Former President Bill Clinton tells Newsmax that his new book on fixing the American economy provides a blueprint the nation must take to use the best ideas of both Republicans and Democrats to create a public-private partnership to rescue the nation’s economy.
Clinton begins his best-seller, “Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy:”
“I wrote this book because I love my country and I’m concerned about our future.”
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In his interview with Newsmax conducted last week, the former president noted that the supercommittee’s failure to reach an agreement on cutting the budget by $1.2 trillion over 10 years resulted in a “standoff between the two parties when we actually need the best ideas from both.”
“Part of the problem is that, for the last 30 years, we’ve argued about whether the government was the cause of all of our problems, and whether the answer was always less,” Clinton said. “Now I believe the answer is, ‘Sometimes it’s good to have less [government], sometimes it’s good to have more, and however much you have, you ought to pay for it.’ ”
In "Back to Work,"
Clinton says the recent downturn was due to a lack of regulatory oversight that allowed mortgages to be easily obtained. The nation became overleveraged and the economy won't make a comeback until the housing crisis is unraveled, he argues.
Today, Clinton is preaching a bipartisan approach to solving the nation's worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
In his book, he writes, “I tried to give some examples of things that had been done by the government — by Republican presidents as well as Democratic ones — that I thought were very good, and things that should be done going forward, that some were more liberal and some quite conservative, that together would give us the kind of partnership between the public and private sector that would produce an economy of share prosperity.
“I think we ought to start with what our goal is: Our country works best when we have a thriving middle class, a good small-business sector, when people can work their way from poverty into the middle class so they’re not dependent on welfare for life.
“And when you look around the world, the people who are doing the best job of that have highly intelligent government policies that work in close concert with the private sector. That’s what I’m arguing for here,” Clinton said.
During the 1990s, Clinton presided over one of the strongest economic booms in the country's history, which included a record of balanced budgets. He reduced the federal payroll while controlling the growth of spending and at the same time he promoted free trade policies and slashed capital gains taxes.
Asked if he had any advice for President Barack Obama, Clinton told Newsmax: “I think he should do more to highlight this small-business deregulation initiative he announced that he thinks will save them $10 billion in compliance costs. I think we should look at both conservative and progressive ways to deal with the climate-change issue.”
That issue needs a market-based solution, Clinton said, because “We’re never going to deal with this until we find a way to make it good economics. So there is a role here for Republicans and Democrats and independents, for conservatives and progressives, to play. But we somehow have to be able to get in the same room together.
“And you see the same thing on the budget, where the defining issue for many of the Republicans has been revenues, that the only way taxes can go is down. And the defining issue for many Democrats has been: You can do whatever you want as long as you don’t touch Social Security and Medicare. And that’s where all the money is.
“If you look at the federal budget, it’s Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, defense, interest on the debt — that’s 85 percent of the budget. And I’m very worried that both parties, in defending their turf on taxes and entitlements, will wind up punishing the future. That’s the non-defense discretionary investments the government makes in science and technology, in preserving our lead in biotechnology, in education and training when we need to upgrade that, and making college more affordable and making the debt easier to repay.
“It’s also our quality-of-life budget: clean air, clean water, safe food, safe air, transit. That stuff only takes 15 percent of the budget and it’s easier to cut because the future has a weaker constituency than the present does.”
Also during the exclusive Newsmax interview, Clinton addressed other ways to jump starting the economy, as well as his wife's plans after 2012, the Republican presidential race and other matters:
- Clinton said his position arguing against tax increases now does not contradict President Obama’s plan to raise the tax rate for wealthier Americans, as long as Obama waits until after the economy shows signs of a stronger recovery.
- Clinton said some conservatives are too focused on the shortcomings of government. The world’s most successful countries have smart government policies that “work in close concert with the private sector,” he said.
- He blamed a lack of government oversight for the financial meltdown in 2008, and supported former President George W. Bush’s TARP program to rescue the banks. “And I know that President Bush is a conservative and I know that he hated it, he told me several times,” Clinton said. “But there was no alternative, we had to save the financial system.”
- He confirmed that he has spoken to wife and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about her plans after she leaves office, predicting “she will have a major role to play in the nongovernmental world. That’s what she plans to do, and I think she’ll do it well.”
- Regarding the recent surge of his one-time nemesis former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Clinton attributed Gingrich’s rebound to his intellect, as reflected in his strong debate performance. “He’s articulate and he tries to think of a conservative version of an idea that will solve a legitimate problem,” Clinton said.
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