In his new book, Back to Work, Bill Clinton defends government.

“To develop an effective strategy to get the jobs engine going again and deal with our long-term debt problem,” Clinton writes, “we have to take off the blinders of antigovernment ideology and focus on what role government must play in America’s renewal.”

Whatever you think of Clinton or the 46-point policy plan he outlines in the book, this kind of direct assertion that government is a key part of the solution is both refreshing and necessary.

For all of us who talk about policy solutions on a daily basis, here are some talking points from the former president:

1. Take anti-government rhetoric head on.

There is no example on the planet of a successful economy with broadly shared prosperity and a shrinking, weak government. More >>

2. Say why government matters.

Government gives people the tools and creates the conditions to make the most of our lives…empowering us to do things we need or want to do that we can only do together.

3. Reinforce what government does.

Government protects and advances public interests the market can’t, including clean air, clean water, safe food, safe transportation, safe workplaces, civil rights, access to affordable health care, a decent retirement, and preservation of natural resources for the common good. National security. Opportunity for everybody. Incentives to create new businesses and jobs high-growth areas like clean energy and efficiency. Oversight of financial markets. Investments in community infrastructure we all need.

Who Said It?

Icon of person and question mark

Abraham Lincoln

Photo, Abraham Lincoln Research Site (used under fair use/public domain license)

“The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all or cannot so well do for themselves—in their separate and individual capacities.”  — Abraham Lincoln, July 1, 1854. Read more >>

More from Bill Clinton on government from Back To Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy:

I believe the only way we can keep the American Dream alive for all Americans and continue to be the world’s leading force for freedom and prosperity, peace and security, is to have both a strong, effective private sector and a strong, effective government that work together to promote an economy of good jobs, rising incomes, increasing exports, and greater energy independence.

America at its core is an idea—the idea that no matter who you are or where you’re from, if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll have the freedom and opportunity to pursue your own dreams and leave your kids a country where they can chase theirs.

Our long antigovernment obsession has proved to be remarkably successful politics, but its policy failures have given us an anemic, increasingly unequal economy, with too few jobs and stagnant incomes; put us at a competitive disadvantage compared with other nations, especially in manufacturing and clean energy; and left us a potentially crippling debt burden just as the baby boomers begin to retire.

Over the last thirty years, this “financialization” of the American economy, combined with the antigovernment tax cuts, weaker oversight of everything from banks to polluters, and, in the last decade, lax enforcement of our trade agreements, has created a “you’re on your own” economic and social policy that is the bedrock of antigovernment governance. We need to get back to a “we’re in this together” mindset.

We need government to help…create jobs, raise incomes, and reduce poverty; improve the quality of our air, food, and water and preserve irreplaceable natural treasures; increase our competitiveness in the global economy by maintaining our leadership in science, technology, innovation, and access to higher education; alert the nation to the dangers of climate change and the economic benefits of avoiding them; and increase our security by promoting peace and prosperity around the world while increasing our ability to deter and prevent security threats.

December 12, 2011