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Bill Clinton's Out of Touch Economically -- and That's a Big Deal

By       Message Richard Eskow     Permalink
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Reprinted from Huffington Post

From Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
(image by veni markovski)

He's eloquent, he's popular ... and he's out of touch with the daily lives of most Americans. Bill Clinton's economic worldview spells trouble, both for a party that's still reeling from defeat and for a nation where millions of people struggle just to make ends meet.

Hillary Clinton, the heavily-favored contender for the Democratic nomination, has made Bill's presidency and her role in it an essential part of her resume. But "Clintonism," the Wall Street-friendly economic ideology of a bygone era, has passed its sell-by date. The former president's latest remarks confirm that.

The 1990s are over. This is a different country now, both economically and politically. But the presumptive nominee's partner and most important colleague still holds views which are sharply at odds with both economic reality and the nation's mood. That's a big deal. His opinions could have a profound impact on our political and economic future.

If Hillary Clinton disagrees with the former president's views, she hasn't said so.

Positive vibrations

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When Bill Clinton speaks on economic issues, he reveals a deep wellspring of neoliberal belief and a profound detachment from the lived experience of most Americans. His latest slip took place in a speech he gave this week at the University of Southern California. After some bland bromides ("The Internet has done a lot of good") and self-helpish sounding political advice ("what you gotta have is an agenda and get things done"), the former president said this:

"We are in the best shape of any big country in the world in the next 20 years. No big country that is running this well is as young as we are, as diverse as we are or as technological as we are. In the next 20 years, there will be bad days, there will be bad headlines, but you can keep the trend lines positive."

The millions of Americans who struggle with falling wages, shrinking personal wealth, and rising healthcare costs would presumably be astonished to hear this sunny assessment of their future.

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Negative trend lines

It's true that, for the extremely wealthy, the "trend lines" are positive indeed. For the rest of the nation, not so much. Consider some of these very negative trends:

Real wages have fallen since 2007 for eight out of every 10 American s, rising only for the wealthiest among us. This follows nearly five decades of stagnant or falling wage growth for the middle class, as wealth inequality continues to rise.

Wealth inequality increases since 1979 cost median-income households an average of $9,500 in 2010, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities' Jared Bernstein. When adjusted for inflation, median income has fallen $2,100 since the start of the Obama presidency and $3,600 since 2001.

As a result, the middle class is disappearing. In 1970, 55 percent of households were in the "middle tier" of income. A recent Pew study showed that this figure had fallen to 45 percent by 2013. All the wealth which the middle class accumulated in the growth years after 1940 is now gone.

Wall Street Weak

The trend lines are pointing the wrong way on Wall Street, too. Banks are increasingly financing highly-leveraged corporate takeovers, and regulators are expressing concerns about the risk. Meanwhile, the bank fraud which exacerbated our financial problems goes on despite slap-on-the-wrist settlements in which bank CEOs agreed to end it, according to prosecutors.

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Host of 'The Breakdown,' Writer, and Senior Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

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