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Bill Clinton's Unreality: Tinkering With Unpassable Ideas, when Transformation is What We Need

Clinton's prescription offers incremental change, at exactly the time so many are realizing that we need need transformational change.

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In fairness to Clinton, he also explains how inequality has made the “cap” too low. As a solution to that, he writes, 

    "Some experts have suggested that a better, fairer way to raise more money is to impose a surcharge of 1 to 1.5 percent on all earnings above the cap for employers and employees." 

But instead of addressing the real causes of the problems, Clinton offers the Erskine-Bowles plan to raise the retirement age to 69 and cut cost-of-living increases as a stealth way of cutting benefits! 

On Medicare and healthcare in general Clinton outlines some details for “reform.” He points out that countries with a system like this spend so much less per capita, and quotes economist Paul Krugman, writing that “Medicare spending per person has increased 400 percent since 1970, while private insurance has skyrocketed 700 percent.” He makes the point that we have to solve the whole healthcare problem, and not just shift costs onto the non-government parts of the economy, as Republicans advocate. But, like so much else in this book, he just doesn’t quite get there and say that Medicare-For-All is the obvious answer. 

Spending and Deficits

Clinton says the Bush tax cuts must expire. He says we should stop giving oil and other companies big tax breaks. “That would net about $3.5 trillion over a decade.” 

On the Grover Norquist “no tax increases, ever” pledge, he offers good progressive language,

    This makes sense if you think all government activity is harmful and the United States would do better with a philosophy grounded in “you’re on your own” rather than “we’re all in this together.” 

To his credit, Clinton brings up and details the Progressive Caucus People’s Budget plan, saying it “takes care of older Americans and others who need help” and “invests a lot of our tax money to get America back in the future business.” This makes it “worth studying for possible changes and inclusion in a plan with more balance between spending restraint and new taxes.” 

Clinton’s key objection to the People’s Budget is that progressives “don’t have the votes to pass their plan” – as if any positive suggestion to help the economy and unemployed could pass today. He also criticizes the People’s Budget because, “multinationals may be tempted to relocate,” and a financial-transactions tax “could either bring in a lot of money or lead to many high-dollar transactions now done in the United States being moved overseas, with a net loss in revenue from the taxable incomes on the people who do the transactions.” And he says the budget “doesn’t deal with the demographic challenges to Social Security and the health-inflation challenges of Medicare, Medicaid, and other government-funded health programs.” 

Of course, he acknowledged elsewhere in the book that the real Medicare problem is our overall approach to healthcare not demographics, and that Social Security’s problem is rising inequality notdemographics.  

Part II: The Ideas 

Clinton offers 46 specific proposals and goes into detail why he thinks they would help the economy and create jobs. The major topics are deficit reduction, including a discussion of “entitlements,” energy initiatives and business incentives. 

Clinton offers a three-part economic and jobs growth strategy:

    (1) put as much of the $4 trillion now held in banks and corporate treasuries back into the economy as fast as we can; (2) concentrate on the areas most likely to produce good jobs that have a positive ripple effect, jobs in modern infrastructure building, high-end manufacturing, green technologies, and exported goods and services; and (3) do literally dozens of other things that, when combined, can make a real impact now and also increase our long-term economic growth. 

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