Bill Clinton Defends Obama's Economy

CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- Bill Clinton on Wednesday erased perceptions that the Democratic Party would largely ignore economic issues as he spent nearly 50 minutes defending President Barack Obama's record.

The former president addressed jobs, manufacturing, auto bailouts, health care, and the national budget in a speech that electrified the overflow crowd at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte.

"The Recovery Act saved and created millions of jobs and cut taxes for 95% of the American people," Clinton said. "In the last 29 months the economy has produced about 4.5 million private sector jobs."

Until Clinton's turn, the majority of speeches delivered at the Democratic convention had focused heavily on social issues.

The former president didn't take long to take a jab at Republicans, who have sustained criticisms against Obama for the unemployment rate hovering above 8% during his tenure.

"Well since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24. In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs. What's the jobs score? Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42," Clinton said as delegates roared in the arena.

Clinton said in the last 29 months of recovery -- a statistic Democrats often have repeated in this election season -- the manufacturing sector has added 500,000 jobs, which he said was the biggest increase since the 1990s.

The ISM Manufacturing survey released earlier this week showed contraction in the sector for a third straight month, and suggested that global weakness has continued to weigh down manufacturing in the United States.

The auto bailouts, which Democrats have praised in virtually every major prime time speech at their convention, was another crowd-pleasing vehicle in Clinton's speech.

The 42nd president claimed the bailout of General Motors ( GM) and Chrysler saved more than a million jobs, which included employees who worked at the auto giants, the dealerships and the auto parts suppliers.

"That's why even automakers that weren't part of the deal supported it. They needed to save the suppliers too," Clinton said.

Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, suggested for the government to provide guarantees to any lender that chose to provide debtor-in-possession financing to General Motors and Chrysler.

The government injected some $62 billion into GM and Chrysler. Opponents and Romney have suggested that private debtor-in-possession loans would have been the better route.

Data provided by Dealogic showed that all lenders had provided a combined $13.63 billion on 47 DIP deals in 2008. All DIP loans in 2007 and 2008 combined would have accounted for just 39% of the auto bailout money. Analysts have suggested that private banks were too illiquid to restructure a bankruptcy of that size.

Clinton slammed Republicans about Obamacare as he said the GOP's hope to repeal the health care legislation would be wrong and that Romney and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan have misled voters about the $716 billion they claim Obamacare would take from medicare.

On the national budget, Clinton gathered crowd support as he talked about his own record. Clinton said that he delivered, along with a Republican Congress, four surplus budgets during his presidency.

Though he didn't defend the United States' mounting debt -- GOP officials blasted out emails Tuesday that declared the debt had reached $16 trillion -- he pointed to a lack of bipartisan engagement as blocking the president's ability to do more. He also said the Romney and Ryan plan to reign in the debt didn't add up.

"They'll have to cut so much spending that they'll obliterate the budget ... not to mention cutting investments in roads, bridges, science, technology and medical research," Clinton said.

Clinton finished his speech to the loudest cheers of either of the Republican and Democratic conventions.

The decibel level soared when Clinton turned around, bowed, and greeted Obama, who had walked onto the stage to thank his predecessor with a hug.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in Charlotte, N.C.

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