President Clinton: Immigration Key to Deficit Reduction

President Bill Clinton spoke at the Peterson Foundation Fiscal Summit in Washington, D.C., about how he would advocate for fiscal responsibility were he running for office in 2010. His big pitch boils down to two ideas: (1) the future and (2) immigrants.

Here were his self-transcribed (read: rough, but directionally accurate) statements.

On reducing the deficit

"The end result works. Look what happened to Bill Clinton. America has got to get back into the future business. We can't do it if we keep mortgaging our future to other countries ... to our children and grandchildren. Then I'll tell them I'll be careful. I'll do everything I can to help the old and the poor and we have to change the way we do health care.

"We need more immigrants. We need to reverse the age ratio. I see that as part of fiscal responsibility. [Congress] need to pass something. I don't like that Arizona bill, but I get why it happened. It's horrible what happening along the border."

"The great virtue of this country, the thing we have over China and India is that we have somebody from everywhere here, and they do well. This country still works for immigrants. The reason there is anti-immigrant sentiment is white-collar factory workers got killed in the last decade. The burdens of the last decade's economic downturn was basically on white male high school grads, or who didn't graduate from high school or a couple years of college, who got shivered in this economy. Their taxes can be lower if we get more taxpayers. The changes we make will be less draconian if we get more people into the system. I don't think there's any alternative than to increase immigration. I don't see any kinda way out of this unless that's part of the strategy."

On Goldman Sachs' mortgage trades and the SEC suit:
"I think the timing [of the suit] was suspect. I'm not sure they violated the law. But I think there was no underlying merit [to those trades]."

On a value-added tax:
"You'd have to reduce other taxes to keep it progressive. It's good for exports. It doesn't allow quite so much subsidies for imports. If we had the right sort of value-added tax and had the right adjustments to keep the progressivity, it'd be really good. I'm not sure the commission will wind up recommending it. People in Europe use it its like any sales tax. People get used to pay for it. It's good for exports."