Four Economic Policy Questions Candidate Hillary Clinton Will Have to Answer

By Lawler, Joseph | Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The, April 13, 2015 | Go to article overview

Four Economic Policy Questions Candidate Hillary Clinton Will Have to Answer


Lawler, Joseph, Examiner (Washington, D.C.), The


Official presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will have to answer questions on the campaign trail that she has been able to avoid as secretary of state and as a private citizen.

Since Clinton ended her first campaign for the presidency in 2008, the financial crisis badly wounded middle-class America. Strong income growth for families remains elusive for most families. Meanwhile, the national debt has roughly doubled, and the growing cost of entitlements such as Medicare has begun squeezing out other government spending priorities.

Here are the biggest questions on economic policy that Clinton will have to answer shortly as she hits the campaign trail:

1. Will she distance herself from Wall Street?

In the past few years, the Democratic Party has become more populist as its size has shrunk in Congress, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has pushed for tighter regulation of Wall Street.

Clinton, however, is generally viewed as closer to Wall Street and big business.

Liberals remember that it was her husband, Bill Clinton, who signed into law deregulatory bills, including a repeal of the New Deal-era Glass-Steagall law separating commercial from investment banks, that they blame for allowing the financial crisis.

In her post-State Department career, Clinton has earned millions giving speeches to business groups, including financial giants Goldmans Sachs and the Carlyle Group. Her two biggest campaign contributors over her career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, are Goldman and the megabank Citigroup.

More recently, Clinton has seemed to move closer to the populist point of view on finance. In a campaign appearance with Warren in Massachusetts last fall, Clinton tried to appropriate Warren's populist rhetoric, saying "I love watching Elizabeth give it to those who deserve to get it" and telling the crowd, "don't let anybody tell you that it's corporations and businesses that create jobs."

But it will be hard for Clinton to narrow the gap between herself and the Warren wing of the Democratic Party, which increasingly wants to reinstate Glass-Steagall or break up the banks outright.

Martin O'Malley, one of the few likely Democratic challengers to Clinton, previewed a possible left-wing criticism of Clinton in Iowa in March, calling for Glass-Steagall and accountability for financial executives engaged in wrongdoing. "Triangulation is not a strategy that will move America forward," O'Malley told a gathering of Democrats, in an apparent reference to the Clinton White House's strategy of appealing to the political middle.

2. Will she appease the Democratic base on trade?

Liberal congressional Democrats are currently embroiled in a disagreement with the Obama White House over trade agreements. …

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