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.
This was a major issue throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, when it frequently came close to passage. The amendment responded to concerns that federal spending was spiraling out of control, and it would have imposed debt limits on the government. They definitely were needed and the current public debt is $11.7 trillion, or about $37,900 per person. It is increasing at the rate of about $3.92 billion dollars per day.
The Balanced Budget Amendment was clearly in the spotlight with the election of a Republican Congress in 1994. This was the first time in 30 years the GOP was in power in both Houses and item number one in their 1994 Contract With America was the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
It called for an amendment to the Constitution which would require a balanced budget, unless sanctioned by a three-fifths vote in both houses of Congress. This was passed by the House of Representatives as Joint Resolution 1 on January 26, 1995 by a vote of 300 to 132. It then became Senate Joint Resolution 1 and was co-sponsored by all of the Republican lawmakers, except one.
They were joined by 7 Democrats (Bryan (NV), Kohl (WI), Graham (FL), Baucus (MT), Breaux (LA), Moseley-Braun (IL) and Robb of Virginia). A Constitutional Amendment requires a two thirds vote for passage. On March 2, 1995, the Senate failed to adopt it by a vote of 66-to-35. This was one vote shy of the necessary two-thirds. Six Democratic Senators who voted for the resolution in 1994 voted against it in 1995. All of them had been lobbied by President Clinton.
The group included Majority Leader Tom Daschle (SD), Wendell Ford (KY), the Senate Whip, Harry Reid (NV), the present Majority Leader, and Byron Dorgan (ND). Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR) was the only Republican who broke with his colleagues by failing to support the amendment, and he refused to abstain. Hatfield said it was the most important vote in thirty years on Capitol Hill, but he saw it as “a political ploy to erroneously make Americans think we are actually doing something about the deficit.” An unsuccessful effort was later made to strip Hatfield of his Chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee in retaliation.
Had the amendment passed, the federal government’s power to use deficit spending would have ended. The Amendment was brought up again in June of 1996 when it failed by two votes. The Democratic Party platform opposed the Constitutional Amendment. In addition, Senator Bill Nighthorse Campbell cited the Balanced Budget Amendment as the reason he switched from the Democratic to the Republican Party.
My August 25th article outlined the six critical factors which led to a balanced federal budget in the late 1990’s. This happened on President Clinton’s watch so of course he is entitled to some of the credit, but he is also the person who diligently fought practically all spending reductions, as well as many of the policies that are now an integral part of his legacy. If his 1992 “Putting People First” agenda had been adopted the Clinton Administration would have left office with a large deficit.
It is important to reexamine the original Clinton agenda because it is so similar to President Obama’s current proposals. The major difference is that our outlook is far worse today. Our national debt is $11.7 trillion dollars and our GDP is approximately $14 trillion. Our debt to GDP ratio will be 85% by the end of this year and over 90% next year.
Liberal columnist John B. Judis of “The New Republic” best described the comparison between the Clinton and Obama agenda’s:
“I would draw a distinction between the Clinton of 1992-1994 and the Clinton of 1995-2000. There is enormous political continuity between the Clinton of “Putting People First” (his 1992 campaign manifesto drafted by Robert Reich and Derek Shearer) and today’s Obama administration.
“When Clinton was elected, the economy was in recession, and Clinton’s initial proposals (including a stimulus program, industrial policy, and national health insurance) anticipated what Obama has proposed during his first year. Like Obama, Clinton imagined himself as Franklin Roosevelt’s successor–even paying a conspicuous visit during his first hundred days to Hyde Park. . . after getting repudiated at the polls in November 1994, Clinton had to pursue a much more cautious policy for the rest of his six years. Clinton’s last six years were dominated by incremental reform and “new economy” boosterism. . . Obama is the president Clinton aspired to be in 1993.”
Based on Clinton’s original budget which he submitted in 1993, the deficits from 1995 to 1999 turned out to $902 billion less than the administration’s projections. That is what the deficit would have been if Clinton’s priorities had been approved by Congress and stayed in place. A major part of the reason why we achieved a balanced budget is that Republicans in Congress rejected many of Clinton’s spending proposals.
Because of Clinton’s veto, Republicans were not successful in cutting existing programs during the first two years, but after the 1994 election most of the expensive elements in the President’s domestic agenda were no longer feasible. The expansion of the 1990’s was not because of the administration’s economic agenda, but in spite of it. Some major elements of the Clinton agenda were as follows:
1) In 1993, President Clinton’s $19.5 billion stimulus program was stopped by a Republican filibuster which held despite four Democratic attempts to break it. Not one of the 43 Senate Republicans voted to cut off debate. The GOP emphasized that the stimulus added to the deficit instead of having its spending matched by cuts elsewhere in the budget. This was Clinton’s first serious legislative defeat.
