Ever since Bill Clinton became the first Democratic president in two decades, the United States has been gripped by scandal. In office from 1993 to 2001, Clinton was plagued by a litany of sexual scandals. He is also remembered for his failure to reform the healthcare system and his handling of the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.
In this article, we will focus on just one area: neoliberalism and how it shaped American politics during Clinton’s tenure as president. We will explain what exactly neoliberalism is and how it affects everyday life in today’s capitalist society. Lastly, we will discuss how all these factors led to the impeachment process against Clinton and why he remains an important figure in American history even today.
What is neoliberalism?
Neoliberalism is a political ideology and economic system that values laissez-faire economics and privatization over state intervention. Neoliberal policies advance the interests of large corporations and wealthy investors above those of consumers, workers, or other stakeholders.
Governments are typically urged to prioritize fiscal discipline, free trade, deregulation, and privatization over social services and protections. As a result, neoliberal policies have led to increasing income inequality, a decline in the power and bargaining power of workers, and weak or broken public services.
Clinton’s failure to reform the healthcare system
When Clinton took office in January 1993, the US had a heavily centralized public healthcare system. Seven million people were covered under Medicaid and Medicare, and nearly 90 percent of the population was covered by employer-sponsored health insurance.
However, slowly but surely, this centralized system crumbled. As the 1990s progressed, Republicans joined with the American Medical Association to oppose the creation of a universal health insurance system. The result was the decentralization of healthcare, the privatization of healthcare services, and the rise of a for-profit medical industry.
Soon after Clinton took office, the Republicans came up with a plan to dramatically reduce the federal deficit by scaling back social programs. The Clinton administration rejected the proposal, but Congress went ahead and passed a bill that put caps on Medicaid, Medicare, and other social programs.
Medicaid, the government health insurance program that covers the poor, is currently capped at $537 billion. Medicare, which covers the elderly, is capped at $530 billion. Child health care is also covered by a fixed federal grant.
Scandals and impeachment process
Throughout his tenure, Clinton was dogged by allegations of sexual impropriety. He had a very open relationship with his wife Hillary, and allegations have ranged from inappropriate kissing and groping to full-blown rape. Several women have publicly accused Clinton of sexual misconduct.
In January 1998, a 22-year-old acquaintance publicly accused Clinton of sexually assaulting her in 1982, when she was a college intern. Clinton vehemently denied the allegation and later settled a lawsuit filed by Paula Jones, who also accused him of sexual misconduct.
When Monica Lewinsky, a 22-year-old White House intern, began an affair with Clinton, the scandal became national news. In the years since then, many people have questioned the degree to which the affair was consensual and whether Clinton committed a crime by having an affair with an intern in his position as president. To some, the scandal was a central part of Clinton’s impeachment process.