NEW YORK– If she’s elected president, Hillary Clinton says she’ll appoint her husband, Bill, to oversee the economy.
During a speech in Kentucky Sunday she referred to “my husband, who I will put in charge of revitalizing the economy ’cause he knows what he’s doing.”
The U.S. economy boomed during President Clinton’s administration. His economic record is an effective selling point, especially as U.S. growth remains sluggish, and most voters worried about the economy.
During Clinton’s eight years as president, the U.S. economy added more than 22 million jobs. That’s slightly more jobs than were added during the combined 22-year tenure of the four most recent Republican presidents.
In the spring of 2000, Clinton’s final year in office, a greater percentage of Americans had jobs than any time since records started being kept soon after World War II.
Giving Clinton’s policies full credit for boosting the economy isn’t entirely fair. The rapid growth of the Internet during his eight years in office greatly increased business productivity and profits and helped to fuel the hiring boom. There was also a bubble in Internet stocks, which poured money into the tech sector and helped to spur hiring.
But government policies did help as well. The federal government actually ran surpluses rather than deficits during Clinton’s final three years in office, and that reduced the need for government borrowing and helped to keep interest rates relatively low.
But there are critics on both the right and the left who argued that Clinton’s policies laid the groundwork for the economic problems that were to follow.
Many regulations were eliminated during Clinton’s administration that had previously prevented commercial banks from moving into investment banking and insurance, which had been the turf of Wall Street firms. Some critics have blamed the loss of those protections with the financial market’s meltdown and the need to bailout banks that occurred in 2008.
The North American Free Trade Agreement, which lowered trade barriers with Mexico and Canada, was signed into law early in the Clinton administration. China and the U.S. also signed a trade accord in 1999 which led to China joining the World Trade Organization. Those moves led to dramatic increases in imports from Mexico and China, which critics have argued cost U.S. workers their jobs.
Advocates of those deals argued that the U.S. economy was bound to lose many of those jobs to lower wage countries even without the deals and that the deals helped to support good paying jobs that depended on exports.
By Chris Isidore
CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report.