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“Former President Bill Clinton, who has grown increasingly frustrated that his economic policies are viewed as out-of-step with the current focus on income inequality, on Wednesday delivered his most muscular defense of his economic legacy.”
In the 90's, Democratic President Bill Clinton proudly claimed he was a New Democrat. Clinton boasted, as a New Democrat, that "the era of big government was over." Republicans heard that and immediately peed in their pants a little bit from uncontrollable glee. The rest is oligarch history.
As president, Clinton presided over a healthy economy in which unemployment declined and median family income increased substantially. But it is also true that Clinton was the candidate of the Democratic Leadership Council, a middle-of-the-road, centrist organization that worked assiduously to revive the Democratic Party after the Reagan years. The DLC forged a new image of Democrats as pro-business pragmatists. As president, Clinton implemented many of the policies of the DLC, which did not include addressing the issues of poverty.
Alan Voodoo Greenspan even quipped in 2007 that “Bill Clinton was the best Republican president we’ve had in a while.” Bob Woodward, Village nauseator, quoted Clinton saying....“I hope you’re all aware we’re all Eisenhower Republicans. We stand for lower deficits and free trade and the bond market.”
Democrats decided in the 90's that it was better to switch than fight. The New Democrats were born....as well as one liners like Ralph Nader's...."there's not a dime's worth of difference between the two political parties."
Point being that the Bill Clinton presidency marked a turning point in Democratic economic policies. New Democrats, like Bill Clinton, Bob Rubin, Rahm, Harold Ford Jr., Ed Rendell and many others decided the best way for Democrats to compete with Republicans was to please corporate donors with every policy provision they advanced.
The result: NAFTA, "the end of welfare as we've known it", balancing the budget clearing the way for huge windfall tax cuts for the 1% in 2001 and 2003, lowering the capital gains tax rate, and radically deregulating the paper and money shuffling industries.
As Thomas Frank puts it, the new Democrats were ushering in a new golden age in the 90's.....and they were all so very excited.....
....that complete and utter assuredness that we shouldn’t really regulate financial institutions was the prevailing sentiment of the Clinton years. That’s what it was all about. The Nasdaq was soaring and the world supposedly looked to us to see how an economy should be run. And Clinton’s team used to be proud of what they had done, the whole transition from manufacturing to “a post-industrial economy.” What a triumph. Larry Summers, one of his Treasury secretaries, gloated in 1999 about this, then went on to talk about how awesome it was to have “a venture capital sector in which entrepreneurs may raise their first $100 million before buying their first suits.” It was a “new macro-economic paradigm.”
It was a new paradigm alright. One which led directly to the orgy of commodity trading greed-frenzy, the Dot.com bubble, an increase in outsourcing and offshoring, Enron-style ponzis and the mortgage derivative and credit default swap Tilt-a-Whirl thrill ride which crashed and burned, taking the entire economy down with it.
More importantly for current discussions, this New Democrat paradigm, once allowed to sprout and grow like a fungus.....locked in today's 99% versus 1% inequality disparity gap.
Former President Clinton knows all of this and that is why, in a pre-emptive move, he is out on the speechifying trail to derail any notions that a Hillary presidency wouldn't be sufficiently progressive.
New Democrats are not liberals, as such, but neo-liberals. Neo-liberalism equals the Clinton Third Way. The premise, though misguided and I would say, cynical, is that as long as the wildly wealthy were getting even more wildly wealthy....the rest of us would also benefit economically. In truth, neo-liberalism is a capitulation by the Democratic Party to the GOP's trickle down economics.
As Thomas Franks suggests.....that's why Howard Dean called these faux-Democratic forces, "the Republican wing of the Democratic Party." And the Doctor was right.
The fear of Clintonian neo-liberals today is the same fear that Republicans have. Fear that a new economic populism....led by outliers like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.....will gain traction within the electorate, possibly creating pressure on Hillary to move (gasp) further to the left.....an obvious threat to the desires of the wildly wealthy.
All of this posturing by the servants of the rich in both political parties.....OVER 2 FULL YEARS BEFORE the 2016 election.....is for the purpose of calming any greed-lust worries of our mighty oligarchs. Slick Willie's need to reformulate and defend his "progressive" legacy in light of a potential Hillary run is all the evidence one needs to comprehend how much these sell-outs-to-the-1% are afraid of ANY authentic economic populist movements by the 99%.
Finally, neo-liberals are so committed to the wealthy few now that even after capitulating in the 90's to Republican trickle down and deregulation.....after balancing the budget, and releasing the greed-hordes by repealing Glass-Steagall....Republicans impeached the New Democrat anyway. Yet, today....the Impeached One is out again defending his record of betrayal of the 99%.
Important questions as we move closer to the 2016 primaries.....
Will a President Hillary repeat the New Democrat triangulation of her husband? Will Hillary keep the 1% party going full steam ahead? Does Hillary believe in the voodoo? Will she further deregulate the 1%'ers, like her husband did? Will she obsess, as Willie did, over the smallest of "uncertainties" of our privileged class? Will she capitulate to every Republican demand?