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Two Huge Flaws in the Legend of the Clinton Economy
Heritage Foundation ^ | September 7, 2012 | J.D. Foster, Ph.D

Posted on 09/08/2012 11:39:41 AM PDT by Son House

Two inescapable flaws mar the Clinton economic legend. One is conveniently papered over; the other conveniently forgotten. Even so, a flawed legend is better than the economic reality President Obama’s policies have produced, so it is no surprise the sitting President has outsourced his economic messaging to the former President.

The first flaw, described here and here, is that President Clinton raised taxes and the economy boomed. The flaw in the narrative is it ignores the passage of time—four years, to be exact. The timeline matters. Clinton raised taxes in 1993 just as the economy was set to take off from a recession, and instead job and wage growth sputtered for four years. The famous Clinton era boom started four years after the tax hike, in 1997, and was triggered at least in part by the Republican tax cut of that year. Four years may seem like a detail, but details like this matter.

The second flaw marring the Clinton economic story is recession. President Clinton did not leave his successor a booming economy. He left President George W. Bush a recession. The recession began in March of 2001, two months after Clinton left office. Even the most rabid leftist cannot blame George Bush for the 2001 recession. It was the Clinton recession.

So Bill Clinton came into office and raised taxes on an accelerating economy, and produced a lethargic economy. Republicans pushed through a tax cut in 1997 and thereby launched the famous Clinton boom. Then Clinton left his successor with a nasty recession. And from this is fashioned a legend of economic performance. Damage done on both ends and a prosperity at least shared by Republicans—and yet the legend lives on.

As long as the legend endures, President Obama sensibly would want to set aside past differences and wrap himself in the Clinton flag. Obama’s alternative is to defend his own record, which he simply cannot do, even giving himself a grade of “incomplete” while his wife pleads for “more time.”

Incomplete after four years? More time to press the case for higher spending, higher taxes, and more regulation, all of which have served only to restrain the most prosperity-oriented economy in the world?

President Obama can be given credit for trying to apply his economic philosophy with fervor and conviction. His has been an all-in presidency from the start. He tried his best, but his approach failed anyway, as was inevitable; a fact reinforced yet again with today’s jobs report showing an unemployment rate of 8.1 percent and 12.5 million Americans out of work.

These statistics don’t tell the whole story, however. The workforce itself shrunk dramatically since Obama took office, as many Americans have given up looking for jobs that are nowhere to be found. The failure was not for lack of thought, or of effort. The failure was assured at the start as a failure of conception. Continuing to follow a bad design can only produce more bad outcomes. In the meantime, with neither a record from the past or a program for the future to tout, outsourcing his economic message to Clinton is about all Obama has left.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: clinton; economy; flaws; legend
How long was it going to take for the media to clarify the 4 year sputter during the Clinton Presidency?

They want to wait till after the election, and when the economy fails, as should be expected, then tell the voters how stupid they were for supporting this.

Clinton raised taxes in 1993 just as the economy was set to take off from a recession, and instead job and wage growth sputtered for four years. The famous Clinton era boom started four years after the tax hike, in 1997, and was triggered at least in part by the Republican tax cut of that year.

1 posted on 09/08/2012 11:39:57 AM PDT by Son House
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To: Son House

Bookmark


2 posted on 09/08/2012 11:46:43 AM PDT by publius911 (Formerly Publius 6961, formerly jennsdad)
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To: Son House

The Great National Amnesia: Clinton had a Republican Congress and he is taking credit for its successes, GW Bush had a Democrat Congress in his last 2 years and is still being blamed for its failures.


3 posted on 09/08/2012 11:47:55 AM PDT by SERKIT ("Blazing Saddles" explains it all.......)
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To: Son House

The tech bubble (which later went bust) generated a lot of money in the 90’s. Bubba had nothing to do with this, but the spinmasters and the MSM give him the credit.


4 posted on 09/08/2012 11:48:11 AM PDT by umgud (No Rats, No Rino's)
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To: Son House; All
THE DOWNSIDE LEGACY ARCHIVES


5 posted on 09/08/2012 11:48:26 AM PDT by ATOMIC_PUNK (Any man may make a mistake ; none but a fool will persist in it . { Latin proverb })
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To: Son House

Didn’t Slick Willie “inherit” his economy from Reagan and Bush 1?


