WASHINGTON - Sen. Hillary Clinton outlined an economic agenda for the country last week that was filled with the old 1930s-style, trickle-down, anti-capitalism rhetoric that is at the center of her party's leftist orthodoxy. It's impossible to see how her prescriptions could foster new venture capital, increased investment, broader global markets and wealth creation that are the building blocks for a strong economy.
The bad guys in Clinton's worldview are big corporations seeking to expand their market share and manufacturing base in a global economy, highly paid corporate executives who run successful businesses and the Bush administration's proposals and policies that seek to expand an ownership society.
But in her speech to the Manchester (N.H.) School of Technology, Clinton redefines Bush's "ownership society" as an "on-your-own society," a new spin on one of her most favorite putdowns of a free-market, laissez-faire economy: "survival of the fittest."
"I prefer a 'we're all in it together' society," she said, a phrase that has a kind of quasi-socialistic ring to it, one in which the government would play a stronger role in running the economy and setting the rules by which it is allowed to operate.
She concedes, "There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets." But this is a sharp reversal of the anti-capitalism views she included in her first book, "It Takes a Village," in which she blamed capitalism and free markets for all the ills in the world. But now she says, "Markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers ... Fairness doesn't just happen. It requires the right government policies." Her economic policies would mean "pairing growth with fairness."
Does Clinton mean higher protectionist tariffs on imported goods that will raise the prices of everything we buy at Wal-Mart? She doesn't say. But she does say she would take away pro-growth tax incentives for corporations and that she will go after U.S. companies that manufacture some of their goods abroad to increase global market share and pass the savings on to their U.S. customers. Exactly how raising business costs, as well as the price of blue jeans, shoes and sneakers, will strengthen our economy isn't clear. "It's not as if America hasn't been successful these last six years, but the measure of success does not relate to what's happening in households across the country," she said. "It's like trickle-down economics ..." The middle class, in her view, is struggling and disappearing, and the answer to this "problem" is to go after rich, successful corporations and the wealthiest among us.