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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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What Clinton misses is the extent to which today’s conservative movement is about remaking the country for the benefit of the 1% and no one else. They have an Ayn Randian vision of the wealthiest as “producers,” while the rest of us – the 99% – are what they call the “losers.” To them the 99% are “parasites” who deserve no help and will only become “dependent” from it. They believe that democracy is “collectivism” and is evil because majorities will use the “theft” of taxes on the “job creators” and “spend” it on infrastructure and education for the “leeches.”   

Clinton SAYS it but he doesn’t SEE it. Clinton almost gets there, talking about the anti-government ideologues, saying their arguments are wrong, explaining why we need government, making the case, but never quite seeing that the destruction of government is intentional, not the result of a flaw in their ideology it is the point, that the right don’t believe in government because government helps people.   

The CGI Origins 

The ideas in the book flow from Clinton’s Clinton Global Initiative  (CGI) process, which brings business, government and nonprofit leaders together to work on the world’s problems. Clinton writes about CGI being composed of “Democrats, Republicans, independents, and concerned citizens the world over” working together. He is trying to bring business, government and nonprofit leaders together to do good within a system that has been reengineered in recent decades to reward only greed.  He has great technocratic faith in these educated meritocrats, and he has reason to – they are where they are because of their success, their hearts are in the right place, they want to help, and their success informs their approach to solving problems. But by nature successful – and mostly wealthy – stakeholders have an interest in preserving rather than transforming the system that brought them the wealth and control they have achieved. Because this system has been so good to his CGI crowd it is difficult for them to see the fundamental evil at its root. 

As a result, the ideas of CGI and the book are stuck in technocratic incrementalism. His prescription offers incremental change, at exactly the time so many are finally realizing that we need need transformational, institutional change. The rise of the Occupy movement tells us that it is time to see it, and change it. 

Dave Johnson is a Fellow at Campaign for America's Future and a Senior Fellow at Renew California .

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