2) The Congress denied the administration the sweeping nationalization of health care they sought during the first two years in office. The total new tax burden that was to be imposed under the Clinton Health Plan was a staggering $1.511 trillion over the first five years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. This included $1.384 trillion to pay for Clinton’s mandatory health alliances, would have entailed a new payroll tax of between 14% and 17% on every working American. In addition, the Clinton Plan would have imposed 17 other new taxes that would have cost $127 billion over 5 years, and $300 billion over ten years. Thus, the average American family would have faced a massive new tax bill of $3,056 per year to pay for Bill Clinton’s plan. The Administration also admitted that health insurance premiums would rise.
3) The budget Clinton submitted in January 1995 called for $12 trillion of new spending over the next seven years and this would result in annual $200-billion deficits. David Broder of the “Washington Post” described this budget buster as a “symbol of Clinton’s failed leadership.”
4) Similar to other Presidents, Clinton was unable to rein in entitlement spending. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid were not reformed. In his first address to Congress in 1993 Clinton vowed to reform Social Security. He made the same pledge in his last State of the Union Address. President Clinton also promised to slow the growth of Medicare and Medicaid, but nothing happened.
If the Clinton Health Plan had been enacted it would have created new federal entitlements that would have exploded the deficit. By 1998, just the second year in which Clinton’s plan was to be in effect, the total cost of these government subsidies would have been larger than any federal program except Social Security and Medicare. This plan alone would have stopped the balanced budget.
President Bill Clinton began 1994 by promising to produce a balanced federal budget in a decade. The GOP captured Congress that November with a pledge to balance it in just 7 years. It was the most popular part and the first item in their Contract With America. Clinton opposed the GOP 7 year plan plan and said it was far better to do this in ten years because of “the pain we would inflict on our elderly, our students, and our economy just isn’t worth it.”
The President did not know it then, but America would have balanced budget in just four years. President Clinton began 1995 but advocating numerous new spending programs, but he does deserve credit for abruptly changing course that Spring. The changing is best signified by the most memorable line from his 1996 State of the Union Address: “The era of big government is over.” He would also apologize for raising taxes too much but solid economic growth was setting in by the time of his 1996 re-election campaign. It had nothing to do with Clinton but Americans gave him much of the credit. Clinton’s approval rating increased significantly and so did the job market. Unlike 1993 and 1994, Clinton stayed in the middle and won re-election handily.
Despite his conciliatory rhetoric, Clinton aggressively fought Republicans on budget issues from 1995 through 1997. He never would have agreed to drop many of his spending programs without the GOP Congress. There was a ferocious budget battle and the federal government was shut down for 24 days during the 1995 budget negotiations when President Clinton refused to agree to spending reductions in the GOP budget. He submitted five different budgets in 1995 but none of them was balanced.
Joe Klein described this time in his book, “The Natural:”
“In the summer of 1996, Clinton’s grand first-term dreams had shriveled into a set of proposals. He would spend all of 1997 working on a balanced-budget agreement with the Republicans. The 1997 Balanced Budget Agreement–the first nominally balanced budget in 30 years–received insufficient attention. . . . The 1997 BBA was an achievement ignored by Clinton’s critics on the left (who wanted bigger social programs), on the right (who wanted less spending), in the press (who mostly didn’t notice), and in academia. “These aren’t big pieces of legislation. These are scraps off the table,” said one critic.”
In 1997, the Republican Congress passed a tax-relief and deficit-reduction bill that was resisted but ultimately signed by President Clinton. It lowered the top capital gains tax rate from 28 percent to 20 percent; created a new $500 child tax credit, and increased the estate tax exemption from $600,000 to $1 million. The result was almost immediate. Capital gains tax payments skyrocketed at the lower rate. This was helped by the use of stock options that were exercised during the internet boom. The result was nearly $90 billion in extra income in the late 1990’s.
This allowed Clinton to propose a balanced budget for 1999 in his 1998 State of the Union message. The proposal came three years ahead of the forecast from1997’s balanced budget pact with the Congress. The compromise that was achieved laid the foundation for the economic boom of 1997, 1998, 1999 and the first half of 2000.
The tax cuts and the capital gains tax reduction caused a burst of tax revenue and this also helped to swell the stock market expansion. Prosperity led to an unprecedented 60% increase in tax income in the final Clinton years. By cutting the rate of taxation, the revenues collected from capital gains were increased by nearly $90 billion, and this outpaced the expectations of even the most optimistic forecasters. This proved that tax rate cuts do work to stimulate economic growth and tax revenue growth as well. There was also an explosion in venture capital activity in the late 1990’s.
In 1995, before the tax cut, just over $8 billion of venture capital was invested into the economy. By 1998, the first full year in which the capital gains tax cuts were in effect, venture capital pumped almost $28 billion into the economy. From 1997 to 2000 the economy grew 4.2% and it was bolstered by technological advances which led to the Internet-based “New Economy.” The so-called Tech or Dot com Bubble lasted from 1998 to 2001.
The downside to all of this is that the crash of the dot-com bubble wiped out $5 trillion in market value of technology companies from March 2000 to October 2002. The dot-com bubble burst on March 10, 2000, when the technology heavy NASDAQ composite index peaked at 5,048.62, more than double its value just a year before.