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Bill Clinton on Technology

President of the U.S., 1993-2001; Former Democratic Governor (AR)


Invest in infrastructure including social infrastructure

The progressives' plan calls for investing more money in programs designed to create jobs and raise incomes. Higher investments in education, job training, and special help for veterans and the long-term unemployed; and more spending for housing, rental, and child-care programs for lower-income Americans.

We can act to strengthen both the economy and the government's role in creating a better future by cutting spending and raising revenue in a fair, effective way.

Source: Back to Work, by Bill Clinton, p. 80-82 , Nov 8, 2011

Speed up process for approving infrastructure projects

We clearly need much faster broadband connections; a smart electrical grid; more efficient ports and airports; and an upgrade of our old investments in roads, bridges, rails and water and sewage systems.

[We need to] speed up the process for approving and completing infrastructure projects. President Obama has committed to streamline the process for large infrastructure projects, and I'm confident it can be done without compromising environmental or safety standards.

Source: Back to Work, by Bill Clinton, p.140-147 , Nov 8, 2011

More high-speed trains, at higher speeds

[We should] spend the rest of the rapid-rail money, but spend it where it will do the most good.

It would be best to prove the worth of high-speed rail with adequate investments in heavily populated areas where there is a lot of highway and airport congestion. Our fastest train, Amtrak's Acela, which runs from Washington to New York to Boston and back, travels about 100 mph slower than the fast trains that connect Japan's most populous cities.

Source: Back to Work, by Bill Clinton, p.161-163 , Nov 8, 2011

1990s: Partner with automakers to develop high-mileage cars

Al Gore's landmark book, "Earth in the Balance" made a deep impression on me and was one of the reasons I asked him to be my running mate in 1992.

In 1993, my first year as president, we included as part of the Deficit Reduction Act a small carbon tax that would have led to more conservation. We convinced the House to pass it, but it died in the Senate. After that, we pursued a partnership with the US automakers to develop a very high-mileage car, took steps to increase energy efficiency in the federal government, which had the effect of taking several hundred thousand cars off the road, increased research, and negotiated the Kyoto Climate Change Treaty to howls that it would destroy the economy. Virtually the entire Senate voted for a resolution opposing the treaty even before I could submit it for ratification. In my second term, I gave what I thought was a compelling speech about climate change, which elicited a giant yawn. All that changed after 9/11 and the Iraqi War.

Source: Giving, by Bill Clinton, p.154-155 , Sep 4, 2007

1996: Parents control kids' TV access with V-chip

In February 1996, I signed the Telecommunication Act, a sweeping overhaul of the laws affecting an industry that was already one-sixth of our economy. The act increased competition, innovation, and access to what Al Gore had dubbed the "information superhighway."

We reached what I thought was a fair compromise, and in the end the bill was passed almost unanimously. It also contained a requirement that new television sets include the V-chip, which I had first endorsed at the Gores' annual family conference, to allow parents to control their children's access to programs; by the end of the month, executives from most of the television networks would agree to have a rating system for their programs in place by 1997. Even more important, the act mandated discounted Internet access rates for schools, libraries, and hospitals; the so-called E-rate would eventually save public entities about $2 billion a year.

Source: My Life, by Bill Clinton, p.699-700 , Jun 21, 2004

1995: Tax-free Internet policy spread from US to world

Clinton and Gore worked on a set of rules to govern e-commerce on the Internet--which, in 1995, barely existed. The methodology of the health care task force had been disastrous; they would do the opposite with e-commerce and see what happened. The process would be transparent, rather than secret. It would be bipartisan.

They published the proposed e-commerce protocol on the Web, and asked for suggestions; the protocol went through 14 public revisions before it was approved, on July 1, 1997. Most striking was the philosophy of the approach. It was firmly Libertarian; not just anti-censorship--but also opposed to the imposition of a sales tax on cyber-purchases, as a way to encourage the growth of e-commerce.

The Internet's duty-free zone, a no-tax policy that was adopted internationally after Clinton proposed it (and which has become more controversial as e-commerce continues to grow, unencumbered by the burdens imposed upon traditional business).

Source: The Natural, by Joe Klein, p.186-187 , Feb 11, 2003

Vision to transform from Industrial Age to Information Age

It can be argued that the reason Bill Clinton succeeded as well as he did in the substance of his presidency is that--intellectually, at least--he was quite the opposite of the slickster his enemies imagined: He arrived in Washington with a coherent, sophisticated political vision, which he pursued rigorously, quite often in ways that were politically inexpedient in the short term. He had, by turns, alienated traditional liberals, conservatives, and moderates, but his heresies were schematic. The apparent contradictions in Clinton's agenda--support for free trade (which should have pleased conservatives) and for universal health insurance which should have pleased liberals); support for welfare reform (which appalled liberals) and for affirmative action (which appalled conservatives)--were all part of what he considered to be his larger mission: to manage the nation's transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age.
Source: The Natural, by Joe Klein, p. 12 , Feb 11, 2003

Bridge the Digital Divide via access & training

Access to computers and the Internet is becoming increasingly important in American life, but there is a growing “digital divide” between those who have access to information technology and those who do not. To help make access to computers and the Internet as universal as the telephone, the Administration is proposing a comprehensive initiative to bridge the digital divide and create new opportunity for all Americans. Their FY 2001 budget includes proposals to: broaden access to technologies such as computers, the Internet, and high-speed networks; provide people with the skilled teachers and the training they need to master the information economy; and promote online content and applications that will help empower all Americans to use new technologies to their fullest potential.

In December 1999, the President also announced the launch of the Digital Divide Network, an Internet-based information clearinghouse on public and private efforts to bring technology to underserved communities.

Source: WhiteHouse.gov web site , Jun 1, 2000

$200M more for National Space Program

The President’s 1996 National Space Policy commits the nation to a strong, stable, and balanced space program. The FY 2001 budget request of $14 billion will enable NASA to continue to pursue the Clinton-Gore Administration’s priorities in human space flight, earth sciences, advanced space transportation, aviation safety, & space science. Through the 21st Century Research Fund for America, the President adds $200 million over the next year to NASA’s space science program.