Why Obamanomics Isn't Clintonomics

Obama wants to follow a very different economic path than the previous Democratic president did.

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Is Barack Obama really comparing his economic plan to Bill Clinton's? Take a look at this chunk from a recent Boston Globe story:

With the economy in crisis and Election Day in sight, Obama can't say enough about the Clinton epoch—the job growth, the budget surpluses, the broad prosperity—and often lauds the former president's economic stewardship as a model. "We need to do what we did in the 1990s and create millions of new jobs and not lose them," he told 6,000 people in Abington, outside Philadelphia, last week. "We need to do what we did in the 1990s and make sure people's incomes are going up and not down. We need to do what a guy named Bill Clinton did in the 1990s and put people first again."

Me: Obama's economic plan is quite similar to the "putting people first" agenda of Candidate Clinton in 1992: healthcare reform, a middle-class tax cut, increased spending on hard capital and human capital—infrastructure and education. But that is not the path President Clinton ultimately followed. Along with congressional Republicans, he focused on balancing the budget, knocking down trade barriers, even signing a capital gains tax cut. Now I have talked to Obama economic advisers and they are signaling no intention to scrap his investment and tax agenda in order to focus on the budget deficit, $700 billion Paulson Plan or not. Obama himself is still talking it up in the debates, that's for sure. In fact, one Obama adviser told me the economy would have been better in the 1990s had Clinton focused on his "investment' campaign agenda rather than the "bond market strategy" that was more pleasing to Alan Greenspan.