To the Editor:
In his Dec. 11 review of Bill Clinton’s “Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy,” Jeff Madrick trots out the three fallacies that have prevented conventional liberals from understanding the importance of the Clinton administration’s approach and achievements.
First, he posits an imagined tension between Clinton’s criticism of reflexive antigovernment thinking and his work to end big, bureaucratic government. He also chides Clinton for not pushing for a return to the 80-year-old policies of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. And he wraps everything up in an accusation of political timidity.
What Madrick and others haven’t accepted is that Clinton actually believed in the new vision of government he put into action. “For at least a decade, the system we constructed in the Great Depression has been breaking down,” he said in a speech in July 1980 — long before he became president and long before his latest book. “Our challenge today, as Democrats, is to recognize that this is the time of transition and respond to it. . . .
I honestly believe the issue is not less government and the issue is not more government. The issue is what kind of government we are going to have.” Clinton’s remarkable consistency over a long career has been a testament to his personal faith in his vision. Madrick and others may not agree, but they should at the very least grapple with the ideas Clinton promoted during a presidency that stands as the most economically successful in the past half-century.
The writer is president of the journal Democracy and a former Clinton White House aide
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