Should you buy it?
Bill Clinton has authored a new book with political advice for Democrats on how to reinvigorate the United States’ stagnating economy. Those who have contextualized and properly understand Clinton’s economic record as president, however, are not likely to be interested in stocking their bookshelf with “Back to Work”.
The nostalgic remembrance of how wonderful the 1990′s were deserves a close look, and Clinton’s record as a “New” Democrat even more scrutiny. The Clinton vision centered around a policy called “triangulation,” originally coined in 1994 by the president’s right-hand adviser, Dick Morris. Morris, with full support from other advisers such as Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, devised this unoriginal strategy that consists of appealing to the demands of the business community and yielding to corporate interests. The outcomes of triangulation were also supposed to be mildly appealing to the general population, but not through policy implementation. A delusional public-relations apparatus branded with Republican marginalization tactics was supposed to put the Democratic Party in a sustainable political position for the future.
What emerged from this proposal was a system even more exploitative and unequal than the one preserved by the “old” Democrats. The “old” Democrats had yet to believe that “the era of big government is over,” to quote a State of the Union phrase used by President Clinton, the leading “new” Democrat, in 1994. Clinton’s main contribution to political democracy in the US was to shift the Democratic Party’s policy platform closer to the Republican side; and despite his populist rhetoric early in his first term, he made no secret about this by 1995, when the administration began processing a “move to the center.”
Predictably, Clinton’s economic policies were the direct result of his re-branding of the Democratic Party, and for the vast majority of Americans, left much to be desired. His handling of East Asia’s financial crisis included the organization of a brutal bailout package, which devastated the region’s economies and led to extreme deflation. As CEPR economist Dean Baker notes, other countries “began to accumulate reserves at a huge pace after 1997 by keeping down the value of their own currencies against the dollar. This led to the huge run-up in the dollar and therefore the large trade deficit that we saw in the last decade and continue to see today.”
“Bill’s successes on the budget…and NAFTA” had disastrous effects for most of the American population and the world’s, to borrow glowing language from Hillary Clinton’s discussion of her husband’s “legislative victories” in her memoir. Bill Clinton’s solemn campaign promise to be pro-business was kept a priority throughout his economic proposals. Rubinomics, a synonym of triangulation that the media named after Clinton adviser Robert Rubin, is based on a commitment to trade liberalization and budget balancing.
Commenting just a decade later, and without displaying an ounce of guilt, Robert Rubin has expressed concern that the effects of what’s misleadingly called “trade liberalization” and budget balancing are threatening the stability of “capitalist, democratic society.” He now describes income inequality, enhanced by “legislative victories” of Rubinomics such as welfare reform and education cuts, as “a deeply troubling fact of American economic life.” The Nation‘s William Greider further reports that “Rubin now freely acknowledges what the American establishment for many years denied or dismissed as inconsequential–globalization’s role in generating the thirty-year stagnation of US wages.”
Rubin is speaking at a time when unemployment is at its highest level since the Great Depression, and only comparable with the early 1980′s stagnation. Corporate profits, however, are at record-breaking highs in absolute dollars. Business Insider, in an effort to understand the inspiration behind the Occupy Wall Street protests, finds that “the owners of the country’s assets (capital) are winning, everyone else (labor) is losing.” The thematic irony is that Rubinomics and Clinton’s support of neoliberal doctrines are exactly what has brought the US economy to this point.
Clinton’s book, “Back to Work,” has been in progress since the 2010 midterm elections, and “will offer a plan to restore America’s economic luster,” the Washington Post explains. It’s possible that Clinton is not, in fact, completely ignorant to his disastrous economic legacy. He reportedly sticks religiously to what he knows, offering a two-pronged critique of the Democratic Party’s public relations operation. He writes that the Democratic Party’s “national campaign message” lacked coherency and uniformity—a message clearly not as refined as the Republican’s in 2010.
His second criticism falls on the shoulders of Barack Obama. “Obama’s criticism of Wall Street has been too harsh and counterproductive,” recounts the Post. This, evidently, is a redundancy that Bill Clinton must be an expert on, given his economic record as president. Hopefully, he’s not expecting those who have felt its iniquitous effects for the past two decades to care.