I opened the e-mail at my usual wake up time of 4:00 am. President Bill Clinton was playing with Tiger Woods at the Presidents’ Cup PGA tournament at the Harding Park Golf Course in San Francisco today. Would I have time for a chat about US economic policy afterwards?
That afternoon, in walked Bill, sunburned from his morning on the links, to chew the fat with some Bay Area business leaders. I can’t say who else was there, but I’ll give you a hint: I was the only one without a NYSE listing.
Bill says that the US needs a new job engine every five to seven years to continue growing. Reagan had the personal computer, he had the Internet, but since then there has been nothing. As a result, new job creation fell from 23 million during his administration to a net job loss of 1.5 million during the Bush years (click here for BLS stats ), causing real standards of living to fall for two thirds of all Americans.
The big challenge is how to bring back the economy without burning up the planet. $1 billion of new spending would create only 870 jobs in a conventional coal fired power plant, but 2,000 jobs for a solar plant, 3,300 for a wind facility, and 6,000 from improved building efficiencies. So creating a new job engine is a matter of political survival for Obama and the Democratic Party.
Bill believes that getting health care costs off the back of corporations is also essential for recovery. As things now stand, all of our net new economic growth is going to cover increased health care costs. And that only gets us an outcome that ranks 25th globally.
Clinton now devotes himself to his Clinton Global Initiative, on non-profit which coordinates inter-governmental cooperation in health care, education, and the environment, and has raised $57 billion for new development projects (click here for their website).
He was incredibly well informed, obviously still has access to confidential intelligence briefings, and rattled off statistics like an M60 machine gun. You really get the impression you are dealing with a Rhodes Scholar. I reminded him of the 1968 anti-war demonstration we both attended in London and he laughed. It’s great to see someone still warding hard, even when they can sit back on their laurels and coast if they choose.