March 8, 2016

BUT IT ENRICHED WALL STREET FATCATS/DONORS: Note to Hillary: Clintonomics Was a Disaster for Most Americans: Under Bill Clinton, Wall Street created a ruinous bubble, while workers lost wages and power.

How could Clinton have undergone such a lightening-fast reversal? The answer is straightforward, and explained with candor by Robert Rubin, who had been co-chair of Goldman Sachs before becoming Clinton’s Treasury secretary. Even before the inauguration, Rubin explained to more populist members of the incoming administration that the rich “are running the economy and make the decisions about the economy.”

Wall Street certainly flourished under Clinton. By 1999, the average price of stocks had risen to 44 times these companies’ earnings. Historically, stock prices had averaged about 14 times more than earnings. Even during the 1920s bubble, stock prices rose only to 33 times earnings right before the 1929 crash.

A major driver here was Wall Street’s craze for Internet start-ups. In 1999, for example, AOL’s market value eclipsed that of Disney and Time Warner combined, and Priceline.com’s value was double that of United Airlines. The Clinton team created the environment that encouraged such absurd valuations. Throughout the bubble years, Clinton’s policy advisers, led by Rubin and his then protégé Larry Summers, maintained that regulating Wall Street was an outmoded relic from the 1930s. They used this argument to push through the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall financial regulatory system that had been operating since the New Deal. The Clinton team thus set the stage for the collapse of the Dot.com bubble and ensuing recession in March 2001, only two months after Clinton left office. They also created the conditions that enabled the even more severe bubble that produced the 2008 global financial crisis and Great Recession. . . . The unemployment rate did begin falling after Clinton took office in 1993, reaching a 31-year low of 4 percent in 2000. But this growth in job opportunities resulted primarily from a major expansion in household and business spending tied to the stock-market bubble. A run-up in both household and business indebtedness financed this spending boom. Unemployment started rising again soon after the bubble burst, and the debt-financed expansion collapsed in March 2001.

Yep. The fabulous Clinton economy was mostly a bubble. Plus:

What was Clinton’s overall record with respect to improving living standards for working people and the poor? During the eight full years of Clinton’s presidency, the average real wage for non-supervisory workers, at $13.60 an hour (in 2001 dollars), was 2 percent lower than the average under Reagan and Bush and nearly 10 percent less than under Jimmy Carter’s “years of malaise.” The average individual poverty rate under Clinton, at 13.2 percent of the population, was modestly better than the 14 percent rate under Reagan and Bush. But it was worse than the 11.9 percent figure that was maintained, on average, under Nixon and Ford, as well as Carter.

In sum, Bill Clinton’s presidency accomplished almost nothing to improve conditions for working people and the poor on a sustained basis. Gestures to the poor and working class were slight and back-handed, while wages for the majority remained below their level of a generation prior. Wealth at the top exploded with the Wall Street bubble. But the stratospheric rise in stock prices and the debt-financed consumption and investment booms produced a mortgaged legacy.

But here’s a hint: Electing Bernie Sanders won’t improve things.

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