Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, opened the 2011 AFP Annual Conference as the keynote speaker on Sunday evening. A powerful voice for progress around the world, President Clinton weighed in on a number of subjects in his speech, ranging from the Arab Spring, to the eurozone debt crisis, to major scientific discoveries.
President Clinton emphasized the need for economic reform in the United States, amid vast inequality and ideological gridlock. "Essentially, we've got an interdependent world that is a work in progress," he said. "The rich countries that are having challenges like America have not either reformed their own systems enough, or integrated themselves into that world well enough so that we're increasing jobs and increasing opportunities. But you shouldn't be pessimistic. We still have the largest economy in the world. We still have the largest combined total of exports of goods, services and remittances where immigrants are sending money back home."
In a Q&A session with AFP Chairman Michael Connolly, CTP, Vice President-Treasurer, Tiffany’s, President Clinton advocated for reforming the corporate tax laws. "We have a corporate rate of 35 percent that's the second highest in the world," he said. "And I raised it to that. But when I did, it was the average rate. Everybody else has lowered theirs. Our corporate tax take is only 23 percent. We need to move down close to that by flattening the tax structure and leveling out the incentives, but keeping and increasing the resurging development tax credit. We follow the 17th of the world in the generosity of our R&D tax credit, and if you want to bring manufacturing back to America, more and more companies want their research facilities where they make things, for very good reasons."
President Clinton also advocated for a tax holiday for the repatriation of corporate investment, and laid out a plan for how it could fare better than it has in previous incarnations. "The last one in 2004 was a total bust. The companies were killing jobs, not creating jobs. They gave all the money to stock buybacks and executive compensation, and it was a bust. But it doesn't have to be. You could let them bring their money back for free right now before we get to corporate taxes reform if they invest it in hiring new people and if they want to and if they want to spend it however they want, or let them bring it back at the long-term capital gains rate of 15 percent, take the money and put it into an infrastructure bank and then invite all Americans to buy bonds in the bank and get money from stock and funds and other foreign sources. We're the only country in the world that can use private capital to build our infrastructure, and that would put a lot of people to work. Those two things, in my opinion, would help us to return to a full employment economy much, much quicker."
President Clinton served two terms as President and was known for presiding over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in our nation’s history. Under President Clinton, the United States enjoyed a federal budget surplus from 1997 to 2001, the first time in nearly 30 years. Since leaving office, President Clinton has remained in the spotlight, frequently campaigning for Democratic politicians, and heading up a number of charity organizations. Also an accomplished author, President Clinton's books, My Life and Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World were bestsellers. His latest book, Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy, hits bookstores on Tuesday.