With Hillary Clinton's husband and brothers doing their best to distract attention from her performance in Washington, most people probably didn't notice that she recently introduced her first package of legislation. That's too bad, because the bills she's proposing show how wrong her opponents were when they said she wasn't qualified to be a senator.
Despite her lack of experience as an elected official and as a resident of New York, Clinton clearly understands what it takes to represent the state in Congress. She is already buying votes with other people's money.
Although she handily defeated Rick Lazio in November, Clinton did not do very well in upstate New York. Now she is trying to shore up her support there with promises of subsidies aimed at bringing "all of New York to the forefront of the 21st century economy."
Clinton's "New Jobs for New York" package includes a tax credit of $3,000 per employee for small businesses in towns with low job growth and shrinking populations; $100 million a year in interest-free "technology bonds" to finance "telecommunications infrastructure"; and $125 million a year to improve Internet access in rural areas. She also wants to establish a Technology Extension Program, Entrepreneurial Incubators and Regional Skills Alliances.
"I believe we can create new jobs in upstate New York if we start now with the right tax incentives and programs," Clinton says, displaying the same sort of confidence that characterized her effort to reorganize the health care system. "We can revitalize New York's upstate economy."
Clinton is savvy enough to dress up her pandering in high-minded rhetoric. First of all, she is not bribing voters; she is keeping her word.
"During my campaign I promised that my first legislation would focus on promoting economic growth in upstate New York," she said in a floor speech. "That is why I am particularly pleased to be here in fulfillment of that pledge."
In any case, throwing money at upstate New York is simply a matter of fairness. Clinton says she is "making sure New York gets its fair share from Washington."
It's true that, for every dollar New Yorkers pay in federal taxes, they get back only 85 cents or so in spending. Meanwhile, other states -- Arkansas springs to mind -- are net winners in this redistribution scheme.
But if getting its "fair share" means a state gets back from the federal government as much as its residents pay in taxes, there's not much point to sending all those dollars to Washington in the first place. Aside from what's necessary to pay for basic functions such as national defense, the money might as well stay in New York -- except then Hillary Clinton would not get to dole it out.
Interstate equity in the disbursement of federal tax dollars is not the only kind of fairness Clinton is worried about. She also thinks it's unfair that job growth in upstate New York is weaker than job growth elsewhere in the United States.
"With a proud place in the economic history of our country," Clinton says, "upstate New York deserves its place in the economic future as well." In other words, if an area has ever been prosperous, it should always be prosperous. And if it isn't, the government must step in to correct the injustice.
"Too often businesses close or downsize," says Clinton, suggesting that a certain amount of closing and downsizing is acceptable, but not as much as upstate New Yorkers are experiencing right now. She has drawn this conclusion based on "a lot of conversations and listening."
While Clinton, in a brave concession to the market, seems willing to tolerate the occasional business failure, she cannot abide the idea that anyone would ever move to improve his job prospects. "No one," she declares, "should have to leave their hometown, their families, and their roots to find a good job in America."
This may sound strange coming from a woman who has moved from Illinois to Arkansas, from Arkansas to D.C., and from D.C. to New York in an effort to further her career. But I nevertheless like Clinton's firm stance against relocation, which suggests she'd want to help forestall my family's impending move.
After all, no one should have to leave New York City to find an affordable home in America. If the senator doesn't think a new tax credit or subsidy program is justified, she can just send us a check.