6 posted on 09/08/2012 11:52:12 AM PDT by FlingWingFlyer (On 5 September 2012 A.D., the communist Democrats tried to kill God and failed.)
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To: Son House
It's about time someone figured out that we'd have to defend ourselves against the memory of "Clinton's economy".

Since the author mentioned the tech boom, I'll just add that Clinton didn't have to budget for the Cold War, and punted the WOT (and its cost) to the next President.

7 posted on 09/08/2012 11:55:36 AM PDT by TwelveOfTwenty (Ho, ho, hey, hey, I'm BUYcotting Chick-Fil-A)
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To: Son House

What caused the recession of 2001 when Clinton left office?


8 posted on 09/08/2012 11:56:55 AM PDT by zwerni (this isn't gonna be good for business)
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To: FlingWingFlyer
Didn’t Slick Willie “inherit” his economy from Reagan and Bush 1?

Yes, and also the end of the Cold War.

9 posted on 09/08/2012 12:00:32 PM PDT by TwelveOfTwenty (Ho, ho, hey, hey, I'm BUYcotting Chick-Fil-A)
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To: TwelveOfTwenty

Great point! I forgot about the Cold War. Thank you President Reagan.


10 posted on 09/08/2012 12:01:41 PM PDT by FlingWingFlyer (On 5 September 2012 A.D., the communist Democrats tried to kill God and failed.)
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To: Son House

While I don’t dispute the article, I question why the “internet revolution” is never mentioned as part of the reason Clinton’s economy boomed. Companies were able to achieve economies of scale because the internet allowed the reduction of labor with the substitution of capital. New businesses flourished to support the internet, or take advantage of it, and the impact was huge.


11 posted on 09/08/2012 12:03:45 PM PDT by khenrich (These days, people pine for Jimmy Carter........)
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To: FlingWingFlyer

Everyone can give this boost in an economy a different spin. I attribute the upswing to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. They had everyone in the USA trying to get a fax modem that did 14,400 kps, and went from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. Digital cameras were coming out, and everyone wanted one, as well as the software programs being released. It did for the economy what the Henry Ford people did for the 1920’s. Everyone wanted a Model T, some went to school to become mechancis, and flat tire repairs opened up as well as banks to make a loan. I would factor in the computer age boom to the increase the Bill Clinton got, it was more from the private sector, and not him tweaking buttons in Washington D.C. he really isn’t that smart.


12 posted on 09/08/2012 12:18:12 PM PDT by rovenstinez
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To: khenrich

You are so right ON, I posted right after you did. Credit needs to be given where credit is due.


13 posted on 09/08/2012 12:19:52 PM PDT by rovenstinez
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To: zwerni
What caused the recession of 2001 when Clinton left office?


It was left over from the dot.com boom/bust...

14 posted on 09/08/2012 12:25:00 PM PDT by az_gila
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To: rovenstinez

I understand and agree with that completely. I still believe that the best thing government can do is get out of the way and let Americans be Americans. The government only messes up everything when they try to get involved in America’s business.


15 posted on 09/08/2012 12:26:40 PM PDT by FlingWingFlyer (On 5 September 2012 A.D., the communist Democrats tried to kill God and failed.)
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To: FlingWingFlyer

That’s the thing that Guides at the Alamo need to emphasize, that it wasn’t Anglo Protestant against Mestizo Catholic. It was freedom lovers against tyranny. Right..


16 posted on 09/08/2012 12:29:23 PM PDT by rovenstinez
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To: Son House

I would like to see a comparison of where the economy stood at the end of Bush’s first term as opposed Obama’s first (and hopefully last) term


17 posted on 09/08/2012 12:40:04 PM PDT by weston (As far as I'm concerned, it's Christ or nothing!)
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To: umgud

Actually, the Telecom Act had a lot to do with it.

Also known as “you built that, but you don’t own that, so we’re going to give a good chunk of that away to a bunch of Dem donor startups that a lot of Dem donor investment banks have a stake in.”


