Bill Clinton to U.S., Europe: quit bickering over spending

BEVERLY HILLS, California Thu May 3, 2012 12:33am EDT

1 of 2. Former United States president Bill Clinton speaks at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California May 2, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

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BEVERLY HILLS, California (Reuters) - U.S. and European politicians are squabbling over austerity measures to resolve deep-seated economic problems, but instead need to set aside entrenched views and take a longer-term approach to find real solutions, former President Bill Clinton told a financial conference.

In Europe, the key to battling its economic malaise is in taking the long view: promoting growth instead of a current plan to pare debt by cutting spending and raising taxes, Clinton told the Milken Institute Global Conference.

"The prescription of austerity continues to be pushed in the face of evidence that it won't work," said the president who held office before George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He called on leaders in both Europe and the United States to work on a strategy "of what would work in a five-year period, a 10-year period, instead of three or six months."

U.S. politicians similarly are hunkering down in ideological positions to either cut spending or tax high-wealth individuals, neither of which "has a chance of working without creating jobs."

"We're about to have a presidential race and 70 percent of what Americans will hear won't make a lick of sense as a strategy for what can actually be done to make a difference," he said.

Clinton, whose foundation works in foreign countries on health, environmental and other issues, compared the current U.S. political impasse to two meetings he attended in Brazil on whether to continue destroying the rain forest or promote alternative energy use.

"Not one person screamed at another, no one called each other names," he said. "They recognized that no one is perfect but that these were all highly intelligent individuals who had come together to solve a problem."

He chided what he called "separatists" in Washington who see government involvement in any program as "a secret plan by government to take away something from them."

"They've confused liberals and conservatives with communitarians and separatists," said Clinton, who said Silicon Valley is again creating new jobs because of what he called "creative networks of cooperation" dedicating to solving shared problems.

(Reporting By Ronald Grover; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Comments (3)
actnow wrote:
Yes Bill….the answer is easy isn’t it. Just spend away. Why worry about it? No consequences…right? At least Europe is beginning to deal with the issues, unlike our leaders.

May 02, 2012 11:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
RoaringFish wrote:
The US economy is growing. European economies are stuck in recession. From that, you conclude that austerity measures work better than stimulus….

You are funny!

May 03, 2012 3:38am EDT  --  Report as abuse
USAPragmatist wrote:
@actnow, thanks for being a perfect example of what Clinton was talking about. A reasonable man (perhaps one of the best presidents of modern history), makes a reasonable statement, and the first thing you come back with is the whole tea-party crazy line of ‘just spend away’. The problem is people like you that think compromise is a dirty word.

May 03, 2012 1:28pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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