Frank links to a New York Times piece in which the Slickster whines that he really did worry about income inequality. Frank speculates that he's afraid of Thomas Piketty's book , and later on gets to the core of the case — that the Slickster is probably worried about his "legacy" for Hillary Clinton's sake in her likely 2016 presidential run.
First, it's funny that Piketty's book is producing this much knee weakness. It's actually a semi-toothless half-loaf, as I noted here, with a conclusion that Frank himself thumbsed-up on Facebook. But, that shows, if anything, that neoliberal Democrats like the Slickster realize that a few people, at least, know they have no clothes.
Here's the facts, both for Clintonistas and their Obamiac cousins, per Frank:
Alan Greenspan, who Clinton twice reappointed to chair the Federal Reserve Board, used to joke back in 2007 that “Bill Clinton was the best Republican president we’ve had in a while.” That’s coming from a man who worked for some real Republicans — and who was also one of the greatest culprits in the housing bubble and the financial crisis, because he just didn’t feel like using his power to regulate the way mortgages were done.That's the bottom line.
But that complete and utter assuredness that we shouldn’t really regulate financial institutions was the prevailing sentiment of the Clinton years. That’s what it was all about.
And Clinton knew that before even coming to the White House.
As I said in posting the link to Frank's story on Facebook:
The Slickster doesn't like that his ox is getting Pikettyed. What I love is that the Slickster "suddenly" discovered that his budget was "hostage" to the bond market back in 1993. Hell, the Slickster had been friends with Arkansas' finest, Jackson Stephens, the biggest boy in the bond market outside Wall Street, since his first term as governor. And, I think Thomas Frank is about right. This is all a posture for Hillary to run as the candidate of income equality. Folks, the Green Party could run an effing dead dog in 2016 and I wouldn't vote for her.And, I won't. Period and end of story. Instead of a yellow-dog Democrat, call me a dead-dog Green or something.
Frank does note that not everything Bill did was bad:
Give the man his due. There was a tax increase on the rich in the first Clinton administration. Wages grew in the second Clinton administration, and that was a very good thing. It happened because unemployment was so low, however, not because unions had made a comeback or anything. Clinton also expanded the earned income tax credit, which is probably what he thinks of when he wants to recall what a friend he was to working people.But reminds us that even this was ephemeral:
But the overall feeling of the era was one of complete, unreserved adoration for Wall Street and money and the heroic boss. This was the age of CNBC’s “CEO Wealth Meter,” the years when the Nasdaq soared to 5,000, when you had all those investment books coming out — the Beardstown Ladies, “Dow 36,000″ — when you could follow the adventures of those awesome “day traders,” when you had “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire,” surely one of the most pungent moments in the long and reeking history of trash culture. Of course Clinton deregulated the banks — they were making us all rich.
This kind of celebrationism was objectionable when Reagan was president, but under Clinton — this jolly man of the people — it looked different somehow. Those CEOs were just regular folks, working to make all of us richer, via our lovable pal the stock market! That’s what Clinton’s cultural function was — to make all this seem human. I called it “market populism.”
Of course it turned out to be a bubble, and it ended in disaster. As did the housing boom, which got its start in the late ’90s, and as will the next bubble to come down the pike.Sure it did, just like Shrub's "compassionate conservativism" twist on all of this. The most charitable statement is that income inequality's rate of growth increased less under Clinton than under Reagan-Bush before him or Bush II after.
And, Frank forgot to mention NAFTA and the WTO, which even in his tear-streaked apologetics, the Slickster is avoiding like the plague. All part of kicking labor in the teeth in various ways.
And the need to re-empower labor, and workers' desire for that, was shown on May 15 by an international fast-food employees' strike. (That said, in details of the strike, I think $15/hr, without a phase-in of seven or so years, is too high. Even then, it might be a bit much. The $10.10 of Beltway rounds, with a four-year phase-in, AND a COLA clause as part of that, sounds about right to me.)
The Slickster could sell ice to Eskimos. That's how he got proclaimed America's first black president even after overseeing and pushing for the execution of a mentally handicapped black man while still governor.
But, don't believe him. He knew that the financial snake oil he was selling was financial snake oil back in Little Rock.