Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton delivered an economic speech Monday morning in New York that was full of empty sound bites and predictably blamed Republicans for all of America’s economic woes, ignoring any problems created by the current Democratic president, Barack Obama.
In fact, her speech was as remarkable for what Clinton didn’t say as it was for what she did say. Just like Obama, Clinton repeatedly pledged to pursue policies that increase costs both on businesses and on wage earners, without any acknowledgment of the negative impacts caused by these policies.
Clinton began her remarks by talking about the “basic bargain” of the American economy: that “if you work hard and do your part, you should be able to get ahead,” but over the past several decades, that has gotten harder and the “economy isn’t delivering” for many working Americans.
What she didn’t say: Many Americans have dropped out of the labor force during the Obama presidency, and even those still working have seen wages stagnate or their full-time jobs turn into part-time. Even Clinton’s Democratic competitor, Bernie Sanders, has recognized that the “true” unemployment rate is far higher than the figures pushed by the Obama administration, due to those who have given up looking for work.
As expected, Clinton fully blamed the problems of the economy on Republicans, because they were cutting taxes and “letting big corporations write their own rules.”
What she didn’t say: It was Clinton’s party that controlled the White House and both the House and Senate during the bailouts. Zero mention of the costs of Obamacare. Also no mention of General Electric and other companies that paid no income taxes during the Obama years. Sanders has a handy list.
“Twice now, a Democratic president has had to come in and clean up the mess left behind,” said Clinton with a sly grin. “Under President Clinton — I like the sound of that! — America saw the largest peacetime expansion in our history.”
What she didn’t say: No mention of the Republican Congress, elected in 1994 as part of the promises under the “Contract with America” championed by former Speaker Newt Gingrich, that actually passed the economic reforms into law. High five to President Clinton for signing them, though.
Clinton then credited Obama with “saving” the auto industry, pulling American back from the “brink of depression,” and providing millions with healthcare.
What she didn’t say: Taxpayers lost some $11 billion on the GM bailout alone. Clinton also skipped over GM’s recall of millions of cars with potentially faulty ignition switches that were linked to over a hundred deaths, because of a problem that GM knew about for over a decade. Clinton ignored the many economists who have found a clear connection between Obama’s policies and the slowing of the recovery, and the many people who lost their health insurance or saw premiums skyrocket under Obamacare.
“Paychecks have barely budged in real terms,” said Clinton. “The defining economic challenge of our time is clear: We must raise incomes for hard-working Americans.” She described the real measure of the economy as “how much incomes rise for hard working families.”
What she didn’t say: Conservatives have been arguing for years that the stock market recovery is not a benefit that is being enjoyed by many working Americans with stagnant wages. Former Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) made this exact point in a speech earlier this month.
“We can’t go back to the old policies that failed us before, or just replay our successes.”
What she didn’t say: As Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) put it back in April: “Yesterday is over.”
Clinton said she had an agenda to raise wages for hardworking Americans, and noted that small businesses create more than 60 percent of American jobs. “I want to be the small business president,” she said, pledging tax relief and simplification and cutting regulations.
What she didn’t say: No mention of the oppressive impact that Democratic policies, especially Obamacare, have on small businesses that are less able to afford the lawyers and accountants to steer them through the laws’ requirements.
“Another engine of strong growth should be comprehensive immigration reform,” said Clinton. “Bringing millions of hard-working people into the formal economy would increase our gross domestic product by an estimated $700 billion over 10 years.”
What she didn’t say: Clinton did not address the concerns many have about immigrants not “taking the jobs Americans don’t want” or filling needs for skilled labor, but instead displacing Americans from their current jobs.
According to Clinton, “There’s no excuse not to make greater investments in cleaner, renewable energy right now.”
What she didn’t say: Apparently the over half a billion dollars of taxpayer money that Solyndra wasted, or the $43 million that Beacon Power wasted, or the $139 million lost by the electric car company Fisker Automative — shall we continue — none of these failures are good excuses to be more cautious about government investments in energy.
Clinton then turned to “women’s issues,” although she said they shouldn’t be thought of as women’s issues. She pledged to “break down barriers” so more Americans were able to participate in the economy, especially women.
Women who want to work should be able to do so without worrying about taking care of their kids, or if a family member gets sick, said Clinton, pledging to support paid family medical leave and child care. “It’s time to recognize that quality, affordable child care is not a luxury—it’s a growth strategy,” she continued, saying that it was possible to accomplish these things in a way that would not burden small businesses.
What she didn’t say: Child care is not free. Giving employees more time off is not free. Math is tough.
“It’s way past time to end the outrage of so many women still earning less than men on the job—and women of color making even less,” said Clinton. “All this lost money adds up.”
What she didn’t say: The gender wage gap has been proved, over and over, to be due to choices women make, not discrimination.
