Editor's Note: I take it back. I miss him a lot less than I thought I did.
I can't believe I'm writing this, but I miss Bill Clinton.
After eight years of Bush and less than two months of Bush 2.0, I'm so sick of the maddening irresponsibility obscured by partisan bickering. And you know what? Clinton was way better than either Bush or Obama. I recognize that in a lot of ways I miss Clinton because I miss Gingrich, but Clinton should get to share credit with the Republican Congress for the policies he helped craft and which he signed into law. I'm also not saying he was the perfect president or that I agree with all his policies and proposals. I could easily draw up a list of complaints, but on the whole, I'd say Bill Clinton was one of the best presidents we've had in the last century of American history- certainly better than 43 and 44.
Reason contributor Steve Chapman put it best when he wrote last week that:
Clinton, for all his appetites and excesses, was a cautious, centrist sort of Democrat. He had innumerable ideas for things the government could do, but most were small and fairly innocuous. He was willing to go along with Republicans on some of their sound ideas—such as balancing the budget, reforming the welfare system, and expanding foreign trade.
He focused on making government better, not making it bigger. He didn't greatly enlarge Washington's role in our lives. He proclaimed—or conceded—that the "era of big government is over."
Here are 6 reasons to miss Bill Clinton:
1. Balanced Budget
Unlike the last two administrations which seem to have a pathological obsession with running monstrous budget deficits, Bill Clinton made it a priority to balance the US Federal budget and was the first U.S. president to report a surplus since the 1960s. The problem with deficits is that they are financed by issuing debt (which hogs credit markets and pushes up interest rates, hurting economic growth) and printing money (which inflates the value of our currency, eating away at every American's earnings and causing prices to rise). Deficit spending also allows government to grow beyond all sense of reasonable proportion. Take a look at this graphic and tell me which recent president has been the most responsible with the Federal budget:
(Source- PowerlineBlog | Hat Tip: David Boaz, The Cato Institute | Edits mine)
2. Welfare Reform
In contrast to the big entitlement mentality and policies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Bill Clinton promised welfare reform to slim down and improve the results of Federal entitlement programs. He differed with Congressional Republicans over how to best reform welfare, and vetoed two of their welfare reform bills, but eventually signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996.
3. Expanded Foreign Trade
Bill Clinton worked to expand international trade and eventually signed and pushed for the ratification of NAFTA. While NAFTA remains controversial, Clinton's effort to create a free trade zone in North America has significantly increased the flow of goods and services across borders, resulting in greater wealth and productivity for the citizens of the three signatories to this agreement. Contrast this with Bush's steel tariff fiasco and Obama's "buy American" provision in the stimulus bill. These protectionist policies hurt international relations, risk setting off a "trade war," and block increased productivity by obstructing the free flow of goods, services, and capital across borders and resulting in their subsequent global misallocation.
In each of the three examples above, Clinton worked together with Republicans to make it happen. A Republican Congress helped pass those budgets that eventually yielded surpluses, and the Gingrich Congress shared Clinton's goal of balancing the Federal budget. This wasn't a Democrat or Republican issue. It was a "be smart" or "be dumb and irresponsible" issue, and the leaders of both parties chose to be smart. There were hard fights over welfare reform, which is okay, and in fact it's a wonderful part of our democratic, federal system of government. But both sides agreed that welfare needed to be reformed, and they eventually came together and made it happen. As for NAFTA, that was an item on the agenda of Clinton's Republican predecessor, and Clinton took up the torch and carried it through to ratification during his presidency. Clinton was able to govern from the center, to govern cautiously and practically, and to concede to the merit of Republican ideas and policies. This is a sharp contrast to the bitter partisanship of the Obama and Bush administrations.
A lot of why we should miss Bill Clinton isn't about what he did in office, but what he didn't do. Bill Clinton just didn't do half the crap that we have let the last two administrations get away with. He didn't advocate the breakneck expansion of government into every aspect of our lives like Obama and Bush have. He didn't grab for unchecked executive power. He didn't push the Patriot Act, the Iraq war, No Child Left Behind, the Medicaid drug benefit, the Stimulus bill, the Afghanistan troop surge, or monstrously unbalanced budgets. Back then, we talked about the Federal budget in billions, not trillions like today. Back then, things just seemed more simple, manageable, reasonable, and prudent. Today the government has gotten way out of control, and there is no evidence from Obama that he plans to curb it. I wish Obama would be Clinton 2.0 and not a Bush/Carter hybrid, and I wish Bush had been Reagan 2.0 and not a Nixon/Johnson hybrid.
6. Bill Clinton Had Soul
Spread the Word!