Jewish World Review March 16, 2001 / 21 Adar 5761
Cultural indicators improved
during Clinton years. Why?
THE Clinton paradox continues. Bill Clinton's presidency was a
moral disaster, but many cultural indicators improved during his
two terms, according to a compilation by one of his major
critics, former Education Secretary Bill Bennett.
Bennett's latest "Index of Leading Cultural Indicators" shows
that crime rates, juvenile violence, welfare rolls, child poverty
and teen suicides all declined during the Clinton years.
On the other hand, there was no improvement - or even
retrogression - in drug use, out-of-wedlock births, binge
drinking, teen sexual activity, education scores and TV violence
during the 1990s.
What can be attributed to Clinton's scandal-ridden presidency?
Bennett said in a breakfast session with reporters last week
that he isn't sure, but unsurprisingly he is not inclined to give
Clinton much credit for improvements.
"Many of these indicators got worse during the Reagan-Bush
years and got better during the Clinton years," Bennett
admitted. "Good things happened on his watch, but to give him
the credit on that account is ridiculous.
"I'd say his role was passive. He did sign welfare reform, which
was a significant development; but he had to be dragged kicking
and screaming into it.
"Crime went down because lots of bad guys were sent to
prison," he continued. "But this may have been the result of
policies put into effect under Reagan and Bush. What the
long-run Clinton effect will be, I can't say."
Bennett has long been among Clinton's most vociferous and
eloquent critics. During the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he
published "The Death of Outrage," a book that charged Clinton
with "reckless and irresponsible private behavior, habitual lying,
abuse of power.
"Bill Clinton is a reproach," Bennett wrote. "He has defiled the
office of the presidency of the United States."
And yet, lots of things improved under Clinton, both
economically and socially, and his presidential approval ratings
reflected this. Supporters cite the statistics as part of his
According to Bennett's latest index, the nation's crime rate
dropped 24 percent from 1992 to 1999, and violent crime
dropped 30 percent. There was also a 7 percent decrease in
juvenile arrests for violent crimes.
The number of inmates in state and federal prisons increased by
61 percent during the Clinton years, though during the
Reagan-Bush years, it jumped 170 percent.
In practically every social category, improvements during the
1990s failed to bring the nation anywhere near the point where
social dislocation began in the 1960s.
The violent crime rate in 1999 was 226 percent higher than in
1960. Average Scholastic Aptitude Test scores jumped 19
points from 1992 to 1999, but they were still 55 points below
the 1960 average.
Reported use of illegal drugs increased by 16 percent during the
Clinton years, but 52 percent from 1979 to 1999. The number of
U.S. children born out of wedlock rose from 30 percent to 32
percent under the Clinton administration, but in 1960 the figure
was only 5 percent.
One U.S. statistic that has shown significant improvement since
1960 is the child poverty rate. It was 26.9 percent in 1960, 22
percent in 1992 and 17 percent in 1999. The percentage of the
population on welfare went down by half during the Clinton
Still, Bennett expressed concern that the forces tearing down
American life, including TV violence and sexual explicitness, are
not being adequately counterbalanced by families, schools,
churches and other institutions.
The average U.S. household watches more than seven hours of
TV per day. One study cited by Bennett found that depictions
of violence and sex and use of coarse language on network
programs increased by 500 percent from 1989 to 1999.
Between 1990 and 1998, there was a 16 percent increase in
families headed by unmarried parents. Median income for a
household headed by a single mother was just $12,000,
compared with $52,500 for a two-parent family.
One of the most amazing statistics in Bennett's index is the
public's level of trust in government. In 1992 just 29 percent of
the public said it could trust government to do what is right
most of the time.
In 2000, despite all the questionable conduct of the Clinton
years - Travelgate, political use of the Lincoln Bedroom, and
impeachment - that number had risen to 42 percent. Go
JWR contributor Morton Kondracke is executive editor of Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. Send your comments by clicking here.
03/13/01: Nice talk aside, Bush team wants to win above all
03/08/01: Tax fight turns back to question of what's 'fair'
03/06/01: Bush and Congress should prepare for lean years
03/01/01: Bush needs group to promote ideas in Black America
02/26/01: Bush should talk about long-term budget challenges
02/22/01: AARP's agenda at odds with Bush priorities
02/20/01: When will Dems finally say Clinton is unfit leader?
02/14/01: McCain won't run against Bush again, just differ on issues
02/12/01: Is Joe Lieberman tilting left toward 2004?
02/07/01: The controversy starts: Bush orders HHS study of fetal, stem cell issues
02/05/01: Dems move toward bush on taxes, but ...
02/01/01: Bush should be open with press
01/30/01: Bush Should go for broke early on education
01/23/01: Clinton ain't going away, folks
01/19/01: Bush should try for legacy as 'Great Reconciler'
01/16/01: Left-Center Rift Re-emerges For Democratic Leaders
01/12/01: Clinton doing Bush no favors in Mideast
01/09/01: Bush and Democrats can deal
12/14/00: Will Daschle make it his business to get along with President Bush?
12/08/00: GOP is in danger of ruining record on medical research
11/27/00: Some fascinating stories about how and why people voted
11/22/00: GOP Survived health bullets, but one is left
11/20/00: Can next president and Hill deal?
11/15/00: With nation split, leaders must reach across party divide
11/07/00: The Envelope, Please:Bush Beats Gore, GOP Holds Hill
11/03/00: Parties appeal to two 'gospels'
11/01/00: Lurking in the shadows
10/26/00: What's Gore's Social Security plan?
