Tag Archives: Clinton Health Plan

“Putting People First:” What Would Have Happened if the Clinton Agenda Had Been Enacted? by Gregory Hilton

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.