The Death of Neoliberalism

Pro-market Democrats disappeared just when we needed them most.

Our grandchildren won’t believe our stories about the 1990s. Yes, there really was a time before the World Wide Web and ubiquitous portable communication devices in sub-Saharan Africa. Yes, you really could travel to some foreign countries without a passport, without a return ticket, without a credit card, and without entering multiple government databases. Yes, the Pittsburgh Pirates really did once play winning baseball.

But as the Bush-Obama era of bailout economics and Keynesian rehabilitation settles into something like cruising speed, perhaps the most fantastic fact to swallow will be that once upon a time the United States had a president who restrained government spending, balanced the budget, argued forcefully for the benefits of free trade, and declared that “the era of big government is over.” And he was a Democrat.

I come here not to mourn Bill Clinton, nor to give him sole credit for accomplishments that would not have happened without a hostile Republican Congress, but rather to lament the mostly unremarked passing of the political movement that made his economic successes possible. Its disappearance has meant the biggest expansion of the federal government since World War II.

Starting with the Reagan landslide in 1984 and ending with John Kerry’s flaccid resistance to George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004, liberals and Democrats went through a two-decade cycle of re-examining their previous philosophical and technocratic assumptions, embracing (or at least grudgingly accepting) some key elements of market economics and competition, then backtracking at least partway toward hoary old labor politics. The party’s fortunes in capturing the White House ebbed at the beginning of the economic rethink, flowed at its height, then ebbed again during its final days.

This 20-year process encompassed many different strains and went by several names—neoliberalism, the Third Way, the New Democrats—but underscoring most of it was a sound judgment that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher effectively destroyed traditional labor politics, a slow-building acknowledgment of the benefits of global trade and industrial privatization, and a nagging suspicion that lefties in the West too often looked like unmanly, unelectable sourpusses. Better to cheerfully embrace the 21st century, á la Clinton and the early Tony Blair, than grumble in your cups about industrial malaise, declining union ranks, and unequal economic outcomes.

The seeds of the New Democrats’ demise were already flowering by Clinton’s second term, when an increasingly hostile progressive-left flank reacted with fury to gung-ho globalization, elective wars in Yugoslavia, and welfare reform (see our Q&A with longtime neoliberal and welfare reform advocate Mickey Kaus). Only the Republican-led persecution of Clinton’s sex-related crimes rallied progressives back to his side, and that support did not carry over to Vice President Al Gore, despite his last-minute lunge toward “I’ll fight for you!” populism. Ralph Nader’s 2.9 million votes in 2000 were both the deciding factor in the electoral contest and a stinging rebuke of Clintonomics. 

This restive sentiment on the left was enough to push the stentorian bore John Kerry into concocting outrage at “Benedict Arnold CEOs” in 2004, but the pose was undermined both by Kerry’s surface insincerity and the fact that his top economic advisers were rushing around reassuring business journalists that all free trade agreements were safe. No Democrat outside of Kerry’s immediate family voted for the candidate with enthusiasm, and after his routing by a proven incompetent it was time to throw the old playbook out once and for all.

Neither Kerry nor the more solidly neoliberal New Democrats were only or even primarily differentiated by their economic philosophies, and therein lies a key reason for their demise. The movement, like so many major-party fads, was primarily motivated not by ideas but by the desire to regain and retain power. And a fundamental element of that mission was to identify and noisily reject past party tendencies that were seen to be unpopular among centrist voters.

So these New Democrats didn’t merely refuse to be soft on crime like the touchy-feely ninnies in Dirty Harry movies; they were tougher on crime than the most hardened Republican. Clinton famously demonstrated his conviction that Democrats “should no longer feel guilty about protecting the innocent” by flying back to Arkansas in mid-1992 to oversee the execution of the brain-crippled cop killer Rickey Ray Rector, and once-rising New Democrat star Gray Davis was notorious as California governor for extolling the criminal justice policies of Singapore and rejecting his own parole board’s very rare recommendations of leniency. New Democrats were some of the worst politicians in America when it came to expanding the War on Drugs, dreaming up new categories of people to execute, and degrading civil liberties for crass political gain.

Lacking Clinton’s serpentine political abilities, those who aped his base-repudiating stunts often ended up looking ridiculous. John Kerry’s iconic moment at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 came not in any speech about economic policy but when the Vietnam vet strode out on stage, gave a theatrically grave military salute, and announced that he was “reporting for duty.” No draft-dodging peacenik, he! The gesture was received with the eye rolling it deserved.

Defining yourself by what you reject may yield short-term political gain and allow you to stumble into some good public policies now and then, but it’s no long-term substitute for articulating and defending concrete principles. This is as true for citizens as it is for politicians. That’s something to keep in mind as you read our cover forum, “Where Do Libertarians Belong?” In the Democrats’ case, the constant triangulation against the party’s true believers eroded enthusiasm at the core and produced a Republican-dominated Washington.

When voters belatedly soured on that bit of disastrously unified government in 2006, it was an entirely different Democratic Party that rode the pendulum back to power. The two-faced, unconfident approach of Kerry and Gore was out; the full-throated combativeness of 2004 presidential contender turned party chair Howard Dean was in. New members of the revitalized Democratic majority included many who were more conservative socially, but the party’s trade-bashing economic message bore little resemblance to the arguments Al Gore used to rout Ross Perot in their 1993 debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement. By the time Barack Obama was ready for his coronation at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, the party was unified in opposition to Bill Clinton’s trade and deregulatory policies, even while taking credit for his successful results.

