Courtney: Thanks, Bill

In response to today’s economy and crime, we should be thanking former President Bill Clinton, not Obama, Trump or Biden.


by Zach Courtney

Throughout the eight years that Barack Obama was in the White House, there were plenty of instances when people in the world of politics and on social media used the phrase “Thanks, Obama.” Sometimes, it was genuine praise. But more often, it was sarcastic.

Occasionally, a similar phrase — “Thanks, Joe” — is sarcastically directed at President Joe Biden, as many people complain about the status of our economy, a looming (or is it current?) recession, crime rates and high inflation and gas prices. Blaming the sitting president for current issues is often the easy thing to do, but it is rarely accurate. The ramifications of policies are often not felt until decades later.

In this case, many of our current issues, like inflation, inequality and crime, have to do with policies from the Clinton administration in the ‘90s. As it turns out, the phrase “Thanks, Bill” should be the more common one.


The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was a trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada that began in 1994. Permanent normal trade relations between the United States and China were established in 2000. While both of these consequential policies were established during the Clinton administration, the ramifications of these neoliberal free trade agreements are felt today more than ever.

The first way we feel the negative impact of Clinton-era free trade policy is in the supply chain. Simply put, we don’t make as much stuff in the United States anymore. This makes us more dependent on other nations, and in odd times (like a pandemic), it creates havoc that hurts our economy too. The pandemic’s effect on the supply chain is a key factor in inflationary pressures we face today. The best way to combat this is to move away from Clinton’s free trade, globalized view of the economy and start making things in the United States again.

Next, Clinton’s neoliberal free trade policy led to a net loss in American jobs and a net increase in inequality. The United States lost 3.7 million jobs due to the trade deficit with China, according to the Economic Policy Institute. This is good if you’re a wealthy corporation saving money on labor, but bad if you’re an average American looking for a well-paying job. It’s hard to argue that these neoliberal free trade policies aren’t playing a role in wealth inequality, which is at nearly the same rate it was the year prior to the Great Depression.


Clinton may have been a Democrat, but his welfare policy was as conservative as can be. Typically, Democrats push to expand welfare to people, workers and families in need, but not Clinton. What may be Clinton’s most well-known and fulfilled campaign promise was his pledge to “end welfare as we have come to know it.” He redesigned our welfare system to place a significant burden on the part of regular people to first qualify for welfare benefits, usually through work requirements, before receiving them.

My opinion on means testing is no secret. It is part of the bigger war on normal people, and it hurts society as a whole by increasing deep poverty, as the poorest among us often don’t qualify for welfare benefits, despite needing them the most.


The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, better known as the 1994 crime bill, passed under the Clinton administration. It established mandatory minimums, the “three strike” rule and expanded the crimes that result in the death penalty. Its negative effects are still felt today.

Think about Trump’s cringey 2020 campaign ad about how we wouldn’t be safe in Biden’s America. First, it’s ironic because Trump and Biden were on the same side of this issue when the 1994 crime bill passed. Second, Clinton, Trump and Biden were all wrong on the issue of crime in the ‘90s. They wanted to throw every criminal into prison for as long as they could. Put simply, the goal of prison should be to rehabilitate criminals first, not to punish them.

Don’t be mistaken — there are many ways in which Biden has fallen short of my expectations, but much of our current economic and criminal state as a country is the fault of his predecessor more than two decades prior: Bill Clinton.