I Miss Bill

I miss Bill. 

I miss significant expansions in free trade, like with the passage of NAFTA.  Instead, under Bush we’ve had new tariffs on steel, tariffs on underwear, and protectionism on catfish.

I miss welfare reform that encouraged work and discouraged irresponsible behavior.  Instead, under Bush we’ve just had $1 trillion in corporate socialism that simply transfers wealth from taxpayers who didn’t work for or invest with reckless financial institutions to the people who do.  Doing so discourages work and rewards irresponsible behavior.

I miss low inflation and unemployment partially sustained by fiscal restraint.  Instead, under Bush we’ve had runaway government spending with rising inflation and unemployment.

I miss an articulate, well-crafted speech that inspires us to support promising government efforts.  Instead, under Bush… well, you know.

Of course, divided government may have helped shape Clinton’s agenda and deserves some of the credit.  And of course, presidents can’t take full credit or blame for the economy or world events.  And I certainly wouldn’t say I miss everything about him.  But whoever helped shape Bill, whatever credit doesn’t belong to him, and despite his failings, those were good times and he was a good president.

18 Responses to I Miss Bill

  1. Greg Forster says:

    Assuming for the moment that we’re confining our attention to economics – best not to ask about Bill’s legacy on subjects like foreign policy and the courts – shouldn’t we take into consideration the fact that Bush enacted a big tax cut while Bill not only hiked taxes, but also tried to semi-nationalize a seventh of the economy?

    What we really want is Bill circa 1995-96 and George circa 2001-02.

  2. Bill Clinton’s approval ratings are still astronomical, and his legacy is intact. Surprisingly, he will go down in history as a great president. The way I always explain is that “Bill is a schmuck. But, he’s our schmuck.” That’s pretty much the way the average American feels.

    Bill’s success can probably be attributed to his battles and pragmatic negotiations with Gingrich, just as Reagan’s can be attributed to the same situation with Tip O’Neil. Clinton certainly raised taxes, but so did Reagan (five times). Each time the economy boomed, though under Clinton the deficit dropped dramatically, and the federal debt started to reverse.

    What we really want is a pragmatic leader who gets the job done.

  3. Brian Kisida says:

    Yes, Greg, Clinton raised taxes, but he also reduced spending. Quite different from Bush who cut taxes and increased spending. I don’t think you’re going to get very far in knocking down Clinton by bringing Bush into the picture. Bush wasn’t even welcome at his own party’s convention.

    Bush came into office with the biggest surpluses in U.S. history and upon exiting will leave us with the largest deficit in history.

  4. “I miss an articulate, well-crafted speech that inspires us to support promising government efforts. Instead, under Bush… well, you know.”

    No, I don’t. If you subtract the vague generalizations from a typical Clinton speech, there was little there. For example, in his speech proposing a national health care policy, President Clinton held up a plastic card which, he said, would guarantee health care for all. How? I guess you could fold it and use it as a splint for a broken finger, or tape it over a gunshot-induced suckiing chest wound, but otherwise, the card was a irrelevant distraction (“lending an air of verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative”) from the issue: how is aggregation of resources and decision-making authority into the hands of a national bureaucracy going to improve health care? This is exactly the argument against political control of school as well.

    President Bush is often specific and mentally organized. His speech to Congress after the 9-11 event hit all the right notes. That’s a speechwriter, off course, but President Bush does okay off the cuff as well Unlike his father, who could not construct a cohetrent sentence.

    And uh, then, uh, there’s uh, Barak, uh, Obama.

    President Clinton promoted NAFTA and GATT, at considerable cost to his party (I suspect that’s why the Democrats lost the House in 1994). Prsident Bush addressed the looming Social Security deficit, and got blocked by the Democrats in Congress. He addressed the rather urgent issue of State-sponsored terrorism, only to suffer smears by Democrats and their media allies.

    Neither President Clinton nor President Bush demonstrated an appreciation of the federal principle. Nor do Senators Obama and McCain. We’re in for a rough four years.

  5. Brian Kisida says:

    Malcolm, I think the key word in that quote was “inspires.” One of the great things a leader can do is to inspire people to behave in a better way, to motivate them to be greater than they otherwise could be. Vague generalizations are perfect for that task.

    Or, ya know, we could just ask them to shop. I suppose that meets your criteria in that it is specific.

