By Geneva Sands - 09/19/11 03:13 PM EDT
Former President Bill Clinton criticized Washington on Monday for failing to reach an agreement to revive the economy, saying that while conflict might be good for politics, it is "lousy for economic policy."
"Here it is in a sentence: What works in bringing the economy back is cooperation. What works in getting on the news programs and politics is conflict. Conflict is great for politics, great for news coverage, lousy for economic policy. That's what the problem is. We've got to go back to a cooperative environment where everybody kicks in a little," said Clinton on NBC's "Today" show.
Clinton is in New York City for the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) annual meeting.
The former president said that while Democrats are not blameless in putting politics first, it is the GOP’s hard-line position on tax increases that hinders cooperation and productive policies for economic growth.
"Mostly this is the anti-government extreme position that you see on this tax thing, that 'no, no we'll never raise another penny on taxes on anybody no matter how well off they are.' It scares people around the world," he said.
Clinton said people around they world think Americans voted for a government that is ideological and doesn't base its decision-making on factual information.
The former president said he believes the fastest thing to help the economy would be to clear mortgage debt more quickly.
He called for an option where mortgage holders that are underwater could convert payments into rent.
"If you did that and you cleaned up the banks' balance sheets then I think there's enough money in the banks and in corporate treasuries to get this economy going again," Clinton said.
Clinton said corporate leaders tell him they aren't hiring because of concerns that consumer demand is weak. He said they also believe there should be a more competitive tax system.
"No one complains about the price of labor, no one complains about the quality of labor. All corporations I talked to said Americans are highly productive and work like crazy," Clinton said.