Yesterday, Hillary announced her shiny new economics plan minus any real details or new ideas. As the Wall Street Journal points out; “Clinton says the policies are failing but we need more of them.”
Hillary Clinton is running for a third term, and it isn’t her husband’s. The economic agenda that the Democratic anointee laid out on Monday in New York City sounded like a bootleg from President Obama’s stereo—with the volume turned up and stuck on repeat.
Mrs. Clinton’s theme is that “we have to build a growth and fairness economy,” which sounds like a tacit admission that the Obama policies of high taxation, heavy regulation and government income redistribution have produced stagnation and unfairness. She was explicit that real incomes aren’t rising, investment is too slow and opportunities are too few, especially for lower-skilled workers and minorities. The economy “still isn’t delivering for most Americans,” she rightly averred.
Yet Mrs. Clinton never explained why, other than to suggest that Republicans or businesses that want to make too much money are somehow to blame. She slid past the agenda that has dominated economic policy since 2007, and thus she wants to continue delivering the same beatings until morale improves. She hopes voters won’t notice the contradiction.
Paychecks stalled, year after year? Mrs. Clinton has an app for that, although it won’t be Uber. She said “the so-called gig economy” is “raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.” So she’ll use some combination of government spending and coercion of businesses to institute paid family leave, a right to child care, a higher minimum wage, mandated overtime and much else.
Mrs. Clinton calls this “breaking down barriers so more Americans participate more fully in the workforce,” even as she slammed Jeb Bush for suggesting that some Americans aspire to more than a part-time job. Mrs. Clinton’s ambitions include some form of profit-sharing with employees, which seems to be a way of forcing businesses to pay workers what politicians think is fair, not what they can afford to pay based on their success.
Mrs. Clinton also asserted that the decline of unions—merely 11.1% as a share of the workforce—is responsible for income inequality, when workers have fled unions because they have seen them make employers noncompetitive. By driving labor costs still higher in the rest of the economy, Mrs. Clinton would ensure that there are fewer workers to share in less prosperity.
Mrs. Clinton denounced “quarterly capitalism” and said U.S. corporations spend too much on stock buybacks and dividend payouts. “That doesn’t leave a lot left to raise pay or invest in the workers who made those profits possible”—or, she might have mentioned, to pay her handsome speaking fees.
Perhaps to assuage this goose-gander problem, Mrs. Clinton vowed to defend Dodd-Frank and go further with more prosecutions and tougher regulation. Her tax proposal lacked specifics, other than being clear that businesses and the wealthy will pay more. She asserted that the system should be fairer and simpler, but she didn’t say how, and nowhere did she indicate that even Mr. Obama favors somewhat lower corporate tax rates.
Mrs. Clinton evoked a return to the tight labor markets and 1990s boom of the Bill Clinton years. The irony is that the modern Democratic Party has moved far to the left of the President who repealed Glass-Steagall and cut capital gains tax rates, and she is now positioning herself as the tribune of this government-centric liberalism.
It follows, then, that Mrs. Clinton embraced ObamaCare, only more so. She said she’d lower out-of-pocket insurance spending and make prescription drug costs more affordable, presumably through price controls. Mrs. Clinton also said she’d “enhance” Social Security, whatever that means, though it won’t be cheap. She also went beyond Mr. Obama’s universal preschool to call for a new program—also undefined—for “children in that zero to four age group.”
This even-more-liberal-than-Obama pitch raises the question of whether this reflects the real Hillary Clinton. She always was more of a true believer than Bill, but those policy instincts went mute after HillaryCare imploded in 1994. Maybe now in the wake of Mr. Obama’s tenure, and with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren prodding her, she feels she can return to her liberal druthers.
Her challenge will be persuading voters that her agenda will somehow work better in the next four years than it has in the last seven. Presidents who elevate fairness over growth usually end up with less of both, and based on Monday’s speech Mrs. Clinton is doubling down.