Benchmarks: Clinton 1993 Vs. Obama 2009

The JournOList campaign against Howard Dean, the public option and reconciliation, got me to thinking - what exactly do they consider an acceptable health care bill? From what I can gather, they are insistent on 2 provisions only (though of course they "support" many others)- mandates and exchanges. To get those two provisions, they seem prepared to sacrifice everything else. Would that really be a progressive achievement? I do not think so. Some other people agree with me. Via digby, Gene Lyons writes:

[JournOLister Jon] Chait, however, also thinks progressives should shut up and accept a deeply flawed bill. . . . Baucus' bill would force millions of working Americans currently without coverage to spend up to 13 percent of their annual income on private health insurance policies they can't afford.
Digby writes "They seem intent upon taking what should be an historic progressive achievement and turning it into a hated, regressive tax on their own constituents." It was that line that got me to thinking about what Bill Clinton, with less of a mandate and a much less progressive Congress, accomplished in 1993. Let's compare on the flip.

I have written about this before, but in 1993, Bill Clinton pushed through the most progressive legislation the US has had since the Johnson Administration. It was called, prosaically, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. What did it do?

It created 36 percent and 39.6 income tax rates for individuals. [up from 33% top rate]

It created a 35 percent income tax rate for corporations. [up from 28%]

The cap on Medicare taxes was repealed. [Making it less regressive.]

Transportation fuels taxes were raised by 4.3 cents per gallon.

[Helpful for the environment.]

The taxable portion of Social Security benefits was raised.[Making wealthier seniors pay more in taxes.]

The phase-out of the personal exemption and limit on itemized deductions were permanently extended. [Again, making wealthier Americans pay more in taxes.]

Part IV Section 14131: Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and added inflation adjustments [In essence eliminating taxes for the working poor.]

Clinton's initiative passed by the barest of margins - 218-216 in the House and with a tiebreaking vote from Vice President Al Gore in the Senate.

What was the effect of Clinton's initiative? You know the usual litany - 8 years of economic expansion, the creation of 22 million jobs, etc.

But most importantly, Clinton lifted the poor out of poverty and improved the lives of the less well off. I find it ironic that many of Clinton's critics at the time, including Jared Bernstein, now an economic advisor for Vice President Biden, are so silent about the regressive character of BaucusCare.

If BaucusCare becomes the singular achievement of the Obama Administration, it will be damning indeed. And all of the Bill Clinton "triangulation" bashers who stand in support of BaucusCare will be exposed as hypocrites.

Speaking for me only

< Eviction Notice Posted At Zazi Family Apartment | Competition >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Mandates without prices controls (5.00 / 4) (#1)
    by MO Blue on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 09:55:49 AM EST
    are nothing more than a give away to the insurance industry.

    With lawmakers reluctant to limit what insurers may charge, there's little to slow soaring premiums. Coupled with millions of new customers, that adds up to higher costs for taxpayers and consumers.
    "We are about to force at least 30 million people into an insurance market where the sharks are circling," said California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, a Democrat who served as the state's insurance commissioner for eight years. "Without effective protections, they will be eaten alive."

    Soaring premiums coupled with millions of new customers forced to buy policies would likely mean higher costs for taxpayers to cover government subsidies for lower-income families and individuals.

    They could also mean bigger bills for people who get benefits through work, as well as for their employers. LATimes

    Depressing really. (5.00 / 4) (#2)
    by inclusiveheart on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 09:58:40 AM EST
    To think of what could have come out of the current political landscape if this President had any real and defined goals - really depressing.  All that political capital frittered away on keeping the villagers "happy" - not a whit expended on the people they claimed they would represent.

    Yes (5.00 / 6) (#8)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 10:23:25 AM EST
    Bill Clinton actually did more than throw the voters a bone.  This was one reason I chose Hillary over the Rorscharchian candidate.  I figured the more liberal (than Bill) woman candidate would be good for citizens.

    Clinton had goals and an agenda (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by SOS on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 10:24:11 AM EST
    and despite some problems he got things done and Governed.

    This administration is a joke.

    Come on. Let's be fair. (none / 0) (#40)
    by lambert on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 04:00:57 PM EST
    Working in close collaboration with the previous administration, this administration gave the banksters two trillion dollars with no accountability and no transparency, and put the taxpayers on the hook for twenty two trillion more. And now, they're working just as hard to bail out the insurance companies with the mandate!

