Hillary Throws Down the Gauntlet on the Economy

By Tom Watson

Much has already been written about Hillary Clinton’s sweeping economic policy platform, outlined during a July 13 speech in Manhattan.

The Nation's Michelle Goldberg called it “the most progressive address on economics by a major-party presidential candidate in a generation."

Vox’s Jonathan Allen said that Hillary “spoke to both the head and the heart of the Democratic Party” and added that she “succeeded in articulating a vision for reshaping the American economy to promote growth by directing help to working- and middle-class families.”

The Roosevelt Institute’s chief economist Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, praised the speech, saying: “Today Hillary Clinton began to offer the kind of comprehensive approach we need to tackle the enormous economic challenges we face, one that is squarely in line with what we have called for.”

As Amber Phillips reported in the Washington Post: “From calling for raising middle-class wages to announcing a plan to share corporate profits with workers and go after Wall Street criminals, Hillary Clinton gave a remarkably populist/liberal speech Monday laying out her economic policies.”

The speech covered a wide swath of policy, though Clinton said her campaign will have more detailed legislative proposals in the weeks to come. Said the Guardian’s Sabrina Siddiqui: “Clinton placed income inequality and improving the conditions of everyday Americans at the heart of her pitch to grow the economy and increase wages.”

Hillary was strong and to the point: “We must raise incomes for hard-working Americans so they can afford a middle-class life. We must drive strong and steady income growth that lifts up families and lifts up our country. That will be my mission from the first day I’m president to the last.”

She argued for organized labor, for fair pay for women, for corporate profit sharing, for regulating (and when necessary, prosecuting) Wall Street, for enhancing Social Security, for encouraging small business, for closing tax loopholes that benefit wealthy investors, for tax relief for middle income earners, and for raising the minimum wage.

To #HillaryMen, the prospect of a strong progressive domestic policy agenda that puts economic fairness at the center of Democratic politics is invigorating. Yet it’s also nothing new.

As Amy Chozick noted in her Times post previewing the speech: “Economists call it ‘the great wage slowdown’ of the 21st century, and Mrs. Clinton, who expressed foresight [in 2008] in her proposals for regulating derivatives and subprime mortgages months before the financial crisis hit, believes the wage slowdown and the income inequality it has caused is the fundamental economic challenge facing the country.”

Yes, she ran on a liberal economic agenda before. Indeed, all she’s ever run on is a liberal economic agenda - one that emphasizes fairness, and balances regulation and government intervention with the kind of opportunity that still defines the American Dream. We understand that there will be some on the left who disagree with smaller details of an overall progressive economic platform; we also know there will be many on the right horrified by a vision of economic fairness that eschews the cold and stark tomorrow of a laissez-faire “winner take all” market.

We’re fine with that - and we loved the combative tone of Hillary’s remarks at the New School. She took dead aim at Republican candidates by name, including former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who argued last week that the American labor force just needs to work harder:

“Well, he must not have met many American workers. They don’t need a lecture, they need a raise.”

Yes they do.

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Peter Daou and Tom Watson founded #HillaryMen to provide actionable analysis of the 2016 campaign focusing on the gender barrier in U.S. politics. Peter is a former senior digital adviser to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative. He is a veteran of two presidential campaigns (Kerry '04 and Clinton '08). Tom is an author and Columbia University lecturer who advises companies and non-profits on social activism.