The Songs All Sound the Same (SOTU Edition)

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Last night President Bush joked that both he and Bill Clinton—two of his "dad's favorite people"—are about to turn 60. Over at NRO, Reason contributor Veronique de Rugy points out that the two have more than that in common:

Today it is impossible to square the president's rhetorical support for free markets and limited government with the long list of programs and new initiatives that he claims to support. If all this sounds familiar, it's because it is. Bill Clinton was a master of this strategy, declaring one minute that the era of big government was over and then the next minute proposing new government programs for every conceivable problem in society.

Whole thing here.

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  1. I guess that’s what they mean by compassionate conservatism.

  2. But would Kerry have been worse?

  3. Warren: Given that he would have had a GOP senate blocking anything he tried to do, I think the answer you’re looking for is “no”…

  4. The Senate is only technically GOP – you have more than enough RINOs to swing a majority on Dem issues, especially spending.

    Nah, the real brake on Kerry would have been the House. And his own ineptitude.

  5. Could be Clinton and GWB are two of George I’s favorites because they succeeded where Mr. “No New Taxes” failed?

  6. Nah, they both make Bush 1 look good

  7. a,
    Agreed. Well, except for Clinton.

    I seem to remember that when Clinton left office, sometime Reason contributor James K. Glassman was warning about the dangers of government surplus, a problem that has gone away with Bush in the White House.

    There is also massive confusion on this site with two different ideas of government – one is a program like Social Security which is a huge program, but involves few government employees (relative to size). Another would be an increase in government employees. Of note with regard to the latter, during the Bush administration there have been no new net jobs, except for the increase in government employees.

  8. There never was a surplus. It drove me crazy whenever anyone discussed the issue. It was like listening to someone discuss the Easter Bunny.

    If you had $60,000 in debt, required $2000 per month to live, and earned $3000 per month after taxes, would you say that you had a $1000 per month surplus? Ridiculous.

  9. Real Bill,
    hmmm…Let’s say I ahve a $60,000 mortgage, which added to my other spending cost me $2000/month, and I earned $3000 a month.

    Yes, I would say I had a surplus of $1000 dollars coming in.

    You should brush up on the differences between deficit and debt.

  10. On the notion that Kerry would have been “better” due to divided government–it’s always dangerous to base one’s argument on the notion that Congress would ever act as a brake on government spending, especially after the GOP Congress got necklaced for making a half-hearted attempt in 1995.

  11. Actually, I think Bill Clinton was siginificantly better on spending, growth of regulation, and vastly superior on free trade.

    Sure he’d turn around and propose a government program, but they were little (ha) hundred-million programs or so forth that in the Reagan or Bush era would have been announced in a press conference at the assistant-secretary level for three reporters. Instead he would go and announce how the Housing for Chicken-Owning Single Females program was going to solve the scourge of welfare mothers.

    The point was, he got the votes for “caring” and “doing something” but didn’t really have to do much and could meet his budget numbers. Instead the current moron actually goes and tries to solve things, apparently having been either coked up or drunk during every single Reagan speech ever (despite Reagan’s hypocrisy on the issue).

  12. Actually, I think Bill Clinton was siginificantly better on spending, growth of regulation, and vastly superior on free trade.

    I wouldn’t say “significantly” better, but you’ve got a good point. However, Clinton is a far different animal than Kerry or the folks running the Donkey Party at the moment. Different than his wife, though? Hmmm…

  13. Actually, Kerry broke ranks with his party and supported the Gramm-Rudman balanced budget bill way back in the 80s. He also had the rare honesty, during the 2004 campaign, to answer the question “But what if there isn’t room in the budget for your health care plan?” with “Then I’ll scale back my health care plan.”

    And, of course, it has become much more respectable for a Democrat to be a deficit hawk since then. Especially given Clinton’s success in the area, and Bush’s (and the Republican Congress’s) failure. “The people running the Donkey Party” include the party’s Chairman, deficit hawk Howard Dean.

    So both personal preference and political forces would suggest that Kerry would have been better on the budget than Bush. Generationally-obsolete stereotypes of “donkeys” notwithstanding.

  14. Actually, I think Bill Clinton was siginificantly better on spending, growth of regulation, and vastly superior on free trade.

    Agree on free trade.

    Disagree on growth of regulation (I think) – my impression as someone lawyering in a heavily regulated industry is that Clinton burped out some nasty regs just before leaving office, and the Bushies have done some things that make enforcement and administration more rational.

    Hard to say Clinton was better on spending – certainly the Republican Congress of his day was better than the Republican Congress of our day. Remember, though, that Clinton’s first major policy proposal was to nationalize health care – his instincts are those of a very big spender While he was frustrated in office, he was canny enought to make a virtue of necessity.

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