But there’s a larger disconnect here. Twenty years is a long time for ideas to percolate. Younger voters and pundits supported Obama without understanding why Democrats were saddled with the “big government” label in the first place. The only Democratic president in their memory was also the only one who didn’t seriously goose the size of government. And the Democrat who won in 2008 was a serious-sounding fellow from the University of Chicago who repeatedly promised “pay as you go” budgeting, no tax increase for 95 percent of Americans, and a “net spending cut.”

Did these liberals—some of whom frequently flashed their free trade credentials during the Bush administration—just forget what they used to believe? Or are they suppressing their principles until Obama announces that the economic crisis has finally been solved and we can resume regularly scheduled fiscal sobriety? Either way, their ongoing silence has to count as one of the great underreported political stories of the Obama presidency.

The New Democrats may be gone, but many of their worst policies—on criminal justice and foreign policy especially—are still locked into place. We replaced politically insincere, base-distancing market enthusiasts with deadly serious, interest-group-embracing Keynesians. Come back, 1990s. All is forgiven. 

Matt Welch (matt.welch@reason.com) is the editor in chief of reason.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Opportunistic presidents and (temporarily) reform-minded Congresses. Did that really happen at the same time?

  • Limp Noodle Van Warmer||

    You packed in the morning; I
    Stared out the window and I
    Struggled for something to say.
    You left me in flames without plugging the hole;
    I didn't stand in your way.

    Now I miss you more than I
    Missed you before and now
    Where I'll find comfort, Hell knows...
    'Cause you left me
    Just when I needed you most.

  • Johnny Chung||

    Birr Crinton riar.

  • Johnny Chung||

    Birr Crinton riar.

  • -||

    Clinton never "balanced" a budget. Presidents don't have that Constitutional prerogative. Jesus H.

  • ||

    And Congress doesn't have the prerogative to regulate commerce that doesn't cross state lines.......

  • Obama||

    And I have no idea how to balance my checkbook.

  • EasyPeasy||

    What's a checkbook?

  • Tim Geithner||

    I'd help, Sir, but I can't balance mine either.

  • Paul Krugman||

    Fools! Use a credit card!

  • J.M. Keynes||

    And be sure to spend WAY more than you make!

  • ||

    On hookers and beer...do hookers take credit cards nowadays?

  • Wegie||

    Or wipe your ass!

  • ||

    He could have vetoed it. In fact i recall the government being shut down from the very threat of it.

    Anyway after this november and republicans even get close to a balanced budget you will see how different Clinton was compared to Obama. My guess is Obama will fight tooth and nail to keep the budget unbalanced.

  • harley||

    Whether is was Bill Clinton or Congress, the truth is that the budget was never balanced during President Clinton's term. I don't understand why people keep saying this. The national debt went up every year.

    What was done through Congressional smoke and mirrors was that the SS surplus was counted as income. All this did was build up debt that had to be paid off by later taxpayers.

  • ||

    the United States had a president who restrained government spending, balanced the budget,

    Actually, I think that was a Republican Congress. Did Clinton himself ever actually veto a spending bill because it was too high? Don't I recall some kind of showdown between Clinton and Gingrich over spending, which Gingrich lost?

    argued forcefully for the benefits of free trade,

    You've gotta give the Big C credit for that one.

    and declared that “the era of big government is over.”

    If only there was any reason to believe he meant it.

  • ||

    Actually, I think that was a Republican Congress.

    You can only argue that if Congress didn't start with the Executive budget as their template, or did start with it but radically changed it. I'm not sure either is true.

    Of course, the Republican Congress sent a strong signal of expectations for the Administration's budget, but the budgeting process is still primarily driven by the Executive.

  • ||

    I think Clinton had the benefit of the line item veto.

    Clinton had plenty experience dealing with a legislative branch to balance budgets. Arkansas required a balanced budget by law.

  • Joe||

    Congress and Clinton also had the benefit that the Cold War ended.

  • ||

    """Actually, I think that was a Republican Congress. """

    We shouldn't belittle their role. But that fiscal disipline went out the door when a republican president took over.

    When you have one party in both the whitehouse, and congress. Expect a lot of spending. Red or blue team.

  • Paul||

    Actually, I think that was a Republican Congress. Did Clinton himself ever actually veto a spending bill because it was too high? Don't I recall some kind of showdown between Clinton and Gingrich over spending, which Gingrich lost?

    Ahh, the government shutdown. Better times... better times.

    Anyone remember "wither on the vine"?

  • ||

    Yes, you really could travel to some foreign countries without a passport...

    Canada and Mexico hardly count.

    Besides, we'll change that when we get the North American Union going. (Cue el whacko solo.)

  • ||

    Beware the Amero!

  • Alex Jones||

    ITS HAPPENING AND THEY'RE TRYING TO KILL ME SILENCE ME I SWEAR TH- AAAHHH -

  • Trilateral Commission||

    Don't flatter yourself Jonesey.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    Our grandchildren won’t believe our stories about the 1990s.

    Yes, you could swim in the Gulf of Mexico.

  • ||

    I wonder where the spring breakers are gonna move to if PCB gets oily?

  • H-Townian||

    But why would you?

  • Almanian||

    Caption Contest!

    "Man, I had 'em wrapped around my finger. This one..."

  • ||

    "Do you know where this finger has been?"

  • Almanian||

    TrickyVic wins...:)

  • Tony||

    Yes wouldn't the world be nice if not for the recession. We could all go back to the disingenuous 90s-era beltway bullshit rhetoric about "big government," dutifully supplied by the K-Street whores to whom Gingrich's GOP outsourced both governing and political rhetoric.

    Welch seems to be reading directly from the GOP playbook (obliterated satisfyingly by Jon Stewart the other night): pretend the economic crisis didn't ever happen, that everything is the same as it was, and the most important debate going is STILL whether government is too big and oppressive. Give me a break.

