Can Obama get re-elected running on Bill Clinton’s record?
posted at 10:45 am on August 3, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
As noted in an earlier column, Barack Obama has witnessed his share of presidential “firsts.” His, for example, is the first administration in history to preside over a $16 trillion-plus national debt, $5 trillion of was added on his watch. It is the first administration under which the nation’s AAA debt security rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor’s. In August of 2011 Obama became the first chief executive since World War II to preside over an economy where net zero jobs were created in a given month.
Now he is able to add another notch to his belt of firsts. He recently became the first president in U.S. history to announce plans to run on the coattails of a predecessor. He told supporters on the stump last week that we “tried their plan”—meaning the Republicans—and then “we tried our plan, and it worked.” It wasn’t initially clear who he meant by we. If he was using that pronoun in either the editorial or majestic sense, he is delusional. Under his regime, the number of Americans living below the poverty line is on a pace to equal or surpass 1960’s record levels. Chronic unemployment continues to make a mockery of both his 2008 campaign of “hope” and his wasteful $800 billion stimulus.
But as it turns out, Obama had something else in mind when he said “our plan” has “worked.” He was referring to the so-called “flowering” of the economy under Bill Clinton, which Democrats, including Clinton himself, boast was the result of Bubba’s “reversing trickle-down economics” through passage of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993—a claim that even PolitiFact deems a half-truth.
When asked whether Obama was “running on the Clinton economy,” White House spinmeister Jay Carney gave a garbled answer, asserting first that Obama was running on his own “vision for the future,” but then adding:
[H]e points to the facts, which are that, are that under President Clinton, marginal rates at that level were in place when we saw this substantial economic growth and job creation.
This is all by way of justifying his argument for raising taxes on the wealthiest 2% of Americans. The folly of increasing taxes when GDP growth is limping along at 1.5% is betrayed by Obama’s own warnings in January 2010. In this video he alludes to the risks of a tax hike “when the economy remains somewhat fragile.” For the record, the GDP back then was growing at a rate of 3.2%.
But an even bigger problem in attempting to graft Clinton’s tax policies onto his presidency is that the Clinton years were buoyed by the dot.com boom. The stock market witnessed an unprecedented 226% rise between 1995 and 2000. Economists are still split in their opinions of whether Clinton had a hand in this “longest economic expansion in U.S. history” or just happened to be there when the wheel came round. Regardless, the fact remains that no such harbinger of prosperity looms on the horizon for the foreseeable future.
Finally, as noted previously, Obama’s claims that his tax hike on the rich is a return to Clinton-era tax rates is built on the fiction that all else is equal. In fact, beginning in January of next year, families earning $250,000 a year or more will pay a 3.8% surtax on investment income as a result of a provision in the Affordable Care Act. Capital gains and dividends, moreover, will be taxed at 23.8% and 43.4% respectively at the highest levels.
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