Hillary Clinton: Obama, Bill Clinton better economic stewards than George W. Bush

Hillary Clinton touted the economic growth seen during the last two Democratic presidencies during a speech before the New America Foundation on Friday, and she warned that the U.S. risks falling behind global competitors if policymakers do not do more to revive the middle class by generating broad-based economic growth.

Clinton, a former secretary of state who's eyeing a presidential bid in 2016, praised both President Obama and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, for their economic stewardship. And she contrasted their years in the White House with the tenure of former President George W. Bush, saying eight years of a Republican presidency "taught us different lessons."

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"The 1990s taught us that even in the face of difficult long term economic trends, it's possible, through smart policies" to enjoy broad-based growth, she said, and "all with a balanced budget that resulted in surpluses as far as the eye could see."

But when Bush took the reins in 2001, she said, he demonstrated "how, by policy choices, we can turn surpluses into debt."

"That's what happens when your only policy prescription is to cut taxes for the wealthy and then to deal with the aftermath of a terrible terrorist attack and two wars without paying for them," she said.

During the Bush presidency, she said, "regulators neglected their oversight of the financial sector," leading to a financial crisis that "hit like a flash flood."

And she said the Bush administration compounded the economic problem by failing to invest adequately in infrastructure, education, and research.

"We often think we invented the middle class," Clinton said, but she warned that too many Americans are struggling to get into the middle class or falling out of it. As a course correction, she suggested a new emphasis on education and job training programs, both currently pet causes of Mr. Obama's administration.

"We are better positioned than anyone" to excel in the new global economy, Clinton said, but to do that, "We will need to learn again how to work together, how to compromise."