  • ||

    CONSENSUS!

  • ||

    The Tony spoofer is getting pretty good. This almost sounds like him.

  • ||

    obliterated satisfyingly by Jon Stewart the other night

    Who?

  • ||

    You know, the source for all Democratic beliefs and scholarship.

  • WTF||

    Wait - Democratic ... "scholarship"?

  • ||

    Yes. The intellectual font from which all current popular ideas spring.

  • ||

    Right. Sorry, I forgot.

  • Bill Maher||

    No HBO? John Stewart - nigga, please.

  • Rudan||

    He at least has you and Olbermann beat. And he's a comedian.

  • ||

    "Welch seems to be reading directly from the GOP playbook..."

    I must have read a different article. I guess it helps not having cranial-rectal insertion syndrome.

    Oh, and getting your philosophy from Jon Stewart is on par with getting it from Rush Limbaugh. Putz.

  • Tony||

    I don't get my philosophy from him. I just said he nicely shot down all this disingenuous bullshit that Welch is parroting, this "economic crisis? what economic crisis? DEFICITS WAHHH!" bullshit.

  • ||

    Whoa, there Mr. Spoof. Tony doesn't use all-caps very often. Maybe you need to read in the archives more.

  • ||

    He's still evolving.

  • Charles Darwin||

    That's DE-volving

  • ||

    See, this is the problem with your camp. I don't think that most people are arguing that Obama created this mess, there is no economic crisis without Obama, etc, etc. The argument is about what is to be done right now, and pretty much everyone realized that the stimulus package and deficit spending is pretty much just a bailout for people whose income depends on the government rather than any real "infrastructure" investment. The idea of "stimulus" has turned into "bailout." Yes, we all know that Bush was the main bailout guy when it came to the banks, but the keynesian philosophy has become completely self serving now as the government now calls maintaining itself "stimulus" under OBama. That is what people are angry about. Yes, the GOP are dicks for trying to aim all of the hate at Obama, but the people who are trying to aim all of the hate at government itself are right on the money. The left wants to constantly remind everyone that "everything is Bush's fault," so even if Obama has to do something that you don't like it's because he's "cleaning up Bush's mess." This is what is pissing people off. The more that you hammer away with that strategy, the more anger you can expect to see.

  • Tony||

    Go tell it to Fox News. No one else is interested.

    The crash shows a failure of laissez-faire, so it is time to look for the government. It is time for the libertarians to understand that their philosophy of small government is outdated and has no place in today's world. The stimulus and bailouts have prevented the economy from getting even worse. That can not be disputed, except by whiny libertards who are blindly clinging to their self-serving philosophy.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    I think this is Tony's version of the Apostles Creed.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    The crash shows a failure of laissez-faire, so it is time to look for the government.


    What makes you think laissez-faire is supposed to prevent crashes.

    Crashes tell us that too many resources are being used to provide goods and services not enough people want or use.

  • ||

    The crash shows a failure of laissez-faire

    Lol the real Tony knows we haven't had laissez-faire in over a century.

    This is a failure of planned/socialized/Keynsian economics. It can't be otherwise because that's all the US has had in your lifetime.

    And pick your own handle, you're impugning Tony's rep and he sure as hell doesn't need that.

  • Tony||

    This is a failure of planned/socialized/Keynsian economics. It can't be otherwise because that's all the US has had in your lifetime.

    Now this is some shaky stuff. Nobody is saying the crisis is a result of a totally laissez-faire economy. The mainstream opinion, however, is that an increasing bent toward laissez-faire, in the form of deregulation in the financial sector, contributed in large part. You can't show a causal relationship between "socialized" elements of the economy and the crisis. At best it was made worse by some unholy alliances, but the crisis was market-based, following decades of economic policy favoring deregulation.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    The mainstream opinion, however, is that an increasing bent toward laissez-faire, in the form of deregulation in the financial sector, contributed in large part.


    Opinion does not equal fact.

    You have yet to explain the mechanism of how so-called deregulation of the financial sector caused the crisis.

  • ||

    again you lie, like all commies do. The housing meltdown was caused by the government interferring with the market by forcing the CRA on banks that didnt want to make bad loans out to people who didnt have the means to repay there loans. Since the govt (Fannie/Freddie) guaranteed those loans, the taxpayer got stuck with the bill. I suspect you already know this, but as alying sack of commie excrement you continue to try to spread your propaganda. Tell me ,"tony" are you working for Soros or what?

  • The Non-Tony||

    "Lol the real Tony knows we haven't had laissez-faire in over a century."

    He seems to, although months ago he was regularly using the straw men of "8 years of laissez-faire under Bush got us into this mess" and "if deficits are so bad, why didn't you libertarians complain when Bush did it," both of which he knows are utter BS.

    "And pick your own handle, you're impugning Tony's rep and he sure as hell doesn't need that."

    Perhaps he has recently backed away from those straw men and has started using more nuanced arguments, but I can understand why the "Ghosts of Tony" are mocking him.

    It's good to have progressives here because both they and "Reasonoids" are challenged, and perhaps the spoofs have gone too far, but he knowingly and regularly likens us to Republicans when he knows better.

  • Jen||

    "Failure of laissez-faire"? It takes a special breed of stupid to believe that, because it implies there actually was laissez-faire to begin with. Wow, are you ignorant!

  • Tony||

    I could have said it better myself.

  • ||

    The stimulus and bailouts have prevented the economy from getting even worse.*

    *citation needed

  • Tony||

    In other words... we need a dictatorship in this country, or we won't survive.

  • Jeffersonian||

    It is time for the libertarians to understand that their philosophy of small government is outdated and has no place in today's world.

