Bill Clinton addresses Fels students over Skype
For 45 minutes, Clinton discussed the deficit, income inequality, and health care reform
April 17, 2012, 11:42 pm · Updated April 23, 2012, 12:11 am·
Thando Ally | DP
Many students use Skype to keep in touch with friends and family, but Tuesday evening, students at the Fels Institute of Government used the video calling application to chat with a more distinguished guest — former President Bill Clinton.
As part of professor Marjorie Margolies’ “Dealing with the Media” class, Clinton joined students for a video conversation about his presidency, public policy and the current political landscape. After students read his book, Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy, Clinton and the students discussed various pressing issues that currently face the nation, such as the debt crisis, income inequality and the debate over health care.
Clinton spoke for around 45 minutes to an intimate crowd of about 50 inside Fels’ Sweeny Room.
“If you look at the current debate over the accumulated debt in America and what it’s role will be in the future, it should bother all of you,” Clinton said. “It requires us to borrow money overseas from countries that often have lower income than we do to cover the tax cuts of people in my income group. I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Clinton also expressed concern over the “explosive income inequality” in America and advocated his support for the Buffett Rule, which would create a minimum federal income tax rate of 30 percent for millionaires.
He also stressed the need for plans on revenue, long-term spending reduction and economic growth.
In addition to these economic concerns over the country’s debt and income disparity, Clinton also conveyed his hope that the Supreme Court will approve the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Despite his support for health care reform, however, Clinton outlined several reasons why he believes support for it has been lackluster.
“First, we didn’t do a good enough job explaining what the bill did, and talking about it and answering questions,” Clinton said. “Second, the opponents did a great job in demonizing it. Third, you can’t change a huge structure like that overnight.”
Margolies, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1993-95, was pleased with the evening’s event.
“I just think he’s terrific,” said Margolies, whose controversial deciding vote in favor of Clinton’s 1993 budget may have led to her not getting re-elected for a second term. “It stuns me — even when I was a member of Congress, when we would meet with him we were just awestruck by the fact that he just puts things together.”
For College senior and Master of Public Administration student Ben Moskowitz, the conversation with Clinton was an enlightening experience.
“I thought he had a lot of brilliant insights — it’s not just the conventional wisdom that you typically hear spouted by pundits on TV,” Moskowitz said. “He did a great job breaking really complex issues down into simple, understandable theses.”
Although the conversation took place on screen rather than in person, Moskowitz felt that Clinton was able to convey a genuine passion on the issues about which he talked.
“You can tell he feels there needs to be a great sense of urgency in addressing these issues before they get out of control,” he said.