Today we learned economic growth was 2% and 1.5% during the first and second quarters of this year. It made us think of 1992 when the de-facto slogan for Bill Clinton’s campaign was about the economy. Despite a historic record approval rating of 90% for President George H.W. Bush after the 1991 Gulf War victory, within 18 months, it would drop by 60 percentage points.
The economy was clearly improving in 1992 but Americans still remembered the 1990/1991 recession which was mild compared to Obama’s first year. 64% of Americans disapproved of Bush’s job performance in August 1992.
Compared to Obama’s 1.75% for the first six months of 2012, the real GDP for all of 1992 grew 3.4%. This exceeded the average annual growth rate durng Clinton’s first term.
Bush’s average annual increase in jobs did not come close to matching Reagan’s level, but it was far better than Obama.
Because of the economy, Bush was defeated for re-election and received only 38% of the vote.
Our quote of the day is from former Speaker Newt Gingrich: “President Clinton and the Republican Congress created a bipartisan work oriented reform of welfare in 1996. Obama is single handedly destroying our work.”
The GOP Congress passed welfare reform but Clinton deserves credit for signing the measure in August of 1996, despite significant liberal opposition. Clinton’s approval rating at the beginning of the year was similar to Obama’s (46%), and the Gallup Poll had him losing to Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-KS) by 10% in late 1995.
Clinton’s approval rating jumped six points after his January 23, 1996 State of the Union address, and he received one of the largest ratings boosts in history. He did it by abandoning liberal policies of 1993/1994, such as Hillarycare.
Clinton received numerous standing ovations from the GOP during his address that year when he spoke of welfare reform and said “The era of big government is over.” He then went on to talk of a government that “lives within its means,” and asserting that “deficit spending must come to an end.”
Later in the speech he boasted that the “federal government today is the smallest it has been in 30 years.” Obama has never received a similar response from the GOP.
Doug Schoen who was Clinton’s 1996 pollster says “He had his own health-care and spending baggage, but he shed it by adopting an agenda that included a balanced budget, frank acknowledgment of the limits of government and welfare reform. Clinton would almost certainly have lost the 1996 election had he not taken that approach. Democrats would have suffered major losses in the 1998 midterm election had they not followed him.”
It has been 770 days since Democratic lawmakers last produced a budget. They could not pass a budget last year when they had complete control of Congress and the White House, and now they are doing nothing. Unlike Congressional Democrats, President Obama did propose a budget this year but the Senate rejected it on May 25th by a 97 to 0 vote.
- Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) of the Senate Budget Committee admits Democrats do not want a budget, and are content with attacks on the GOP plan.
- Democrats unanimously rejected the GOP’s Ryan budget to cut the deficit by $6.2 trillion over a decade, and to put the nation on a path towards a balanced budget. The Republican plan promised 1 million new private sector jobs next year alone.
- It had near unanimous support in GOP ranks, and was opposed by only a handful of Republican lawmakers. The harshest criticism came from libertarians Ron and Rand Paul who said it would continue the “warfare” state. They joined Democrats and criticized the GOP as “hypocrites who have no intention of cutting the federal government down to size.”
- Republicans are willing to make tough decisions now instead of pushing the financial burden on to future generations.
For decades the answer from Democrats has been to ignore the problem, take money from Social Security and kick the can down the road. The GOP is willing to accept a $4.7 trillion “Gang of Six” proposal without tax increases. Republicans are listening to every idea, but the only thing they keep hearing from the other side is tax increases.
- One ray of hope has come from a surprising source, Bill Clinton: “I’m afraid Democrats will draw the conclusion we shouldn’t do anything. And I completely disagree with that. . We’ve got to deal with these things.”
- Opposing the former President is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) who says “There’s no need to have a Democratic budget in my opinion. It would be foolish for us to do a budget at this stage.” Reid knows doing nothing is a successful formula, and that is how he became Majority Leader.
- Democrats recaptured the Congress in 2006 and not one of their incumbents was defeated. They offered no plan that year but instead focused their campaign on attacking George W. Bush’s proposed Social Security and Medicare reforms. They would not discuss anything and refused to offer an alternative proposal. They responded by saying there was no problem with entitlements.
- The New York Times agrees with Clinton and says he “is right to warn his party . . Failure to address the nation’s fiscal problems aggressively could carry its own risk for Democrats.”
- The Washington Post says “Democrats are not offering anything new. They are not proposing major, new ideas of their own.”
- The National Journal says “Senate Democrats have almost no legislative plan of their own.”
- Freshman Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) says this behavior was not possible when he was Governor, “You can’t do this in the states, you have got to move.” As Manchin is now learning, it is standard procedure in the Senate Democratic Caucus.
Former Vice President Al Gore is now a liberal icon. He made global warming a prominent issue, is a hero to the environmental movement, and has been vigorous in his criticism of the Iraq war. Today the former Vice President’s endorsement is a highly sought after seal of approval by liberal candidates. Gore’s left wing views are far different from the moderate record he established during his four terms in the House and 8 years in the U.S. Senate.
