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Two Views of the Economy Add Up to Two Different Worlds

Two different worlds.

It wasn’t so long ago that rapper LL Cool J did his own version of a song by that name. But the one I remember best goes back to my college years, when a popular number with that title, by British pop artist Engelbert Humperdinck (yes, that’s his name), captured the gulf between a guy and his girl.

So far apart, they say we’re so far apart
And that we haven’t the right
To change our destiny

Forgive the corny metaphor, but that almost describes the distance between President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney’s camps when it comes to their views of the economy. It showed up this week in two interviews I did – one with former President Bill Clinton, the other with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, speaking for the Romney campaign.

Clinton, always the master communicator, was firm and reassuring on a day after the markets plunged: “…America still has the world’s largest economy, still the biggest exporter and still has enormous strengths…..We’re the most diverse economy in the world…..For the first time since the ’90’s manufacturing is growing, and it looks like it’s going to continue for three to five years.”

I’m sure those facts have been recited by the White House and the Treasury Department, but there was something about the way Clinton pulled it all together that seemed to give it more weight. By the time he told me, “We’re going to be okay. This is the agonizing fits-and-starts phase. Assuming no collapse in Europe, we’re going to be okay,” I was almost able to sit back in my chair in the small office of the Clinton Foundation in Harlem, and relax.

(I didn’t because one is supposed to sit up and look alert during serious interviews.)

He provided helpful context: “This is a very complicated thing….the average financial collapse takes 5 to 10 years to get over….If there’s a mortgage collapse…it’s closer to 10….the American people …want things done the day before yesterday….I would say [Obama is] on track to beat that pretty quickly by quite a lot.”

The former president went further and deftly worked to skewer the Romney economic remedy as exactly the wrong one. The Republican’s approach “looks like the approach the Europeans are trying to get out of, which is austerity first, which drives up unemployment and interestingly enough drives the deficit up,” he said.

With a slight shake of his head, Clinton wrapped up by turning the tables on a familiar GOP line of attack: “…(the Romney plan) calls for tax cuts so big, with unspecified savings, that every independent analyst says it’ll add $ 1 trillion or two to the debt.”

That was Tuesday. Thursday, when I taped an interview with Pawlenty, there was nothing to relax about.

“…you now have 40 months of above 8 percent unemployment, you have 23 million, let me repeat that, 23 million Americans unemployed, underemployed, or have given up looking for work,” Pawlenty insisted. “…so to look at that and say we’re on the road to recovery…is political spin of the highest order.”

The former governor, who serves as a co-chair of the Romney campaign, wasn’t through.

“The numbers don’t lie, there’s below 2 percent GDP growth in the last quarter….and then if you look at what President Obama has done, layering the burdens of Obamacare … killing American energy exploration through cancelling the Keystone pipeline…refusing to do tax reform, trying to add tax increases….,” Pawlenty said. But he wasn’t done: “…if you go talk to the business leaders in this country, they’ll tell you that his initiatives and his directions have dramatically hurt the economy, not helped it…His presidency has failed with respect to the economy.”

Ouch. When I asked him about the argument from outside analysts and Clinton that the Romney economic plan would lead to higher taxes on low-income Americans, and a huge increase in the debt, Pawlenty pushed back.

“There wouldn’t be a tax increase,” he said, and added of Romney: “he also has a series of spending cut proposals, so he wants to reduce spending in the federal government from 24, 25 percent of GDP as it is currently, down to the historical range of 19 or 20 percent.”

Pawlenty almost smiled when he said, “The president is ducking, hiding, weaving, bobbing on those issues; won’t lead, won’t propose and he is hiding on one of the most pressing issues of the day, and that’s unfortunate.”

Two different economies, two different worlds. Somehow I don’t see an ending like the one that Humperdinck sang:

We live in two different worlds
But we will show them
As we walk together in the sun
That our two different worlds are one

Watch Judy’s interview with Tim Pawlenty:

Watch Judy’s interview with Bill Clinton:

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