    So, it's really not fair to say that the administration hasn't gotten things done. You just have to ask who they got them done for.....


    You know, all the triangulation (5.00 / 6) (#15)
    by Anne on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 11:15:13 AM EST
    and 11-dimensional chess in the world will not produce the desired effect of affordable and available health care if the substance of the legislation and policy itself isn't designed to reach that goal.  

    What Clinton did worked because he identified the goal, legislation was written to reach that goal, and whatever triangulation and chess-playing went on in between was designed to make sure the goal was reached.

    When the message from Obama transitioned from "everyone should have access to affordable health care" to "everyone should have affordable health insurance," the effort to reform the health system went off the rails, because it was all about insurance and not about health, and not about the people.

    That's about all they talk about now: insurance.  They blather on about fining people for not having insurance who can't afford the insurance to begin with, wouldn't be able to afford the co-pays and deductibles that would come with insurance if they had it, and can't afford the care they need regardless.  This is not the answer.

    Now we're coming down to an artificially-determined wire, that just like so many of the last-minute efforts of Congress that have given us truly execrable legislation, is pretty much guaranteed to do nothing to improve the system, or the lives and health of so many Americans who need help, or the economic health of anyone other than the insurance industry and the lobbyists who do their bidding.  

    It's just mind-boggling to think that all this effort seems now to be driven by Obama's desire to claim that he has achieved something no other president before him could; when people realize that the benefits of his achievement will accrue to insurance companies, not individuals, I do believe there will be a steep political price to pay.

    And I think that price is coming in 2010 for Congress and 2012 for Obama.

    Context (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by ricosuave on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 11:23:43 AM EST
    I don't disagree with a word of what BTD says here, but I think it is important to note the context in which these tax increases happened.  These tax hikes were not just some long-lived dream of tax-loving democrats, but were reversals of horrifically expensive and damaging tax cuts on the wealthy put in place by the Reagan administration (and, for those looking to hold grudges, written and passed into law by a Democratically-controlled House of Representatives).

    I guess I draw two lessons:

    1. Clinton had excellent fiscal success with a rollback of excessive GOP policies that were already in place from the last administration.  That could have been done this year as well, and probably would have been hailed as a success as the economy recovered (whether it was responsible for the recovery or not).
    2. Democratic congresses rolled over for both Reagan and Little Bush to enact horrible policy.  Clinton was able to round up enough support from Democrats (in a Democratically controlled congress) to pass at this controversial stuff (and don't pretend that they somehow didn't know it was controversial at the time and were later surprised at the ballot boxes).  Democrats in Congress CAN be led by a president who is willing to lead them.

    BaucusCare is horrible. (5.00 / 1) (#47)
    by AX10 on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 11:57:09 PM EST
    Forcing people to by private insurance without
    cost controls spells the only way the GOP could retake congress next year.

    Oh rilly?? (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by DancingOpossum on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 09:36:08 AM EST
    it appears that the economy has started to turn and at the worst has been halted from the complete devestation

    Appears to whom? The double-digit unemployed people? The record numbers of bankruptcy filings and foreclosures? Those awaiting the coming crash in commercial RE?

    Or is it your view that because Goldman Sachs is handing out bonuses, the economy is all good. That certainly seems to be Obama's.

    Unfortunately, (none / 0) (#3)
    by kenosharick on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 10:07:09 AM EST
    Democrats in vulnerable districts are looking at this as well. This legislation, which I agree led to an economic boom, was used against Dems in 1994 (along with gimmicks like contract with America) and many lost their seats. These Dems are more concerned with their own butts than with doing the right thing.

    Those Dems lost already (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 10:15:35 AM EST
    The South was GOP and the 1994 election made it official.

    People read too much into what happened in 1994 as being a result of the 1993 initiative.

    Hell, there is a whole school that says it was the failure to pass health care  that did it.



    Chris Bowers (none / 0) (#11)
    by Steve M on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 10:51:26 AM EST
    wrote piece after piece about how the "Republican Revolution" was about the South and nothing more.  Here is the most telling graph I've seen in quite some time.

    Not shocking (none / 0) (#12)
    by andgarden on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 10:53:09 AM EST
    for anyone who's been following the crosstabs. White southerners are different. . .

