You may have heard that Hillary Clinton, in launching her campaign over the weekend, gave a speech marked by class-warfare themes. The New York Times said she issued “a populist promise to reverse the gaping gulf between the rich and poor.” Politico said “her economic-inequality rhetoric could have been comfortably uttered by the likes of Elizabeth Warren,” the crusading liberal senator from Massachusetts. Not (ever) to be outdone, the New York Post featured her on its cover in full Sherwood Forest drag, under the headline “RODHAM HOOD! Hillary reboots campaign with attack on rich.”
But here is what Clinton actually said:
You see corporations making record profits, with CEOs making record pay, but your paychecks have barely budged. While many of you are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, you see the top 25 hedge fund managers making more than all of America’s kindergarten teachers combined—and often paying a lower tax rate….
Prosperity can’t be just for CEOs and hedge fund managers. Democracy can’t be just for billionaires and corporations….
The financial industry and many multinational corporations have created huge wealth for a few by focusing too much on short-term profit and too little on long-term value—too much on complex trading schemes and stock buybacks, too little on investments in new businesses, jobs, and fair compensation….
Republicans trip over themselves promising lower taxes for the wealthy and fewer rules for the biggest corporations without regard for how that will make income inequality even worse... They pledge to wipe out tough rules on Wall Street, rather than rein in the banks that are still too risky….
The middle class needs more growth and more fairness. Growth and fairness go together.... There are allies for change everywhere who know we can’t stand by while inequality increases, wages stagnate, and the promise of America dims….
[We should] reward businesses who invest in long-term value rather than the quick buck, because that leads to higher growth for the economy, higher wages for workers, and yes, bigger profits—everybody will have a better time. I will rewrite the tax code so it rewards hard work and investments here at home, not quick trades or stashing profits overseas.
Here are some things Clinton didn’t say: She didn’t directly call for higher taxes on the rich. She didn’t directly blame Wall Street or financial deregulation for the economic crisis. (In fact, she mentioned Wall Street and banks just once in the speech.) She didn’t say, as Warren frequently does, that “the game is rigged” against ordinary Americans. She didn’t mention the gap between rich and poor at all, and her two mentions of inequality (both quoted above) were indirect. CEO benefits and hedge-fund salaries weren’t directly attacked, but used as a point of contrast. Rather than rage against the perfidy and greed of the rich and powerful, as Warren routinely does, or insist that economic villains must be punished, Clinton posited that a better economy could lift all boats—that under her policies, “everybody will have a better time.”