Chapel Hill: Opinion

Clinton fell on sword of ‘great experiment’ – John Sharpe

John Sharpe
John Sharpe

In the 1990s, when the Internet first was introduced to the general public under the former Clinton administration, it was supposed to be “a great experiment without any rules and regulations.”

To make that possible, former President Bill Clinton deregulated the telecommunications industry through the Federal Communications Commission, which falls under the executive branch of the federal government.

Beforehand, telecommunications were considered public utilities that were in the public interest to regulate and the number of service providers were relatively few.

Deregulation let newly innovated Internet service providers and cellular telephone companies flourish to the extent that the economy “went wild,” resulting in nicknames for Clinton such as “Wild Bill,” and “Mr. Deregulation.”

Also in the 1990s, Clinton must have defanged the Securities and Exchange Commission as well, which is supposed to take measures to calm the stock market when it gets out of hand, based on the well-understood and time-honored notions that what goes up too much must come down and that volatility is bad for sustained growth.

Regardless, many people liked the wildness of the economy under Clinton, especially in the tech-heavy Research Triangle area – although it came as no surprise to others that recession set in toward the end …

Fast forward 20 years and although Hillary Clinton is different from her husband, it’s also clear that email is part and parcel of the Internet, which former Vice President Al Gore “invented” under Clinton.

In revisiting the email scandal that damaged Ms. Clinton’s campaign, considering how she used a technology that first flourished under her husband’s administration and how she used it without following the rules and regulations, if she didn’t fall on her own sword, she sure fell on his.

And, with recent examination of how “fake news” on social media may have affected the outcome of the election as well, when one considers how social media is yet another aspect of an Internet without any rules and regulations, she fell on that sword at least twice.

Clinton and Gore also advanced the view that as Americans, “We’re smarter than everyone else,” while offering the pipe dream that “Anyone who lost a manufacturing job in this country could go to community college and get a job with information technology.”

Fast forward again and there have been numerous reports about how the “Average Joes” in this country are no better off than they were 25 years ago, along with further reports about how only one-third of the country has benefitted from the “economic recovery” under Obama, while the other two-thirds feel like they still are in a recession.

It’s reminiscent of the recession that trailed the former Clinton administration, when I interviewed some former textile workers who actually went to community college after losing their manufacturing jobs, only to wind up with part-time jobs at Walmart for less than half the pay …

So in this last election, it’s pretty clear the Average Joes and the two-thirds spoke.

Meanwhile, it’s up for speculation as to whether Wild Bill is still in the doghouse …

John Sharpe lives in Hillsborough.