Clinton took a swipe at former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL) for his recent comments about how Americans need to work longer hours. “Well, he must not have met very many American workers,” said Clinton, mentioning hardworking nurses and construction workers, and fast food workers who were protesting for more pay. “They don’t need a lecture, they need a raise.”
What she didn’t say: Bush was referring to the growing number of Americans unable to find work or only able to find part time work, not accusing working people of being lazy. And the fast food workers protesting for $15-per-hour wages wanted compensation above what the market was willing to pay for unskilled labor. When the McDonald’s cashier is replaced by a robot, you’ll know why.
Clinton then made a series of promises: to implement Obama’s rules on overtime and then “go further,” to crack down on employers who categorize workers as independent contractors instead of employees, to protect Obamacare and do more to “make prescription drugs more affordable,” and that she would “defend and enhance Social Security.”
What she didn’t say: Clinton made no mention of how she would pay for any of these promises, nor did she acknowledge that Obamacare was a major reason that employers were incentivized to categorize workers as independent contractors.
Clinton promised to reform the tax code, because “hardworking families deserve” tax breaks and simplification. However, of course, the rich have to “pay their fair share” and big companies shouldn’t be able to avoid paying their fair share with high powered lawyers.
What she didn’t say: See above comments about GE not paying any taxes.
Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI), who joined the presidential race earlier that morning, was name checked by Clinton for “stomping on worker rights.” She slammed him for his “mean-spirited, misguided attacks” that “undermined worker bargaining power,” and pledged to fight for labor unions.
What she didn’t say: No mention of the labor unions who supported the Keystone XL pipeline project, which both Obama and Clinton opposed. Clinton may also come to regret elevating Walker just hours after he joined the race, by highlighting the fact that he successfully defeated union efforts against him in a blue state.
Next was a series of promises about education. “I’m committed to seeing every 4 year old” have access to a pre-K program, Clinton pledged. She also promised to help make college more affordable and help students refinance their student debt.
What she didn’t say: She forgot that it was the Obama administration that engineered the government takeover of the entire student loan system, reducing options and driving up costs. And, once again, no mention of how to pay for all the new pre-K programs and other reforms she wanted.
Clinton then turned her attacks to Wall Street, bemoaning “the problem of quarterly capitalism. ” The American economy needs more focus on long term growth, research and development, investment, rather than short term stock gains. She attacked companies for buying back their own stock or paying dividends instead of expanding, and accused them of depressing wages just to keep quarterly reports looking good.
The solution, according to Clinton, was a “clear eyed capitalism,” and to “focus on the next decade rather than the next day.” She wants to see a new $1,500 tax credit for every worker trained and hired, reforms to capital gains taxes to reward long term investment instead of quick trades, and stop the use of stock buybacks to boost stock prices. She slammed hedge fund managers, and Wall Street in general for piling up “risks upon risks.” She promised “to rein in excessive risks on Wall Street.”
What she didn’t say: The next Clinton family dinner might be a little awkward, considering that one of First Daughter Chelsea Clinton’s first jobs after college was with a Manhattan hedge fund, Avenue Capital Group, and Chelsea’s husband is an investment banker.
Clinton said that the lack of regulations on Wall Street and the banking industry troubled her, and affirmed her support for Dodd-Frank, but then said she would help ease the regulations on community banks so they can give loans to local businesses that they know and trust.
What she didn’t say: This is precisely the problem with Dodd-Frank; it is extremely cumbersome for community banks to comply with its rules, and is overly punitive in the way it assigns valuations to debts. A community bank could have a loan where the business owner was turning a profit and paying the debt service in full and on time, but it could still be calculated as a “bad debt” for a host of reasons.
“Washington has to be a better steward of America’s tax dollars and American’s trust,” said Clinton.
Clinton promised to get past partisanship, in an awkwardly alliterative section of the speech, saying she wanted to find the “principled and pragmatic and progressive policies that move us forward together” and promising that she would, as president, “convene, connect, and collaborate, to build partnerships to actually get things done.”
What she didn’t say: This is coming from the woman who blamed her husband’s indiscretions with a certain White House intern on a “vast right wing conspiracy.”
“I’m running for President to build an America for tomorrow, not yesterday—where if you do your part, you will reap the rewards,” concluded Clinton. “Let’s build an economy that works for everyone.”
What she didn’t say: As former Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) wrote in his response to Clinton’s speech, “Six years into an economic ‘recovery’ that has left wages and job creation stagnant across the country, Secretary Clinton is attempting to regift the American people with the same failed economic policies the Obama Administration and Democrats have been pushing for years…States like Texas – where these policies helped create 1.5 million jobs even during the Great Recession – have created opportunity while keeping the cost of living in check, so every dollar goes further for a hardworking family. Secretary Clinton’s speech today proved that a Hillary Clinton presidency will be nothing but the third Obama term – and we already know we can do better than that.”
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.