How to succeed in economics without really trying

By Joe Schembrie
web posted August 21, 2000

During his 'acceptance speech' at the Democratic National Convention on August 14, Bill Clinton naturally took credit for the country's economic performance during his two terms -- even if he did nothing at all to cause it.

". . . we’re in the midst," Clinton said, "of the longest economic expansion in history: more than 22 million new jobs, the lowest unemployment in 30 years . . . we have gone from the largest deficits in history to the largest surpluses in history."

Clinton, knowing arrogance doesn't sell, took care to spread the credit: "As always, of course, the lion’s share of the credit goes to the American people who do the work . . . . "

Actually, Clinton scorns Americans who 'do the work.' He trust-busts Microsoft. He attacks the pharmaceuticals industry. To him, it's shameful that Bush and Cheney once got their hands dirty in the oil industry.

In Clinton's vision, wealth producers are villains. Big Oil, Big Pharmaceuticals, and Big Software stand in the way of prosperity.

And where does real wealth come from? Why, from government spending!

Five years after pronouncing Big Government dead, Clinton still sees Government as the mainspring of economic progress. In his Democratic Convention speech, he denounced Bush's tax cut as wasteful: "That would leave nothing for education or Medicare, prescription drugs, nothing to extend the life of Medicare and Social Security for the baby boomers, nothing in case the projected surpluses don’t come in."

The private sector will only 'squander' money, but Medicare and Social Security will stimulate economic growth. He's bona-fide Orwellian: War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery . . . and Spending is Investment.

Comparing federal tax cuts to a family budget, he warns: "Would you sign a binding contract today to spend all your projected income for a decade, leaving nothing for your family’s basic needs?" That's as backwards as can be! The relationship of the government to the private sector is like a family budget to the bank. Cutting taxes is like leaving money in the bank, where it can grow with interest. In the real world, families go broke by taking too much money out of the bank and overspending. But the government, Clinton claims, will spend us into wealth!

In ClintonSpeak, the private sector is a moronic parasite upon the genius of Government. Once those evil corporations are taxed and regulated out of existence, Al Gore will create miraculous prescription drugs on his own (the Internet was just a warm-up!). And so, Government shall bequeath universal prosperity unto all. Just like in the Soviet Union.

There's an obvious disconnect between national economic performance and Clinton's economic ignorance. Even the economically illiterate can sense that while deserving of our sympathy, destitute single moms without health insurance are hardly a dynamo of economic expansion. Yet the sum of Clintonomics is simplistic victimology: "Victim Good! Producer Bad!"

Even the economically illiterate should see the only real prescription here is for universal destitution. If the economy's done well, it's in spite of Clinton. Something must have held him in check -- the Republican Congress, his own indecisiveness, the distraction of cavorting interns.

But what if his words could be transformed into action? That's the promise of Al Gore -- a no-nonsense liberal policy wonk who won't waste time playing with cigars when he could be gelding Industry. Swept into the Presidency with a Democratic Congress eager for blood, Al Gore could radically transform the economy in keeping with Clinton's espoused quasi-socialist vision.

Having witnessed Clinton in action (or rather, in inaction) the American people should sense the truth about our economic performance: that it is best to have a government which governs least -- and Clinton, being unable to govern even himself, has inadvertently approached the ideal.

Gore's sincerity about implementing Clinton's liberal agenda should be just as troubling as his duplicity everywhere else. If American voters see that in November, he will have the example of Clinton to thank.

Joe Schembrie is a senior writer with Enter Stage Right.

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