One of the constant and misplaced criticisms coming hourly from the often-rabid supporters of a certain “socialist in name only” Democratic presidential candidate is that former New York Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is a shill for Wall Street. The implication and reason for perpetuating “a myth” is to portray Clinton as untrustworthy and a Wall Street wolf in sheep’s clothing preparing to eviscerate innocent liberals in particular, and middle class and poor Americans in general, if she can win the Democratic nomination and eventually the presidency.
However, like listening to Republicans and uninformed, fact-challenged Fox News devotees, one should consider the source and the motivation behind the non-stop condemnation of a worthy Democratic candidate for president; one whose criticism of the American financial system is more aligned with the things Elizabeth Warren has been screaming about than what President Obama says about the financial sector.
President Obama tends to see the financial sector as performing a fundamentally necessary role for the American economy that requires clearly delineated boundaries in the form of robust regulatory oversight. Hillary Rodham Clinton, however, the so-called “Wall Street shill” according to no small number of Democrats, has described the financial sector “as perniciously distorting the overall direction of the economy.” That is damn-sight curious coming from a so-called “Wall Street puppet” and considerably more progressive than many Democrats might believe.
Most people agree with the President that keeping the financial sector healthy is important to the economic stability of the nation. But as Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton say, “the financial sector’s fundamental business model is flawed, both morally and economically.” As Senator Warren claims to whomever will listen, the American financial sector, Wall Street and banking has been set up and rigged to deliberately “shift any and all risk onto the shoulders of regular people who have no idea what they did wrong, and absolve those who caused the problem and are best prepared to bear the consequences.”
One of the reasons that, as a Senator representing New York, Hillary Clinton could have been labeled as “generally Wall Street-friendly” as a Democrat is because it is typical of congressional representatives to align themselves with business and commerce in the district or state they represent. However, when they are working on the national level, their focus broadens. For example, although as President, Barack Obama has adopted an environmental policy that is not pandering and promoting more coal, as a Senator from Illinois “Obama was a coal booster.” Likewise, as a Texas Senator, Lyndon Johnson was “an ardent segregationist,” but as president he did sign and promote the Civil Rights Act; the one Republicans would abolish if they could.
There is also criticism from the left that Mrs. Clinton is just now joining a chorus against the financial sector’s rigged economic power. Hillary Clinton has referenced a speech she gave at NASDAQ in 2007 occasionally to remind potential voters and supporters that although as a Senator from New York she represented Wall Street, she was not afraid of viciously condemning the financial sector. This is important because the financial sector’s role and contribution to the plight of the people was not any kind of national issue that it is today; not that most ignorant Americans consider it an issue today.
Clinton’s speech was prescient then, and important now, because she was sounding the alarm clearly a year before the true nature of Wall Street and the financial sector’s malfeasance was manifested in a devastating world recession. Perhaps Hillary Clinton has not been beating the drums about the evils of the financial sector, but her eight-year old mindset reveals that she is no kind of devotee of the “underlying business model” of the financial sector.
In 2007 Clinton addressed “Wall Street” about the looming mortgage crisis before its full effects were felt, and last week Mrs. Clinton told Rachel Maddow;
“I went to the NASDAQ in December of 2007, and basically said, ‘You guys have got to stop it, what you are doing is not only a disaster for homeowners because of the mortgage foreclosures and the way that they had manipulated the mortgage market, but it’s going to have dire consequences for our country.'” That does not sound like a Wall Street shill, or a newcomer to the reality of the financial sector’s raping of the economy.
In her speech, after assigning blame to mortgage lenders and brokers, the Bush administration and regulators, then-Senator Clinton focused on Wall Street.
“But finally, responsibility also belongs to Wall Street, which not only enabled but often encouraged reckless mortgage lending. Mortgage lenders didn’t have balance sheets big enough to write millions of loans on their own. So Wall Street originated and packaged the loans that common sense warned might very well have ended in collapse and foreclosure. Some people might say Wall Street only helped to distribute risk. I believe Wall Street shifted risk away from people who knew what was going on onto the people who did not. Wall Street may not have created the foreclosure crisis, but Wall Street certainly had a hand in making it worse.”
Any American looking for, or errantly thinking they found, an absolutely “perfect” candidate is going to be sorely disappointed; no such being exists. There may be valid criticisms of Hillary Rodham Clinton, just like there are every Democratic candidate for president. However, this constant criticism that Mrs. Clinton is a Wall Street puppet is as invalid as claiming she is just now calling out their improprieties, however legal they are. Clinton was calling out Wall Street eight years ago, but it was not politically important or expedient, it was not on television and it was not at well-publicized rallies.