Ken McElroy Online

The Clinton Legacy

Ken McElroy
February 5, 2001

Many articles have been and will be written about the "Clinton Legacy." It seems that every article is obliged to include as Clinton Administration accomplishments "booming economy, balanced budget, welfare reform." These items are listed so uncritically, as if there is no question about them, that sometimes you're left to wonder if you're reading a newspaper or a Democratic Party press release. The only evidence that the Clinton Administration deserves credit for these accomplishments seems to be that he was there when they happened. Sort of like the rooster taking credit for the sunrise.

First, let's look at the issue of the balanced budget: President Clinton did not propose any balanced budgets before 1997, after the Republicans took control of Congress. President Clinton did not have any balanced budgets, let alone surpluses, in any of his administration's ten-year budget projections before 1997. No balanced budgets were projected for the decade following the 1993 tax increases that Democrats now credit for balancing the budget.

In fact, the Clinton Administration, in its FY 1996 budget, projected a deficit of $194.4 billion for FY 2000. That is a larger deficit than in FY 1987, FY 1988, or FY 1989, the last three Reagan budgets. In their FY 1998 budget, the Clinton Administration was still projecting a deficit of $27.5 billion for FY 2000.

Remember, in 1995 when the Republicans in Congress proposed to balance the federal budget in seven years, the Clinton Administration said that it could not possibly be done in seven years. They said it would be irresponsible. They claimed that senior citizens would starve, that children would be thrown into the streets, that economic chaos would reign. They claimed that Republicans showed their cruelty and heartlessness by making the proposal. So for Democrats to take credit for something that they said could not possibly be done is just absurd and illogical.

Second, the economy: It is now well understood that the current economic expansion began in 1992, before Bill Clinton was elected president. While President Clinton may earn some faint praise for not screwing up good things that were already occurring, it is certainly no sign of great leadership to inherit a robust economy from your predecessor. And of course, the current picture might well be very different had the Clinton health care plan been enacted.

Then there's welfare reform: As in the case of the balanced budget, the Clinton Administration was an opponent of the welfare reform proposals made by the House Republicans in 1995. After vetoing the measure twice, the president signed the measure after being warned that he might not be re-elected if he rejected the Republican bill a third time. So he signed the bill, then he immediately started to promise the Left wing of his party that he would fix it, then he took the credit for it. Shameless? Yes. Great leadership? No.

Most Americans would dismiss any news source that gave Bill Clinton credit for nothing as partisan and unfair. By the same token, unbiased new organizations must not give too much credit merely because a leader happened to be in office during good times.

To make informed decisions at election time, people need to know the source of those policies they support. Three major accomplishments the people support - the balanced budget, welfare reform, and the booming economy, belong to the people and to the Republican Congress, in that order, not to Bill Clinton or the Democrats.