Political Ironist: In God We Trust, Hillary Not So much

October 23, 2016 2 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Hillary Clinton now has the White House in her reach as her Republican adversary Donald Trump has done everything to sabotage his campaign but claim that he is Putin’s secret lover and foam from the mouth.  Yet, she will have a long slog to regain the trust of many Americans, as she will be known as the default president – the more tolerable choice between the egoist and the elitist.

Alliterations aside, the real conundrum facing politically disaffected Americans is: Who is the real Hillary and, more importantly, is she Wall Street or Main Street?  This suspicion is not only limited to adversaries, but also to those in her party as a recent survey by the global research firm, Reputation Institute, found that 48 percent of Democratic voters perceived her to be “ambitious, arrogant, snobby, controlling and had questions about her honesty.”

At a $50,000 plate fundraiser in New York, Mrs. Clinton clumsily referred to Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” implicitly impugning them as racists and xenophobes, who belong in the white trash bin.  But the fact is while racism and nationalism may exist among them it also is alive and well among Democrats and higher socioeconomic strata. A poll conducted in 2015 by Reuters found that a third of questioned Democrats supported a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States. In another, by YouGov, 45% of polled Democrats reported holding an unfavorable view of Islam, with almost no fluctuation based on household income.  Thus, Mrs. Clinton’s denouncement scapegoating and stereotyping Trump’s following among the lower to middle socioeconomic classes as the country’s moral scourge – while her minions are somehow above such prejudice – is playing divisive class politics.

For those who accuse her of being too cozy with Wall Street her actions and revelations from emails can be contradictory and nearly two-faced.  In one email she has intimated she would endorse reenactment of the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression-era law that separated investment banking from commercial banking but was repealed in 1999 and blamed, in part, for the financial crisis. Yet, publically she has maintained she won’t back it.  Another email sent by her speechwriter, Dan Schwerin, revealed how duplicitous she can be concerning her relationship to the financial community. In it Mr. Schwerin acknowledges that in a speech Mrs. Clinton gave to Deutsche Bank in 2014, he wrote her a long riff about economic fairness,  “how the financial industry has lost its way, precisely for the purpose of having something we could show people if ever asked what she was saying behind closed doors for two years to all those ‘fat cats.’”

This does not play well to a middle-class whose income growth has slowed since 1980 and whose incomes have declined since 2000. Stagnant wages place families at risk of falling out of the middle class while half of all Americans are projected to experience at least one year of poverty or near-poverty in their lifetimes.

Meanwhile, the share of income going to the top 1 percent has exploded, helped primarily by the collusion between wealth and power. Economist Paul Krugman said “soaring incomes at the top were achieved, in large part, by squeezing those below – by cutting wages, slashing benefits, crushing unions, and diverting a rising share of national resources to financial wheeling and dealing...Perhaps more important still, the wealthy exert a vastly disproportionate effect on policy.”

Mrs. Clinton’s critics believe that Mr. Krugman’s explanations of income inequality fit her as well as the $12,495.00 Giorgio Armani tweed jacket she once wore to give a campaign speech to Goldman Sachs, a firm that played both ends against the middle in the housing crisis.  In a 2014 speech to the financial investment firm, Mrs. Clinton, who with her husband, Bill, hauled in $139 million from 2007 to 2014, admitted that she is “out of touch” with the middle class. Along with the fact she earned over $9 million from speeches delivered primarily to Wall Street firms, it is easy to see why her Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders had cast her as part of the privileged elite and out of touch with mainstream America.  Mrs. Clinton seems to work both sides of the fence.  Excerpts from one of her speeches to Wall Street reveal someone concerned about oversight and maintaining trust from Main Street, but that was followed up by a speech in which she said that politicians need to have a “public and private” position on the issues. It is hard to imagine Mrs. Clinton eviscerating then Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO John Stumph with the fervor of Senator Elizabeth Warren for his role in creating millions of bogus accounts for its customers.  

No group has been harder hit economically from the attrition of blue-collar jobs due to globalization than the middle class. It took a fierce primary battle with Bernie Sanders to sway Mrs. Clinton from her position as a staunch supporter of free trade; she has since tilted more left and adopted Sanders’ stance opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Mrs. Clinton has already displayed an economic sleight of hand, as her definition of the middle class skews the income levels for that bracket. In her tax proposal, she pledges not to raise taxes on households making under $250,000, a high ceiling for middle class, considering that entry into the top 5 percent income bracket requires $206,000 in annual income or above. Most people would not include the top 5 percent of earners in the middle class who took in more than half the money earned nationwide in 2014.

While Trump fizzles like a firecracker in the rain, leaving many in the middle class chagrined that he will not be taking a wrecking ball to Washington, Hillary will continue to be pilloried until she proves that she is indeed a friend of mainstream America.  When voters go to the polls they could very well imagine a host of crazy emoticons on the ballot next to Trump’s name. For Clinton, it could just be a question mark.

Written by Mike Bernos

Mike Bernos is an award-winning journalist, having written for among others, ABC News, Gannett News, USA Today, Florida Trend and Christian Science Monitor. He is the author of three books and a songwriter whose works appear on Pandora, Sirius XM, and Spotify. He lives in Riverside.