A Non-Neoliberal Woman President Is Not One of the Choices
by Gaius Publius
"I owe almost my entire Wall Street career to the Clintons" (he does mean both).
—Wall Street trader Chris Arnade
—Wall Street trader Chris Arnade
I recently read Joan Walsh's passionate endorsement of Hillary Clinton, and while she speaks for herself, it's obvious that many people feel as she does. It's long past time for a woman to be nominated and long past time for the vicious, sexist and puerile attacks on her to cease. Hillary Clinton has been subjected to the kind of public abuse that I think only women who deal with the Internet fully appreciate. The cruelty of the insults many women are forced to endure is both frightening and dangerous. I truly believe you can't appreciate that kind of relentless abuse until you've personally felt it.
That said, if you are truly a progressive in your views and policy preferences, is Hillary Clinton the right woman to take the mantle of "first woman president"? Should the historically important first woman president, for example, be the one with last clear chance to end the grip of carbon before the planet burns, drowns, freezes and fries — yet also be the one to lead us into that black hole anyway?
Would any woman want that legacy for the "first woman president" — that she becomes the destroyer who threw away the final chance to save civilized life? We are beyond irony, if that proves true. (I'll write more in future, as I have in the past, on Clinton and carbon, though there's a small taste of what I'm talking about below. Look for the word "frackers.")
In the same way, I didn't want the first black president to be the one who proactively enabled slave-trading in Malaysia so the world's hyper-wealthy — including those on whom he will surely depend for a "Bill Clinton future," should he want one — can scoop yet more of the wealth of the world into their already bulging pockets? Aren't they rich enough already? Not in their eyes, nor in Obama's, apparently. This is also beyond irony, if you consider the suffering of Malaysian slaves. These people are worked to death and die in filth. Again, first black president.
If This Were a "Clean Election"...
Put simply, if this were a "clean election" (the analogy is to a "clean bill" in Congress, one that does one thing cleanly) ... if this were an all-things-equal-but-the-gender election ... if, for example, Elizabeth Warren were the candidate running against her ... there would be no fight but a policy fight in the Democratic Party. The nomination would belong to the winner based on how she would govern. You would still see the policy fight in the Party, but the gender discussion wouldn't confuse it.
But this is not a "clean election." This is an election between a potential "first woman president" — who is indeed treated very badly as a person in many quarters, but who is also, to all appearances, "money to the core" — and a male who is her opposite when it comes to wealth and income policy. When it comes to economics, electing a progressive woman is not one of the choices.
Just one example of the policy differences between Sanders and Clinton. Sanders would break up the big banks and starve the "shadow banking" nexus with Warren's 21st Century Glass-Steagall bill (yes, it does address shadow banking). In contrast, Clinton would keep the big banks whole, regulate "shadow banks" a bit more closely than before, and tell Wall Street to "cut it out" when big money crosses the line.
Sanders would put bankers in jail if they commit fraud. Would Clinton? (Has Obama?) Clinton hasn't spoken on this, but "cut it out" doesn't sound like orange jumpsuit language to me.
If you're a Democrat (or a non-tribal progressive) and gender is your issue, then Clinton makes an interesting choice in the primary — so long as you're willing to accept her neoliberal, generally pro-wealth policies. (In that regard, I would love every Clinton-leaning voter to ask herself if she would still support Clinton if Warren were running against her. After all, some people are supporting Clinton because of her neoliberalism, her "establishment centrism" and credibility, not in spite of it.)
But if you're a Democrat (or a non-tribal progressive) and money is your issue, the thought of electing the next wealth-friendly neoliberal president — of either gender — certainly makes you shudder. Does that mean you shouldn't support her in the general election? No, it means you should make that choice then. This is not then — this is now.
Which Candidate, If Elected, Is Most Likely to be Tough on "Big Money"?
Let's look at a few pieces that drive the above point painfully home (painful to me at least, though likely painful for any Warren supporter as well, for the obvious reason). To that end, I'd like to look at three, two recent ones and something from a few months ago. I won't offer long quotes for the last two pieces, but ask you to click through instead. The first, however, I'd like to present in detail.
◾ "I worked on Wall Street. I am skeptical Hillary Clinton will rein it in"
From a recent Guardian article, this from long-time Wall Street trader Chris Arnade. This is worth reading in full. He starts:
I owe almost my entire Wall Street career to the Clintons. I am not alone; most bankers owe their careers, and their wealth, to them. Over the last 25 years they – with the Clintons it is never just Bill or Hillary – implemented policies that placed Wall Street at the center of the Democratic economic agenda, turning it from a party against Wall Street to a party of Wall Street.Now some of his story:
That is why when I recently went to see Hillary Clinton campaign for president and speak about reforming Wall Street I was skeptical. What I heard hasn’t changed that skepticism. The policies she offers are mid-course corrections. In the Clintons’ world, Wall Street stays at the center, economically and politically. Given Wall Street’s power and influence, that is a dangerous place to leave them.
Salomon Brothers hired me in 1993, seven months after President Bill Clinton’s inauguration. Getting a job had been easy, Wall Street was booming from deregulation that had begun under Reagan and was continuing under Clinton.But when Clinton bailed out Mexico to make Wall Street debt-holders whole, Wall Street knew that administration was theirs:
When Bill Clinton ran for office, he offered up him and Hillary (“Two for the price of one”) as New Democrats, embracing an image of being tough on crime, but not on business. Despite the campaign rhetoric, nobody on the trading floor I joined had voted for the Clintons or trusted them.
