Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Not Enough

On Monday, Charlie Peters noted, Hillary Clinton "said some tough stuff about income inequality and took some well-wrought shots at both Scott Walker and Jeb (!) for their respective demonstrations of fealty to the plutocrats. And that bit about demythologizing the Uber economy was long overdue."

As reflected in the video below, the rhetoric was impressive as Mrs. Clinton, according to Reuters

toughened her stance against Wall Street on Monday, vowing to tighten oversight of the financial industry and warning of serious risks in the "shadow banking" industry.

In her first major economic speech of the 2016 election campaign, Clinton assailed financial institutions in detailed terms as she pledged to cut the income gap and spur wage growth for ordinary Americans.

Details were sparse. Further

The Democratic front-runner stopped short of calling for the break-up of big banks as some liberal Democrats have sought. Clinton has no plans to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act to split commercial banks from their investment operations, Clinton economic adviser Alan Blinder told Reuters.

Hillary Clinton already has broken with Clinton 42 on at least two issues: the mass incarceration enabled in part by enactment of the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1994 and the Defense of Marriage Act, which stood prior to being ruled unconstitutional as an obstacle to same-sex marriage.

However, Bill Clinton earlier this year had  disavowed his support for DOMA (and confirmed that he supports same-sex marriage).  And confronted about the anti-crime legislation he supported and signed, he acknowledged "The problem is the way it was written and implemented is we cast too wide a net and we had too many people in prison," which is as close as politically possible to screaming "I screwed up."

So those two issues are low-hanging fruit for a Democratic candidate.  In her remarks the other day, Mrs. Clinton

proposed encouraging firms to share profits with employees, and ensuring that stock buybacks are not used just for an immediate boost in share prices. She said she will announce a plan to reform capital gains taxes to reward longer-term investments and not just quick trades.

In the absence of corresponding legislation- which she did not advocate- the first is beyond the scope of the presidency.  The "plan to reform capital gains taxes" is- hopefully- forthcoming and should be viewed with skepticism.

The "speech was short on specific policy proposals" but presumably we are to be comforted because "Clinton put the fight for higher wages for working Americans at the heart of her economic agenda,"

With minimal effort and less risk, HRC could could have recommended reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, repealed as part of Gramm-Leach-Bliley, signed as Bill Clinton was leaving the Oval Office.  Or she could have signaled doubts about the trade policies of Presidents Obama and Clinton- and Bush and Bush.

Admittedly, the latter was unlikely to come from an individual who on 45 occasions has promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and who stood silent as Congress dealt a major blow to consumers, labor, and the environment with approval of fair trade. Yet, in what was reported to be "a major economic speech," something specific and significant about trade or financial services was the least that should have been demanded of a Democrat. Its absence from the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination should be a cause of concern- even a "red flag"- for progressives, including the 26+ members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus who already have endorsed the neo-liberal from Illinois/Arkansas/New York.

Charlie Peters concludes

The financial-services sector, and the even-bigger-than-they-were banks that are its cornerstone, remain perfectly capable of hauling the economy over the cliff one more time. And, as we are seeing in Europe, indiscreet economic royalism is all the rage. The Democratic candidate for president in 2016 has to be clearly in opposition to every aspect of this rising oligarchy. It's not the 1990's any more. Whoever gets elected is not going to have a real-estate bubble in one pocket, and a tech-bubble in the other. Whoever gets elected is going to have to deal with the serious repercussions to the economy that continue to bedevil us due to decisions made during the last Clinton presidency. This speech was a decent start, but that's all it was.

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