Hillary Clinton’s Economic Speech: A Study in Contradictions

We didn’t have high hopes for Hillary Clinton’s economic speech. After all, here’s how POLITICO billed it

Clinton’s aide said she will discuss some of the structural forces conspiring against sustainable wage growth, such as globalization, automation, and even consumer-friendly “sharing economy” firms like Uber and Airbnb that are creating new relationships between management and labor (and which now employ many Obama administration alumni). But she will argue that policy choices have contributed to the problem, and that she can fix it.

And here’s how the Wall Street Journal framed those “fixes”

To address income inequality, Mrs. Clinton will call for raising the minimum wage, increasing taxes on the wealthy, boosting the power of unions and reducing health-care costs. She also is likely to propose some new rules governing Wall Street.

We knew Hillary Clinton’s last name was a blast from the past, but did she really have to bring the exact same policy agenda that her husband offered up 22 years ago? She may as well have typed the speech on an old Underwood typewriter, scanned it into her Macintosh, waited for the dial up connection to AOL, got frustrated, and then mailed it to her editors through the US Postal Service.

Unfortunately, the speech lived up to its hype. It was a grab-bag of progressive talking points, a speech more akin to throwing spaghetti at a wall to see what sticks, rather than a display of a true plan to address the very real economic problems we face. Unsurprisingly, that approach led to myriad internal contradictions that went unexplained. 

For instance, she said she wants “to be the small-businesses president” because she would “empower entrepreneurs with less red tape, easier access to capital, tax relief and simplification.” But then she laid out a plan to require companies to share profits because that is “good for businesses.” It’s difficult to see how empowering entrepreneurs and reducing red tape jives with her belief that she knows what’s in the best interest of businesses better than they do and is willing to add additional regulations to that effect.

She also wants to deride Jeb Bush for his comments about wanting to get people into the full-time labor force, but then she applauds “[t]he movement of women into the American workforce” saying that it was “responsible for more than $3.5 trillion in economic growth.” That progress has stalled, she argued, which “represents a lot of unused potential for our economy and for our families.” In other words, she’s saying the exact same thing that Bush is, she just refused to pass up an opportunity to bring politics into the mix.

Or, as Republican candidate Carly Fiorina responded, Clinton’s speech was a “bundle of contradictions, a litany of progressive prescriptions.”

“She talked about going beyond – even further – on Dodd-Frank and then talked about trying to strengthen the community banking system even though Dodd-Frank has already destroyed hundreds, if not thousands, of community banks,” Fiorina said.

“She talked about going beyond the Affordable Care Act … even though it is crystal clear that the ACA is raising healthcare costs and insurance premiums,” she continued.

Perhaps the most glaring contradiction was Hillary Clinton’s seeming affinity for entrepreneurial innovation and her disdain for the so-called “sharing economy.” Throughout her speech she made it clear that she wanted to “nurture start-ups”, “empower entrepreneurs,” and work on “unleashing innovation,” while wanting to stop crony capitalists from being “able to game the system.” But despite all the talk she put innovative companies like Uber, Lyft, and AirBNB in her crosshairs by questioning whether of they are the model for “what a good job will look like in the future.”

Sadly, she seems not to realize  how out of touch with young adults this makes her look. As Charles Cook writes for National Review:

In the eyes of us free-marketeers, the teams behind the host of new peer-to-peer services are no less than digital liberators. For us, the arrival of a system such as Uber is salutary, not scary: It is an end to waiting in the rain for a state-approved cab; it is the key to a transportation experience a cut above that which is provided by the cartels; it is the source of golden opportunities for those who wish to construct odd or custom-built work schedules or to make money without answering to a boss. That a few ingenious programmers have found a way around the artificial scarcity, state-union collusion, and high barriers to entry that The Man has seen fit to impose is, in our view, an extremely positive development. More of this, please.

The world is changing and evolving faster than government can keep up. But whereas Republicans want to get the hell out of the way, Democrats want to throttle growth until the bureaucrats can figure out how to “manage the system.” In that sense, although Clinton’s platform is a mess of contradictions, at least the theme of a has-been candidate talking about used-up ideas is cohesive.

Photo credit: Brett Weinstein. See more of his work HERE.