18 posted on 09/08/2012 12:49:07 PM PDT by sf4dubya (I rebelled against my parents by becoming a conservative. REJECT THEN STOP SOCIALISM THIS NOV!)
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To: khenrich
While I don’t dispute the article, I question why the “internet revolution” is never mentioned as part of the reason Clinton’s economy boomed.

Part of the problem is that our side wants to counter "Clinton's economy" with "Lewinski" and "is".

I saw a video a few years ago, where Clinton was giving a speech when a heckler started yelling "Lewinski", as if no one who supports Clinton knew about that. Clinton responded with his claim to being the last President to balance the budget in the last 40 years, and everyone cheered him. So much for screaming "Lewinski"

Nobody thinks Clinton was a great husband. Many credit him for the great economy during his years. We need to stop screaming "Lewinski" and "is" and start refuting "Clinton's economy".

IMHO.

19 posted on 09/08/2012 12:50:12 PM PDT by TwelveOfTwenty (Ho, ho, hey, hey, I'm BUYcotting Chick-Fil-A)
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To: weston

I’d like to see a comparison on how the economy fared under predominantly liberal vs. predominantly conservative fiscal policies, which often don’t correlate with the party of whoever is occupying the White House during those years.


20 posted on 09/08/2012 12:53:01 PM PDT by zencycler
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To: FlingWingFlyer
I still believe that the best thing government can do is get out of the way and let Americans be Americans. The government only messes up everything when they try to get involved in America’s business.

And the amazing thing is that the Physiocrats knew this around 250 years ago.

21 posted on 09/08/2012 1:12:02 PM PDT by mjp ((pro-{God, reality, reason, egoism, individualism, natural rights, limited government, capitalism}))
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To: zwerni
What caused the recession of 2001 when Clinton left office?

Primarily, the bursting of the dot com bubble that had made "his" economy look so good.

22 posted on 09/08/2012 1:13:05 PM PDT by Bob
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To: FlingWingFlyer
Didn’t Slick Willie “inherit” his economy from Reagan and Bush 1?

Sure, and the massive amounts of capital used to fund the boom came from high-income earners that didn't have to give that money away to the state.

When marginal rates were high, capital was more difficult to concentrate. Leftists like that, but it means investment is more difficult.

The internet boom occurred because there was money to invest in technology. Higher marginal rates would have siphoned away those dollars. Part of Reaganomics included lower marginal rates.

23 posted on 09/08/2012 1:21:17 PM PDT by conservative sympathizer
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To: khenrich; rovenstinez
Thanks for bringing up the hidden part of the Clinton spin. It's hidden because of the all-or-nothing emotionalism that comes with bubbles. When the Internet/tech bubble was roaring, the Internetization of retail and supply chains would purportedly eliminate scarcity and deliver us all to unicorn-and-rainbow land :) I had a ringside seat to the mania in '99, and I remember seeing claims that became more and more unbelievable as the bubble roared to its climax. The funny thing about that era was, the contrarian who saw "unbelievable" as a get-out signal would have been sitting on his hands for more than a year while the bubble kept roaring. The specifics now elude me, but I recall seeing several too-good-to-be-true bubble narratives as '99 turned into '00.

And...as human nature would have it, the emotionalism flipped on its head when the bubble came crashing down. The good that the tech industry acomplished was buried in the subsequent revulsion.

That flip-flop emotionalism is part of every bubble. Gold had a bad rep in the 1980s even though it went from $300/oz in '82 to more than $450/oz in '87. With the market crashes of '87 and '89 came the claim that the Reagan prosperity was all illusory. It never changes.

24 posted on 09/08/2012 1:32:48 PM PDT by danielmryan
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To: Son House
Bush's fault?
 
 
"We didn't truly know the dangers of the market, because it was a dark market," says Brooksley Born, the head of an obscure federal regulatory agency -- the Commodity Futures Trading Commission [CFTC] -- who not only warned of the potential for economic meltdown in the late 1990s, but also tried to convince the country's key economic powerbrokers to take actions that could have helped avert the crisis. "They were totally opposed to it," Born says. "That puzzled me. What was it that was in this market that had to be hidden?"
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/warning/view/
 
NOT.

