The deficit? Clinton gets it but Obama doesn't, claims Mehdi Hasan

The Bubba comes out against austerity.

 

Here's Bill Clinton speaking at the Campus Progress conference in Washington, DC, yesterday:

In the current Budget debate, there is all this discussion about how much will come from spending cuts, how much will come from tax increases. Almost nobody's talking about one of the central points that everyone who's analysed this situation makes -- including the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles Commission -- which said you shouldn't do any of this until the economy is clearly recovering.

Because if you do things that dampen economic growth . . . And the UK's finding this out now. They adopted this big austerity budget. And there's a good chance that economic activity will go down so much that tax revenues will be reduced even more than spending is cut and their deficit will increase.

He gets it. He understands the point that John Maynard Keynes made eight decades ago:

The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity.

But here's Barack Obama -- who came to office with a pro-Keynes, pro-stimulus mindset and advisory team (Christina Romer, Larry Summers) -- speaking on Saturday 2 July, in his weekly radio address:

. . . We're working to reduce our nation's deficit. Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can't afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs.

I never thought I'd opt for Bill Clinton over Barack Obama (or "Barack Herbert Hoover Obama", as Paul Krugman puts it) but, on the deficit, the latter has become an austerian in recent months. Clinton, on the other hand, remains a Keynesian -- and it is Keynesian economics that can get us out of this mess.

[Hat-tip: Left Foot Forward and Andrew Sparrow]

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Hillary Clinton can take down the Donald Trump bogeyman - but she's up against the real thing

Donald Trump still has time to transform. 

Eight years later than hoped, Hillary Clinton finally ascended to the stage at the Democratic National Convention and accepted the nomination for President. 

Like her cheerleaders, the Obamas, she was strongest when addressing the invisible bogeyman - her rival for President, Donald Trump. 

Clinton looked the commander in chief when she dissed The Donald's claims to expertise on terrorism. 

Now Donald Trump says, and this is a quote, "I know more about ISIS than the generals do"

No, Donald, you don't.

He thinks that he knows more than our military because he claimed our armed forces are "a disaster."

Well, I've had the privilege to work closely with our troops and our veterans for many years.

Trump boasted that he alone could fix America. "Isn't he forgetting?" she asked:

Troops on the front lines. Police officers and fire fighters who run toward danger. Doctors and nurses who care for us. Teachers who change lives. Entrepreneurs who see possibilities in every problem.

Clinton's message was clear: I'm a team player. She praised supporters of her former rival for the nomination, Bernie Sanders, and concluded her takedown of Trump's ability as a fixer by declaring: "Americans don't say: 'I alone can fix it.' We say: 'We'll fix it together.'"

Being the opposite of Trump suits Clinton. As she acknowledged in her speech, she is not a natural public performer. But her cool, policy-packed speech served as a rebuke to Trump. She is most convincing when serious, and luckily that sets her apart from her rival. 

The Trump in the room with her at the convention was a boorish caricature, a man who describes women as pigs. "There is no other Donald Trump," she said. "This is it."

Clinton and her supporters are right to focus on personality. When it comes to the nuclear button, most fair-minded people on both left and right would prefer to give the decision to a rational, experienced character over one who enjoys a good explosion. 

But the fact is, outside of the convention arena, Trump still controls the narrative on Trump.

Trump has previously stated clearly his aim to "pivot" to the centre. He has declared that he can change "to anything I want to change to".  In his own speech, Trump forewent his usual diatribe for statistics about African-American children in poverty. He talked about embracing "crying mothers", "laid-off factory workers" and making sure "all of our kids are treated equally". His wife Melania opted for a speech so mainstream it was said to be borrowed from Michelle Obama. 

His personal attacks have also narrowed. Where once his Twitter feed was spattered with references to "lying Ted Cruz" and "little Marco Rubio", now the bile is focused on one person: "crooked Hillary Clinton". Just as Clinton defines herself against a caricature of him, so Trump is defining himself against one of her. 

Trump may not be able to maintain a more moderate image - at a press conference after his speech, he lashed out at his former rival, Ted Cruz. But if he can tone down his rhetoric until November, he will no longer be the bogeyman Clinton can shine so brilliantly against.