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Clinton returning to the state that made him the 'Comeback Kid'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As part of his extended farewell to the nation, President Clinton is returning to the city where he promised to stick with the people of New Hampshire "until the last dog dies."

At an appearance in Dover, New Hampshire, on Thursday, Clinton will return to the theme of a pivotal 1992 campaign speech when, under attack for marital infidelity and avoiding the military draft, he said, "I'll tell you what the real character issue is, who really cares about you."

The speech will focus on the economic gains during his administration. It is the third in a series of Clinton media events "to sum up what he's done and what challenges are left to do," according to Bruce Reed, his chief domestic policy adviser.

The president is expected to make the case that the economic boom of the last decade is due to his approach to social policy, "the new synthesis of helping those who are willing to help themselves," Reed said. That is, simultaneously balancing the budget and encouraging investment while also placing an emphasis on welfare to work, crime prevention and educational programs such as Head Start.

"What you've seen over this time period is ... an extremely focused eight-year commitment to turning our fiscal situation around and investing in people at the same time," said Gene Sperling, Clinton's chief economic policy adviser.

Sperling said that during the Reagan and Bush administrations, Americans in the top fifth income bracket saw their incomes go up 26.4 percent, but there was no income growth for the bottom 60 percent. He said that since 1993, all income groups have seen an increase, and it is most evident in the bottom 20 percent, which is up 16.3 percent.

However, other factors also may have contributed, other analysts say.

"It's difficult for the president or for the Republicans to claim leadership in restructuring the economy," said Bill Beech, an economist at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank. "The reality is this: Much of the progress that has been taking place is due to global changes."

Beech cited the aging of the world's population as one factor. Workers are now at their most productive age, he said. Plus, people typically earn more as they get older and such innovations as 401k plans have made older Americans more financially secure.

Also, the worldwide trend toward free trade has lifted barriers to economic growth, Beech said, and while Clinton and Republican leaders have helped to "facilitate" this trend with new treaties, their greatest contribution has been to "stay out of the way when it's appropriate."

And he said Ronald Reagan and the elder George Bush deserve some credit. Their efforts led to the end of the Cold War, said Beech, and allowed much of the capital that was tied up in defense spending to be freed up to spur economic activity.

Also, by cutting tax rates on labor and capital, Reagan freed up venture capital that led to the development of the technology that now drives the U.S. economy.

Yet, "Clinton's leadership on fiscal restraint, even though it came at a cost in the early 90s, is still evident. Maybe that's his legacy," Beech said.


Wednesday, January 10, 2001



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