    That's just hilarious, given what's going on in Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, California and Illinois. We're seeing the beginning of the last gasp of statism, Tony, and you don't even know it.

  • Tony||

    You're responding to a spoofer, but what I see going on is austerity measures and law-mandated balanced budget requirements making the economic crisis worse in many of those places.

    I don't know what statism is, so you could be right.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    You're responding to a spoofer, but what I see going on is austerity measures and law-mandated balanced budget requirements making the economic crisis worse in many of those places.


    How do they make things worse?

  • Tony||

    To a nihilist such as yourself I suppose that question means something different to you than it does to me.

  • Jim Treacher||

    I believe that you're the real Tony. It's entirely plausible that the real Tony has no self-knowledge whatsoever.

  • ||

    Yeah it now seems clear this is a Tale of Two Tony's.

    but what I see going on is austerity measures and law-mandated balanced budget requirements making the economic crisis worse in many of those places.

    Incorrect. The austerity measures are the solution. The bubbles and debt were the problem. Increased debt is not the answer to high debt.

    We are now experiencing what I hope will be the second and final failure of Keynesianism.

    If we stop now we can also hope Obama's depression won't be as bad as FDR's but I fear otherwise.

  • ||

    Jeff-Tony is likely "educated" at our wonderful NEA schools, with "brilliant professors" Like Henry Louis Gates, Peter Singer of princetion or maybe the "brilliant" Lawrence Tribe of Hahvard or The "nobel prize weiner" Paul Krugman, The only thing that stnads out about Tony is that hes an utterly hopeless moron.

  • ||

    Whoops, replied to the wrong Tony.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    I don't get my philosophy from him. I just said he nicely shot down all this disingenuous bullshit that Welch is parroting, this "economic crisis? what economic crisis? DEFICITS WAHHH!" bullshit.


    The economic crisis is caused by too much debt.

    What this crisis is telling us is that we are currently using too many resources to make stuff and provide services not enough people want or need.

  • Tony||

    Because, as you know, we'd be in a depression if not for Obama. It's a proven fact, after the fact.

  • Van||

    Streetwalkers are the night shift on K Street.

    During the day, lower forms of life may be observed. Lawyers and liberal lobbyists like James Carville.

  • ||

    Or Pols like Charlie the Rangho ,Waxass, George of the Jungle Miller, Barbara the 4 legged Boxer, Dianne Fineswine, Russ Slimegold or the Backdoor Santa Barney the Fag.

  • Paul||

    What recession, Tony?

    But...but... the stimulus is working!

    Anyone notice that no one is parroting the DEM playbook line "but unemployment always lags economic indicators"?

    Yeah, I too noticed no one's saying that anymore.

  • slutmonkey||

    The Stimulus is working! as of February:
    http://michaelscomments.files......0-dots.gif

    The July version hid the "without recovery" line:
    http://republicans.waysandmean.....1f7060.jpg

  • ||

    Did Tony just blame Clinton for the recession?

  • ||

    See, this is the problem with your camp. I don't think that most people are arguing that Obama created this mess, there is no economic crisis without Obama, etc, etc. The argument is about what is to be done right now, and pretty much everyone realized that the stimulus package and deficit spending is pretty much just a bailout for people whose income depends on the government rather than any real "infrastructure" investment. The idea of "stimulus" has turned into "bailout." Yes, we all know that Bush was the main bailout guy when it came to the banks, but the keynesian philosophy has become completely self serving now as the government now calls maintaining itself "stimulus" under OBama. That is what people are angry about. Yes, the GOP are dicks for trying to aim all of the hate at Obama, but the people who are trying to aim all of the hate at government itself are right on the money. The left wants to constantly remind everyone that "everything is Bush's fault," so even if Obama has to do something that you don't like it's because he's "cleaning up Bush's mess." This is what is pissing people off. The more that you hammer away with that strategy, the more anger you can expect to see.

  • Tony||

    Wake me when you have something to say other than talking points from Fox News.

  • ||

    The only thing that I watch on fox news is clips of stossel.

  • Strawman||

    HEYYYYYYYYY!

    Could you please just leave me alone and reply to his comment?

  • Tony||

    There's been plenty of infrastructure investment and other direct stimulus (unfortunately in order to get votes the bill had to be 1/3 useless tax cuts).

    Now there is a very good argument to be made that we could have done without directly bailing out the large banks--but the alternative would have been nationalizing them, and I think we both know how far that would have gotten.

  • Spoof Tony||

    Useless tax cuts

    Obama is so powerful he can make a motherfucking turnip BLEED.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Now there is a very good argument to be made that we could have done without directly bailing out the large banks--but the alternative would have been nationalizing them, and I think we both know how far that would have gotten.


    There was a third option.

    Let the chips fall where they may.

  • Tony||

    Golden parachutes for the perpetrators of the crime, misery for their victims for the indefinite future. Libertarian is the most moral system imaginable!

  • ||

    Well, that is how a profit and loss system works. Maybe every CEO wouldn't have gotten their comeuppance, but at least failed investments wouldn't have been propped up.

  • ||

    There is so much emotional vindictiveness in your statements. I'm not saying that I would have enjoyed CEOs getting their golden parachutes, but regardless of the situation, those banks could have been let to fail. It would have been painful, but a recovery would have occurred quickly without the government confusing the hell out of investors.

  • ||

    I don't think that tax cuts are inherently useless. They are only useless when there are no spending cuts to accompany them. Almost NONE of the stimulus package was used on infrastructure construction, and even the parts that were were not accompanied by any cost benefit analysis or any real profitable objective. This was the government bailing out itself pure and simple.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Ahh, yes, Jon Stewart is more qualified - being a comedian - to opine on economics than we commoners.

    Good God, Tony, every time you fuckers claim to not be elitists, you lie your asses off.

