No, Hillary, It’s Not Only About Opportunity

If Hillary had her way, voters would fall for her conflation of economic inequality and inequality of opportunity.

And enough of them might.

In an eye-opening piece, Hillary is this out of touch: The Democratic frontrunner doesn’t understand economic struggle — and never will, Les Leopold exposes how out of touch Hillary is when it comes to the struggle of every day Americans.  Sometimes, Leopold explains, she cracks under pressure and inadvertently reveals her true self:

More importantly, that’s how Hillary can show how practical and realistic she is compared to pie-in-sky Sanders. It’s a smooth and satisfying pivot for a skilled politician until…until she says something so revealing, and so out of touch, it could cost her the New York primary and beyond. In an unguarded moment, she showed us how out of touch she is with income inequality: “I went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund, making about $14,000 a year, so I couldn’t afford some big [student loan] payment every month.”

I’m hoping at least a few readers are saying to themselves, “But wasn’t $14,000 per year a nice income at the time?”

Indeed it was. Here’s Leopold on how nice it was:

Hillary thinks $14,000 a year, back then, makes her a young struggling post-grad? Maybe we need to jar her memory a bit: $14,000 a year was a very good income in 1973. Hillary then earned more 65 percent more than the median male worker ($8,453) and nearly 500 percent more than the median female worker ($2,823) according to census reports. Rather than struggling to get by, she had a very comfortable upper-middle class income.

Today, that $14,000 translates into $74,464 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s inflation calculator. That would place her in the top 8% of today’s income distribution.

Hillary Clinton was never a financially struggling college graduate, and she’ll never understand what struggling students are going through now. As Leopold explains in more depth, and I highly recommend reading the entire piece, Hillary’s statements and her worldview are a product of the environment in which she lived. Her friends from Yale and Wellesley were earning much larger incomes back in 1973, so, in her world, she was “struggling.” And that has continued to this day. The friends Bill and Hillary made in their years at elite schools have risen to great heights. She’s not going to throw them under the bus, Leopold points out:

These wealthy elites became the financial glue of Bill’s campaigns. That’s why we’ll never see the transcripts of her $225,000 Wall Street speeches. Those talks would show the side Hillary has trained herself to hide from the public. These elites are her friends, her supporters, her funders. Turning on them would be like turning on herself and all she’s become and wants to become.

Which really leaves her only one option when confronted with Bernie Sanders’ full frontal assault on economic injustice: make it into an issue of equality of opportunity. On this front, I think Leopold only gets it half right:

Instead, she makes a passionate plea for a world built on the kind of meritocracy that shot her to top. “Break all barriers” so that each of us can live up to “our god-given talents.” She wants rich and poor alike to join the race to riches. But she has trouble admitting the obvious; we never can start equally in a world run wild with runaway inequality.

She is incapable of understanding that wealth must be redistributed from her Wall Street friends, from her daughter, from her son-in-law, from Bill and from herself to the rest of America, if we are to reverse runaway inequality. That’s the barrier we must break.

Leopold is right that you can’t have everyone start equally in a world of runaway inequality. But even if you give a Hillary a pass and ignore this gaping flaw in her worldview, she’s still wrong, in my opinion. Social Darwinism is not made okay simply by making it “fair.” If over half the population is hanging on by its fingernails, or worse, is that okay simply because they had a “fair shot” at the outset? That’s tantamount to saying is if you’re not lucky enough to have been born with a big brain, or a great golf swing, or a fantastic singing voice, or some other talent, you’re destined to live a life of struggle in the wealthiest society in the history of the planet.

That’s a sick, screwed-up, privileged worldview. It’s a worldview too many in the White House have held, to the detriment of working-class Americans, for too long. And Hillary Clinton has told America that will continue if she’s elected. But she’s made it sound so fair-minded that voters are on the verge of being duped.

Here’s hoping they’ll listen more closely and think a little harder.

