Rising-Tide Economics: A Q and A With Gene Sperling
Gene Sperling, author of “Rising-Tide Economics” in the most recent issue of Democracy, recently spoke to Ken Baer to answer questions about his piece. A transcript of Gene’s remarks is below. You can listen to a podcast of this Q and A here; and of course, remember to read Gene’s article.
Kenneth Baer: Hi, this Ken Baer with Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, and we are here with Gene Sperling, the author of “Rising-Tide Economics” in our fall issue. Thanks for joining us, Gene.
Gene Sperling: Thank you, Ken.
KB: Let me give you our first question from Jonathan Cora, a Democracy reader. He asks, “One of the things that interests me about your article is the way that you seem to distance yourself from Clintonomics. How do you think Rising-Tide Economics is different than Clintonomics?”
GS: I actually think that Clintonomics, in terms of President Clinton’s policies, was an embrace of Rising-Tide Economics. I think President Clinton very much captured this sense of promoting growth, innovation —a bridge to the future— but doing so with a progressive focus that I think helped contribute to the final six years of his presidency being the best six years over the last several decades, [in that] all five quintiles from the top 20 % to the bottom 20% saw significant income growth. What the piece does, however, is try to show how Clintonomics has to evolve with the new facts and realities we’re dealing with. So what the piece talks about is how you have this new decade, this new productivity decade, and then in the first half of it, which really was the last five, six years of President Clinton’s administration, the growth was widespread. While globalization and technology were causing some dislocation, all of the evidence was that they were raising the tide and lifting all boats. And so what it really is saying is that to keep the kind of Clintonomics as Rising-Tide Economics, you have to be willing, as you always have to do in public policy, to take into account changing circumstances. And when you see that the pressure from a more globalized labor force may at least for a period of time be contributing to corporate profits–putting downward pressure on wages and more stress on American families–it doesn’t mean that you close up shop and stop embracing globalization. But it does mean that you might seek to have a bit tougher standards for when you go forward on new trade and globalization openings and that you need a stronger social compact to deal with those issues.
So I again really felt that President Clinton very much embraced the Rising-Tide Economics perspective. This piece was less to kind of distance from that, but actually to show how I think it has to grow and how I think President Clinton himself would have taken the same principles: [he would have] still been for openness, still been for innovation, but [would] try to add those policy dimensions that were necessary to ensure that you’re still raising all boats in an economy over these last five, six years where you have seen a greater divide between growth and corporate profits and how the typical American family is doing.
KB: So taking the Bush administration policies out of it, has something fundamentally changed in the global economy since the Clinton administrative left office?
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