    But, hey, it's because the government isn't big and oppressive enough. We get it. And we're getting it, thanks to those fuckers you and your ilk put in the Congress and White House.

  • Tony||

    I was just referring to a clip mash where he showed Republicans (echoing Welch and other libertarians) talking about how there wasn't really a crisis, it was all a big illusion and what really matters now is deficit reduction.

    Then he showed these same Republicans saying things like "this is a bigass fucking crisis and we have to act now" back in 2008.

    They went back to their small government bullshit rhetoric as soon as the crisis was safely in the past and they could pin Obama with any failures in progress.

  • Tony||

    Because, you know, nothing will ever be Obama's fault. Ever.

  • Tony||

    He's like a great, swarthy god to me. I want to have his children.

  • Roger Debree||

    I feel like I'm going into labor! Oogh! Oogh! Oogh!

  • ||

    And how many democrats (Barney Frank, California's own All star Maxine Waters) thought the housing market was in fine shape, and that F&F was "sound institutions"?

    Boy, that goodwill Matt Welch bought from the left for gushing all over the French healthcare system sure dissipated quickly.

  • ||

    Welch seems to be reading directly from the GOP playbook

    I was just referring to a clip mash where he showed Republicans (echoing Welch and other libertarians)

    Wait... I'm confused. Are the Republicans echoing Welch and libertarians, or is Welch mimicking standard Republican viewpoints?

  • Eric||

    Libertarian BINGO!!!!

  • GrilledCS||

    "Then he showed these same Republicans saying things like "this is a bigass fucking crisis and we have to act now" back in 2008."

    Actually, some republicans, and many libertarians and conservatives started saying that back in 2007. Maybe even 2006. The Left asks "Why didn't they criticize Bush during 2007?" Maybe it was because he was a lame duck with a 20 percent approval rating? Everyone hated Bush. Who was thinking or talking about Bush during the Hillary/Obama/McCain/Huckabee/Romney drama? Bush was out. This "you didn't criticize Bush thing" is a not-so-subtle revisionism.

    Remember the controversy between McCain and Obama during the campaign regarding meeting with Bush about what to do regarding the financial collapse? Say what you want about Bush, but common sense should tell you that he wanted to meet with them to make sure that the next president wasn't going to go off the rails with a policy he would have to create, but wouldn't be around for. Whether what he wanted to do was good or bad doesn't really matter. Let's all take for granted it was a horrendous mistake. Even if Bush had a great idea, he would need to talk to McCain and Obama because there would be no point if they were just going to reverse all of it when in office.

    McCain couldn't lose by agreeing, because it was both to his advantage and the right thing to do. So, he made a point of asking Obama to meet with Bush also. Obama could have said "I'll see your hand and raise it" and used his charisma to turn this into a political opportunity. What could his opposition due in response? Criticize him for doing the right thing? That wouldn't go far.

    Instead, Obama played partisan politics and refused. That was when my suspicions were confirmed--Obama was just a sharp talking partisan suit who couldn't choose his battles.

    And he still can't. If the Republicans accused Obama of leaving his underwear on the floor loudly enough, he wouldn't know to just let it pass as something not worth worrying about. Instead, he'd have Gibbs barking at reporters about it. Stupid.

  • Grumpy Smurf||

    I hate Bill Clinton.

  • Jersey Patriot||

    The deficit declined in the late 1980s, rose again in 1991-2 (prob. due to the recession), and started declining in 1993. The deficit fell every year from 1993 to 2001, a combination of the stock market bubble, Clinton's Yellow Dog Democratic policies, the peace dividend, and divided government. Without the sanctions on Iraq and the wars in Yugoslavia, Clinton's reign might have been deficit-neutral.

    The deficit increased in the post-tech bubble/9-11 era of 2002-4. The deficit shrunk to ~1% at the top of the housing/deriatives bubble in 2006-7. Without the Bush tax cuts, the Iraq war, or Bush's new domestic spending - NCLB, prescription drug benefit, farm subsidies - Bush would have run surpluses in 2006-8, maybe 2005, too.

    Now that the Great Credit Crunch has begun, huge deficits look likely to persist. Deficits have been ~10% the last two years. It seems that the last 40ish years of prosperity have been nothing but a massive borrowing bubble, as total domestic debt ran from ~20% of GDP to ~350%. It looks ugly.

  • Mike M.||

    It's ugly indeed. We have outsourced most of our industrial base, the massive tax increases coming next year will decimate our already nearly nonexistent recovery, and even Joe Biden has admitted that most of the jobs we have lost won't be coming back any time soon.

    Even heavily socialist western Europe gets the big picture. It's only a dwindling number of diehard dead-end dickheads like Obama, Geithner, Krugman, and Tony who refuse to face reality.

  • slutmonkey||

    It's like we're Greece.

    Where is John Travolta when you need him?

  • ||

    You have to admit, the Clinton brand of horseshit was much superior to what is currently on offer from the White House.

  • ||

    I said many times that Bill Clinton is the finest politician I have seen in my lifetime. He understands and executes The Game like no one else.

  • ||

    I agree with that. The best politicians are the ones that can fling crap and make you think you smell like a rose.

  • West Texas Boy||

    +1

    He's an excellent politician, gotta give him that.

    And even if he was also a sleazeball, he was a least competent.

