Could Hillary Clinton Become the Champion of the 99 Percent? (concluded)

This, part three of an article from the New York Times by Gideon Lewis-Kraus about the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think-tank with a radically different vision of America’s economic and political future, speculates on where the Democratic presidential nominee stands with regard to these issues.

Rewriting the Rules does call for an increase in top individual marginal tax rates to perhaps 45 percent, a substantial increase by today’s Republican standards but well in line with contemporary Europe or 20th-century America. What was novel was that . . . [t]heir demands were vaulting, but they held that an agenda offering freedom from exploitation (rather than freedom from regulation), and insisting that greater fairness would benefit everyone, would resonate with all Americans. . .

images-5Larry Summer              Robert Reich                                                               Robert_Reich_at_the_UT_Liz_Carpenter_Lecture_2015




Everywhere it has been pointed out that this election feels like a prolonged rehash of 1990s enmities. Wong has a Faulknerian view: “It’s not just the same fights,” she told me, “but the exact same people.” The story goes that there were two distinct factions in the Clinton White House: the free-market, centrist, “neoliberal” wing that we now associate with such figures as Larry Summers and Robert Rubin and such institutions as the Democratic Leadership Council; and then people like Stiglitz — who was head of the Council of Economic Advisers for two years — and Robert Reich. The Summers/Rubin wing largely prevailed. . . It was this legacy that had, throughout the primaries, prevented so many people from taking the former first lady — especially as she tied herself to Obama’s tenure — as a credible voice for the economic reforms of Rewriting the Rules. . .


. . . The fight between Clinton and Sanders often seemed like a choice between a repudiation of the long 1990s entirely (Robert Reich has been an outspoken Sanders supporter) or an avowal that this time the party will choose the vision of Stiglitz. The obvious mystery then becomes: Where does Hillary Clinton herself stand?. . .To pretend the battles are the same as they were in 1994 ignores the fact that the economic realities have changed, economic thinking has changed, the party has changed and — perhaps more than anything — the electorate has changed.

On the left, Stiglitz — with his resignation in protest from the World Bank, in 2000; the 2002 publication of the bridge-burning anti-neoliberalism classic “Globalization and Its Discontents”; and the 2011 publication, in Vanity Fair, of an article titled Of the 1 Percent, By the 1 Percent, For the 1 PercentRobert Reich is viewed, like Sanders, to have landed consistently on the right side of history. . .

Now, though, there’s no excuse. “Between 1990 and 2015 we’ve had the financial crisis, growth of inequality to unbounded levels, slow growth over all for a third of a century,” Stiglitz said. “We’ve had a third of a century as an experiment, and if you don’t see the results of that experiment now, that’s willful neglect.”

Wong was a White House fellow in the Clinton administration in 1998 and had her own objections to the positions of that White House . . . For Wong, too, this election has proved not that the disputes of the 1990s must be fought anew but that they have already been won, decisively and across the board.

 . . . Since the 1970s, movement conservatism has consistently outperformed progressives in laying a talent conduit. Heritage identifies young candidates and grooms them for a smooth climb through the system . . .

. . . Roosevelt’s project, likewise, is about finding people with the economic, legal and regulatory experience to change the country’s balance of power. . . This goes for top positions, like cabinet secretaries or the heads of agencies, but also down to the deputy under secretaries and staff members, whom they could introduce to the system.

Alexander Hamilton                                                      Thomas Jefferson  


Wong thinks it’s no longer accurate to even think of these issues in terms of left versus right. Instead, she holds, real political realignment means a long-term cultural change in the perception of government and its relationship to consolidated power. . . most people. . . have a much easier time recognizing — as Elizabeth Warren put it in a speech at the New America Foundation last month — that four airlines control 80 percent of American airline seats, three chains own 99 percent of drugstores and four companies sell 85 percent of the beef.

In June 2016, a little more than a year after the Roosevelt Island speech, Clinton gave her first major economic address as the presumed nominee, in Raleigh. She called for wage increases through stronger unions; portable benefits; an expansion of Social Security; the closing of the carried-interest loophole and an exit tax for corporate inversions; and policies to address the racial employment and racial wealth gaps. Most important for everyone at Roosevelt, she said that she planned an administration that would “rewrite the rules so more companies share profits with their employees and fewer ship profits and jobs overseas.”

1396816_630x354Hillary Clinton makes a major economic address at Raleigh, NC

Wong . . . promptly emailed me an entire roster of the Clinton intimates who favored real reform, including Heather Boushey of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth; Maya Harris, one of Clinton’s senior policy advisers; and Gary Gensler, the campaign’s chief financial officer.

[I]n Wong’s view, the question of who a politician is — and above all who this particular presidential candidate is — is irrelevant. Her strategy is to proceed in public as if the candidate is certain to rise to the occasion. . . “After all,” Wong said to me more than once, “she is unknowable. Nobody can know her. I certainly can’t know her. All I can go by is what is on the public record, and who she’s got around her. I’m sure I’ll be disappointed again. Over the next few months, we’ll all be disappointed again. But I’m only optimistic because there’s evidence for me to be that way.”

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Article concluded

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