Few traders on the floor were even Democrats, who as long as anyone could remember were Wall Street’s natural enemy. That view was summarized in the words of my boss: “Republicans let you make money and let you keep it. Democrats don’t let you make money, but if you do, they take it.”
Despite Wall Street’s reticence, key appointments were swinging their way. Robert Rubin, who had been CEO of Goldman Sachs, was appointed to a senior White House job as director of the National Economic Council. The Treasury Department was also being filled with banking friendly economists who saw the markets as a solution, not as a problem.
The administration’s economic policy took shape as trickle down, Democratic style. They championed free trade, pushing Nafta. They reformed welfare, buying into the conservative view that poverty was about dependency, not about situation. They threw the old left a few bones, repealing prior tax cuts on the rich, but used the increased revenues mostly on Wall Street’s favorite issue: cutting the debt.
Most importantly, when faced with their first financial crisis, they [the Clinton administration] bailed out Wall Street.Those shudders were entirely unnecessary. The Clinton administration saved the banks by bailing out their debtors. They pushed for "a $50bn global bail-out of Mexico, arguing that to not do so would devastate the US and world economy. Unmentioned was that it would have also devastated Wall Street banks" (my emphasis). The success of that bailout became a template that's with us today. It was "used it as an economic blueprint that emphasized Wall Street. It also emphasized bailouts".
That crisis came in January 1995, halfway through the administration’s first term. Mexico, after having boomed from the optimism surrounding Nafta, went bust. It was a huge embarrassment for the administration, given the push they had made for Nafta against a cynical Democratic party.
Money was fleeing Mexico, and much of it was coming back through me and my firm. Selling investors’ Mexican bonds was my first job on Wall Street, and now they were trying to sell them back to us. But we hadn’t just sold Mexican bonds to clients, instead we did it using new derivatives product to get around regulatory issues and take advantages of tax rules, and lend the clients money. Given how aggressive we were, and how profitable it was for us, older traders kept expecting to be stopped by regulators from the new administration, but that didn’t happen.
When Mexico started to collapse, the shudders began....
As a result, "Wall Street now had both political parties working for them, and really nobody holding them accountable. Now, no trade was too aggressive, no risk too crazy, no behavior to unethical and no loss too painful. It unleashed a boom that produced plenty of smaller crisis (Russia, Dotcom), before culminating in the housing and financial crisis of 2008."
This was not just Bill and his actions. It was his administration. As Arnade notes above, when Bill Clinton ran for office he offered himself and Hillary as “Two for the price of one,” as "New Democrats, embracing an image of being tough on crime, but not on business." Is Hillary still of this mind? She was in 2008. As a senator, according to Arnade, "Hillary Clinton voted to bail-out the banks, a vote she still defends." A vote opposite to the vote of Bernie Sanders.
◾ Where's Is Wall Street's Money Going Today?
And now just one of the reasons the story told above is still the story today, and is still a Hillary Clinton story. The following graphic show data through October, 2015:
Campaign donations from individuals who work in the securities and investments industry (source; click to enlarge)
This is an awful lot of money for an individual to give to someone who's going to jail them for fraud. Again, this and the previous bulleted piece don't comprise two stories, an older one and a newer one. They are clearly one story, even without considering the recent money from Wall Street speeches.
◾ Clinton Goes to Pennsylvania to Reap Windfall from Pennsylvania Frackers
One more point, this time about the climate, one of the places we started this piece. Consider the following from Brad Johnson, something from the current fundraising cycle:
Last night, Hillary Clinton attended a gala fundraiser in Philadelphia at the headquarters of Franklin Square Capital Partners, a major investor in the fossil-fuel industry, particularly domestic fracking. The controversial fracking industry is particularly powerful in Pennsylvania, which will host the Democratic National Convention this July.There's much more at the link — this is just a taste.
Clinton has avoided taking any clear stand on fracking. While she has embraced the Clean Power Plan, which assumes a strong increase in natural-gas power plants, she also supports a much deeper investment in solar electricity than the baseline plan. The pro-Clinton Super PAC Correct the Record, run by David Brock, touts Clinton’s aggressive pro-fracking record.
Numerous grassroots groups have risen to oppose the toxic fracking of Pennsylvania and its labor abuses, including Marcellus Protest, No Fracking Way, Pennsylvanians Against Fracking, Keep Tap Water Safe, Stop Fracking Now, and Stop the Frack Attack.
As reported by the Intercept’s Lee Fang, “One of Franklin Square Capital’s investment funds, the FS Energy & Power Fund” the Intercept’s Lee Fang reports, “is heavily invested in fossil fuel companies, including offshore oil drilling and fracking.” The company cautions that “changes to laws and increased regulation or restrictions on the use of hydraulic fracturing may adversely impact” the fund’s performance.
Through its fund, Franklin Square invests in private fracking and oil drilling companies across the nation, as well as Canada and the Gulf of Mexico. This includes heavy investment in Pennsylvania frackers. ...
Will the first woman president be our "fracker in chief" and put the earth on a diet of methane, a deadly greenhouse gas, until it fries? I'm afraid, if the first woman president is Clinton, the answer will be yes. It breaks my heart that this is not a "clean election," but it's not, and it's not one of our choices to make it one.
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