Bill Clinton On National Debt: The Republicans Built That


Bill Clinton, a man who's rarely met a Third Way policy he didn't embrace, gave a speech to the Arkansas delegation last night in which he put the blame for the deficit at the feet of the Republicans. But his solution to the debt? The very popular Catfood Commission:

But perhaps the main point of Clinton's speech was putting the blame for the national debt squarely at the GOP's doorstep.

He pointed to the giant national debt clock that Republicans had at their convention, saying, "You see that debt clock?"

"They built it!" shouted a man in the audience.

"Yeah, they built it. They built it," replied Clinton, to loud cheers and laughs from the audience.

Clinton also criticized Republicans for going after former President George H.W. Bush when he tried to reduce the national debt and told the crowd that President Obama is not responsible for most of the national debt:

When the first President Bush really sucked it up and decided to do something about it by signing a bill the Democratic Congress passed to pay for things as you go along, and to have spending cuts and very modest tax increases, they made him apologize for it at the Republican convention. You remember that? At the time I was happy, because it helped me get elected. But it was sad because he did the right thing, and they made him apologize for it.
Then, I served for eight years, and we kept bringing the deficit down. We had four surplus budgets in a row. Then what happened? We put them [Republicans] back in -- or the Supreme Court did -- and they got rid of pay as you go, they [passed] the tax cuts and spent lots of money. ... We had a projected surplus of $5.7 trillion and turned it into a projected debt of $5.8 trillion over the next 10 years. We would have been out of debt by next year or the year after next. ...

The rules that we followed then that we should normally follow, do not apply now. The reason President Obama did that stimulus is, when interest rates are zero, and there is no private activity, if the government does not step in to put people to work and to help people get through the day, they won't make it.

So his contribution to that big ol' debt clock that you saw is the $800 billion stimulus. All those other trillions and trillions of dollars? He had nothing to do with that.

The solution, said Clinton, was to pass the recommendations by the Simpson-Bowles debt commission and "pass a 10-year plan to reduce the debt, starting the year after growth has clearly returned."

He added that it was impossible to balance a budget without the presence of economic growth, adequate revenues and spending controls -- all of which do not currently exist.


We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.