During an interview on Sunday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) suggested that if Bill Clinton were president that the fiscal issues facing the United States could be worked out.
Ryan, who has served in Congress since 1999 and was the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, told David Gregory on Meet the Press that “if we had a Clinton presidency, if we had Erskine Bowles chief-of-staff at the White House, or President of the United States, I think we would have fixed this fiscal mess by now.” Ryan added, “That’s not the kind of presidency we’re dealing with right now.”
Noel Sheppard, who covered the story at Newsbusters, snarked, “one wonders if Ryan meant a Bill Clinton presidency or a Hillary Clinton presidency.” That aside, Ryan has a point that’s worth expounding upon.
Despite friction between then-President Clinton during the 1990s, Republicans in Congress were able to pass a balanced budget and enact welfare reform and pass capital gains tax cuts. While not all was perfect during these years as Republicans began their slide toward big government, a Democratic president and Republican-controlled legislature were able to reach a compromises that led to a largely prosperous era.
To his credit, Clinton wasn’t afraid to compromise when he knew that he was in a tough spot. Republicans were able to move a president, who showed his big government-leanings in his first two years, to the right. What’s more, Clinton was able to take credit for it during his 1996 State of the Union address when he declared that the “era of big government is over.” Seventeen years and two fiscally profligate presidents later, we see that the story is much different that what we were told.
But Ryan’s larger point remains in tact. As Matt Welch noted yesterday, Democrats have largely gotten away from the economic policies pushed by Clinton. President Obama, who greatly expanded government during his first term and figures do so again should Democrats win back control of the House, is not interested in bending. His version of compromise means that Republicans should accept the policies proposed by his administration and Democrats in Congress, no questions asked.
President Obama made it clear during his inaugral address last week that it’s his way or the highway on entitlements, even though he hasn’t addressed the issue in any substantive way. There has been no plan, just talk.
Republicans have become more conservative over the years, but taking that point aside, there is no escaping the fact that President Obama and his cohorts in Congress have no interest in working with them to address the nation’s long-term fiscal issues.