Back then he had a pro-defense voting record on the Armed Services Committee, and criticized liberal Democrats who wanted to cut the Pentagon budget. Gore first came to national prominence during the 1988 presidential campaign. Continue reading
This was another great day for the Republican Party, and it was filled with surprises. Gov. Bill Ritter (D-CO) unexpectedly ended his re-election campaign, and Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) shocked everyone by announcing he would not seek re-election. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) is expected to make a similar announcement on Wednesday. The front runner in the Michigan gubernatorial race, Lt. Gov. John Cherry (D), also withdrew when confronted with disappointing polls. Continue reading
President Bill Clinton signs the Balanced Budget legislation in 1997.
TRIVIA QUESTION: Why was President Bill Clinton’s speech in the Spring of 1995 so controversial? by Gregory Hilton —
Vice President Al Gore called the heads of all three networks on the morning of June 13th 1995 to obtain a prime time slot for an address by the President that evening. Clinton’s speech was highly controversial within the White House and Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, Erskine Bowles, George Stephanopoulos and Laura Tyson all said they considered resigning because of his message. The Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), said after the speech ‘This is not leadership. It is BS.’
Several memoirs of the Clinton years have now been written and in hindsight we know about the drama surrounding this speech. The President made a few revisions in the speech to please the First Lady, but he did not change the substance. After the speech he had remorse and thought he might have made the wrong decision. What had Clinton done?”
ANSWER: On June 13, 1995, President Clinton revealed his plan to balance the budget, and while he had previously said this, his staff was dismayed because this time he appeared to mean it. In 1994 he said a balanced budget could be achieved in 10 years, but now he was agreeing to the Republican timetable and was submitting a plan to achieve this goal in 7 years. The Clinton plan delayed many of the hard cuts until he would have been out of office, and it would have balanced the budget in 2002. The liberals were angry because it meant the end of some of their cherished future plans.
The Clinton plan did not reflect the immediate cuts advocated by Republicans but it was still considered a devastating blow to Clinton supporters. The shape of debate was fundamentally changed. The dismay was especially apparent among member of his 1992 “War Room.” James Carville, Mandy Grunwald and Paul Begala had consistently defended Clinton’s liberal campaign promises.
Labor Secretary Robert Reich had written the party’s 1992 campaign manifesto which was called “Putting People First.” George Stephanopoulos told Clinton that if he went ahead with a balanced budget plan their new platform would be known as “Putting People Last.”
After the failure of the effort to adopt a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in the Spring of 1995, Republicans proceeded to developing a balanced budget for fiscal year 1996. They had not presented a specific plan by the time of President Clinton’s surprise speech on June 13th.
Clinton knew Congress would soon adopt a budget which would be balanced in the out years. Faced with this inevitability he decided to beat them to the punch by submitting his own balanced budget.
This was ironic because the Clinton Administration had worked diligently to stop balanced budget efforts in the past. For example, the President was involved in the effort to defeat the September 1993 bipartisan Penny-Kasich Deficit Reduction Act. It would have eliminated hundred of useless and obsolete agencies, and outlined a specific cuts. A year later Clinton personally made calls to defeat the Balanced Budget Constitutional Amendment. Labor Secretary Robert Reich said “The President is against simply balancing the budget,” and Clinton said “balancing the budget is not one of our top priorities.”
Congressional Democrats, the Clinton cabinet and the White House staff all resented the anti-deficit strategy and Clinton’s new emphasis on a balanced budget.. We now know that this decision and the capital gains tax cut were both key to all of Clinton’s later successes — it turned around the economy and laid the basis for the country’s continuing prosperity.
According to several memoirs the most powerful aide in 1995 was the only person who had correctly predicted the outcome of the 1994 election, Dick Morris. Democrats lost 54 seats in the House of Representatives that year, and 8 seats in the Senate (followed by two defections after the election), giving the Republicans a majority in both houses of Congress for the first time since 1954. The Republicans also had a net gain of 12 governors’ seats in that election.
Clinton had good reason to pay less attention to the people who had given him such bad advice, and he accepted Morris’ advocacy of a balanced budget plan. Morris also said, “We need to tell the liberal Democratic congressional wing to shut up. Their agenda is no longer relevant.”
Clinton’s popularity had declined significantly and many thought he could not be re-elected in 1996. He was no longer the center of attention and said “The President is still relevant” during an April 1995 press conference. His Chief of Staff, Leon Panetta, described this time to NPR: “The statement reflected the president’s concern about the November 1994 election. Republicans won both the House and Senate and not one GOP incumbent lost. There was so much attention focused on Speaker Gingrich, the “Contract With America,” and the efforts on Capitol Hill.
“It concerned him because for two years it was his agenda that he was pushing, and he felt was important to the country. And now suddenly he’s confronting a situation where there’s another agenda that’s being pushed by the Republicans that is consuming most of the attention. And so the real question was where is the relevance of the president in this process?”
The decisive day for the balanced budget would be June 13, 1995, which is the subject of my next article.