    However, the coming mini Republican (none / 0) (#13)
    by tigercourse on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 11:07:46 AM EST
    revolution of 2010, where they stand to gain a number of Senate and Governor positions, seems likely to occur in mostly non Southern states, like Nevada, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Colorado, possibly Illinois and Conneticut.

    Hmm (none / 0) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 11:23:10 AM EST
    Nevada I know is Reid, and I am skeptical that he loses. You have to have someone to beat the other guy. The GOP does not have anyone.

    Iowa, not sure who you are talking about there. Boswell?

    Michigan? Stupak?

    New Hampshire? Shea Porter? Hodes' seat?

    Oklahoma? Boren?

    Colorado. Bennett? We'll see.

    Possibly who in Illinois?

    Dodd's problems are self inflicted. And I think he is going to win anyway.  


    In Iowa I meant Culver who is (going by (none / 0) (#20)
    by tigercourse on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 11:45:07 AM EST
    Rasmussen) trailing a former republican Governor by 20 points, and some no name by 4. In New Hampshire Ayotte leads Hodes by a 8 in the last Rasmussen poll. In Oklahoma, the Republican had a 10 point lead in the last Governor poll I saw. The wikipedia page on Michigan shows every Republican beating the Democrat in every poll (though there aren't any recent ones). I was thinking of Ritter in Colorado but Bennett is also weak. I'd still put my money on Dodd, but the polls have remained bad for him. The last Rasmussen Illinois poll had Kirk up 3 on the Dem.
    Research 2000 has Reid losing to no names

    Ras is not to be cited (none / 0) (#22)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 11:54:03 AM EST

    Wisconsin gubernatorial race (none / 0) (#18)
    by Cream City on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 11:32:27 AM EST
    could get interesting, too.  Dissatisfaction with the current Dem gov caused him to decide not to run again.  Unclear who will be the Dems' candidate, but they seem in less disarray than the Repubs.  However, in the state where the Repubs started, they -- and their big corporate money -- never can be discounted, and especially when the Dems have to count on only two cities, and the main one, Milwaukee, is in severe economic straits (not that the other major Dem city, Madison, is going to escape economic problems with the pay cuts aka furloughs for state employees, most of whom are there).

    In the state that was the closest in 2004, it will be interesting to see whether the Dem win  win in 2008 was only an aberration.  Btw, at least one Dem House seat in upstate Wisconsin also could be close or even lost in 2010.


    I was talking about Dems (none / 0) (#45)
    by kenosharick on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 05:27:01 PM EST
    in seats that will be really close next year- there are plenty of those. And sorry to disagree, but the Dems got wiped out in '94 due to republican demagoguery about Dems "raising taxes."

    The Dems are still ahead on the generic ballot (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by andgarden on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 10:22:02 AM EST
    I believe they will win in 2010 if they can point to a significant achievement.

    If they pass the Baucus tax (none / 0) (#9)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 10:23:53 AM EST
    it will be a significant achievement!



    Not quite the whole story (none / 0) (#28)
    by jbindc on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 01:12:49 PM EST
    According to 538:

    Under the heading, "Republicans not in a position to retake the House (yet)," Chris Bowers estimates that the Democrats have a 41.2%-37.7% lead in recent generic House polling. Bowers writes, "Democrats are, after all, still winning."

    But it's not so simple. In research published a couple years ago, Joe Bafumi, Bob Erikson, and Chris Wlezien found that, yes, generic party ballots are highly predictive of House voting--especially in the month or two before the election-but that early polling can be improved by adjusting for political conditions. In particular, the out-party consistently outperforms the generic polls


    The current state of the generic polls gives the Democrats .412/(.412+.377) = 52% of the two-party vote. Going to the graph, we see, first, that 52% for the Democrats is near historic lows (comparable to 1946, 1994, and 1998) and that the expected Democratic vote--given that their party holds the White House--is around -3%, or a 53-47 popular vote win for the Republicans.

    Would 53% of the popular vote be enough for the Republicans to win a House majority? A quick look, based on my analysis with John Kastellec and Jamie Chandler of seats and votes in Congress, suggests yes.

    I am totally uninterested in anything (none / 0) (#30)
    by andgarden on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 01:14:03 PM EST
    Nate Silver has to say.

