Election 2016

Decoding Hillary: The Truth Vs. What She Claims About Her Wall St. Record

Even when she tries to act tough on banks, Clinton can't hide her Wall Street ties.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 25: Hillary Clinton attends the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting at The Shertaon New York Hotel on September 25, 2013 in New York City.
Photo Credit: JStone / Shutterstock.com

"I went to Wall Street when I was a United States senator. I told them they were wrecking the economy. I asked for a moratorium on foreclosures. I asked that we do more to try to prevent what I worried was going to happen. I also called for closing loopholes including the carried interest loophole. I also called for changes in CEO pay. I have a record."

This was one of the most truthful and revealing responses Hillary has made during the entire campaign. It came during the Flint debate when asked when she would release her Wall Street speech transcripts. (Full debate transcript here.)

What is she really saying? As a senator from New York I have a personal relationship with these guys. I can talk sense to them. They will listen to me.

To Hillary this is playing a strong hand. To everyone else it shows weakness and a startling naïveté about power.

For starters, they obviously blew her off. She got nothing. We got nothing.

  • "I asked for a moratorium." They didn't do it. 
  • "I asked that we do more to try to prevent what I worried was going to happen." It happened.
  • "I also called for closing loopholes including the carried interest loopholes. None were closed even when the Democrats controlled both houses and the presidency.
  • "I also called for changes in CEO pay." Didn't happen.

Hillary is admitting that neither Wall Street nor her colleagues in the Senate listened to her. In short, she was incredibly ineffectual when it came to reining in Wall Street. And this comes from someone who claims she can get things done in the real world.

"I have a record."

Hillary believes her ineffectual votes and failed meetings add up to a record. They do. But not the one she would like us to see.

Hillary was the senator from New York which means she was the senator from Wall Street. Neither she nor Chuck Schumer would ever lift a finger to make life unpleasant for financial elites. Not only is Wall Street their most powerful constituency, financial elites have been major donors to the Democratic Party for decades.

Hillary and Bill have built their careers on wooing big Wall Street money. The Clinton administration destroyed Glass Steagall. It prevented the regulation of dangerous derivatives. It reappointed Alan Greenspan. During their New Democrat centrist shift, it's hard to find one Wall Street demand they didn't fulfill.

What was the excuse? Same then as now; other countries are doing it, so we need to do it too. Hillary used the same excuse during the debate when discussing the Import-Export bank which lavishes money on large corporations.  

"When I traveled around the world on your behalf as Secretary of State and went to 112 countries, one thing I saw everywhere was how European and Asian countries were supporting their companies back in their countries, to be able to make sales and contracts in a lot of the rest of the world. In fact, without the export-import bank, supporting businesses of all sizes, I believe more jobs would be lost here at home and more jobs literally would be exported. "

Hillary is admitting that these companies have us over a barrel. If we don't give them public money, then they'll export our jobs.  Similarly we need to give Wall Street what it wants so it can keep up with the big banks in Europe and Japan -- hence, sayonara, Glass-Steagall. And that's also why she doesn't want to reinstate it or add a financial speculation tax.

Power Failure

To Hillary there really is no power on earth that can challenge Wall Street. We have to learn to make peace with them. Talk with them. Cajole them into doing better. But don't attack them or deny them what they really want.

As a result her sense of power is derivative from theirs. If they are strong, she is strong. They pay for her speeches. They support her super PAC. And therefore, they will work with her to make sure the system doesn't collapse again. But in exchange, there will be no financial transaction tax to move billions from their casinos to the real economy. No way.

She's so close to them she can't feel the hatred the American people have for Wall Street. For Bernie to have a chance at victory, he needs to keep Hillary talking about Wall Street. She won't hide her pro-corporate worldview because she really believes in it. She really believes that Wall Street is just a single issue that only matters if they get too greedy and threaten the system again. Similarly, runaway inequality is also a single issue, and not connected to Wall Street. And the impoverishment of the middle class is also a single issue, not related to the financial strip-mining of our economy. 

In Hillary's world it's a win-win with Wall Street. What's good for them is good for us. And it's been very good for her. Financial elites are among her closest friends. She really believes they will follow her lead. It would hurt too much to realize that they only pay attention when she does their bidding.  

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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