Economic harvest is fruit of Clinton's legacy

Tuesday, May 15, 2001 at 1:00am

There are times when I feel guilty for hammering Bill Clinton. He is a man who accomplished a miracle, rising up from humble beginnings in Hope, Ark., to become the most powerful person in the world. And he did it with little help. Mr. Clinton was raised primarily by his flamboyant mother, and although she adored him, she could offer him little in the way of worldly influence. I admire self-made people, and William Jefferson Clinton is all that. But that is where my admiration stops.

We are all suffering right now because of Bill Clinton's presidency, and it has nothing to do with his moral failings. It has everything to do with his policy failings.

The current earnings recession and economic slowdown has its roots in Mr. Clinton's final year in office. During that time, he turned away from managing the economy and devoted a huge amount of time fund-raising for himself (the Clinton Library), his wife's senatorial campaign and the Democratic Party. Spurned by Al Gore, Mr. Clinton traveled not to deliver a political message, but to grab your wallet. His wanderings turned into a giant mobile flea market where he sold his time and presence for major dollars.

Mr. Clinton also became obsessed with brokering a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. This, of course, led to nothing but more hatred and violence, as we are seeing now on a daily basis.

With the president's attention diverted, Alan Greenspan and his merry band inexplicably kept the U.S. money supply tight, even as manufacturing orders, especially in high-tech, were slowing drastically. There was no political pressure on the Fed to cut rates as Mr. Clinton was paying scant attention. Thus, in December, when Greenspan still declined to cut interest rates, the economic dam broke, and the waters of declining earnings flooded the stock market.

The bad economic news was compounded by the fact that Mr. Clinton never had an energy policy and allowed the OPEC nations to cut oil production without challenge. Energy prices soared, cutting into corporate profits and gutting the take-home pay of American workers.

Mr. Clinton knew there weren't enough oil refineries in the United States but made no attempt to build any. He also knew that America's dependence on foreign oil was at an all-time high but failed to encourage consumers to conserve energy, because that might annoy his SUV-driving soccer mom base. Bill Clinton fiddled while oil and natural gas burned. And finally, the nation's most powerful state, California, simply ran out of power.

In his last days as president, Mr. Clinton signed a number of environmental orders but never once warned anybody about the growing scarcity of energy. To say he was pandering to the greens is a gross understatement.

Bill Clinton's education policies have also been a disaster. Despite a massive amount of federal spending, 60 percent of the nation's poor fourth-graders still can barely read. Mr. Clinton was a champion of educational spending but made no attempt to tie the money to performance. This endeared him to the teachers' unions but didn't do much for at-risk kids who desperately need discipline and learning standards.

The second most at-risk group in America are poor seniors. And what did Mr. Clinton do for them? Drug prices are the highest they've ever been. Some seniors are still traveling to Mexico and Canada to get their prescriptions filled.

But prices for illegal drugs are the lowest they've ever been. Street heroin and cocaine are readily available all over the United States with no waiting. That's because narcotics continue to flood into this country while Bill Clinton and his drug czar, Gen. Barry McCaffrey, introduced absolutely no effective federal measures designed to cut either supply or demand. Mr. Clinton's NAFTA agreement with Mexico allowed for freer passage through our southern border. The "traffic" that ensued had little do with cars and trucks.

So there's your Clinton legacy, and you can take it over to Barbra Streisand's house and drop it on her lawn. The president wasted one full year lying about his sexcapades and another year asking people for money. The other six years he talked a really good game.

But talk is cheap and gas is not. If our cars and homes and stores ran on hot air, Bill Clinton might be right up there with Abe Lincoln.

Veteran TV news anchor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of the new book, "The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous." To find out more about Bill O'Reilly, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at column originates on the Web site

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