    Fair enough (none / 0) (#32)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 01:41:20 PM EST
    He does have a pretty good track record though.

    He just had his latest embarrassment (none / 0) (#35)
    by andgarden on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 01:46:04 PM EST
    last week when his public option support projections were shown to be useless.

    Then (none / 0) (#33)
    by jbindc on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 01:41:40 PM EST
    which polls are you looking at?

    F&M (none / 0) (#34)
    by andgarden on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 01:45:27 PM EST
    Hmmm (none / 0) (#38)
    by jbindc on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 02:16:34 PM EST
    That particular poll is heavily weighted towards Democrats.  And the Independent number is pretty large - that should give some pause, as every poll I've seen shows the Democrats (especially Obama) losing Independents.

    F&M routinely leans Republican (none / 0) (#39)
    by andgarden on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 02:18:13 PM EST
    In any case, other recent polling has shown indys leaning D again.

    But the situation now doesn't matter so much. In six months we should have a much better idea of the score.


    The irony though is that the model they (none / 0) (#5)
    by inclusiveheart on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 10:13:40 AM EST
    seem to most gravitate towards in healthcare with mandates t pay private insurers along with "penalties" for non-participation, is the model that will most likely produce the results similar to the revolt in 1994.

    Had they put single payer on the table and delivered that to the people - it would have been perceived as a "give" rather than a "take" as this exchange (limited to boot) and madate plan will be.


    Well (none / 0) (#14)
    by jbindc on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 11:10:00 AM EST
    Someone at Politico agrees with you:

    For all the talk about co-ops, Medicare Advantage and delivery system reform, the Senate Finance Committee markup on health care reform may really be about something else: the 2010 elections.

    Democrats and Republicans alike see the deliberations as an opportunity to score points for midterms -- either broad, global points that may help sway seniors, a critical voting bloc, or smaller points that could make a difference for some of the committee members up for reelection this cycle.

    Senior power! (none / 0) (#36)
    by oculus on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 01:58:13 PM EST
    I dont (none / 0) (#4)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 10:11:08 AM EST
    know about anybody else but if it's ALREADY this bad with Obama at the helm then what are the next three years going to look like? If the GOP takes over congress in 2010 then we can look forward to more Bush idiocy. It's already obvious the party made a huge mistake with nominating Obama but that's all water under the bridge now. He's the President but to what end? He's looking to go down close to Bush in history.

    Oh yeah totally (none / 0) (#23)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 12:54:27 PM EST
    Eight and a half months in, and in an landscape far more challenging than anything Clinton faced* its in no way your irrational bias against Obama that leads you to believe this.

    *Forgive me, I may be missing something but were in the middle of two wars and facing a total economic collapse when Clinton took office- because from what I remember and from what I can find online in Economic data- we were already climbing out of a minor recession, and only had a small contingent of troops in Somalia, but hey I'm sure I'm omitting some massive crisis.


    The (5.00 / 1) (#37)
    by Ga6thDem on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 02:15:54 PM EST
    landscape is not an excuse and I wish people like you would stop making excuses for him. The shape of the country and the challenges were known. You are basically conceding that he isn't up to the job. Obama's behavior is NOT new. This is who he is. He's concilitator who's afraid to take a stand on anything. This is the same behvavior he exhibited in the IL senate.

    The fact that Obama has not led on one issue and continually passed the buck off to congress for everything has nothing to do with the current landscape. It has everything to do with his lack of governing and leadership skills.


    Correct without question or condition. (5.00 / 1) (#48)
    by AX10 on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 11:58:56 PM EST

    Two wars? (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by lambert on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 04:06:02 PM EST
    Since Obama doubled down on Afghanistan, doesn't that count as his, now?

    Clinton had no Democratic support (none / 0) (#50)
    by hairspray on Fri Sep 25, 2009 at 08:38:57 PM EST
    after 1994 elections.  He probably didn't have much before then either. Obama has both houses. So there is a difference.  Also the national unemployment when Clinton took over was over 9% so the recession wasn't that minor. OTOH Clinton did not face the economic meltdown nor Iraq/Afghanistan which really tips the balance for Obama in terms of chaos facing a president.

    Correlation is not causation (none / 0) (#19)
    by abdiel on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 11:42:00 AM EST
    And the omnibus bill did not cause the economic expansion, twin booms in computer and internet technology did.  As did NAFTA, the rise of Chinese manufacturing, Wal-Mart, and stability in the dollar as Asia crumbled and the EU was birthed.

