by Alexander Cockburn
delivers homilies to journalism students in Colombia University, scarcely more than a stone's throw away from where his erstwhile boss is now proposing to establish an office in Harlem, N.Y., on 125th Street. Each has found his appropriate setting: the defeated veep pouring earnest banalities about journalism and politics into the eager ears of ambitious high-fliers already sending their resumes and worthy clips to the New York Times; Clinton, the moral reprobate, fleeing a blizzard of criticism for auctioning a pardon to a billionaire crook by setting up shop among the poorer folk.
Sneering at Bill, the press corps has nothing much to be proud of. How come not a single one of those high-flying, White House-connected newshounds managed to get hold of the sensational fact, finally disclosed a couple of weeks ago, that Bill Clinton and Al Gore hadn't had a significant conversational encounter in a full year? They finally had a melt-down gripe session not long before the recent election. As always, it turns out we know nothing about what really goes on in the White House. George W. could be tossing back dry martinis, partying till dawn, and four years down the road we'll still be reading that he and Laura say their prayers and are tucked in by 10:30 PM.
We can look forward to months, if not years of civil war between the Clinton and Gore factions. Late last week, a very senior pollster in Clinton's inner circle spotted a journalistic acquaintance in a Georgetown supermarket and pinned him against his shopping cart with a vibrant diatribe against Gore.
How, the pollster hissed, can we explain that Gore was unable to run on the Clinton economy, unable to mention millions of jobs created through the Clinton '90s? She answered her own question. Because to do so would have meant mentioning Clinton's name, and Gore couldn't bring himself to do that.
Why not? The answer, the pollster said, went far back before the Lewinsky affair that so troubled Al and Tipper. It seems that Al has always felt that it was he who actually won the 1992 election, bailing Bill out of all his problems over draft dodging and Gennifer Flowers. Through Clinton's two terms, Al's conviction that he rather than Bill should, by rights, be sitting in the Oval Office throbbed painfully in his psyche. Result: He never spoke to the boss and couldn't bear to ask him to help in those last desperate campaign days.
Even as Bill and Al joust across the great moral divide we find the Democrats rediscovering a social conscience. As the prospect of a Bush tax cut looks more and more as though it will come to pass, the air is filled with righteous passion about how the Republicans are about to steal dollars from the little people. Democratic pundit Mark Shields howls that under Bush the super rich are stealing from the rich, and the class war is over; the super rich won.
It's true. The rich are winning. But don't forget. They won all through Clintontime, too. Last spring, Robert Pollin, an economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, published an "Anatomy of Clintonomics," concluding his survey thus: "The core of Clinton's economic program has been global economic integration, with minimum interventions to promote equity in labor markets or stability in financial markets. Gestures to the least well-off have been slight and backhanded, while wages for the majority have either stagnated or declined. Wealth at the top, meanwhile, has exploded."
Clinton did very little to advance the interests of working people or organized labor. Take the two-step rise in the minimum wage. The overall rise from $4.25 to the current $5.15, set in September 1997, hardly offset the plunge in the real value of the minimum wage. That $5.15 is 30 percent below its real value in 1968, even though the economy has become 50 percent more productive across that 30 years.
The combination of a low minimum wage and a widening of the earned income tax credit, Pollin went on, "have allowed businesses to offer rock-bottom wages, while shifting onto tax payers the cost of alleviating the poverty of even those holding full-time jobs."
And now the economy is contracting rapidly, and soon we'll be finding out what the rending of the social safety nets in Clinton time will mean in harder times ahead. Now that he proposes to work north of Central Park, Bill Clinton won't have to stroll very far to find out.
February 19, 2001 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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