Bill Clinton: Back To Work Book Review

In Politics by Antwuan Malone

Why We Need Smart Government For A Strong Economy

Author: Bill Clinton
Published by: Alfred A. Knopf

 — WWBD: What Would Bill Do —

Quick Take

The political climate is pretty high. The top issues: The Economy, Jobs, and Debt. In Back to Work Bill Clinton doesn’t present his message with beat-you-over-the-head, the-republicans-stink banter, (thankfully!) As an independent who would rather focus on the issues, I found the reading fairly refreshing, despite the varying points of agreement and disagreement. This book intends to offer an apology for  “smart government” (in a time when small-to-no government is so popular),  to make the case for clean energy as a viable avenue for creating  jobs and income, and to offer some fairly thought out ideas for what we should do next.

The most difficult conversations are political and religious because people refuse to think outside of the barn they were raised in. As a result, people miss good ideas and opportunities. Whether you agree with Clinton’s past or not, this book is worth checking out, if only for the ideas he presents in the last chapter.

The Skinny

Former President Bill Clinton, known most famously for his crackly smooth delivery, his pointed finger at us in the TV screen about “sexual relations”, and his scandalous affair with the intern has never really stepped fully away from the political scene. After his presidency ended, Clinton continued to pop up from time to time on the political scene… for better or worse. And now, while America suffers through another economical low, he has written his thoughts about how we can get ourselves out of this mess.

The book is well written and easy to follow, and relatively short. Clinton pushes a couple main ideas (though many points could be made beneath these). First, we need some government — “smart” government.  And second, we are missing a technological opportunity by overlooking clean energy.

These are two areas I went into this book already believing, but Bill gives great data to support them both.

The income gap that is widening with each passing day is the greatest evidence of the need of some government. Bill spends plenty of time  here showing real data supporting how wide the gap has become, and why it is something we need to pay attention to. An opposing viewpoint suggests that doing something about the top income earners’ taxes means that we are “penalizing the job creators.” But the data presented here shows that the “job creators” are making the most profit, while the rest of us stand pat. That means money that should be flowing into the overall economy via “trickle down theory” is not. Instead, we see an increasing bottleneck of money flow from the top earners. Is that a bad thing? You tell me. Clinton makes the case that the income gap should be smaller, so that every level sees an increase in wages and income, not just the top 1% of the top 10%. It’s a dog eat dog world, and as long as people are looking out for personal best interest, over the interests of the whole, then you will have the many governed by the powerful few. If government isn’t lording over us, then the richest, most powerful people in the country will be. Insert “smart” government which does its part to try and level the playing field… to prevent the economy from going the way of financial natural selection. That’s what I got from it anyway.

Second, Clinton spends plenty of time talking about ways to inspire clean energy initiatives. In his view, the ideological engine that drives the Republican party and their ignoring of scientific data about global warming is in contrast to the ideas supported by “evidence and experience” that drives the Democrats. Clearly, such a position has to do with the merits of global warming. I personally don’t have a dog in the global warming fight. But regardless to why we have them, Clinton’s ideas are solid here in the area of branching out into new technology. This he knows a bit about. The .com booms helped the economy during his presidency tremendously… and he had sense enough to not only get out of its way, but to facilitate its growth. I think that’s what he’s promoting here too. America’s energy options are growing. We have the opportunity to not only stop “buying” (imports) , but to start selling.

In the final chapter, Clinton does an excellent job of providing some good starter ideas that can start conversation and brainstorming about how to plan for what’s coming, instead of reacting to what’s happening.

In the end. I enjoyed the book for what was to me, practical ideas, statistical sound apologizing, and minimal party bashing.  Clinton haters will hate whatever he does, so they won’t pick the book up anyway (except maybe to burn it). But if you are independent or open-minded, then there is enough here to get the noodle going… especially when all we’ve heard for the last twelve months is GOP political apologies.


Notable Quotes:

My argument here isn’t that Democrats are always right and Republicans always wrong. It’s that by jamming all issues into the antigovernment, antitax, antiregulation straitjacket, we hog-tie ourselves and keep ourselves from making necessary changes no matter how much evidence exists to support them. The antigovernment paradigm blinds us to possibilities that lie outside its ideological litmus tests and prevents us from creating new networks of cooperation that can restore economic growth…

“You can have a philosophy that tends to be liberal or conservative but still be open to evidence, experience, and argument. That enables people with honest differences to find practical, principled compromise. On the other hand, fervent insistence on an ideology makes evidence, experience, and argument irrelevant: If you possess the absolute truth, those who disagree are by definition wrong, and evidence of success or failure is irrelevant. There is nothing to learn from the experience of other countries. Respectful arguments are a waste of time. Compromise is weakness. And if your policies fail, you don’t abandon them; instead, you double down”

“After World War II until 1980, the bottom 90 percent of Americans consistently earned about 65 percent of the national income, and the top 10 percent earned about 35 percent, of which 10 percent went to the top 1 percent. That was enough income inequality to reward good ideas, successful entrepreneurs, and the best CEOs and enough equality to build the world’s largest middle class and give hardworking poor people a chance to work their way into it. From 1981 to 2010, these numbers changed a lot, as the bottom 90 percent’s income share fell from 65 to 52 percent, and the top 10 percent’s rose from 35 to 48 percent, with almost all those gains going to the top 1 percent, whose income share increased from 10 percent to more than 21 percent. For the first seven years of the last decade, as median income decreased, the top 1 percent claimed around 60 percent of the gains. How did that happen?”


Quotes from Back To Work by Bill Clinton are not meant to reflect my personal views. If you want to know what my views are, just ask!

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry ( where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.