25 posted on 09/08/2012 1:48:00 PM PDT by OldEarlGray (The POTUS is FUBAR until the White Hut is sanitized with American Tea)
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To: Son House

Actually, Clinton is chiefly responsble for the financial disaster of 2008. He was the dope who pushed Carter’s CRA after Reagan and Bush ignored it for twelve years. His justice department was the one that threatened banks and lending institutions with sanctions if they didn’t offer loans to unqualified people. Hence, the subprime mortgage programs and ensuing fiasco during the Bush admin.


26 posted on 09/08/2012 2:43:48 PM PDT by driftless2
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To: rovenstinez
Good points, but I'll take it one step further. The biggest factor in the dramatic growth of the late 1990s was the combination of the Clinton tax hikes of 1993 and the Republican tax cuts of 1995 and 1997. This is important to remember because the passage of time does matter -- and the sequence of these tax policy changes have implications. A key consideration here is that most of the later tax changes did not undo the earlier tax hikes.

In other words, most of the taxes the GOP cut in 1995 and 1997 (capital gains tax rates, in particular) were not the same taxes as the 1993-94 tax hikes (income tax rates, the taxation of Social Security benefits and the Federal motor fuels tax, for example). By the time 1997 rolled around the U.S. tax code was set up so that there was a large gap between income tax rates and capital gains tax rates -- especially for high-income earners.

This is what drove so much of the capital investment of the late 1990s. It also made some investments very attractive even though they were highly speculative in nature (dot-com stocks that were selling at exorbitant prices even though the companies didn't make any money, for example!). Once the dot-com bubble burst, real estate became the next speculative investment of choice.

Mind you ... this was not necessarily good for the U.S. economy in the long run, as we've seen in the last few years.

27 posted on 09/08/2012 3:01:56 PM PDT by Alberta's Child ("If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested.")
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To: Son House
So Bill Clinton came into office and raised taxes on an accelerating economy, and produced a lethargic economy.

The author is correct that the economy sputtered during Clinton's first term. He is also correct to remind us of the 1997 capital gains tax cut.

But he is wrong to say that Clinton [whom, by the way, I despise] caused the "Clinton" recession. That was the result of the inevitable crash following Alan Greenspan's money-printing spree that led to the so-called Dot-com boom.

The Fed causes crashes, not presidents.

The Fed caused the 2008 crash (aided and abetted, of course, by Democrat housing policies.) Now, Obama couldn't create a recession, but he has been very successful at keeping one going.

A president can spur or depress the economy by his policies; but it's unfair and inaccurate to claim he can make an economy crash all by himself.

28 posted on 09/08/2012 3:12:07 PM PDT by BfloGuy (Without economic freedom, no other form of freedom can have material meaning.)
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To: danielmryan
I know he's gotten some well-deserved criticism as a financial guy, but radio host Bob Brinker had it pegged as far back as 1997-98. He was not prone to demean his callers, but I'll never forget one segment of his show where he warned about the speculative nature of dot-com stocks and advised his listeners to pay close attention to the P/E ratios of these prominent companies whose stock prices had run up through the roof. This caller got on the air and went into an emotional diatribe in which he was very dismissive of Brinker's warnings, and insisted that "P/E ratios don't mean anything in the modern economy" (or something very close to that.

Brinker let the guy rant for a while, thanked the guy for his input, then ended the call. After a brief pause, he said: "There you have it, folks. I don't think I can offer you any better evidence that we're in a 'tech stock bubble' than what you've just heard from that caller."

29 posted on 09/08/2012 3:16:05 PM PDT by Alberta's Child ("If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested.")
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To: danielmryan
When the Internet/tech bubble was roaring, the Internetization of retail and supply chains would purportedly eliminate scarcity and deliver us all to unicorn-and-rainbow land.

One of the smartest investors I've ever known was a guy who managed a private equity fund, and his investment approach in the late 1990s was based on this very thing. But once I saw how he put this approach in action, I realized just how a successful, astute businessman works.

