Bill Clinton: No president could have "magically" fixed economy in one term

Last Updated 10:51 a.m. ET

(CBS News) Former President Bill Clinton offered a strong defense for President Obama's re-election Sunday morning, arguing that no president could have "fully healed" the economy in four years.

"That's why we've got to keep working at it," Mr. Clinton said on "Face the Nation."

The president's efforts, Mr. Clinton argued, have reversed the downward spiral of losing up to 800,000 jobs per month. "His jobs record is actually better" than the Bush administration's, he said, adding that no president could have "magically" returned the country back to full employment in just one term.

The former president, who is hosting his annual Clinton Global Initiative conference beginning Sunday, said that the Republicans "militant anti-government" approach will not benefit the economy.

There is "no evidence" that Mitt Romney's "militant anti-government approach will work," Mr. Clinton said. He added that President Obama's "balanced" economic proposal of investment, revenue increases and a spending reduction plan is "more likely to produce broad-based prosperity than Romney's."

Mr. Clinton weighed in on the debate over Romney's taxes, saying the latest release of his tax returns don't tell the entire story.

"It'd be interesting to see how the ordinary income years were treated," Mr. Clinton said. "We're not going to be able to see that."

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney released his 2011 tax returns Friday, showing that his tax rate was 14.1 percent on an income of $13,696,951. His taxes showed he earned no salaried income and most of came in the form of capital gains, which are taxed at 15 percent. Romney has ignored calls from vocal Democrats to unveil up to twelve years of his tax returns.

Mr. Clinton connected Romney's tax rate to the larger political debate about the economy, taxes and the deficit.

"I don't think we can get out of this hole we're in if people at that income level only pay 13 or 14 percent," he added.

As for Mitt Romney's comments about 47 percent of Americanswho don't pay federal income tax, Mr. Clinton said they are out of the federal income tax pool, in part, because of the economic crash. He also said a reason is because of bipartisan efforts to reduce the tax burden on working families.

He said that as president he doubled the Earned Income Tax Credit and President George W. Bush doubled the Child Tax Credit. An "enormous number of these people who were dropped out were dropped out for reasons of work and family, not dependents. These people are working their hearts out," Mr. Clinton said.

The former president said it's too early to assume that more people are dependent on the government. "I think that we have to wait until normal growth resumes to make that judgment, " he said. "In other words, a heck of a lot of this money is unemployment and food stamps and Medicaid for people who have lost their private health insurance."

As for the president's chances at re-election, Mr. Clinton said he thinks Mr. Obama is winning, but cautioned that the "enormous financial advantage" the Republicans have because of the unlimited spending of super PACs "will outspend" the president two-and-a-half to one.

He also said the race will be close because of Republicans efforts to "try to reduce the number of young people, first generation immigrants, and minorities voting. And they have worked hard at this."

He said this is the first time the national polls are closer than the polls in the swing states because the president has limited money and most concentrate his resources in a small number of key states.

Mr. Clinton also said that he thinks a second term for Mr. Obama will be productive despite bitter partisanship in Congress, because after the elections "the incentives for gridlock will go way down and the incentives for action will go way up."

"Something has to change," Mr. Clinton said about Congress.

He added that the "fiscal cliff" - a series of tax increases and budget cuts set to go into effect on January 1 - is doing to Congress exactly what it was meant to do: "Force them to concentrate."

In response to a question by host Bob Schieffer on whether his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is contemplating a run for president in 2016, Mr. Clinton said, "I have no earthly idea."

"She's an extraordinarily able person," he said, adding that "she's tired."

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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