Schulman article

Max Sawicky sawicky at
Sun Sep 13 22:04:14 PDT 1998

This article is confused in a number of respects.

> Sunday, September 13, 1998
> Clinton's Reaganite Legacy By BRUCE J. SCHULMAN
> . . .
> But after suffering setbacks on Capitol Hill and at the polls,
> Clinton quickly abandoned that program and appropriated the GOP agenda. He
> endorsed Republican demands for a balanced budget, bickering just long
enough with congressional conservatives over the details (Would it take five years or seven? Would it include reductions in the capital-gains tax or "targeted" tax cuts?) to establish himself as a moderating influence on Gingrich and his fire-eating Republican freshmen before capitulating to their demands.>

I addressed this in my previous post. The Feds didn't do all that much to reduce the deficit, and a significant part of Clinton's contribution to the total effort, such as it was, was the increase in the top tax rates in 1993.

> He transformed the reinventing-government initiative from a
> defense of liberal activism--a program that would showcase the renewed
potential of governmental action by making the federal bureaucracy more efficient, service-oriented and user-friendly--into just another assault on federal spending and bureaucratic red tape. When Vice President Al Gore reported the plan's achievements, he said nothing about how improved operations could restore America's faith in government. Instead, with a smiling Clinton at his side, Gore parroted the Republican line, highlighting reductions in federal spending and the government work force.>

Actually REGO was one of the Administration's better efforts, though not great in scope. They didn't do a very good job taking credit for it. There was no frontal attack on Federal employees. Most of the reductions were done with attrition and buy-outs. The Federal civil service is not a bad place to work, let me tell you. The VP worked with the public employee unions in more-or-less harmonious fashion. They have improved services in certain limited ways.

> Clinton also had promised welfare reform. He pledged to remove the
> impoverished from the rolls, offering a kind of "tough love" administered
by the federal government. He would cut benefits after two or three years but ensure that welfare recipients received national health insurance and
> adequate child care. That proposal never left the drawing board. Instead,
Clinton embraced the far more draconian GOP plan, eliminating the federal government's half-century commitment to the hard-core poor.>

This bespeaks some confusion about what was done. The scandal in the reform is not that the plan is "draconian." The problem is that there is no plan. The program (AFDC) has been turned over to the states. The plan is not to have a plan, nor guarantees of benefits, at the Federal level. The article reflects this better later on.

Another point: there's still a lot left of welfare, even after the backward reform we have witnessed. When I get a chance I will post the trend in Federal spending on means-tested programs (or most of it) from 1992 to 2002. It will probably be a higher share of GDP, even after the reform. Watch this space.

> More than his assignation with Lewinsky, Clinton's decision to sign the
> Republican welfare bill placed the stamp on his presidency. With that one
> stroke, Clinton erased his last substantive dissent from his GOP
> opponents and ensured his own reelection. Reagan had only dreamed of
slashing domestic spending,

This is just wrong. There has been no such "slashing." We might have expected more growth, but as a share of GDP there ain't no slashing.

>eliminating the federal government's responsibility for
> welfare and turning power over to the states. Clinton did it. Promising to
> fix the bill's defects in the future and to safeguard the deserving poor,
> Clinton legitimized a conservative plan long rejected as too harsh and

> Most important, Clinton presided over the unalloyed triumph of
> conservative free-market principles. Resting his popularity on an economic
boom and a raging bull market, Clinton has shown no concern for how the boom has distributed its benefits between rich and poor, labor and capital, mom-and-pop stores and multinational conglomerates. Criticism of Wall Street and big business, a staple of U.S. politics since the late 19th century, has all but dropped out of contemporary political debate. During the go-go 1980s, Democrats like then-Gov. Clinton criticized the Reagan boom, blaming the harshness of the unregulated market for rampant inequality in American society. Today, with a Democrat in the White House, only ultra-rightist Patrick J. Buchanan worries about the losers in a red-hot economy.>

With the modest exception of the House Democrats. This is the elite, neo-liberal line: Only the fascists are defending the working class. Some on the left, present company included in some cases, fall into it as well. The implied message to workers: your only friends are that bastard Buchanan and we happy few, the powerless "real" left (sic). Small wonder a worker could conclude, better to have Buchanan as my bastard; strength beats virtue.


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