HIM: "Internet retailing is going to change the world, AC. Within 15-20 years you're never going to buy a currently-published book in a bookstore. It's all going to be done over the Internet. That's why I'm investing the way I am."

ME: "But you still have a lot of risk because you don't know which online retailers are the best investments. Take your book example ... How much of your portfolio is in Amazon.com?"

HIM: "None."

ME: "So you're investing in Borders.com?"

HIM: "No."

ME: "BarnesAndNoble.com?"

HIM: "Nope."

ME (totally confused): "Then which Internet retail stocks are you buying in that sector?"

HIM: "None of them, since I only expect one of those three to be around in ten years and I don't know which one it will be. Instead, I'm buying shares of FedEx and UPS ... because those companies will do well regardless of which Internet retailers succeed."

Smart man, my friend is.

He further confirmed it by selling off all of his company's residential real estate holdings in 2007 -- right before the crash in 2008.

30 posted on 09/08/2012 3:28:57 PM PDT by Alberta's Child ("If you touch my junk, I'm gonna have you arrested.")
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To: BfloGuy
But he is wrong to say that Clinton [whom, by the way, I despise] caused the "Clinton" recession. That was the result of the inevitable crash following Alan Greenspan's money-printing spree that led to the so-called Dot-com boom.

The dot.com boom happened because of three things:
1) The end of the Cold War opened world markets.
2) The technology advanced to the point where ecommerce, IE amazon.com, egghead.com, and the dot.coms offered by many national retailers, could occur.
3) Y2K, which was a 300 billion dollar "stimulus" all by itself.

The need to set up and program all of this led to the creation of many tech jobs.

The tech bust occurred when the servers were set up and programmed, and the older mainframes could tell the difference between years 1900 and 2000. After that, most of the techs were let go, and the bubble burst.

The bust was no more anyone's fault than the tech boom was anyone's doing. It was just a natural evolution of our technology and society.

The point is that Clinton's "economic policies", if there ever were any, had nothing to do with the boom. Take away ecommerce and Y2K, and Clintonomics would look a lot like Obamanomics.

One of the major causes of our current economic problems, which no one notices because we're all used to seeing it, is the demise of the US auto industry. We're fed news of how the US auto industry has recovered, but let's get real. in the 70s, GM had around 50% of the US market all by itself. Now, all three US makes are doing good just to get 50% OF THEIR OWN MARKET, and that's assuming you count Fiat owned Chrysler as a US make.

The tech boom couldn't continue forever because there would have been no reason for it to, but if Americans had bought American cars instead of foreign cars during the 2000s when the economy was once again booming, the economy might not have collapsed. Who's to blame for this (I blame the UAW) is up to you.

31 posted on 09/08/2012 3:36:33 PM PDT by TwelveOfTwenty (Ho, ho, hey, hey, I'm BUYcotting Chick-Fil-A)
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To: Alberta's Child
Did he get that idea from Peter Lynch? One of Lynch's stock stories was, the only sure way to get rich in a gold rush is to sell mining supplies. You get paid regardless of which properties pay off.
32 posted on 09/08/2012 4:00:01 PM PDT by danielmryan
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To: TwelveOfTwenty
The tech boom couldn't continue forever because there would have been no reason for it to, but if Americans had bought American cars instead of foreign cars during the 2000s when the economy was once again booming, the economy might not have collapsed. Who's to blame for this (I blame the UAW) is up to you.

The tech boom and bust happened because the Federal Reserve printed so much money. As is almost always the case, that money ends up in the stock market [or other assets like, oh, say, housing.] The market soars and bad investments are made.

I share your dislike of the UAW but free trade had nothing to do with it.

33 posted on 09/08/2012 4:19:54 PM PDT by BfloGuy (Without economic freedom, no other form of freedom can have material meaning.)
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To: Son House
The recession began in March of 2001, two months after Clinton left office...but it was clearly on the way in the spring of 2000 when the Clinton/Dotcom bubble burst, and the NASDAQ dropped from 5000 to 1500 - just one of a number of messes - like the damaged economy after 911 and the refinancing of the military, weakened by the spending of the "Peace Dividend" - George Bush had to clean up......
34 posted on 09/08/2012 4:39:43 PM PDT by Intolerant in NJ
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To: BfloGuy
The tech boom and bust happened because the Federal Reserve printed so much money.