  • ||

    No hes not-the slimestink media gave Bubba credit for what Newt Gingrich did. Bubba only went along for the ride because Dick Morris was telling him hed better do so or else he would lose in 96. The slimesyink media never brought up anything negative about Bubba, including Chinagate, John Huang , and blamed Bubbas lying under oath like somehow Kenneth Starr made him do so. Bubbas "legacy" today has its fingerprints all over the Dumbama crowd-Eric the Aholder, Cass Sunstein, Hilldebeast, Kagel, Summers, Holdren-all the extremist nuts of the Dumbama admin were also in the Bubba WH. Bubba is no different than Dumbama, maybe not quite as STUPID. Dumbama is a rigid commie, Bubba was smarter than that. Bubba is more a chameleon than anything.

  • Paul||

    You have to admit, the Clinton brand of horseshit was much superior to what is currently on offer from the White House.

    Except that Obama actually believes 90% of what he says. Which scares me.

  • mr simple||

    Come back, 1990s. All is forgiven.

    This is just another one of your attempts to bring back Ace of Base, isn't it?

  • ||

    Life is demanding without understanding.

  • T||

    That sign opened up your eyes, huh?

  • ||

    I was going to quote more lyrics, but I think there aren't any others.

  • syd||

    all that she wants is, quite frankly, another baby.

  • Tomcat1066||

    Yeah, but she's gone tomorrow.

  • Kolohe||

    Or Jesus (Jones)

  • Jen||

    Ace of Base has already comeback - they've been reincarnated into Lady Gaga.

  • ||

    +1

  • ||

    Without the Harry and Louise commercials, we'd be talking about a very different story about the size and scope of Bill Clinton's government.

  • Kolohe||

    "The only Democratic president in their memory was also the only one who didn’t seriously goose the size of government."

    Hell, even Carter doesn't get enough credit as a de-regulator of trucking, airlines, and homebrew.

  • ||

    I always thought Clinton practiced Republican principals far better than the republicans did. And more libertarian than anyone since.

  • J||

    "And more libertarian than anyone since."

    That's not really saying much, but point taken.

  • Paul||

    Come back, 1990s. All is forgiven.

    Oh, the number of times I've caught myself "missing" Clinton.

  • Monica Lewinsky||

    Me too. If it weren't for that jealous bitch Tripp I'd be flavoring his cigar right now. Bitch.

  • Tony||

    I hereby declare that there are no differences between Republicans and libertarians. This is because I say so, and progressives are savvier than people who read this supposedly "Reason"-able magazine.

    From now on, I will not respond to what libertarians say, but will instead criticize libertarians for what George Bush did. Because, it is perfectly reasonable to expect libertarians to answer for GWB.

  • Joe M||

    Drink!

  • Tony||

    Actually, as progressives have no interest in history, we are looking to reinstate prohibition.

  • Metazoan||

    Congrats, you already have.

  • Paul||

    I hereby declare that there are no differences between Republicans and libertarians.

    And I hereby declare no difference between Democrats and Republicans. They're both corporatist tools only interested in further entrenching their power.

  • Tony||

    You are forgetting something. Bush was a bad president. And, as I have stated in a previous thread, it is impossible to dislike both democrats and republicans. Since, in your post, you didn't criticize Bush heavily enough, it means you endorse him.

  • Paul||

    I uhh... yeah.

  • Tony||

    My plan is working. If I keep repeating that Bush was a bad president, and keep claiming that libertarians supported him, it will either become true, or libertarians will give up.

    There is no better place to kill reason than at Reason magazine.

  • NurseNanny||

    You're thinking outloud again. Time to take your medicine.

  • Every Channel But Fox News||

    If I keep repeating that Bush was a bad president... it will ... become true

    Worked for us!

  • Tony||

    This is because I say so, and progressives are savvier than people who read this supposedly "Reason"-able magazine.

    But we're not elitists!

  • hmm||

    The only things I can ever equate Clinton with are blow jobs, cigars, and bayonet lugs.

    Without context those three things are pretty fucking awesome.

  • Van||

    Yeah, whatever happened to PAYGO?

    Maybe next year after the Republicans control congress? For now they are showing irrational exuberance toward "investing in Government."

    Clinton's about face occurred after the American people rejected Government Health Care in focus groups and kicked out the Democrats in '94. Subsequent focus group polling guided Clinton's policies from then on.

    Adam Curtis does a great job of explaining it in a series of documentaries titled "The Century of the Self" if anyone is interested.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Century_of_the_Self

  • Tony||

    Because Bush was a bad president, it was necessary for Obama to scrap paygo. It is useless to criticize Obama, because Bush was solely responsible for this economic mess. Since, as I have stated above, all libertarians endorsed Bush while he was president, they have no right to hold Obama to his promises.

  • Van||

    So, what is the Final Solution to the Economic Question?

  • Tony||

    The answer is obvious. Obama's stimulus, bailouts and any other bills he endorses.

  • Van||

    Obama is the Economy!
    The Economy is Obama!
    All consumers hail President Obama!
    USA! USA! USA! USA!

  • Tony||

    Nice try, but the road to fascism was under the Bush administration. Obama is merely trying to bring about economic recovery, and the tarditarians are screaming fascism. I guess if you aren't interested in reality, it makes for a convincing story.

  • Jen||

    You really have no idea what fascism is, do you? Try looking it up on Wikipedia right now. I think you'll find Obama more closely fits the bill - that is, if you can understand it.

  • Tony||

    I don't have time for shit like that. I'm right, you're wrong, and I'm STILL not an elitist liberal fuckbag.

  • Jen||

    In other words, no, you have no idea what fascism is.

  • Tony||

    Goddammit Libtards, who do you think WROTE wikipedia?

  • Van||

    Then you deny that Obama == The Economy?

    You need a trip to the Psychologist's Office young man.

  • Tony||

    Everything that happens from this moment until the end of time, will be Bush's fault.

    Everything.

  • Tony||

    I don't agree with that, though Bush may indeed be largely responsible for accelerating the end of time.

