Ever since Ronald Reagan uttered the famous line “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party; the party left me,” Republicans have been quick to point out just how far Democrats have veered portside. Some of this may have been overblown — until now.
If you’re looking for proof, look no further than the ever-triangulating William Jefferson Clinton. In fact, a quick comparison of the Obama Democrats’ policy positions with those of the Clinton presidency illustrates the point nicely.
• “Don’t ask, don’t tell”: This policy prevented the armed services from discriminating against homosexuals while simultaneously removing those who openly disclosed their sexual orientation. By most military accounts, it was a success. Democrats nonetheless passed a bill in 2010 granting the executive the power to repeal it, and in July of last year President Obama undid the Clinton compromise.
• The Defense of Marriage Act: Clinton signed it in 1996, acknowledging the states’ traditional role in family law. Allowing respective states to determine whether or not to embrace same-sex unions diffused the issue for all but the most ardent of activists. However, last year Obama instructed the Justice Department to quit defending the law, and in a campaign switch, the president now publicly supports gay marriage.
• Welfare reform: Obama’s Health and Human Services’ waiver of the Clinton-era work requirements aimed at testing “alternative and innovative strategies,” such as combining “learning and work … or job search/readiness programs” is coming under fire from the Government Accountability Office. Its general counsel released an opinion saying that changes in the law should have been approved by Congress, not by the executive.
• Capital-gains taxes: When the capital-gains rate was cut from 28 percent to 20 percent in 1997, revenues doubled to more than $127 billion during Clinton’s second term. Obama is demanding a staggering 59 percent increase in the rate. His preferred rate of 23.8 percent includes his new 3.8 percent Obamacare investment tax.
• Spending: Due to a Cold War peace dividend — as well as a recalcitrant Congress — spending as a share of GDP under Clinton fell to less than 19 percent, and debt flatlined. During his first term, Obama has racked up $5 trillion in new debt; spending is at 25 percent of GDP, and instead of laying claim to new savings in the budget, the president says, “After two wars that have cost us … over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home.”
Of course, when the 42nd president took office, he, too, was set on an activist agenda. The Clinton-Gore administration embarked on a series of stumbles through its first two years, including Gore’s $70 billion carbon tax proposal; Hillarycare (the precursor to Obamacare), and its very own “stimulus” package.
Oh, and those wonderful 1993 income tax hikes the media love to swoon over? Well, the lower interest rates and economic boom promised from getting “serious” over the federal deficit failed to materialize. Growth for 1993 was only 2.3 percent, and by the time the GOP took control of Congress in 1994, the long-term Treasury yield had climbed to 7 percent. The Dow wasn’t doing much better, stuck under 4,000.
But Bill Clinton was nothing if not a protean politician and — in stark contrast with President Obama — quickly shifted gears.
It’s hardly surprising that he’s doing it again. In his convention speech as well as his television ad, Clinton would have you believe that Obama was dealt an impossible hand. That “No president — not me or any of my predecessors — could have repaired all the damage in just four years.”
This is demonstrably false, since Reagan brought the nation roaring back from 10.8 percent unemployment, double-digit inflation and a “misery index” of more than 20 percent in his first term. Then again, as former Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska once told Esquire magazine, “Clinton’s an unusually good liar. Unusually good. Do you realize that?”
As published in Star Tribune 16 Sept.