WASHINGTON – Former President Bill Clinton on Monday dismissed Republican criticism of a debt-reduction proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy, and predicted President Barack Obama will see greater cooperation in the upcoming election year.
Republican leaders already are lining up against Obama's proposal to end Bush-era tax cuts and to increase taxes on the nation's wealthiest people. But Clinton told NBC's "Today" show the GOP rhetoric is nothing new and not a deal-breaker for Obama.
"The Republicans in Washington always say the same thing," arguing that any tax on any upper-income person is bad because it stifles job creation, Clinton said.
"It's an insult to those people," he said. "They don't mind being asked to pay their fair share."
The GOP opposition should diminish as the 2012 election approaches, just as it did in 1996, Clinton said. His clashes with Republicans in 1995 led to two government shutdowns, but in the 1996 election year he began experiencing greater cooperation, including passage of an increase in the minimum wage.
"We got things done in the election year," Clinton said.
Clinton also cautioned that increased bickering among ideologues is hurting the nation's reputation internationally because the arguments often aren't based on facts. He said "Democrats are not blameless," but he singled out conservatives who take "the anti-government extreme position" never to increase taxes.
"It scares people around the world," he said.
Clinton said the nation could be struggling for the next five years or more to emerge from its economic slump. But focusing on mortgage debt problems could help the recovery.
"I think the quickest thing we could do to move out of this would be to clear this mortgage debt more quickly," he said.
He called for providing relief to homeowners with mortgage debt greater than the house's worth, either by reducing the amount of debt, adding years to the payoff to reduce monthly payments or converting the loan to rent payments so people can remain in their homes.