10/18/00: While Bush, Gore debate surplus, Congress spends it
10/16/00: Two debates leave lots of questions
10/03/00: What questions should be debated?
09/28/00: Gore and Bush should prepare to lead
09/19/00: Bush let values issue slip away
08/25/00: Gore hands center to Bush
08/22/00: AlGore, look to future, not to Bubba
08/08/00: 2000 race could leave high road for low
08/03/00: Convention must point Bush to center
08/01/00: GOP Readies 'Debt Lockbox' As 2000 Strategy
07/27/00: Cheney adds heft to GOP ticket
07/25/00: Foreign, Defense Policy Deserves Full 2000 Debate
07/20/00: Truman Show: Gore Replays 1948, But Bush Isn't Dewey
07/18/00: Bush Must Fight Gore's Drug Plan As 'Bad Medicine'
07/13/00: Mexico's Election Supports U.S. Action On NAFTA, Bailout
07/10/00: Abortion is good for something --- just ask AlGore
07/06/00: Meet Steve Ricchetti, Bubba's secret weapon
06/30/00: AlGore is down, but is he out?
06/27/00: Social programs caught in election-year game of one-up
06/22/00: Congress Is Near Flunking a Test On School Reform
06/16/00: Doting on the grandparents
06/13/00: On Stem Cells, Bush Has Wrong Pro-Life Stance
06/08/00: Has Gore Caught Bush?
05/26/00: PNTR Vote Could Tell Which Party Fits 'New Economy'
05/23/00: The secret to winning the election: Economic programs
05/18/00: Gore should regroup
05/16/00: McCain's Support Is Tepid, But Lets Bush Focus on Gore
05/11/00: Voters need wonk training
05/09/00: Bush Could Score With Charge That Gore's Too Partisan
04/28/00: Reno's force aids Clinton, not Elian
04/25/00: Should Clinton be indicted?
04/24/00: Can Gore win on Bush tax cuts?
04/18/00: Levin's 'bridge' key to China trade?
04/11/00: Congress, U.S. Voters Still Aren't Ready For Campaign Reform
04/06/00: Bush, Gore Silent As Popular Culture Gets Ever Coarser
03/30/00: Is 2000 Like 1948, 1976 or 1960? Or Is This Unparalleled?
03/28/00: Will Bush, Gore Go for a Better Way To Pick Nominees?
03/23/00: Medicare cutbacks bleed hospitals
03/20/00: Chances Improve That China Trade Will Pass Congress
03/16/00: Lieberman as veep would help Gore
03/14/00: Can Bush, McCain Unite to Beat Gore?
03/09/00: Can GOP Forge Unity After Nasty McCain-Bush Race?
03/07/00: What accounts for McCain's excesses?
03/02/00: 'Debate' Proved Gore Is This Year's Best Gut-Fighter
02/29/00: Surprises! The 2000 GOP race is full of it
02/25/00: Voters want centrist in White House
02/23/00: Gore would hit McCain's record
02/15/00: Will negativity hurt McCain in S.C.?
02/10/00: How hard should Bush hit McCain?
02/08/00: Bush must retool his entire campaign
01/27/00: Could Gore beat Bush as Truman beat Dewey?
01/20/00: Big New Surplus Estimates Could Alter 2000 Politics
12/21/99: Bush improves, everyone panders
12/16/99: Prospects improve for campaign reform
12/14/99: Riots raise free trade as 2000 issue
12/10/99: Gore won GOP 'debate' in N.H.
12/07/99: Election pits Bush cuts vs. Medicare boost
12/03/99: Can race be a constructive issue in 2000?
11/19/99: White House race may be best in decades
11/16/99: Where is Bush on health care fight?
11/11/99: Will TV stop profiteering from politics?
11/09/99: Is GOP isolationist, or just partisan?
11/04/99: Gore, Bradley Run Opposite Races On Style, Substance
11/01/99: GOP, Clinton could reach deal swiftly
10/27/99: Bush to fight 'culture wars' -- positively
10/21/99: Porter, Mack: heroes on medical research
10/19/99: Gore scores among party big shots, but polls go South
10/14/99: Bush critiques could help GOP Congress
10/12/99: Congress can save health care from ruin
10/07/99: Will gun-control cause the GOP to shoot itself in the foot?
10/05/99: Gore moves: Desperate but necessary
10/01/99: Fox, Armstrong make case for NIH
09/28/99: Dems' race brightens Bush's chances
09/23/99: East Timor deflates `Clinton Doctrine'
09/21/99: Buchanan v. Bush? Yeah right
09/17/99: Candidates turn attention to poverty
09/15/99: Bush's education problem
09/09/99: Budget makes 2000 an `issues' election
09/07/99:Airport rage increases, with good reason
09/02/99: U.S. future up for grabs in 2000
08/31/99: U.S. Capitol needs visitor's center -- soon
08/24/99: Will 2000 be the year of the foreign crisis?
08/19/99: Neither party has upper hand for '99
08/17/99: Ford gets freedom medal one month early
08/12/99: There's time to catch Bush, say Gore aides
08/10/99: Rudy, Hillary try much-needed makeovers
08/09/99: GOP must launch new probe of Chinagate
08/02/99: Pols blow fiscal smoke on budget surplus
08/02/99: One campaign reform should pass: disclosure
07/27/99: Gore leads Bush in policy proposals