Sept. 18, 2005 — -- Former President Clinton slammed President Bush's fiscal and tax policies in an interview broadcast today on ABC News' "This Week."
It was Clinton's first televised interview with George Stephanopoulos, now host of ABC News' "This Week," since Stephanopoulos worked in the Clinton White House.
"Tax cuts are always popular," Clinton said. "But about half of these tax cuts since 2001 have gone to people in my income group, the top 1 percent. I've gotten four tax cuts.
"Now, what Americans need to understand is that that means every single day of the year, our government goes into the market and borrows money from other countries to finance Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina and our tax cuts," Clinton added. "We depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Korea primarily to basically loan us money every day of the year to cover my tax cut and these conflicts and Katrina. I don't think it makes any sense. I think it's wrong."
Clinton also discussed bringing world leaders together to combat the world's chronic problems -- including extreme poverty, global warming and religious conflicts -- as well as the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort and Hillary Clinton's political future.
The interview follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. President, good to see you again.
FORMER PRESIDENT CLINTON: Thank you, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We're here on your initiative, and I want to talk about that, but let's begin with Katrina. President Bush has brought you into the recovery effort, but he's not taking all of your advice. You say roll back the tax cuts for the wealthy. He says no tax increase of any kind. We're spending $5 billion a month in Iraq, probably $200 billion on Katrina. Something's got to give.
CLINTON: Well, that's what I think. I think this idea -- I think it's very important that Americans understand, you know, tax cuts are always popular, but about half of these tax cuts since 2001 have gone to people in my income group, the top 1 percent. I've gotten four tax cuts.
They're responsible for this big structural deficit, and they're not going away, the deficits aren't. Now, what Americans need to understand is that that means every single day of the year, our government goes into the market and borrows money from other countries to finance Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina and our tax cuts. We have never done this before. Never in the history of our republic have we ever financed a conflict, military conflict, by borrowing money from somewhere else.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The president is not going to move. What do Democrats do?
CLINTON: They should continue to oppose it, and they should make it an issue in the 2006 election, and they should make it an issue in the 2008 election. And they should hope, to goodness, for the sake of our country, that the cows don't come home before we have time to rectify it.
I mean, sooner or later, just think what would happen if the Chinese -- We're pressing the Chinese now, a country not nearly rich as America per capita, to keep loaning us money with low interest to cover my tax cut, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Katrina and at the same time to raise the value of their currency so their imports into our country will become more expensive, and our exports to them will become less expensive. And by the way, we don't want to let them buy any oil companies or anything like that.
So what if they just got tired of buying our debt? What if the Japanese got tired of doing it? Japan's economy is beginning to grow again. Suppose they decided they wanted to keep some of their money at home and invest it in Japan, because they're starting to grow?
We depend on Japan, China, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Korea primarily to basically loan us money every day of the year to cover my tax cut and these conflicts and Katrina. I don't think it makes any sense. I think it's wrong.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is there anything coming out of this initiative here that you can apply directly to Katrina and the poverty we saw revealed there?
CLINTON: Oh, yes, we have raised quite a bit of money for Katrina here. And former President Bush and I, you know, we were asked to raise money. We already have $90 million to $100 million. And what we're trying to do is make sure that our money goes directly to the poorest people who have been dislodged by working with church groups and others. We're working on some mechanisms now to do that, and we'll have some announcements in the next week or so.
But I think there will be a lot of money coming forward from the federal government. A lot of it will be necessary, you know, to build the infrastructure, rebuild the fabric of life and not simply in New Orleans but along the Gulf Coast.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The Gulf Coast.
CLINTON: Yes; you know, keep in mind, Mississippi was devastated. Everything from a mile in Mississippi was blown down, and Alabama, but we've got to do that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Excuse me; the problems of race that were tied to poverty here, and I know you don't think there's any conscious racism at play in the response, but we saw one more time blacks and whites looked at this event through very different eyes. What can President Bush do about that, and looking back, do you think there was anything more you could have done as president?
CLINTON: Well, I think we did a good job of disaster management.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the racial divide.
CLINTON: Well, I think we did a good job of that. For example, we had the lowest African-American unemployment, the lowest African-American poverty rate ever recorded. We had the highest homeownership, highest business ownership, and we moved 100 times as many people out of poverty in eight years as had been moved out in the previous 12 years.
This is a matter of public policy, and whether it's race-based or not, if you give your tax cuts to the rich and hope everything works out all right, and poverty goes up, and it disproportionately affects black and brown people, that's a consequence of the action made. That's what they did in the '80s; that's what they've done in this decade.