Why Hillary wants Bill to run the US economy

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told Kentuckians her husband knowns how to revitalize the US economy. Can the former president's legacy to bolster her campaign?

Chris Pedota/The Record of Bergen County via AP
Bill Clinton speaks at Passaic County College in Paterson, NJ on Friday, May 13, 2016 to help his wife, Hillary Clinton, in her campaign for the presidency.

If elected president in November, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton says she will fully utilized the economic experience of her husband, former US President Bill Clinton.

"My husband…I'm going to put in charge of revitalizing the economy because you know, he knows how to do it," said Clinton in Northern Kentucky Sunday. "And especially in places like coal country and inner cities and other parts of our country that have been really left out." 

By emphasizing her commitment to "coal country," Mrs. Clinton is looking to avoid replicating West Virginia's primary, where she lost to rival Democratic presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders last week. 

The former Secretary of State has been met with hostility from voters in coal country after her March comment "We're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business," as she said while discussing renewable energy. Wyoming produces 40 percent of the United States' coal, and West Virginia comes in second with 11 percent, followed by Kentucky at eight percent.

"We can't and we must not walk away from them," Clinton added on Sunday. "I feel such a sense of obligation."

The candidate says she will use her husband Bill as the economic czar to fulfill these obligations.

What role a first spouse in a Clinton presidency might play isn't clear yet. But Clinton supporters say campaigning on her husband's economic coattails is smart.

During Mr. Clinton's presidency, the US saw a balanced budget, 22.7 million jobs created and 7.7 million people lifted out of poverty. Almost 242,000 jobs were created per month on average under President Clinton, far more than any other US president. And as for GDP growth, Clinton came in third of all US presidents with an average of 3.82 percent per month, behind both President Kennedy and President Johnson, who had just above five percent, according to US News & World Report.

"When my husband was president, incomes rose for everybody," added Mrs. Clinton Sunday. 

However, Senator Sanders is also using Mr. Clinton’s history of economic policy to criticize Mrs. Clinton. The former president signed legislation in 1999 to repeal Glass-Steagall, a piece of banking legislation from 1933 that prevented big banks from consolidating with one another. By affectively killing Glass-Steagall, President Clinton "allowed the biggest banks to grow bigger," opponents claim.

Mrs. Clinton has long referred to her husband as a source of economic advice. During an interview on NBC's the "Today Show" in January, she said her husband "carries a message of peace and prosperity under his presidency and I think a lot of Americans would like to get back to those days." 

But according to a Reuters/IPSOS poll from early January, only 12 percent of voters are more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton because of her marriage to Bill Clinton. The vast majority, 58 percent, says their support for Hillary Clinton has nothing to do with her husband. 

History shows that proven economic success is an asset for a presidential campaign. After terrorism, the economy and job creation were rated as the public's top priorities in a 2015 Pew Research poll. Since Pew began polling the public's priorities in 2000, strengthening the economy has consistently registered as a top goal.  

And Mrs. Clinton has her own economic chops, say some supporters. Whereas Sanders' proposed policies would likely add $2 trillion to the national debt over 10 years, Clinton's plan would add about $200 billion, according to the Committee for A Responsible Federal Budget. 

"As a bumper sticker, 'Voter Hillary: She Won't Make Things Worse' isn't exactly a grabber," TaxVox's Howard Gleckman said earlier this month. "Yet when it comes to broad fiscal policy, it seems to be true."

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