Friday, April 18, 2008

Clinton prosperity recalled:
A mixed bag


And one more thing: let’s hope that once Mr. Obama is no longer running against someone named Clinton, he’ll stop denigrating the very good economic record of the only Democratic administration most Americans remember.

Paul Krugman,
New York Times,
April 18, 2008

I hate to say this, but Krugman is right -- the Clinton administration was the only time voters under about 50 may have experienced prosperity under a Democrat. And since most folks now have a visceral experience of a terrible economy under George W., that contrast is vital to Democratic prospects in November.

But as it happens, I don't remember the Clinton economy so fondly. The 1990s squeezed a lot of people even though times were good for many.

In my neighborhood, the dot.com boom meant gentrification -- displacement of long time, working class residents -- by newly affluent tech winners who unconsciously disrupted existing communities and patterns of life. It is hard now to remember how wildly heady that bubble was but here's one of my recollections: behind my house, a dot.com rented the bottom floor of a single room occupancy hotel populated by day laborers because this was the only venue it could find because office space had become so expensive. Goodbye day laborers...

Concurrently, the Bill Clinton administration capitulated to a vicious conservative demand that it trash the safety net for poor women and children. The so-called "welfare reform" forced millions of poor women into forced "work experience" labor that largely did not lead to real jobs. The law's work requirements forced poor women out of college where they were getting an education that might have enabled them to climb out of poverty.

And the "reform" cut funding for the research that might have shown what happened to women after they were forced off welfare. Conservatives -- and liberals -- crowed that welfare rolls declined. But what happened to these women and their kids? We don't know. Essentially, they were disappeared. I imagine they don't remember the Clinton years so fondly. Are they part of the Democratic voter target? It is not easy to get such folks out, but Obama may have a better chance at it than Clinton. It is not clear whether he deserves that support, but he has a good chance, by identity and history, to seek it.

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