Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hillary's Coming Out Speech - Jeffrey Folks

by Jeffrey Folks

Lest anyone think Hillary has changed her mind since 1993, it’s now clear that she is competing with Bernie Sanders for the office of socialist-in-chief. 

The idea that totalitarian economies are more efficient than capitalist democracies keeps popping up among progressive writers.  That’s because of the progressive dream in which, as Hillary Clinton famously put it in 1993, “[w]e must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society.”  That sounds a lot like Karl Marx’s “Society does not consist of individuals but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations within which these individuals stand” (Grundrisse, Notebook II, Section B, 1857).

Lest anyone think Hillary has changed her mind since 1993, it’s now clear that she is competing with Bernie Sanders for the office of socialist-in-chief.  Her speech at the New School for Social Research focused on the failings of capitalism.  Attacking U.S. businesses for their focus on short-term profit, she pledged to work for better pay and family rights for workers, as well as for advancement of the interests of labor unions.

Starting with an innocuous statement about the “basic bargain” of labor and employer – “if you do your part you ought to be able to get ahead” – Clinton pivoted immediately to a “solution” that has nothing to do with “doing your part” (or what, in more innocent times, was called “hard work.”  In her attack on Jeb Bush for saying that workers might wish to work “full time,” she made it clear she was not talking about “hard work.”).

What Hillary talked about continuously was the expansion of government initiatives to “assist” workers.  Lowering Obamacare subsidies, a further step toward her lifelong dream of national health care, is one of those initiatives.  Universal child care from “zero” to grade school is another.  Lots of opportunities there for indoctrination.

Forced profit sharing, with the earnings of businesses going to workers rather than investors, is yet another of Hillary’s goals.  For a candidate with such close ties to Wall Street, it is surprising that Hillary seems unfamiliar with that most basic of economic principles – that capital will migrate to areas of greater return, whether it be in the U.S. or overseas.  Her Peronist proposal would result in the flight of capital overseas, thus impoverishing workers in America just as they have been impoverished in Argentina and Venezuela.         

Hillary had much to say about the success of the economy in the 1990s, under her husband’s administration, but less to say about her role in the failed recovery of the 2010s.  Since Obama took office, growth has averaged just over 1%, half of what it has been in previous economic recoveries.  The four years of Obama’s first term made for the worst four-year period since 1930.  Since 2012, GDP growth has averaged 2.19% (through Q1, 2015).  That is seven years of failed Big Government, the same program Hillary endorsed on Monday.

The standard liberal defense of the Obama malaise, still echoed by Hillary Clinton, is that George W. Bush drove the economy “into a ditch” from which it has never made its way out.  The “ditch” is a crude metaphor for describing the nation’s economy but a convenient one for liberals who wish to obscure the causes of the 2008-2009 recession and, at the same time, excuse the damage that Obama’s and Hillary’s policies have wrought.  The fact is that the Obama economy is not in a ditch created by his predecessor.  It’s more like the Hotel California, a nightmare you can never leave.

The most important fact about Obama’s slow-growth recovery is the reason for the lack of growth.  As many prominent economists have pointed out, the Obama economy is not growing because businesses are not investing, small businesses are not starting up, the labor force is shrinking, and those who are working are less productive.

All of these factors are symptoms of the same disease: the breakdown of incentives to invest and to work as a result of increased government regulation and taxation.  Since 2008, the U.S. has dropped from 5th to 12th on the Heritage Foundation’s annual index of economic freedom.  That’s two places below Mauritius, and five below Chile.

The index of economic freedom is, in effect, a gauge of liberty in a broader sense.  By assessing such factors as the size of government, investment freedom, property rights, and labor freedom, the index provides a snapshot of liberty in the 186 countries it covers.  At the bottom of the list are Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea.  It’s revealing that the Obama administration has chosen to normalize relations with the Castro regime and that it retains friendly relations with Venezuela.  Apparently Obama and Hillary see nothing wrong with extending a hand to what many regard as two of the most repressive regimes on the planet.

That may be because he and his former secretary of state have pursued something that resembles the Castro/Chávez model of state control of the economy.  Since taking office Obama has increased government control of every sector of the economy.  In her speech on Monday, Hillary made it clear that she would go even farther.  

Even as she attacked “corporations making a profit,” a concept that seems particularly galling to her, Hillary proclaimed that “[d]emocracy can’t be just for billionaires and corporations.”  Actually, I doubt that anyone ever said that democracy can be just for billionaires and corporations.  It is revealing, however, that during the Obama/Clinton administration, even as the size and reach of government have expanded to unprecedented levels, billionaires seem to be doing quite well and the middle class rather poorly.  Maybe it’s time to try something new.

That thought seems not to have occurred to Hillary Clinton.  If it is true that billionaires have been enriched over the past seven years – a point she repeats ad nauseam in her speech – that may be because crony capitalism has never been better rewarded.  It would appear that those are the same crony capitalists who have paid Bill and Hillary Clinton’s half-million-dollar speaking fees.  What do they expect in return?

Hillary hit all the right notes in her coming out speech on Monday, with appeals to working women, unions, illegal immigrants, the LGBT community, environmentalists, and other Democratic constituencies.  But underneath it all was a tired old vision of Big Government coming to the rescue of helpless citizens victimized by the rich.  That has been the orthodox progressive line in this country and elsewhere for over a century, and everywhere it has been tried it has failed.

Americans have waited a long time for Hillary’s coming out party.  Now that she’s finally saying something, it’s nothing we haven’t heard from Obama, Carter, and LBJ, and from Wilson and Mussolini before that.  The result, in every case, has been economic destruction and political chaos.  Based on what Hillary revealed on Monday, all she has to offer is more of the same. 

Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books on American politics and culture, including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).


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