. Microsoft is seen by some as having set the stage for the NASDAQ bubble to burst.

    Comment by TBlumer — February 18, 2008 @ 2:17 pm

  3. Clinton “gutted” the military? What an unfortunate word choice, given the outrageous number of US casualties suffered in Bush’s mistaken Iraq war.

    Regarding positive economic impact from defense spending reductions, our Commander-in-Chief apparently disagrees with you:

    From the Today Show via Think Progress

    CURRY: You don’t agree with that? It has nothing do with the economy, the war — spending on the war?

    BUSH: I don’t think so. I think actually the spending in the war might help with jobs…because we’re buying equipment, and people are working.

    Comment by A. Browning — February 18, 2008 @ 7:52 pm

  4. #3, yawwwwwwwwwwnnnnnn. Your comment betrays so little historical context that it’s almost an insult to have to respond to you. And please don’t bother responding to this comment.

    Comment by TBlumer — February 18, 2008 @ 9:44 pm

  5. Sorry, Mr. Browning, military casualties have actually been LOWER (per year, and in total) during the Iraq war than they were during the Clinton presidency.

    Comment by R Willis — February 18, 2008 @ 10:19 pm

  6. R Willis, I was referring to Americans who have died or suffered wounds hostilely in Iraq. Why you would want to compare them to those in the military who died from accidents, illness, homicide and suicide, I’m not certain.

    Comment by A. Browning — February 19, 2008 @ 9:17 am

  7. #6, simple, your side made a big deal out of soldiers dying in hostilities and that it was the primary reason we shouldn’t be involved in Iraq, i.e. solders getting killed. The inconvenient facts are fewer soldiers die as a result of hostile action than other causes. This is why liberals have always been seen as hypocritical in terms of the reason why they opposed military action. People die everyday, more people died on our roads every year during the 1960s & 70s than in all 12 years of the Vietnam War approx 52,000. That death rate is down now around 42,000 a year, and senseless purposeless deaths at that! Yet we don’t see liberals lying down in the streets demanding the abolition of cars. Your whole sense of proportion is absurd. Another good example of this hypocrisy is guns, many, many, more children die of drownings in pools every year than gun deaths, yet liberals aren’t demanding the abolition of pools. As usual, liberals come off shallow and petty pursuing PC nonsense as opposed to the real issues of life in the world.

    Comment by dscott — February 19, 2008 @ 2:34 pm

  8. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr54/nvsr54_10.pdf Here’s a report on mortality if you care to review the facts instead of going with assertions. Page 12 has some graphs, notice something about children 0 to 9? Statistically very few die from guns in this age group, in fact auto accidents are the primary cause of injury related deaths of people under 20. This holds true for the most part until you are in your 70s when falls exceed them.

    In fact, if you type in the word “war” to see how many people quote die in “legal intervention/war” 2002 on back the rate has been in the hundreds even during Clintons time.
    http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/CASUALTY/Death_Rates1.pdf Here is the military fatality count from 1980 to 2007

    Comment by dscott — February 19, 2008 @ 3:00 pm

  9. dscott,

    You wrote, “Your whole sense of proportion is absurd.” Why? Because I mourn the 4000 needless deaths and the 30000 needless maimings in Iraq? Do you honestly believe that we should keep our troops perpetually engaged in battle so they might experience a lower death rate? Please deploy, if you honestly think it will extend your life expectancy.

    Every Iraq KIA and WIA was due to Bush’s mistaken invasion. The fact that more folks die in automobiles is as irrelevant now as it was when we were mired in Vietnam, and your comparison disrespects those who served and died in both wars.

    Finally (and I mean that), do you know when “Clinton’s time” was? It would appear not.

    Comment by A. Browning — February 19, 2008 @ 10:38 pm

  10. Tom,

    A little “historical context” on post-cold war military reductions, from the DoD (hint: Cheney did it!) h/t Americablog.com:

    “Except for FY 1991, when the TOA budget increased by 1.7 percent, the Cheney budgets showed negative real growth: -2.9 percent in 1990, -9.8 percent in 1992, and -8.1 percent in 1993. During this same period total military personnel declined by 19.4 percent, from 2.202 million in FY 1989 to 1.776 million in FY 1993. The Army took the largest cut, from 770,000 to 572,000-25.8 percent of its strength. The Air Force declined by 22.3 percent, the Navy by 14 percent, and the Marines by 9.7 percent.”

    That decade-by-decade chart you linked to completely obscured this.

    Comment by A. Browning — February 19, 2008 @ 11:05 pm

  11. #9, thanks for making my point – “As usual, liberals come off shallow and petty pursuing PC nonsense as opposed to the real issues of life in the world.”

    Terrorism affects all of us, enabling Terrorism as Clinton did throughout his 8 years cost us almost 3000 lives on 911. 911 is conceived, planned, financed and trained for on Clinton’s watch. The black hawk down incident in Somalia was planned and financed by Saddam Hussein and executed by OBL’s people, after which OBL said that success against the US gave them the confidence to move on to bigger things like 911. We were forced to clean up Clinton’s mess by invading both Afghanistan and Iraq, so if anyone made a mistake it was Clinton for enabling both Saddam and the terrorists. The Spanish pulled out of Iraq due to the train bombings, yet the terrorists targeted them again in 2007 anyway and would have been successful if their plot wasn’t foiled. The French and Germans didn’t participate in Iraq and even opposed it, yet they also were the targets of the same terrorists.

    Like I said, you liberals are so caught up in the PC nonsense you are completely blind to the peril we are in. The object of all terrorism is for a small group to force their agenda on a larger group through intimidation. The successful exercise of power is their motivator. Every time you give in to terrorism, you enable the terrorist to move on to the next level. Every time you give in or condon by not responding you give the terrorist exactly what they want, POWER. Terrorists are not some group of annoying ants that you can ignore them because you are bigger. Terrorism is like a disease, once it takes hold it infects everything and only gets worse unless dosed with strong medicine. The Anbar awakening and the letter from the terrorist leader should be a clue to you as to what has to happen. But no, you, Obama, Clinton, Pelosi and Reid will talk, talk, talk thus giving power to the terrorists and enabling them to esculate further. You never negotiate with terrorists as this gives them POWER and legitimacy.

    Btw- you obviously have forgotten history as well, why don’t you do read a little history on the Barbary Pirates, they were the thieving terrorists of their day, what did Britian and other European countries do? They tried to pay them off thus guaranteeing the continuing the profitable terrorism. How did it end? Read for yourself and draw your own conclusions instead of listening to the Dem talking points. http://hnn.us/articles/287.html or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbary_pirates

    Comment by dscott — February 20, 2008 @ 1:56 pm

  12. Some thoughtful points and review on the how Dems handle foreign policy matters like terrorism:



    Comment by dscott — February 20, 2008 @ 3:56 pm

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