  6. Malcolm,

    I would argue that the little plastic card Clinton held would work the same way the little plastic card I had when I lived in Taiwan worked. I showed it to my doctor and was given medical services, just like I use my insurance card now. However, the difference is that the money I paid in taxes in Taiwan (a whopping six percent) was refunded to me at the end of the year, whereas Blue Cross and Cigna kept whatever was left from my $12000 in yearly premiums as profit. They provided no health care for me, but their executives sure eat well.

    Granted, you could criticize the quality of the health care in a place like Taiwan, though I would probably recommend you don’t unless you have lived there. My family received care every bit as effective and efficient as that we receive in the states for a fraction of the cost. In Taiwan, as well as Switzerland, France, and Germany, there is a blend of public and private in which providers bid to service the large pool of customers represented by the government. It’s exactly what currently works so well for our congressmen and 9 million federal employees in FEHBP. It just cuts out the profit of the middleman who is making money on our fear of getting cancer and the bills wiping out our family’s savings. Thus, the little plastic card isn’t as bad as you think it is. Make sure you actually live under national health insurance before you criticize it.

    By the way, I, uh, do, uh, concur with, uh, your criticism of, uh, Barack, uh Obama.

    However, with the current state of the market, I don’t think you want to promote the Bush privatization plan for Social Security. The minute it’s private, it’s no longer security. I guess Bush would have to acknowledge that at this point. I would say that SS was never meant to provide a middle class income, though it was designed to lift/keep our seniors out of poverty, which it can do.

  7. Karl says:

    I miss the cheap adulterous shenanigans, the blatant lies to cover it up, and the weakening of the USA military. But, I like toothaches too.

  8. Michael,

    “Profit” is a bookkeeping term, the difference between total revenues and total costs. An organization which has no line in its books for “profit” must attribute all its revenues to costs. This says nothing about the motivations of service providers.

    I make less than most of the distinction between “public” and “private”. The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality (definition). We are all public citizens and private individuals. People do not become more intelligent, more altruistic, better-informed, or more capable (except to the extent that they can dispense violence) when they enter the State’s employ.

  9. Malcolm,

    You make an interesting, even valid, point. However, that doesn’t justify the criticism of how Clinton’s little plastic card would provide health care for all. It would have, just as similar cards do in many places in a far more effective and efficient way than the United States. My explanation, by the way, is not related to Canada or Britain, as I don’t endorse those systems.

    We can argue about the cost and quality of the service, but there is no doubt that the Clinton health care plan could have provided health care of comparable quality and cost to America, as the Taiwanese, Swiss, and German plans do.

    People aren’t more intelligent, altruistic, or capable in the State’s employ, though oversight is more effective at the level. Hence, the current intervention of the government into the market. At one time, we trusted the free market to police itself, and then Upton Sinclair revealed a need for the FDA. I hope you’d concur that while it’s efficiency could improve, history has shown a need for that oversight. It certainly has to come from somewhere, and the government “of the people, by the people, for the people” is the best hope.

  10. Michael,

    We disagree that State oversight is more effective than market mechanisms. Why should that be so? The State is itself a corporation, but you do not have the option not to do business with the State (other than to leave the country). The most effective accountability mechanism humans have yet devised is a policy which allows unhappy customers to take their business elsewhere. The current collapse of the home loan business is a result of government oversight, in the form of regulatory pressure on banks to make housing loans to people who could not repay the loans, and government-sponsored “insurance” which put the taxpayers on the hook for the losses. The Board of Directors (Congress) stalled and blocked efforts by the Administration to curtail the risky loans. In the 1980’s the massive S&L fraud originated in an increase of the taxpayers’ exposure from $10,000 to $100,000, slipped into a bill by US Representative Fernand St. Germain.

    I have read that Upton Sinclair exaggerated his case. Relevant statistics would consider trends in food-borne illness, before and after the imposition of regulations.

  11. Greg Forster says:

    I just took a second look at that picture of Bill.

    Is he winking at me?

  12. Hey, we all see what we want to see ; )

  13. Malcolm,

    Sinclair may have taken artistic license with “The Jungle.” It was, after all, a novel. However, I’m going to take my chances with the FDA over the meatpacking plants. I don’t think I’ve heard any exaggeration claims about Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation.”

