A few months into her campaign for the 2016 Democratic nomination for president, Hillary Clinton has given her first major policy speech.
Delivered at the New School in New York City, Clinton outlined her concerns with the economy as well as her plan to rebuild it.
The speech positioned Clinton further to the left on economic issues than her Republican rivals like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and more closely aligned with the populist values of candidates like Vermont's Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Since announcing her intention to once again seek the Democratic nomination for president, Clinton has been forced to deal with incessant nagging from the media. She’s been required to answer questions about her email accounts, Benghazi and which woman she would want to see on the $10 bill.
She’s been given little room to fully explain her views on issues like the economy, which is why her June 13 speech was such an important step forward for her campaign.
Clinton’s plan argued in favor of corporate profit-sharing, which she claims would incentivize workers and boost productivity rather than just directing money to the top 1 percent.
She also advocated for pay increases, as well as for pay equality.
“It’s time to recognize that quality, affordable child care is not a luxury, it’s a growth strategy. 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,” she said.
Clinton’s speech was also tough on Wall Street, arguing that financial restrictions that “go beyond” Dodd-Frank financial industry reform need to be implemented.
While she credited President Obama with saving the economy from the brink of depression by doing things like bailing out the auto industry, she also hinted that the Obama administration's response to the financial crisis was not tough enough. “Five major banks pleading guilty to felony charges for conspiring to manipulate currency exchange and interest rates. There can be no justification or tolerance for this kind of criminal behavior,” Clinton said.
Despite this rhetoric, Clinton has been framed as a Wall Street crony by progressives like Sanders. She makes money from people on Wall Street, both for paid speeches and for campaign donations. As Yahoo News reports, she technically represented Wall Street when she was a U.S. Senator for New York. Sanders, on the other hand, has built his entire platform around bringing down Wall Street.
Considering Sanders’s relatively slight yet still surprising rise in the polls — according to Real Clear Politics, he has 14.3 percent of the vote compared to Clinton’s 62.8 percent — it’s unsurprising that Clinton adopted some of the Vermont senator’s progressive values. She also differentiated herself from the self-described socialist candidate, saying things like “I know firsthand the role that Wall Street can and should play in our economy helping main street grow and prosper.”
While Clinton’s speech addressed the problems with the economy as well as general issues that need to be resolved, she didn’t outline a plan as specific as some of the other candidates have given.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, for instance, wants a 14.5 percent flat tax. Donald Trump wants to build a wall on the border with Mexico and bring foreign jobs back home. Bush has the specific number of 4 percent in mind when it comes to growing the economy. Bernie Sanders has a 12 step plan that includes investing in infrastructure, raising the minimum wage and breaking up too-big-to-fail banks.
No matter how ridiculous you find any of those proposals, at least they represent concrete actions that the candidate could take once elected to office.
Even if Clinton’s speech didn’t contain specific plans for how to save the economy, it certainly showed that she understands how it works and that she knows the dangerous direction in which the country is headed. She even addressed the uncertainty that has arisen out of the "on-demand" or sharing economy popularized by technology-based companies like Uber and Air Bnb.
“Many Americans are making extra money renting out a spare room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car,” Clinton said, reported Market Watch. “This ‘on demand’ or so-called ‘gig economy’ is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation, but it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.”
It’s easy to criticize Clinton for not having a specific economic plan or for playing to the progressive crowd with attacks on Wall Street just because that’s what the polls tell her to do. Both of those things are true, but her speech also demonstrates how she understands how serious of a problem income inequality has become in this country and how desperately we need to get the economy back on track.
Even if Clinton only wants to be tougher on Wall Street to defeat Sanders, at least she’s listening to the wants and needs of her constituents.
Her intentions are also more noble and forward-thinking than her critics might be led to believe.
“I want to see our economy work for the struggling, the striving and the successful,” Clinton said. “We’re not going to find all the answers we need today in the playbooks of the past, we can’t go back to the old policies that failed us before, nor can we just replay the successes.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, Clinton’s aides suggested the candidate will be rolling out a more detailed agenda in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, the questions about her email accounts will likely continue.