The Domestic Policies of the Clinton-Gore Administration (1993-2000): A Brief Summary
With Clinton Derangement Syndrome being all the rage in some parts of the internets, and with continued focus on the, um, "Bush-Clinton dynasty", I thought it would be useful to take an objective look - albeit at a high-level - at the domestic policy record of the Clinton-Gore administration in the time period of 1993-2000. Unfortunately, I don't have time to delve into the details here - so this post is just a quick review of the most significant (in my view) Bills, key initiatives, and the most important vetoes of President Clinton during those tumultuous years.
Typically, if you Google around, you will find terribly depressing stats about the Clinton-Gore administration - you know, stats that reveal their utter and sneering contempt for the working class, middle class and the poor, and their Dearth of IdeasTM in comparison to Sen. Obama's Party of IdeasTM - stats like the longest economic expansion in U.S. history, turning record deficits into record surpluses, significant reductions in the national debt, 22 million jobs created, longest period of real wage growth in decades, lowest unemployment in decades, lowest poverty rate since 1979, and so on. Frankly, I do find it odd that all of these egregious and unpleasant numbers only serve to remind some alleged "progressives" of how the Clinton administration was no different from the Bush dynasty; after all, the ugly and depression-era years of 1993-2000 happened to be sandwiched between two periods of unprecedented peace and prosperity (Bush Sr. and Bush Jr.).
Anyway, since all of those gains during the Clinton administration were either a complete fluke or due to the Bold LeadershipTM and Transformative VisionTM of George Bush Sr., Ronald Reagan and/or Sen. Obama's Party of IdeasTM, I'd like to focus my attention instead, on the key Bills, policies, initiatives and vetoes during the 1993-2000 period. This provides an additional window into what really happened in that era from a domestic policy perspective - and allows us to possibly see the connection between actions and results. I will not discuss basic aspects of the Clinton-Gore budget policy that aimed to preserve key programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. nor will I address the broader aspects of Clinton governance that turned government entities like FEMA into prized/respected agencies and the Veterans Administration into the best healthcare provider in America (as Paul Krugman has observed). I will not cover the Clinton-Gore efforts to modernize Government and require agencies to create websites and make necessary Government information available freely on the net - nor their broader technology and innovation agenda. I will not cover failed attempts to pass progressive legislation - like the universal healthcare bill. I will also not cover Presidential appointments like those of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer to the Supreme Court or the vast number of other progressive and accomplished appointees, especially women and minorities, to senior positions in Government or the Judiciary.
For simplicity I am going to group this summary into the following sections. The groupings are based on my
opinion categorizations and any omissions are not intentional - I just don't have an encyclopaedic memory, so I will ask for forgiveness in advance on any inadvertent omissions or errors (and will update* the post as needed). I've tried to piece this together mostly based on Google searches, along with a couple of references I cite in body of this post. (UPDATE: I am not including two important pieces of context in this post: One, what was the context for the Bill - e.g., the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (EDPA) was passed after the Oklahoma City Bombing, and Two, how much Democratic support did some of the bad bills have in Congress - e.g., EDPA passed 91-8-1 in the Senate).
A. Bills or Policy Positions With a Net Negative Impact
B. Bills or Policy Positions With a Net Positive Impact
C. Key Initiatives with a Net Positive Impact
D. Key Presidential Vetoes with a Net Positive Impact
A. Bills or Policy Positions With a Net Negative Impact (one of the sources)
1. Don't Ask, Don't Tell (1993)
2. NAFTA (1994) -- [NOTE: As I have pointed out before, the real negative effects of NAFTA did not really manifest themselves until we were in the Bush II era]
3. Some aspects of the Crime Bill (1994)
4. Telecom Act (1996)
5. Communications Decency Act (1996)*
6. Welfare Reform (1996) - replacement of AFDC with TANF [See this article for an example of a detailed review]
7. Defense of Marriage Act (1996)
8. Some aspects of the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (1996)*
9. Taxpayer Relief Act (1997)
10. Digital Millenium Copyright Act (1998)
B. Bills or Policy Positions With a Net Positive Impact (one of the sources)
1. Family and Medical Leave Act (1993)
2. National Voter Registration (Motor Voter) Act (1993) - this was the trigger for the fastest expansion of voter rolls in U.S. history and a major win for the voting rights movement
3. Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1993)