    In terms of the housing crisis, I don’t see any credible argument for government regulation causing the crisis. In fact, even conservatives like Gregory Mankiw and Sebastian Mallaby aren’t arguing that. On the other hand:

    We should probably acknowledge the links pointed out by Ed Gramlich, a Fed official, who was criticizing sub-prime lending and trying to get Greenspan to increase oversight by 2004. This, of course, he related to the repeal of Glass-Stagall, engineered by Phil Graham, passed by a Republican Congress, and signed by Bill Clinton. That deregulation of banking contributed to the problem far more than the existence of Fannie Mae. FNM couldn’t make sub-prime loans, but many independent mortgage brokers could.

    Keep in mind that up to Gramlich’s warnings in 2004, sub-prime was only 8.5 percent of mortgages in the US. However, by three years later, it surpassed twenty percent. At this time, Fannie/Freddie had nothing to do with the sub-prime, and were becoming insignificant in the mortgage game precisely because they can’t do any subprime lending. They are restricted by law from sub-prime lending. Additionally, regulators by 2003 put new restrictions on them as a result of growing financial scandals.

    Granted, FNM/FRE’s problems came not in lending but in not maintaining enough capital to back any downturn in the market. Thus, we have the issue of finance and regulation. NOW, I’m not arguing that deregulation is the sole culprit or that excessive regulation is the answer. But I certainly can’t endorse oversimplying the issue into the standard “government is the problem” mantra. Government appears to be the only solution at this point – though I don’t entirely agree with Bush/Paulson’s actions.

    Again, this implosion occurred during the past eight years when, in the words of Gramlich “the subprime market was the Wild West. Over half the mortgage loans were made by independent lenders without any federal supervision.” What he didn’t mention was that this was the way the laissez-faire ideologues ruling Washington — a group that very much included Mr. Greenspan — wanted it. They were and are men who believe that government is always the problem, never the solution, that regulation is always a bad thing.”

    Now, I’m no economist (though I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night – (sic)), but I think Gramlich has the credentials to know what he’s talking about.

  14. ryan marsh says:

    A couple of points:

    1) There are a few Germans in my program and they have told me that the system isn’t failing, it has already failed.

    2)I’m not fully an economist yet, though I’m working on it, but I will say that economists are no less (or more, to be fair) likely to let their own worldview determine how they interpret the facts. All you have to do to see this is look at how interpretations of what caused and/or worsened the Great Depression vary based on who is or was announcing the theory. This holds true for the current credit situation as well.

  15. Ryan,

    Anecdotally, there are always critics of any system such as the health care system. However, there is no evidence that the German system is anywhere near failing or failed (that would imply no one is receiving adequate care). In Germany, every person still has access to health care including preventative, primary care, prescriptions, surgery, etc.. In the states, however, there are millions who have no access to anything but emergency care.

    In the States, thousands of citizens have lost their homes and business through medical bankruptcy. A good friend with an independent business who insured her family privately lost her health care, her house, and potentially her business after suffering a stroke. She was promptly dropped from her plan and cannot get any insurance with the exception of astronomical premiums. This could simply not happen in the systems I mentioned.

    Thus, there is clear evidence that the U.S. system has failed many people, while the Germans’ has failed none. According to the German government “Germany’s health care system provides its residents with nearly universal access to comprehensive high-quality medical care and a choice of physicians. Over 90 percent of the population receives health care through the country’s statutory health care insurance program. Membership in this program is compulsory for all those earning less than a periodically revised income ceiling. The remainder of the population receives health care via private for-profit insurance companies. Everyone uses the same health care facilities.”

  16. Every health care system ultimately fails everybody. You are going to die. US taxpayers could undoubtedly afford a one band-aid and one aspirin per year for everyone on the planet. The entire world’s GDP is insufficient to keep even one person alive forever. Does everything which women deliver in obstretic wards qualify as “human” and so for tax-funded medical care? Go to some antique medical encyclopedia and lread the article on “monsters”. What resources would you have the taxpayers expend on a featureless ball of fur with organs inside, or on a perfectly-formed torso with arme and legs, a knot at the top of the spine, and an open hole at the anterior end of the esophogous? At the other end of the life cycle, how little functioning must there be before doctors stop billing taxpayers to keep some unresponsive lump of meat at 37 C.?

    Extreme cases make the point, and they occur in the middle of the life cycle as well (cf. Terri Schiavo).

    I see no advantage to ordinary citizens n aggregation of resources and medical decision-making authority in the hands of the goons with the guns (the State).

  17. Larry Bernstein says:

    I don’t believe Jay wrote this article. Who used his name to post this blog?

  18. Greg Forster says:

    No, this was Jay. He is a Democrat, you know.

    Or were you joking?

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