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Bill Clinton talks debt ceiling, furniture industry

Former president keynotes Las Vegas Market
Although the United States' economy remains fragile and the debt ceiling crisis has triggered a slide in the already-nervous financial markets, there are plenty of reasons for optimism, according to former President Bill Clinton who spoke at the Las Vegas Market Tuesday evening.

Thousands of market attendees packed the Pavilion for the keynote event, sponsored by Serta.

In the wide-ranging speech, Clinton touched on some of the global issues affecting the world economy and offered some insights on the recent political uproar over the debt ceiling.

"The world we live in has three huge problems," he said. "It's highly unstable, it's too unequal and it isn't sustainable."

He said the growing wealth inequality is holding the entire world back from growth right now.

"This inequality prevents us from creating a world where the free-trade rules have any chance of working," he said. "There's too much inequality to build a broad-based, consumer-driven economy."

He referred to the current political state in the United States are "the social equivalent of chaos theory."

Clinton said throughout history, countries that last and succeed tend to make the same mistakes over and over again.

"They get too interested in preserving their position," he said. "As a result, the political system develops a heavy bias toward preserving gains rather than investing in the future. We have to put America back in the future business."

Referring to the recent political debacle that resulted from the necessity of raising the debt ceiling, Clinton said "this conflict may be great politics but it makes bad policy."

But, he said, the debt is a legitimate issue that needs to be tackled in a bipartisan fashion, with spending cuts and revenues on the table, but not until the economy really starts to rebound, probably in 2013, because doing either one too soon could trigger another downturn.

"You can't be a great country and drag around all that debt," he said. He suggested doing the legislation now, with trigger points based on economic growth, "then get back to work at getting this economy started."

Following the keynote, Clinton fielded pre-submitted questions through International Market Centers CEO Bob Maricich. For more on those responses, see the follow-up story at www.homeaccentstoday.com.

He ended the evening on an upbeat note.

"People have been betting against this country since before we were a country," he said. "... We have been declared dead many times. So far, everyone that ever bet against America has lost.

"Don't get down on your country, but don't be in denial either," he continued. "We've got some really serious problems ... but it's a mistake to bet against this country. But we don't need to fight with each other unless we absolutely have to."

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