Clinton Critique of Jobs, Debt Fight Offers Something for Everyone

Former President Bill Clinton listens to a panel discussion on climate change at the Clinton Global Initiative Sept. 20 in New York.

Former President Bill Clinton listens to a panel discussion on climate change at the Clinton Global Initiative Sept. 20 in New York.  (AP)

Both sides in the debate on job growth and deficit spending are claiming an ally in Bill Clinton, the multimillionaire former president who has declared his willingness to pay more in taxes, but said that it won't help get the economy moving.

Clinton, in interviews over the weekend, touted President Obama's $447 billion jobs package as a smart move. But speaking with Newsmax, he criticized the president's deficit-reduction plan, which calls for $1.5 trillion in tax hikes to be collected by raising the rates on people making $200,000 or more and adding an additional calculation for people making more than $1 million. 

"It's okay with me. I'll pay more. But it won't solve the problem," Clinton said, adding that the country shouldn't deal with increased taxes or spending cuts "until we get this economy off the ground." 

Clinton also said that Obama "knows perfectly well the Republicans aren't going to be for" a debt-reduction package that raises taxes. He said he would advise Obama and House Speaker John Boehner to "go work it out. Meanwhile, focus on putting America back to work now, because it just confused Americans." 

Following the interview, House Republican Leader Eric Cantor said he hopes Obama will "heed" Clinton's advice. 

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"President Clinton is right, now is not the time to raise taxes and we ought to be working together to produce results and get people working again," Cantor said in a statement. 

Cantor didn't mention the other part of the Clinton interview in which the ex-president said now is not the time to cut spending either. 

"If we cut government spending, which I would normally be inclined to do when the deficit's this big, with interest rates already near zero you can't get the benefits out of it," he said. 

Obama similarly highlighted Clinton's positive comments about the jobs package in claiming Clinton as a supporter. 

"I appreciate President Clinton's strong support of this plan over the weekend," Obama said in remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York City. "And the reason that that's important is because he knows a good jobs plan when he sees it. He created more jobs in his tenure than just about anybody." 

On Thursday, White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer tweeted a link to an opinion piece that highlighted Clinton's comments about not wanting spending cuts, not just Clinton's comments about not wanting tax increases.

The op-ed by Steve Benen, which appeared in Washington Monthly, says Obama and Clinton are not at odds because Obama also wants to delay tax increases until the economy improves. 

"Reporters who spend even a couple of minutes looking at the White House plan will see that the president wants to boost tax revenue to lower the deficit, but not until 2013. In the short term, Obama wants to cut taxes, not raise them," Benen argued. The Bush-era tax rates that Obama agreed to cap last year at 35 percent are set to expire at the end of 2012.