Hillary Clinton says she'll put Bill 'in charge' of fixing economy

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton battle over big banks
Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton battle over big banks

If she's elected president, Hillary Clinton says she'll appoint her husband, Bill, to oversee the economy.

During a speech in Kentucky Sunday she referred to "my husband, who I will put in charge of revitalizing the economy 'cause he knows what he's doing."

The U.S. economy boomed during President Clinton's administration. His economic record is an effective selling point, especially as U.S. growth remains sluggish, and most voters worry about the economy.

During Clinton's eight years as president, the U.S. economy added more than 22 million jobs. That's slightly more jobs than were added during the combined 22-year tenure of the four most recent Republican presidents.

In the spring of 2000, Clinton's final year in office, a greater percentage of Americans had jobs than any time since record-keeping began soon after World War II.

Giving Clinton's policies full credit for boosting the economy isn't entirely fair. The rapid growth of the Internet during his eight years in office greatly increased business productivity and profits and helped to fuel the hiring boom. There was also a bubble in Internet stocks, which poured money into the tech sector and helped spurred hiring.

But government policies did help also. The federal government actually ran surpluses rather than deficits during Clinton's final three years in office, and that reduced the need for government borrowing and helped to keep interest rates relatively low.

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But there are critics on both the right and the left who argue that Clinton's policies laid the groundwork for the economic problems that were to follow.

Many regulations were eliminated during Clinton's administration that had previously prevented commercial banks from moving into investment banking and insurance, which had been the turf of Wall Street firms. Some critics have blamed the loss of those protections for the financial market's meltdown and the need to bail out banks that occurred in 2008.

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The North American Free Trade Agreement, which lowered trade barriers with Mexico and Canada, was signed into law early in the Clinton administration. China and the U.S. also signed a trade accord in 1999 which led to China joining the World Trade Organization. Those moves led to dramatic increases in imports from Mexico and China, which critics say cost U.S. workers their jobs.

Advocates of those deals says that the U.S. economy was bound to lose many of those jobs to lower wage countries even without the trade pacts.

Hillary Clinton's campaign's press secretary Nick Merrill said that her comments don't reflect any decision to name her husband to a some specific post in her administration.

"It would be getting ahead of ourselves to talk about any sort of formalized role for anyone in her administration," he said. "I think that her point has been time and again that he has a lot to offer and it would be foolish not to use that in some capacity. It has not gone any further than that."

Earlier this month in another speech in Kentucky she said, "I told my husband he's got to come out of retirement and be in charge of this because you know he's got more ideas a minute that anybody I know."

CNN's Dan Merica contributed to this report.

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