Do you honestly believe that ecommerce and Y2K, and the jobs they created, would not have happened without Federal Reserve money? Or that all of those COBOL programmers would have been retained if more Fed money was thrown at Y2K after 2000?

I share your dislike of the UAW but free trade had nothing to do with it.

I didn't blame free trade, or the foreign companies that sell cars here. I blame the poor quality of American cars that resulted in losing half of the home market to foreign makes.

35 posted on 09/08/2012 5:25:26 PM PDT by TwelveOfTwenty (Ho, ho, hey, hey, I'm BUYcotting Chick-Fil-A)
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To: Son House
The dotcom BOOM!!! never happened.

36 posted on 09/08/2012 5:28:08 PM PDT by Gene Eric (Demoralization is a weapon of the enemy. Don't get it, don't spread it!)
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To: Intolerant in NJ

CRA, dotcom, and defense failures leading to 9-11. The best Presidential tenure ever...


37 posted on 09/08/2012 5:30:28 PM PDT by Gene Eric (Demoralization is a weapon of the enemy. Don't get it, don't spread it!)
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To: TwelveOfTwenty
Do you honestly believe that ecommerce and Y2K, and the jobs they created, would not have happened without Federal Reserve money? Or that all of those COBOL programmers would have been retained if more Fed money was thrown at Y2K after 2000?

Ecommerce and Y2K would have happened without Fed money. That's certainly true.

But Y2K turned out to be overstated [full disclosure: I made a lot of money on Y2K projects. I knew COBOL!] But the Y2K thing had nothing to do with Fed money-printing.

The Dot-com bubble, though, was a result of monetary inflation leading people to invest in foolish projects.

The Internet would have happened without Fed interference -- sooner probably. And without the recession.

38 posted on 09/08/2012 5:58:21 PM PDT by BfloGuy (Without economic freedom, no other form of freedom can have material meaning.)
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To: BfloGuy
But Y2K turned out to be overstated

I think a better description is averted.

The Dot-com bubble, though, was a result of monetary inflation leading people to invest in foolish projects.

That's obvious now, but it wasn't to many at the time. Some were predicting NASDAQ 10,000, and everyone wanted a piece. That NASDAQ was advancing for specific and temporary reasons wasn't clear to many at the time, although it's clear now.

39 posted on 09/08/2012 6:10:36 PM PDT by TwelveOfTwenty (Ho, ho, hey, hey, I'm BUYcotting Chick-Fil-A)
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To: Son House

if clinton was so great
how do you explain one of the greatest elections in american history
1994??


40 posted on 09/08/2012 8:18:56 PM PDT by genghis
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To: aflaak

Ping


41 posted on 09/09/2012 7:58:06 AM PDT by r-q-tek86 ("It doesn't matter how smart you are if you don't stop and think" - Dr. Sowell)
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To: TwelveOfTwenty
That's obvious now, but it wasn't to many at the time.

Oh, you're quite right. Bubbles are never obvious while they're being blown. People warned for years that the housing boom was a bubble -- no one believed them.

Remember the height of the Dot-com bubble? We were constantly told that this was a "new" economy. Information was king! No longer did profit matter, it seemed.

We all really should have seen it coming. But, we didn't.

42 posted on 09/09/2012 3:05:09 PM PDT by BfloGuy (Without economic freedom, no other form of freedom can have material meaning.)
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To: Son House
the 90's were horrible for wage earners and unless you had a foot already in the stock market, you didn't realize all the gains but suffered tremendously with the planned crash in Sept 2007...

Toon was all set to start up a govt healt care industry, with the aide of Perot and his willing voters, when the GOP fought back and took over Congress 2 yrs later....

and Toon left the economy in a terrible mess as well...

if people don't read and understand the news, they shouldn't be voting....

43 posted on 09/09/2012 6:39:46 PM PDT by cherry
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