Election 2016

Is Hillary Clinton Running Away From Political Reality?

Runaway inequality is the key issue that connects so many of our problems.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a campaign rally for Maryland gubernatorial candidate Anthony Gregory Brown and running mate for Lt. Governor Ken Ulman on October 30, 2014 in College Park, Maryland

Team Hillary should be worried about the lopsided vote Sanders is receiving from young people of all colors. Not only is the vote one-sided, but so is the enthusiasm. Hillary's vulnerabilities with young people includes her perceived untrustworthiness, her vote for the Iraq war and her establishment politics. But it all gets wrapped up into what she calls Bernie's "single issue"—Wall Street.

Bernie and his supporters see Wall Street as synonymous with runaway inequality, which is the key issue that connects so many of our problems. As a result, young people are convinced we need a massive political revolution to do something about it. As Robert Reich recently put it, "Such a political revolution is the prerequisite for everything else – reversing climate change, overcoming structural racism, rebuilding the middle class, achieving equal opportunity and upward mobility for the poor, and avoiding cataclysmic war."

Hillary can't abide this revolution because it requires a full-scale assault on Wall Street, which has funded her and her campaigns. So she tries to denigrate Sanders' stance by suggesting his focus on Wall Street-driven runaway inequality is merely a single issue. She asks, "If we broke up the big banks tomorrow would that end racism? Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the LGBT community? Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?"

Her line of attack not only is failing, it reveals why young people are so unenthusiastic about her: she's far too tied to Wall Street and the super-rich ever to break from them.

Why the Political Revolution Is So threatening to Hillary

Her single issue attack is quite revealing. First of all, she claims that Bernie's critique of runaway inequality amounts only to breaking up the big banks, as if that was the sum total of Bernie's "single issue."

To buttress her argument she further fractures the progressive community into a series of single-issue groups, each facing a different form of discrimination as if there were no connections among them, or between those issues and the rise of concentrated economic and political power. How are we to end institutional racism, for example? Hillary has no answer other than "elect me and I'll break all barriers."  

Bait and Switch

Hillary's next move is to switch the conversation away from the concentration of wealth and power on Wall Street. Instead she wants us to believe that the real Wall Street issue is only about preventing another crash. She argues that her proposals are tougher than Bernie's on "shadow banking"—hedge funds, private equity companies and the like. Therefore she claims she's the most effective anti-Wall Street candidate.  

Does she really believe this ridiculous sleight of hand?

But Sanders and his young followers are not just worried about how to prevent another financial meltdown. They are much more worried about the ongoing meltdown that siphons more and more of our income and wealth into the hands of the few.

We are being financially strip-mined every day, from student loans to pension rip-offs to outrageous Wall Street fees to finance state and local infrastructure products to hollowed-out corporations that ship jobs abroad and slash wages and benefits. Hillary's policy pirouettes won't alter the fact that since the 2007 crash, 95% of all the new income generated in the economy has gone to the top 1%.  That's the financial meltdown many people feel each and every day. 

Why Hillary Must View Wall Street as a Narrow Single Issue

When you receive over $9 million in one year for speaking fees from Wall Street and other corporate groups, you can't say runaway inequality is the key issue that's ruining our lives. If we ever gain access to the contents of her speeches, we would see how deeply she shares Wall Street's world view: They are good people. They are doing their jobs. Yes, they have a few excesses that can be controlled with smart regulations. No, we should not tax their speculative activities. No, we should not break them up. No, we should not set up public banks.

But as much as she may want to, she can't ignore Wall Street. So she tries to transform the most powerful economic and political force in the world into a mere single issue. And then she implicitly places that issue on a lower moral plane than racism or sexism. She thinks she is capturing the high ground by lecturing Bernie about his single-issue focus.

The Dreaded Financial Speculation Tax to fund Free Higher Education

This is where the rubber meets the road.  Hillary has to attack both ends of this very popular proposal. First she has to protect Wall Street by opposing the tax. Then she must attack free higher education (which can only be paid for by taxing elite financiers) by claiming we shouldn't be funding rich kids to go to college.

But isn't that exactly what we do in K through 12? Shouldn't a tax on Wall Street and progressive taxation in general make her rich-kid problem go away? Not for Hillary and her Wall Street patrons.

No wonder young people are flocking to Bernie. Hillary can't stop being the senator from Wall Street. These are her constituents, her donors. That's why she has to do policy contortions to keep from hitting Wall Street too hard. That's why she has no program at all to halt, let alone reverse runaway inequality. 

Enthusiasm Drives Elections

Team Hillary believes Trump and Cruz are so bad she can't lose. People will come out in droves to defeat the bad guys. Call it negative enthusiasm. The kids will come out for her too, they reason. What choice do they have?

Well, young folks just might do all the stuff older folks say is totally irresponsible: stay home, write in Bernie, vote for minor third-party candidates. What really drives elections, especially now, is enthusiasm. 

The sad fact for Team Hillary is that Bernie has it and she doesn't. As that spirit comes pouring out from our kids, it becomes infectious. It's political gold. Without it, anything can happen: including Hillary losing to a Republican.

As Hillary continues to baby Wall Street with her single-issue nonsense, she moves closer to defeat. She was crushed recently in Utah, Idaho, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. It would be far better for the country if her losing streak gathered steam. It might save us from a President Trump or Cruz. 

Here are the hard, cold facts driving this election. The vast majority of Americans detest Wall Street and runaway inequality. Bernie has earned the right to lead that charge, and young people know it.

Les Leopold, the director of the Labor Institute, is currently working with unions and community organizations to build the educational infrastructure for a new anti-Wall Street movement. His new book Runaway Inequality: An Activist’s Guide to Economic Justice serves as a text for this campaign. All proceeds go to support these educational efforts.

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