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Bill Clinton Says U.S. Lacks Plan Needed for Global Success

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative conference in Chicago on June 29, 2011. Photographer: Frank Polich/Bloomberg
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative conference in Chicago on June 29, 2011. Photographer: Frank Polich/Bloomberg

June 30 (Bloomberg) -- Former President Bill Clinton, opening a conference on job creation, said the U.S. lacks the long-term budgeting and planning needed to be as successful as possible on the global stage.

“We’ve gotten ourselves in a position where we’re spending too much money on today and yesterday and not money enough on tomorrow,” he said yesterday during the initial panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative’s two-day gathering in Chicago. “We’re borrowing too much, so that once the economy picks up, we’re creating tomorrow’s problem.”

Clinton said the nation must find a better mix for the portions of the U.S. gross domestic product represented by federal spending and taxes.

“We can’t afford to spend 25 percent of GDP on government expenditures,” he said. “I don’t think we can afford to tax at only 15 percent of GDP, either, which is about where we are.”

He called for a 10-year plan that would allow Americans to have a better sense of “what we think would be a competitive level of revenues and a competitive level of expenditures.”

Clinton spoke as President Barack Obama and congressional Republican leaders remain at odds on how to reduce the deficit and clear the way for an agreement to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, now $14.3 trillion. The Treasury Department has said it has until Aug. 2 before its ability to pay U.S. debt obligations runs out.

‘Painful Cuts’

At a White House news conference yesterday, Obama urged the Republicans to set aside their rejection of tax increases as part of a deficit reduction plan. Democrats are willing to accept some “painful cuts” to favored programs, and Republicans must concede that some taxes may have to be raised, he said.

Clinton urged greater lending to help the U.S. economy. “We continue to struggle with this economy and the low rate of business formation and job creation,” he said.

“The banks of America now have well over $2 trillion in cash not committed to loans,” he said. “There is nowhere near $2 trillion in loan demand out there now, but there’s more than is presently being satisfied.”

The recession in the U.S. officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009. During that period, the world’s largest economy shrank 4.1 percent, the Commerce Department reported last year.

Unemployment Benefits

More Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, showing little progress in the labor market.

Jobless claims fell by 1,000 to 428,000 in the week ended June 25, according to Labor Department figures released today.

Clinton told CNBC today that one way to reduce the unemployment rate of about 9 percent would be to help employers find and train workers for the 3 million job openings that are being advertised.

Job vacancies are being filled at half the rate of previous recessions, he said.

By assisting companies, “we could hire another couple million people,” Clinton said. “That would lower the unemployment rate, increase the confidence rate and get investment going.”

Clinton also urged that financing be provided to help pay unemployed construction workers to upgrade buildings to make them more energy efficient.

Obama Re-Election Chances

The unemployment rate is likely to be better on Election Day, which will be among the factors ensuring Obama another four years in the White House, Clinton told ABC News in article posted online today.

“I’ll be surprised if he’s not re-elected,” he said.

Clinton praised several Republican presidential contenders such as Jon Huntsman, describing the former Utah governor as “conservative, but non-ideological, practical.”

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is a better campaigner than he was four years ago, and Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann has done well because “she comes across as a real person,” Clinton told ABC News.

More than 750 business and government leaders are attending Clinton’s conference at a Chicago hotel, along with three members of Obama’s cabinet, Clinton said. They are Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Global Initiative

The conference marks the first time the former president has held such a gathering focused solely on the U.S. He established the Clinton Global Initiative in 2005, and the group says that over the years it has received investment commitments worth $63 billion that already have helped 300 million people in 180 countries.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former White House chief of staff and an aide during Clinton’s administration, made a pitch for corporations to consider his city for expansion.

“If you see us willing to shape our future with a sense of confidence, you’ll have the confidence then to invest in our city,” he said. “We in the public sector, we don’t create jobs. We create the conditions so that you can invest and create the jobs in our city.”

Emanuel said he plans to host a conference in Chicago focused on continuing the city’s commitment to the aviation industry. Along with having two international airports, O’Hare and Midway, Chicago is the headquarters for Boeing Co. and United Continental Holdings Inc.

After Labor Day

After Emanuel made his remarks, spokeswoman Tarrah Cooper said details are being worked out for the conference, which will be held sometime after Labor Day.

Clinton offered praise for Emanuel, elected in February to succeed Richard M. Daley, who retired after serving as Chicago’s mayor for 22 years.

“When he worked for me in the White House, he used to remind everybody that over the long run the best politics is good policy,” Clinton said. “He was utterly obsessed with finding every good idea then being implemented in the United States or around the world.”

Emanuel worked for Clinton as a political director and senior adviser.

“Obviously, since our personal relationship goes back 20 years, I have a vested interest on bragging on him, and you are entitled to discount some of it, but I predict to you that his tenure as mayor of Chicago will be one of the most brilliant chapters in this city’s long and storied history,” Clinton said. “And it’s altogether fitting because from the first day I met him, Rahm told me that Chicago should be the capital of the world.”

More Incentives

Appearing on the conference’s first panel, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour called for more incentives to create training programs that teach practical skills.

“We have got to stop stigmatizing skills training and trades in the United States,” said Barbour, who in April ruled out running for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

Barbour also called for deficit reduction and a smaller federal government.

“That is a huge barrier to employment,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: John McCormick in Chicago at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at

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