Skip to content
Subscriber Only

For One U.S. President, Deficits Mattered

Budget cutting, free trade, deregulation: That was the Bill Clinton era.
Bill Clinton with Robert Rubin in 2000.

Bill Clinton with Robert Rubin in 2000.

Photographer: Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

In his 1992 campaign for president, Bill Clinton called for federal investments to revive the U.S. economy. But soon after he was elected, he had to change course, when it turned out that the budget deficit was far higher than projected. The ensuing battle over his first economic plan would define the rest of his presidency. Here are excerpts of interviews my colleagues and I conducted with Clinton administration officials for my book, "Inside the Clinton White House: An Oral History."

Robert Rubin, National Economic Council director: [During] the campaign, the so-called twin deficits, the fiscal deficit and the deficit in public investments, [were] all fit together into one program that eventually wound up in that little booklet "Putting People First." … [W]hen they got all finished with it, they had room for a vigorous public investment program, a middle-class tax cut and deficit reduction....