Former President Bill Clinton said the biggest problem in the U.S. was not division between the political left and right, but rather the divide between “communitarians” seeking common solutions and what he called “separatists” who fear a government that is going to take things away from them.
Delivering the final keynote at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills on Wednesday, Clinton assured the gathering of international policymakers and financial executives that “it is a great mistake to write the epitaph of this country,” and the way forward, he said, was to focus less on ideology and more on practicality.
The former president said the key question policymakers and the media paid attention to during his political career were “What are you going to do?” and “How much are you going to spend on it?” But the most important question, he said, was the one few people asked: How do you propose to do it? “That’s the most important question for the 21st century,” Clinton said.
It’s also a question given short shrift in current policy debates surrounding the stalled euro zone and weak U.S. economies, where “the austerity prescription is pushed despite evidence it won’t work,” Clinton said.
“There is no private demand, interest rates are already functionally zero. In an economy like this, premature austerity means revenue will drop,” Clinton said, adding “you can only reduce public debt with growth, proper budget restraints and adequate growth. You can’t get blood out of a turnip.”