    Also, Clinton burned most of his political goodwill getting this legislation passed.  The Democratic Party hardly looks back at this bill as the good old days, when they ceded Congress to the GOP until they shot off both of their legs in 2006.

    Yeah, right (none / 0) (#21)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 11:52:55 AM EST
    for the economic boom of the 90s- you have to admit that the Internet revolution is one of those things that's:

    a) Non-repeatable- its a once a generation ( or less) shift in paradigms akin to Industrialization its a massive driver of economic growth but you can't really model an economy on it.

    b) at best only partially government driven (past the DARPA and early development stages- all pre-Clinton)

    As far as direct economic policy goes a lot of the non-tax policies instituted by Clinton (and pushed even further by Bush) led directly to the mess we're in today- particularly the deregualtion of the financial industry and the hands off approach by the Fed under Greenspan.  


    On the regulation issue (none / 0) (#26)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 01:06:21 PM EST
    I disagree. Indeed, if that is true, why no clamor for the reinstatement of Glass-Steagal?

    Er, could that be... (none / 0) (#42)
    by lambert on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 04:07:29 PM EST
    .... the banksters owning Versailles be one reason why there's no "clamor" to re-regulate?

    Probably (none / 0) (#43)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 04:20:05 PM EST
    But my point was different. It is why are all the anti-Clinton people who scream he caused the meltdown demanding it?

    For instance, where are you on this?


    Not sure what "this" is... (5.00 / 2) (#46)
    by lambert on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 07:41:16 PM EST
    If it's the Omnibus Reconciliation Act, I wasn't blogging in 1993 [rimshot, laughter]

    If it's the "Did Clinton cause the meltdown with Glass-Steagall?" No, obviously not. I mean, the point is so vacuous it's not even worth discussing. Even if Clinton (via Rubin) played a part, the collapse is overdetermined, a long time coming, and certainly not down to one person -- though it's clearly down to both parties. I think when, or if, the history of the era is written, the conservative ascendancy that coincided with the flattening of real income in the 1970s gives a clue to the real culprits: Cui bono, and all that.

    If it's "What's the policy?", I'd say that the Cassandras and hippies like Simon Johnson have the right of it: Break up the big banks. "Too big to fail is too big." Personally, I like Krugman's suggestion on boring banking; let the banks that normal people use for houses and cars and college be boring (my slogan is to make the banks into regulated public utilities). Let the rich f*cks gamble with their own money, not ours. That's probably not do-able without kicking the chess table over, though.


    Obama's letting (none / 0) (#24)
    by Socraticsilence on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 12:58:51 PM EST
    the Bush tax cuts expire which will restore the Clinton tax rates, and frankly has had more on his plate than Clinton faced when he entered office, we still don't know the impact of the stimulus bill but it appears that the economy has started to turn and at the worst has been halted from the complete devestation it was facing at the end of Bush's term, we've pulled out of the cities in Iraq, and whatever you think of Afghanistan Obama's kept his promises to reinforce there.  

    Not responsive to my point (5.00 / 2) (#44)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 04:21:24 PM EST
    Let me put it this way, FDR faced worse conditions than Obama.

    Bad conditions are an opportunity for transformational change, not an impediment.


    comparing records (none / 0) (#27)
    by Lynn Dee on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 01:10:33 PM EST
    A tie breaking vote from VP Gore in the Senate, you say?

    Sounds like you're talking about the Senate's "old" ordinary business rules, not the new rules where a GOP "standing filibuster" is simply accepted.

    Seems like that ought to be taken into account before we write off Obama or decide Hillary would automatically have been the better choice.

    The 1993 bill was passed under reconciliation (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by andgarden on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 01:13:10 PM EST
    Excuse FAIL.

    Reply (none / 0) (#31)
    by Lynn Dee on Thu Sep 24, 2009 at 01:21:55 PM EST
    Ah yes, I see that now. Or I at least gather that from the title of the act. Well, that's still possible here, although implementing a government program by way of reconciliation has potential problems that cutting taxes by way of reconciliation does not.

    Still, Harry Reid has said that if the Senate can't get 60 votes, they'll use reconciliation. (Of course, he's also backed away from that on occasion too.)