It was interesting to hear a call to Hillary Clinton to convince the left that she will “stand up to the oligarchy which today controls our economic life.” What makes that statement “interesting” is that Mrs. Clinton has challenged the people controlling “our economic lives” for a fair number of years. But this is America and unless a point is belabored to death, the people either don’t hear or don’t want to believe it.
It’s difficult to comprehend why Clinton is portrayed as a Wall Street puppet when she has been an outspoken critic of the financial sector before it was politically expedient and has called for stronger regulations and oversight for a long time.
About seven months ago Mrs. Clinton gave a speech at the New School in Manhattan where she introduced plans for “a variety of economic issues” to help consumers and said that as president she would go beyond Dodd-Frank and introduce stiffer regulations and oversight on financial institutions responsible for the economic crisis.
During that July 2015 speech, Clinton said that she said she had been calling for financial regulations since the very early stages of the economic crisis. She said,
“As we all know, in the years before the crash, financial firms piled risk upon risk, and regulators in Washington either couldn’t or wouldn’t keep up. I was alarmed by this gathering storm and called for addressing risks of derivatives, cracking down on subprime mortgages and improving financial oversight.”
Now, before any of Mrs. Clinton’s detractors say she is lying, or stealing her Democratic opponent’s entire campaign platform, it is worth looking at what Pulitzer prize-winning Politifact says about the veracity of her statement.
When Hillary Clinton said that she “called for addressing risks of derivatives, cracking down on subprime mortgages and improving financial oversight,” Politifact ruled she was telling the truth; she has been standing up to oligarchs, big banks, and Wall Street. She just doesn’t talk about it ad nauseam or make it her entire campaign.
No-one disputes that as a senator from New York, the home of Wall Street, Mrs. Clinton has a history of campaign backing from the finance industry like the other Democratic candidate for the nomination. She also gave speeches to Wall Street firms after she was out of the Senate and the Department of State; like many former highly-placed politicians with an astounding level of expertise and experience. But earning speaking fees could not have influenced any votes or foreign policy because she was a private citizen. But enough of that. What did she say about reining in the big banks, Wall Street, and finance firms and did she just talk? Or did she see the impending economic disaster coming and try to avert it?
According to the fact-checkers at Politifact, Mrs. Clinton did, in fact, start addressing the lack of oversight and regulation of Wall Street, big banks, and the financial sector in early 2007; particularly derivatives and the mortgage crisis that nearly destroyed the economy.
While she was still a U.S. Senator representing the home of Wall Street and the financial sector, Clinton delivered a speech on the volatility of the subprime mortgage market and specifically noted that too many people were ignoring warning signs. She said,
“The subprime problems are now creating massive issues. It’s a serious problem affecting our housing market and millions of hard-working families.”
She also laid out some specific proposals to address the looming crisis before it came to fruition including “reining in sub-prime mortgages, expanding the role of the Federal Housing Administration, offering more borrowing options for underprivileged and first-time homebuyers, enact more and stronger safeguards against predatory lending practices, and implement policies intended to prevent foreclosures.”
Barely a few months later, she delivered a similar speech about the dangers on the horizon from subprime mortgages and reiterated her earlier proposals. She also suggested passing laws to establish national standards and registration for loan brokers, as well as much stronger regulations on lenders in the banking and financial industry. She said,
“I think the subprime market was sort of like the canary in the mine. You know, it was telling us loudly and clearly, ‘There are problems here.’ ”
Since she clearly saw the problems inherent with an unregulated financial system, Mrs. Clinton was the lone sponsor of a bill in the Senate that implemented the regulatory policies she proposed in September 2007, but the bill failed to garner support or pass. Undeterred, two months later Clinton began warning, loudly, about the “derivatives” issue. Remember, investors in the banking and financial sector abused the unregulated derivatives to “hedge their bets against price fluctuations in underlying assets.”
In Iowa Mrs. Clinton said,
“We need to start addressing the risks posed by derivatives and other complex financial products. You can’t let Wall Street send the bill to your street with the bright ideas that just don’t work out. Derivatives and products like them are posing real risks to families, as Wall Street writes down tens of billions of dollars in investments. Companies are taking the loss of a billion here and a billion there simply because the securities they own are worth less than they thought.”
During that Iowa speech, Clinton railed on the risky lending that ultimately led to the subprime mortgage crisis, and that she “called on then-President George W. Bush to convene a conference to find a solution;” Bush, like the House and Senate failed to act.
She also pushed for more oversight and regulation of Wall Street, banks, and the financial sector saying in 2008 that,
“As president, I will move to establish the 21st-century oversight we need in a 21st-century global marketplace. I will call for an immediate review of these new investment products and for plans to make them more transparent.”
Then she released a “six-point plan to increase financial regulation” that included, in part, more oversight of derivatives and other new financial products, establishment of mortgage standards and strengthening consumer protections.
That particular speech in November definitely angered Mrs. Clinton’s Wall Street donors to such a level it inspired The New York Times to make a comparison to progressive heroine Senator Elizabeth Warren a couple of months ago. There are probably very few Americans willing to call Elizabeth Warren a Wall Street shill, except when she failed to endorse Clinton’s Democratic rival after the Massachusetts presidential primary, but that’s another story here.
The point is that Hillary Clinton is not a Wall Street puppet any more than Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren are and intelligent Americans comprehend that simple fact. Speaking of fact, the preeminent progressive organization in America, the Center for American Progress’ (CAP) president is befuddled as to why anyone thinks Mrs. Clinton is late to these calls to rein in Wall Street and the big banks “when she was the original Elizabeth Warren; a populist fighter who for decades has been an advocate for families and children.”
The current president of CAP, Neera Tanden remarked,
“I don’t know why we have this semi-collective amnesia about her past positions. She’s following no one on these issues.”
Maybe Hillary Clinton does have to constantly remind the people on the left that are too young to have voted in 2008 or too mesmerized by campaign smears to actually look at Mrs. Clinton’s record. She has, whether emoprogs like it or not, been as harsh a critic of unregulated financial institutions as she has been a fierce advocate for families and children.
Just because Hillary Clinton doesn’t focus her entire campaign on economics, it doesn’t mean she is ignoring the problem of income inequality, a shill for an industry, or wants a deregulated financial sector; it just means that she knows there are myriad other issues a president will have to address. And believe it or not, there are no small number of American voters, Democrats, Independents and Republicans who want a president that is prepared to handle all the issues.