A good book can change your questions, even if you’re not entirely convinced by the author’s answers.
By Alan Bean
Only Bill Clinton can hold an audience through fifty minutes of uninterrupted wonkery. His speech at the Democratic Convention displayed rhetorical skill, a keen grasp of policy detail and a deep understanding of political reality that only comes with painful experience. They say convention speeches have little lasting impact. Clinton’s performance last night may qualify as the rare exception.
But I’ve got a problem.
Mr. Clinton’s triangulating legacy is a big part of the mess we face as a nation. The Man from Hope mastered the art of the deal. He met his opponents half way. He stole their best material. The new corporate aristocracy could live with a free trading Democrat like this.
Thanks largely to the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the speculative bubbles that followed in its wake, the middle class prospered on Clinton’s watch. But the poor and the vulnerable (the folks Friends of Justice, and God Almighty, cares about the most) have paid a dreadful price for Clinton’s political success.
In 1996, Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Act that ended welfare as we know it. The plan worked reasonably well where job markets were strong. But in many small towns and urban neighborhoods the move from welfare to work, wonderful in theory, didn’t translate to the street. Now that the job market for the poorest 20% has virtually disappeared, Mr. Clinton’s chickens are roosting everywhere. (more…)