4. Expansion of Earned Income Tax Credit (1993) - perhaps the largest poverty reduction program in the U.S.
5. Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (1993) - this was the famous budget with tax increases on the wealthy and tax cuts for the middle class and small businesses, which the GOP railed against forever
6. Federal Direct Student Loan Program (1993) - this allowed the Government to loan money to students directly at lower rates and compete against private agencies
7. Creation of AmeriCorps (1993)
8. Assault Weapons Ban (1994)
9. Violence Against Women Act (1994) - the National Organization of Women called this the "greatest breakthrough in civil rights for women in nearly two decades"
10. California Desert Protection Act (1994)
11. Minimum Wage Increase Act (1996)
12. Megan's Law (1996)
13. Food Quality Protection Act (1996)
14. Enhancement to Safe Drinking Water Act (1996)
15. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) (1996)
16. State Children's Health Insurance Program - SCHIP (1997)
17. Child Tax Credit; HOPE Scholarship, Lifetime Learning Tax Credit (1997)
18. Head Start/Pell Grants Expansion (1997)
19. Adoption and Safe Families Act (1997)
20. Child Support Performance and Incentive Act (1998)
21. Workforce Investment Act (1998) - provides federal job training funds for dislocated workers, adults and youth
22. Work Incentives Improvement Act (1999) - this was "landmark legislation modernizes the employment services system for people with disabilities and makes it possible for millions of Americans with disabilities to no longer have to choose between taking a job and having health care"
23. Senior Citizens' Freedom to Work Act (2000) - allowed senior citizens to work part time without losing their social security benefits
24. Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (2000)
25. Re-authorization of Older Americans Act (2000) - with an important program added "The National Family Caregiver Support Program"
C. Key Initiatives with a Net Positive Impact (one of the sources)
1. Revocation of Gag Rule and Certain Restrictions on Abortion/Medical Funding (1993)
2. Childhood Immunization Initiative (1993)
3. Federal Child Support Enforcement (1995)
4. Prohibition of Federal Contracts with Businesses that Replace Legally Striking Workers with Permanent Workers (1995)
5. Youth-Smoking Reduction (1995)
6. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (1996)
7. Enhanced EPA Air Quality Regulations (1997)
8. Smoke-Free Federal Workplaces (1997)
9. FDA Regulations on Prescription Drug Testing for Children (1997)
10. Child Safety Lock Agreement with Handgun Manufacturers (1997)
11. Patient's Bill of Rights implemented in Federal Health Plans (Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, etc.) (1998)
12. Kyoto Global Warming Protocol Signed (1998)
13. Medical Privacy Protections (1999)
14. Creation of Giant Sequoia National Monument (2000)
15. Worker Health and Safety Rules to Prevent Repetitive Stress Injuries (2000)
D. Key Presidential Vetoes with a Net Positive Impact (source) - note the Orwellian names of some of the Bills passed by the Republican Congress (NOTE: In response to a question from one of the commenters,I could not find a veto that had an obvious net negative impact, but if you do find one let me know and I'll add it to the list)
1. Veto of Increase in Statutory Debt Limit (1995) ["busting the budget"]
2. Veto of Federal Budget (1995) [the budget had steep cuts in essential services and programs like Medicare, education, etc. and this led to the showdown with the Gingrich Congress controlled by Sen. Obama's Party of IdeasTM -- Clinton refused to blink and eventually won and delivered his famous speech where he said "The era of big government is over, but we can't go back to a time when our citizens were just left to fend for themselves."
3. Veto of Private Securities Litigation Reform Act (1995) [tort "deform"]
4. Veto of Welfare Reform Act (1996) - two original versions were vetoed before a final version was passed (see Section A)
5. Veto of Common Sense Product Liability Reform Act (1996) [tort "deform"]
6. Veto of Teamwork for Employees and Managers Act (1996) - [union-busting measure]
7. Veto of "Partial-Birth" Abortion Ban (1996, 1997) - [anti-choice measure]
8. Veto of School Voucher Bill/ Education Savings and School Excellence Act (1998) [weakening of public schools]
9. Veto of Tax Cut bills (1999, 2000) [irresponsible tax cuts]
10. Veto of Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act (1999) - pertained to Yucca Mountain, EPA powers, etc.
11. Veto of Estate Tax Elimination Act (2000)
12. Veto of Bankruptcy Reform Act (2000)
A quick review of the domestic policy legacy of the Clinton-Gore administration reveals that the administration indeed made some impressive gains in the 1990s - both from a progressive policy perspective as well as gains for the majority of the American people - despite the tremendous opposition it faced from a Republican Congress for most of its tenure. No doubt, Clinton had to compromise on a handful of bad-to-very-bad bills owing to a number of challenges - both of a personal and political nature - that he faced, particularly following the defeat of the Democratic party in the congressional elections in 1994, after the failure to enact universal healthcare. To any rational progressive, there can be no doubt that the Clinton administration of the 1990s is not even remotely comparable to the Bush regimes that preceded and succeeded it - nor was it the "forever-triangulating" caricature that it is routinely made out to be. As I have said before, no Democratic President was perfect and if we use one-sided measures to evaluate every President, FDR would seem worse than George Bush Jr.