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Bill Clinton: Anti-Government Stance Not Effective

October 28, 2011 – Former President Bill Clinton (F’68) told a Georgetown audience today “there is not a single solitary example on the planet of a truly successful economy that is pursuing this militant anti-government theory."

“You can be a little to the right or a little to the left,” he said, “but all the successful countries have both a vibrant sector and an effective government.”

The former president came to campus Oct. 28 for a Clinton Foundation symposium on “Clinton-Gore Economics: Understanding the Lessons of the 1990s,” which included numerous members of his administration.

Clinton’s speech today comes 20 years after he gave a series of talks at his alma mater laying out his vision for the future.

Shared Sacrifice

He urged that Americans view the federal government as a partner, not an enemy, and that sacrifice should be shared.

“I ask you again, to ask yourself, is it better to have a partnership or an anti-government strategy?” he said. “Is it better to believe in invest and grow or trickle down? Is it better to believe in shared prosperity or 'you're on your own'? I don’t think it’s a close call. …Everybody needs to calm down and do what we know is best for the future.”

Harry Holzer, a professor at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, said he agreed with most of what Clinton said.

“I think [Clinton] was mostly trying to lay out some principles that he felt deficit reduction was based on during his administration and arguing that those same principles should be the basis for deficit reduction today,” said Holzer, who was chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor under the Clinton administration.

The Right Path

But Holzer also said that even if the current administration did exactly what the Clinton administration did in terms of economic policy, “it would not have the same stimulating effect” it had in the 1990s because of changed economic circumstances.

“But I think it would be the right path to be on,” Holzer added. “The question is can you create a political situation in which that type of compromise can take hold.”

The panels talked about the Clinton administration’s economic record, its approach to the emergence of a global economy, the information age and other challenges.

A Visionary

The symposium included former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Mickey Kantor; Neera Tanden, CEO for the Center for American Progress; and Henry Cisneros, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, among others.

Opening remarks were made by Robert Rubin, current co-chair of the Council on Foreign Relations, former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury and the first Director of the National Economic Council under the Clinton administration.

“President Clinton was also a visionary,” Rubin said. “He recognized what all of us know today – that the global economy was in the early stages of transformation that would create enormous opportunities but also great pressures. And that information technology and communication were on the threshold of evolutionary changes that would have enormous impact on our economy.”

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