Hillary Clinton Tries To Sound Like Sanders & O’Malley While Avoiding Specifics

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Hillary Clinton’s big economic speech has mostly been greeted with yawns. Previously the conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton was one of Wall Street’s favorite candidates, and her speech has not changed this. She did include a number of points which sounded good, but lacked any specifics to make a convincing case that she would really bring about any changes.

Politico summed up the reaction in an article entitled Clinton speech react: ‘Is that it?’ The Democratic front-runner manages to underwhelm both Wall Street and its reformers in her signature economic policy speech:

Clinton laid out the soft contours of a “growth and fairness economy” in a speech designed to appeal to struggling middle-class workers with promises of higher pay and more generous federal policies.

But she left out many hard specifics on tougher tax policy toward the rich and corporate America. And she offered limited pledges to crack down on big Wall Street banks while hitting her strongest notes promising to toss rogue bankers in prison while ripping recent worker-productivity comments from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Despite those few moments, this was hardly Thomas Piketty invading the land of Wall Street titans and flipping over tables piled high with gold. And there were no radical new proposals aimed at reversing America’s long slide into wage stagnation.

“She appears to have taken a page out of the Elizabeth Warren book on going after bankers and brokers and fat cats and people who may have broken the law,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment office at BMO Private bank. “I’m sure a lot of polling went into that. But in terms of inequality and profit-sharing and general economic redistribution, she was a lot longer on problems than she was on solutions.”

And Clinton sounded some of her by now very familiar themes, invoking her love of being a grandmother and arguing that middle-class wage stagnation since the end of the Great Recession was exacerbating income inequality while pledging that something must be done. But that something, according to Clinton, mainly consists of boosting the minimum wage and increasing overtime pay, something President Barack Obama has been pushing for some time…

Financial reformers gave her mixed grades. “It’s a good start, but after all this listening, planning and thinking by the runaway leading candidate, I expected more,” said Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets, a pro-reform group. “The American people deserve a concrete, specific, comprehensive plan that really protects them from Wall Street recklessness and that she as president can be held accountable for once in office.”

Another financial reformer said the anti-Wall Street crowd was waiting to see whether Clinton will “put in place a team of advisers who have a demonstrated history of supporting meaningful reform and tough enforcement, or chooses instead to surround herself with the same crowd of revolving door insiders.”

The real test for Clinton on Wall Street will come when and if she turns this rhetoric into actual policy prescriptions. Big Wall Street titans heavily funding Clinton’s campaign and other business interests fully expect to take some heavy rhetorical hits as the Democratic front-runner fights off the Sanders surge. But they do not expect Clinton to try and fully reshape their industry.

She did correctly criticize Jeb Bush for his recent comment that Americans should “work longer hours” and Marco Rubio’s tax cut for millionaires. She did sound like she might be more willing than President Obama has to prosecute bankers who violate the law. She fell far short of Bernie Sanders’ support for breaking up the big banks, as well as short of the specific economic proposals recently released by Martin O’Malley. She basically seems to desire to use the rhetoric of Sanders and O’Malley, as well as Elizebeth Warren, while keeping the big corporations and banks confident in continuing to bankroll her campaign.

Clinton did call for paid family leave. She supported an increase in the minimum wage without any indication as to whether she will match Sanders and O’Malley on the size of an increase supported. Earlier in the campaign, Clinton was to the right of Sanders and O’Malley when they were calling for increasing Social Security benefits. She now gave vague support for enhancing Social Security without clarifying what this means. About the biggest surprise of the speech was her criticism of the gig economy:

In a note that struck some as odd given the popularity of the services, Clinton specifically criticized “gig economy” companies, a group that includes upstarts such as Airbnb and Uber. These types of scrappy young companies have often provided corporate homes for former Obama administration officials. Former top Obama adviser David Plouffe is now a senior executive at Uber.

Center-right sources such as Politico above indicate no real fear of Clinton from Wall Street. Salon summed up the response to Clinton’s speech from the left:
Hillary Clinton gave her big economic speech this morning, proposing a whole array of policies that she argues will “build a ‘growth and fairness’ economy.” She wasn’t especially forthcoming on details, which is a shame, but she had some interesting and ideas and made some promises that she should be held to going forward.
The full transcript is available here.
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3 Comments

  1. 1
    Greg says:

    Liar

  2. 2
    Philo Vaihinger says:

    Bernie fans will never be happy with her or her positions. As for direct comparisons, she said she will protect Obamacare and did NOT say "Medicare for all," indicating that is not her aim. And though she put off specifics I would expect her plans for education would place her squarely to Bernie's right, as well.

    Are Warren and O'Malley also to Bernie's right? Maybe between Hillary and Bernie somewhere?

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:

    Warren and O’Malley are probably to Bernie’s right (keeping in mind the limitations of using a linear left/right spectrum) but the three are far closer together with Hillary off to the right of them.

    I am worried about how she will go about protecting Obamacare. In the past I have generally been unhappy with her comments when she would go into the specifics of health care policy. Plus HillaryCare was terribly designed plan.

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