  • Obama||

    Yes, that will be my story and I will most certainly stick to it.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Okay, Tony... will Obama ever be at fault for anything he does, or will it always be the fault of someone(s) else?

  • Tony||

    I fault him for a lot. One of those things is not that he doesn't listen to libertarians for economic advice.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Listening to Paul Krugman is a better alternative, then?

    What a strange world you live in, Tony.

  • ||

    Hey dolt-I suggest you get an education in economics. You dont improve economies by stealing money, you create business by generating income. You leftists are all the same-increadably stupid.

  • Fiscal Meth||

    The answer is to take the census constantly and hire everyone in the whole country as full time census workers so nobody is ever unemployed.

  • Van||

    Why not put them to work on Infrastructure Projects?

  • Fiscal Meth||

    Deal! One third of the state's human capital shall be directed to dig holes, one third shall fill them back up and the other third shall tell us how many kids they have.

  • Van||

    I forgot to mention that Clinton began working with Dick Morris during '94 and put him in charge of all his PR.

    This might be obvious to older policy wonks but young kids need to be reminded of these facts.

  • Van||

    So, what is the Final Solution to the Economic Question?

  • affenkopf||

    Arbeit macht Frei of course.

  • ||

    Clinton did do the whole 'burning children' thing at Waco, so he's got that going for him.

  • ||

    Yes, the Pittsburgh Pirates really did once play winning baseball.

    I think that should be rewritten as:

    Yes, people actually gave a damn about baseball.

  • Sudden||

    I must admit to being a little pissed off at the whole "Clinton balanced the budget" lie. Although I'll give him credit for getting closer to a truly balanced budget than anyone in recent memory, the fact that his "balanced budget" really only existed because it used SS surplus funds as general revenue, thereby borrowing against SS money collected while the program was still collecting more than it paid out. Granted, that was more than could be said by most every other president since the program's inception as its always been used as an additional slush fund, but the fact that the payments due now actually exceed the revenues collected and will until the program finally collapses is proof that that additional revenue would have been a good thing to set aside all this time.

  • Joshua||

    I'm amazed that progressives are behind the whole sustainability thing with regard to energy & environment, but are incapable of applying it to the national economy.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    That is how progressives like Chony roll.

  • Tony||

    Preventing a depression is the definition of economic sustainability.

    What's your excuse for treating the natural world as an unlimited piggy bank?

  • Michael Ejercito||

    Preventing a depression is the definition of economic sustainability.


    And why are depressions things that have to be prevented?

    What's your excuse for treating the natural world as an unlimited piggy bank?


    A depression has this side effect of reducing usage of natural resources.

  • Tony||

    And why are depressions things that have to be prevented?

    Oh gee I dunno, I guess a generation of poverty and misery for most of the population is just one of those things.

    A depression has this side effect of reducing usage of natural resources.

    True. Maybe gaia caused the economic crisis and we should obey her great wisdom.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    Gaia can't do shit, Tony. It doesn't exist.

    Your armchair Nostradamusizing is, however, quite amusing.

  • ||

  • singing cactus||

    Neoliberalism was killed by academia. Both the traditional Marxists and those just enamored with Social Justice theory cannot stand neoliberalism and deride it as unfair to less developed nations. The young, educated Obama voters have been given the idea that free trade hurts either a) domestic workers or b) foreign workers, depending on their area of study. Much of what Obama says on foreign policy concerning 'fairness' seems to be directed at these young voters who have never been taught the benefits of trade and freedom, only economic suppression and central planning.

    I studied these types of global theories for four years. If you look at the literature that came out in the 80's on trade and consumption, it was generally positive or, at worst, neutral, with the old guard Marxists hushed away as behind the times. Today, however, the buzzterms are back to 'social justice' with the added ideas of 'sustainability' as a means to temper production and development.

  • Jeff P||

    Can we get some paleo-liberalism back, please? The crazy racist "call-out-the-National-Guard" kind? I miss them.

  • ||

    1994

    Read about it, please.

    -your middle school history teacher

  • AlmightyJB||

    The great thing I remember about the Clinton administration was the out of control ATF and DEA, the increased paramilitarization of same (as well as of the state and local law enforcement agencies following the lead of the feds), and the war on private ownership of guns. Yes those were the days all right. Where's Balko when you need him.

  • AlmightyJB||

    I'm sorry I forgot to mention the FBI too. Shoot on site orders of a US citizen wanted on a bogus gun charge he was set up on. Gotta give props for that. My bad.

  • cynical||

    You remember that time the SWAT busted in to send a kid back to a shitty dictatorship? Pictures of guys with body armor and assault rifles trying drag a kid out of a closet. What fun!

  • ||

    Eh, if the Republicans win big in the 2010 elections there will be a big Democratic Party fight between those who say that Obama needs to move right (and the Brooksian dreamers who say that he wanted to do so all along) and those who don't want to, or say that the Democrats weren't Left enough.

    So I wouldn't remark on the passing so soon.

  • ||

    Can we get more grunge music but without the flannel?

    Note: Pearl Jam is not Grunge

  • Jim Treacher||

    name a band that ever wanted to be called grunge

  • Fall Out Boy||

    We're not grunge!

  • ||

    Slayer

  • ||

    The Ramones

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Obama is merely trying to bring about economic devastation

    That'll be $3.50, Tony. And you're welcome.

  • GrilledCS||

    I have to give credit where it's due and congratulate Mr. Welch for his article.

    The question he raises and answers quite effectively is probably wondered about by many who would like to understand politics better but get lost in the contradictions he addresses.

    Especially relevant is the Nader-effect to all of the libertarian- leaning people out there who vote for another party in the belief that their vote "won't matter" otherwise.

