At the 1992 Democratic National Convention, Bill Clinton adopted Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop (Thinkin’ About Tomorrow)” as his unofficial theme song. Its bouncy, optimistic strains would be reflected in Clinton’s line, four years later, that “We do not need to build a bridge to the past, we need to build a bridge to the future.”
We know now that President Clinton’s “bridge to the future” turned out to be more like Sarah Palin’s “bridge to nowhere.” From the approval of NAFTA in the first year of his administration to the repeal of the Glass-Steagall restrictions on banks in the final year, President Clinton set the stage for the destruction of American manufacturing and for the financial crisis that has effectively ended a century of American economic dominance.
Clinton had a little help from his friends, including Ronald Reagan, who first appointed Alan Greenspan as chairman of the Federal Reserve, replacing the strict monetarist Paul Volcker. Volcker had administered the necessary medicine to bring to an end the “stagflation” of the 1970’s, but he was at best an agnostic when it came to deregulation, and the free-market ideologues in the Reagan administration saw deregulation as a key to future economic growth.
Measured purely in terms of Gross Domestic Product, they were right; but deregulation, outsourcing,...