If anyone thought Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign was going to mean a replay of the 1990s, we were wrong. Instead, the campaign she relaunched on Saturday is much more of a return to the 1930s. The woman who, as First Lady, reputedly communed with the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt now seeks to transform herself into the reincarnation of Franklin Roosevelt.
Of course, at a time when Rachel Dolezal can "identify" as black, Hillary Clinton is perfectly free to see herself as the new FDR. But in doing so, she not only delivers an economic platform designed to please people who think President Obama is too right wing, she also repudiates just about everything that Bill Clinton did as president.
Bill Clinton, after all, gave us the most significant reform of the welfare system since its inception. Hillary, on the other hand, has hinted at undoing such reforms. Bill believed in free trade, pushing through NAFTA among other trade agreements. Hillary has walked away from her support for free trade, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which she helped negotiate. Bill seriously explored entitlement reform and was even open to the idea of allowing small personal retirement accounts for younger workers. Hillary not only opposes any efforts to "cut or privatize the program," she actually seeks to "enhance Social Security to meet new realities, particularly for women." Bill supported business and financial deregulation, including repeal of Glass-Steagall. Hillary now blames that deregulation for the financial crisis.
And Bill Clinton is the president who, however reluctantly, declared, "The era of big government is over." Hillary, on the other hand, is laying the groundwork for the most massive expansion of government since the Great Society.
Delivering her speech appropriately on New York City's Roosevelt Island, Hillary harked back to FDR's famous Four Freedoms speech — which set the stage for modern big government (Freedom from Want? Freedom from Fear?) — to promise her own Four Fights. She promises to 1) make the economy work for "everyday Americans," not just those at the top; 2) strengthen American communities; 3) keep America safe; and 4) fix the dysfunctional American political system.
Some of this is little more than political boilerplate. Some of it is pure hypocrisy: Hillary Clinton is going to reform campaign financing? But nearly all of it involves a massive expansion of government into every corner and crevice of American life.
In this speech and elsewhere, she has called for doubling outlays for Head Start, while moving toward universal preschool, not to mention universal child care; increased government funding for science and research, especially for "developing renewable power — wind, solar, advanced biofuels; building cleaner power plants, smarter electric grids, greener buildings"; bringing "roads, railways, bridges, airports, ports, and broadband" up to "global standards for the 21st century"; increased teacher pay and more federal spending on schools; and making college affordable for everyone. And her campaign is barely two months old.
How would she pay for all this? Her fact sheet says her proposal for universal preschool will build on Obama's, and his would cost $75 billion over the next decade. Well, we can always tax the rich. Because if there is one thing that Hillary makes absolutely clear, she really, really hates the rich — unless, that is, they make their money from giving speeches to groups ranging from the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association to Deutsche Bank AG to Russian oligarchs. (Hello, Bill.)
In her speech she promised to "rewrite the tax code" to make the wealthy pay more. She cited standard Democratic proposals to punish companies that respond to America's having one of the world's highest corporate tax rates by "stashing profits overseas," but she also pressed for new plans to tax "short-term trading" on Wall Street. One way or another, Hillary is determined to put an end to "corporations making record profits, with CEOs making record pay."
In other cases she would dispense with the government middleman and simply mandate that businesses provide their workers with more stuff — a higher minimum wage, paid family and medical leave, and fixed rather than flexible schedules. If there was ever an agenda guaranteed to make low-skilled workers unemployable, this is it.
We are left with the conclusion that either she doesn't mean any of this economy-wrecking nonsense and is just cynically trying to satisfy the Democratic Left, or she just doesn't care if she kills jobs and slows economic growth as long as it achieves some mythical standard of "fairness." Either way, American workers will suffer.
Bill Clinton was hardly a perfect president. But he nonetheless delivered a balanced budget, slower growth in government spending, and prolonged economic growth. Hillary is taking a very different route.
Wait, here's an idea: The Republicans already have over a dozen presidential candidates, with more to come. But perhaps they could squeeze in one more. Maybe they should run Bill for president.