Former President Bill Clinton appears on This Week With Christiane Amanpour to talk about the upcoming Clinton Global Initiative and its focus on job creation. I was part of a group of bloggers that got to meet with him a few years ago, and he was talking about green retrofits then. As I recall, the energy savings numbers he said could be created by retrofits were jaw-dropping, so this makes more sense than ever:
AMANPOUR: Now, sir, your mantra right now is jobs, jobs, jobs. What do you think can happen to radically shift the unemployment picture and also pass muster in Washington in these very partisan times?
CLINTON: Well, I don't know that I'm the best person to answer the second part of that question. But I believe that we, those of us who aren't in government, can think of ways to create jobs which will reinforce what I believe are the positive suggestions coming out of Washington. Essentially, the president's plan has big payroll tax cuts in it, which will benefit the economy by lowering the average family's tax bill by 1,500 dollars. And then they can have that to spend. That will help. And then by lowering payroll taxes for employers, will make it more attractive for them to hire new people. But those of us who aren't in government, we don't have anything to do with that. So what we should do is focus on possible areas of job creation that will free up some of the corporate money that's in Treasuries now, that could be invested in America, and make bank loans more attractive to create jobs.
So that's what we try to do. We try to go around thinking about ways to specifically to do that. And if you look at the way the CGI program is set up this year, we also are trying to create more jobs around the world by focusing on the possibilities of green energy elsewhere, because it's not just in America that the green tech jobs are growing at twice the rate of overall employment. It's -- that's true around the world. And by focusing on trying to empower women and girls, because in many other countries, they're left out of the economy. And that's dragging the economic prospects of everyone down.
AMANPOUR: So what will tell the CEOs and the world leaders who come to your Clinton Global Initiative meeting this next week?
CLINTON: Well, I will ask them to put aside for the moment whatever their recommendations are to Washington about changes in the corporate tax laws or the trade bills or, you know, the tariffs that are imposed on component parts that some manufacturers use here but have to import from overseas, and just think about where we are now and what we can do now with the resources we now have. For example, I think we'll have an update on an announcement we made in Chicago, where the AFL-CIO and a couple of its affiliate unions are going to put some of their own pension funds into putting people to work retrofitting buildings and doing other things that will create jobs for their members and for other Americans in a way that will actually make more money for the pension funds than just putting it into the stock market will today. And they'll be in partnership with business instead of having a Washington political fight with them.
AMANPOUR: Where do you see -- obviously, this is all about this stubborn unemployment rate. Where do you see the unemployment, after all of these suggestions, and if they're implemented -- where do you see it standing this time next year?
CLINTON: Well, if you look at the program that the president has outlined, I think if we had the payroll tax cuts and the special incentives to hire the long term unemployed, and we did some of the things that I have been pushing very hard for, to invest building retrofits, which, if we did it right, could create a billions of jobs, the estimates are right across the economic board, including by Mr. Zandy who was an economic adviser to Senator McCain in the 2008 election.
All of the estimates that it will create somewhere between 1.3 and two million jobs, and drop unemployment by approximately one percent, maybe a little more. That's if they're implemented. That's -- we can't do much better than that right now, unless -- unless there is an aggressive action, which seems unlikely in Washington's political climate, to clean up this housing mess, because that's freezing too much investment in place.
So I think that it's a very good program that he outlined. I think if the Congress seriously takes him up on it and they start trying to work through it and get anything approaching the amount of activity that was recommended, they could put about two percent more on the GDP growth of the coming year, and they could drop unemployment by somewhere between one to two million. Or they can create one to two million jobs.
AMANPOUR: You have said in the past that this is not time for Mexican standoff or sort of macho politics. What can be done to make people in this city understand that the country faces a national emergency in this regard?
CLINTON: Well, we need a little bit of help from the American people. I mean, conflict has proved to be remarkably good politics. And it -- that sort of thing, you know, that -- it's very hard for the people in Washington, who got there based on pure conflict, pure attack, pure ideology, to take it seriously when their same constituents are saying please do something positive. That's not how they got elected. We live in a time where there's this huge disconnect between the way the political system works and the way the economic system works. If you look -- there are places all over America, believe it or not, that have low unemployment, high growth, strong home prices, jobs being created, a shortage of skilled workers.
And in every one of those places, they have networks of cooperation. San Diego has the largest number of Nobel Prized scientists in America. It's become the biotech center of the country. Everybody knows Silicon Valley's back. But look at what's happening in Pittsburgh, where they're trading steel for nanotechnology and other biomedical advances. Look at what's happening in Cleveland, around the Cleveland Clinic. Look at what's happening in Massachusetts, with the recovery of high-tech manufacturing around the MIT area. I can give you lots and lots of other examples. Every place the American economy is booming, cooperation is the order of the day. But conflict is still good politics in Washington. So until the American people make it clear that whatever -- however they voted in past elections, they want these folks to work together and to do something, there's going to be a little ambivalence in Washington.
AMANPOUR: Let me ask you this, then: Mayor Bloomberg of New York has said this week that unless something is done to really address this unemployment problem, there could be riots in the street, unrest. Do you -- do you agree with that?
CLINTON: I don't know. There have been demonstrations in many other countries where the same thing is going on. But if you -- the most important thing Mayor Bloomberg said recently is to offer land on Governor's Island or Roosevelt Island or the Navy Yard in Brooklyn for a new world-class science and technology research center. And he said that he'll kick in $100 million worth of investment if a group of universities will put one there, because he wants New York, in effect, to rival Silicon Valley as a technology center. That's the kind of thing that works. If you want put people to work, we've got to focus on what works, and what works is not all this back and forth fighting in Washington.
I think, as I said, I think that if we can't fix the housing crisis now -- which is probably not politically possible, but should be done -- we can't return to full employment. But if we adopt the plan that the president outlined, according to all this economic analysis, it will create between 1.5, 2 percent increase in GDP growth. It will put a million or two million people to work, and we'll be on the way back. We need some signal out of Washington that they understand that cooperation is good economics, even if conflict is good politics.
AMANPOUR: Mr. President, obviously the current situation in various polls are suggesting that people aren't satisfied with President Obama's leadership on this. And there was a special election in New York in District 9 that the Democrats lost after holding it for nearly 100 years. What does that say to you?
CLINTON: Well, the New York case is -- I know that district very well, and they were good enough to vote for me twice. But, I think, Mayor Koch had a big impact on that election because of the controversy surrounding Israel and how they're reacting to the proposal of the Palestinians to get the U.N. to recognize them as a state. I think that had a lot to do with it.
I also think it's a real blue-collar district that is suffering economically. So, it didn't surprise me. And I don't think -- and the Nevada district was a Republican district. So it's just -- it is what it is. We won not very long ago that district in upstate New York that had been Republican for even longer than this district had been Democrat because of the Medicare plan, and the Republicans have stopped talking about their plan to voucherize Medicare. So I -- there's a lot of upheaval now. A lot of, you know, people are feeling disjointed because they're hurting economically and they don't see the country going forward.