The Most Delightful—and Little-Noticed—Idea in Bill Clinton’s Speech

How to Make Government Work
Sept. 6 2012 3:43 PM

The Most Delightful—and Little-Noticed—Idea in Bill Clinton’s Speech

Bill Clinton addresses the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday.

Photo by Brendan SmialowskiAFP/GettyImages.

These days, it is fashionable to challenge the very notion of national political conventions. After all, they are devoid of suspense, meaningful debate, or even much good entertainment. But even so, they give us the opportunity to listen to the rhetoric of our national politicians, to see our major parties participate in a long-range debate with the other side, and to examine politicians in one of their most important public  habitats, the convention hall.

And every now and again, conventions produce a gem of a speech.


Watching Bill Clinton last night was like seeing Rembrandt painting a portrait—a master at work. But adding more superlatives to the many already offered is of little use. Instead I want to draw attention to a morsel buried in the speech. President Clinton promoted an idea that is already part of the Obama administration’s education finance reform: the ability to pay off college loans as fixed percentage of one’s income, rather than a fixed-dollar amount.

A more sophisticated version of this idea—initially proposed by Nobel laureate economists Milton Friedman and James Tobin, would lower barriers to education, reduce and almost eliminate barriers to the types of jobs that might be more socially useful but less financially rewarding that many students wish to take, and ensure a more equitable society. (See “Loan Ranger,” my 2009 Slate column for more on the topic.)

These are the values and policies we should want the government to promote.  The idea won’t get much attention—but it should. 

Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of the state of New York, hosts Viewpoint on Current TV. Follow @eliotspitzer on Twitter.



The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.


Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
Sept. 30 2014 10:44 AM Bull---- Market America is overlooking a plentiful renewable resource: animal manure.
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 30 2014 10:10 AM A Lovable Murderer and Heroic Villain: The Story of Australia's Most Iconic Outlaw
  Double X
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal. But… What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath The Methane Lakes of Titan?
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.