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September 21, 2010

Clinton on the Tea Party

clinton.jpg At an intimate policy discussion on the eve of the Clinton Global Initiative meetings in New York City, I asked former President Bill Clinton if he saw similarities between today's Tea Party movement and the supporters of Ross Perot during his presidency.

While Clinton noted both are middle class and right-of-center, the Perot movement was embodied by one man while the tea partiers are more diffuse and the movement has been hijacked by "ultra-right, corporate interests... whose real goal is to dismantle the government and empower the most ideological private economic forces."

Nonetheless, the anger they feel is very real. Clinton made the point that "big business has done well and people who caused the financial turmoil are already back in the saddle -- they're doing fine. And the government that gave them the TARP bailout -- you're doing fine; you've got a job, you can send your kid to college, you've got healthcare. The middle class squeeze is basically occurring to non-government private sector workers... They've been squeezed by both big business and government."

In short, Clinton said, "I'm sympathetic with these Tea Party folks. American public and private systems need to be modernized and changed so they're more accountable to people and they help the middle class more. I 100% agree with that. They're right."


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