Thursday, May 17, 2012

Clinton's Balanced Budgets

Steve Kornacki writes a piece at Salon which is intended as criticism of Republicans, but primarily praises Clinton for “the balanced budgets and surpluses that marked the late years of the 1990s.” Actually, the federal debt increased every year that Clinton was in office, except 2000 when the “dot com boom” brought in unparalleled tax revenues.

That’s not intended as a knock on Clinton. His fiscal responsibility took a degree of wisdom and courage that is pretty much unknown in today's governance, and his path is one to which we should return immediately. That happening is about as likely as me winning next year’s Ironman.

Kornacki says that Clinton “raised taxes on the rich,” but that’s actually not what he did. Clinton championed a comprehensive economic reform bill which, being more progressive than the conservative policies of the day, included higher tax rates for the rich, but he had better leadership skills than to present it in those terms. Nor was the reform limited to those rate increases. It included other income tax reforms, changes to improve Social Security, and an increase in transportation tax.

Five years after Democrats took control of Congress and three years after they took the White House, they have yet to even suggest any kind of comprehensive tax policy of their own. Obama cannot even mention taxes without referring to the “Bush tax cuts,” and his only plan other than to match the Republican mantra of cutting taxes is to “raise taxes on the rich.”

If that isn’t class warfare, it certainly sounds like something close to it, and he has certainly managed to convince a large number of people that their enemy is not the Republicans who control the House or the Democrats who control the Senate, but rather the rich people who control both. We don’t see protestors camped on the steps of the Capitol, we see them camped on Wall Street, and no political discussion can occur today without including the 1% versus the 99% and “tax the rich.”

Plus, of course, his plan to raise taxes on the rich solves only about 4% of the problem and he offers no plan whatever to solve the other 96% of it.

Whatever else he was, Clinton was a leader, because he managed to convince a Republican-controlled Congress to pass an economic reform package that included revenue in the form of tax increases, even while they were accusing him of land fraud, murdering his associates and using the White House as a high class motel.

He didn’t sit back and wring his hands, whining about Congress being “obstructionist.”

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