  • ||

    Anyone fool could have predicted that the Democrat's love for free markets was skin deep. They've always been socialists awaiting a new reason to stop pretending and BELIEVE again.

    The question is why so many 'libertarians' didn't realize just how badly they'd behave if given such an opportunity - or did and didn't care.

  • ||

    And any fool would preview, but I'm not just any fool, but a superior one.

  • ||

    The balanced budget of the 1990's is a lie! Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich and Congress robbed Social Security, then said we balanced the budget! Also I think the problems can be traced back further than Reagan!

  • ||

    There are no pro market Democrats. Bill Clinton wasn't one either. He benefited from a tech bubble that brought in lots of tax revenues, raiding social security, and reducing defense which was a gift from the Reagan peace dividend.

    George Bush Sr. was responsible for NAFTA, Clinton signed it after putting in some caveats for his big labor and environmental buddies. He also signed GATT, (again an initiative that predated him) because he was taking Chinese money for years. Welfare reform was a Republican idea he co-opted at the behest of Dick Morris, prior to that he was against it.

    The folks at Reason don't want to face the fact that the only allies they have are Conservatives and some Republicans. They would much rather huddle with liberals who are more open to their "anything goes" social policies and isolationist national security ideas. The fact is every Democrat initiative in the last 40 years has been a redistributionist vote buying scheme. Every public policy ends up being a welfare program or a handout to favored constituents like unions.

    The fact that Welch misses a useless moron like Bill Clinton speaks volumes about the idiocy of Reason.

  • ||

    I have not seen any market-oriented Democrat Party members in at least decades. Wasn't Kennedy the last one? That's John, not Ted.

  • ||

    There are NO PRO-Market democrats. That goes against everything they believe in. How can one have cradle to grave with free markets, DUH!

  • ||

    Hate to burst your bubble mr Welch, but the demonrat party has been commie party USA ever since McGovern. All the former Clintonites(Kagel,Emanuel,Sunstein,Holdren, Eric the Aholder) were all key players in the Clinton years. The only difference between then and now is there is no Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay or Bob Livingston to deal with the dimwits. So with no effective GOP counterbalance, thanks mostly to the slimestink media, there is no check or balance on Dumbama,Piglosi, or the total dufus disgusting Harry Greed. America has been taken over by the communist party and its up to the real everyday Americans to take back what the sleazy elitists have caused.

  • ||

    I say we co-opt their revolution thing and start collecting scalps

  • ||

    When the voters went for Obama and the Democrats they believe Obama's the candidate and thought they were getting a moderate Democrats who would Govern moderately like Bill Clinton, hopefully without the sleaze factor. Intead we got the most arrogant radical left wing ideological President and Congress in the nations history. As Obama and the radical left wing Elite dig the nation into the deepest ditch we've been in outside of the Great Depression it will be interesting to see if sane Democrats will fight back. Bill Clinton recently has seemed to be taking some steps toward a Hillary 2012 effort. The nation can only hope that there are enough sane people in the Democratic party to save it. If the radical left wing crazies stay in control, Lord help our nation!!!

  • ||

    It's all about public service unions. Their leaders have zero stake in free enterprise and some of them would prefer cummunism because would give them total power.

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  • Fedup22||

    When were neoliberals or conservatives ever really pro-market? Pro-Corporatist, yes, but not pro-market. Conservatives and Neoliberals are big fans of corporate welfare, but usually not the free market. Take for example the GOP's refusal to raise the liability cap for oil spill damage from $75 million to $10 billion. In a free market there would be unlimited liability, so BP would have to pay up for all the damage it has caused.

  • ||

    thank you

  • ||

    Jesus Christ, Welch is no better than Stewart, each wants to get up close and bitch, bitch, bitch....

    There was no alternative, the only method of short circuiting the "vote for me and get shit" Dem playbook, was bankrupting the mother fucker.

    The question finally is "How many political cycles of screwing the hand-out voters with their pants on, has to happen before they finally GIVE UP and stop voting in the vain hope they'll steal other peoples shit legally?"

    (Please try and remember 1913-1980), when we lost the game called, "Democracy."

    That is awful final question. Rationally carrying the majority with "Save Cleveland" videos WILL NEVER work (nice job tho), so the raw bit libertarian who is when forced to choose between short circuiting free lunches, and creating a mild police state - figures we have enough guns when push comes to shove, votes aggressively for pot, gays, etc. but MAINLY partners with their enemies to try to force lazy fucks to go to work, while simultaneously driving the eggheads into the sea.

    Too many REASON folk expound the glories of the free market, without ONCE AND FOR ALL admitting that it is SO glorious, that business even trumps social rights.

    When you have to choose, you choose Business.

    It is better for gay drug users to have to cheat the system, than for government to have even more control of the economy. Christian rules eventually gets tossed by everyone, loss of property rights take forever to unlearn.

    The REASON is thus: deep down everyone likes fuck, not everyone likes to work.

    It's a horrible choice, I just wish more libertarians were honest about it. Economics trumps social shit, and therefore, in the final calculus, we don't lambaste Clinton for being the grand inquisitor, we praise him for jumping when Greenspan said, "JUMP!"

    Selah.

  • ||

    Que Rodger Daltreyy...

    Meet the Neo Lib...same as the Old Lib...

    We Don't Get Fooled Again!!

  • ||

    Okay, do we call them Neo-Progressives now?

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    Now, the die-hard capitalist would accuse these writers of being communists who were waiting for something *really* bad to happen so that they could point fingers and say -- "I told you so ..." ; exchange rates maybe, it might even be true in the case of some of these writers. But that doesn't hide the fact that it's time for a rethink - as the author of the above article points out, mantra's like liberalisation and globalisation should not degrade into orthodoxy

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