This week in history: July 30-August 5
30 July 2018
25 years ago: Clinton declares war on social spending programs
August 3, 1993: In a nationally televised speech, US President Bill Clinton declared war on what he called the “politics of entitlement,” defending an austerity budget and reaffirming his pledges during the 1992 election campaign to “end welfare as we know it.”
The speech came as the Democratic-controlled Congress was passing a budget which marked a political watershed for American capitalism, as the Democratic Party scrapped the last shred of reformist pretense and openly proclaimed itself the instrument for the destruction of social programs. There was not a penny of the spending on public works which Clinton claimed to support in his first State of the Union speech six months earlier.
In his speech, perhaps the most reactionary address by a Democratic president in the 20th century, Clinton denounced those who wanted “something for nothing,” by which he meant the poor, the unemployed and the elderly. He was not referring to the billion-dollar handouts to the super-rich contained in the budget, which passed only thanks to flagrant vote-buying, with rival corporate interests fighting over various changes in tax provisions.
It was symbolic that the “swing” vote in the US Senate, whose support ensured passage of the budget, was Democrat Dennis DeConcini of Arizona. He was the leader of the “Keating Five,” the five senators who received substantial campaign contributions in return for lobbying on behalf of savings & loan magnate Charles Keating, a billionaire swindler who went to prison for robbing thousands of elderly people of their life savings.
DeConcini was given a slap on the wrist—censured by the Senate—but retained his…