10 responses to “No, Hillary, It’s Not Only About Opportunity

  1. Bob,
    I’m wondering what your take is on Donald Trump’s refusal to release tax returns? While his wealth has been estimated in the $4 billion range, is it possible that he has very little 1040 income? Red State has an article this morning about his “charitable gifts”.
    http://www.redstate.com/jaycaruso/2016/04/11/trump-the-cheapskate/

    Since you are a tax attorney, I thought you might have some thoughts on this issue.

    • Jim, thanks for asking. I’m not terribly bothered by it, for several reasons.

      First, if he is indeed under audit, then he really is entitled to refuse to release at this time. It would not be fair for thousands of tax geeks like me to comment on his returns, thereby feeding the IRS positions to take in the audit.

      Second, the notion that his tax returns would put the lie to his financial statement and show he’s not worth that much is nonsense. Nobody’s personal tax return shows much about their net worth.

      Third, his business activity is entirely through entities, so if he’s engaging in some sort of aggressive tax avoidance, it likely would not be on his return, but on the returns of his entities, which, by the way, probably can’t be made public because they likely have some minority ownership.

      Fourth, he’s a real estate guy, so his income would naturally be understated. Our tax system allows deductions for depreciation of real estate that in almost all cases exceeds economic depreciation. It’s a built-in tax shelter.

      There may be something there about his charitable gifts, but even that would be difficult to show. Typically, people at his level have a sort of bumpy manner of charitable giving. They contribute appreciated assets, rather than cash, because the tax consequences are more favorable that way. And they contribute the appreciated assets only when they’re ready to dispose of them. So, it wouldn’t be all that extraordinary to see a few years in a row where Trump’s charitable contributions are paltry.

      Romney’s returns, by the way, may have been entirely different. Romney may have used something called proprietary tax shelters, which were big in the late ’90’s when he was racking up huge gains. He was ideally suited for those shelters, and voted to approve the use of one by Marriot Corp when he served on its board. Trump could have done the same, but real estate didn’t lend itself to that as easily, and nobody is asking for Trump’s returns from that far back anyhow.

      • Thanks, Bob. A lot of people seem to be supporting Donald Trump because they think he is a fantastic businessman, and will do for America what he has done for Trump, Inc.
        So, I thought that if his returns show stellar income, he would actually want to get them out.
        After reading your comments, I think we may never see his returns, and if we did, it would be hard to decipher.
        I did find it interesting in the Red State article that he never actually donates cash.
        But I was also amazed that Ted Cruz didn’t donate to his church for over five years, not a dime.
        Somehow, out of 17 candidates, the Republicans have ended up with the meanest, least generous of the whole group.

        • Running a business as experience for running the country is a crazy idea. It’s what gave us Bob McNamara.

          You won’t see really rich people contributing large amounts of cash to charity. Here’s how it works: If you have stock you bought at $10 per share that is now worth $100 per share, you can contribute the stock, get a deduction for the full value, and avoid tax on the $90 per share of appreciation. If you were really rich, would you ever contribute cash under those rules?

  2. Two white men complaining about a woman’s privilege? Oh, the irony.

    • For Sure Not Tom

      I think the point is that at 14K at that time, HRC was doing pretty well.

      She never lost a job because a bus missed a stop (I have) she never left a car on the side of the road where it broke down because she didn’t have money to pay to fix it (I have, 3 times) she never had to go out to the curb and turn her water back on with a wrench because she couldn’t pay the bill (they eventually put a padlock on the valve).

      Without some of the benefits she had in her life, at the same point in mine, I had some tax returns in my mid-20’s with 3K, 2K, and one year zero K. No, I did not file those years.

      So good for her that she was doing well, but claiming to “know” what poor is at 14K a year to start is a little hard to believe.

      I’m an old white guy now, don’t worry about me, and I fully know that white privilege helped me out in my career, but I still remember what “poor” is, HRC has no idea.

    • Thank you for this Ms. Hannley, those were my thoughts as well.

  3. Wouldn’t you expect a lawyer to make a wage that was above the median after graduation? What did male lawyers make back then? I bet it was more.

  4. “That’s a sick, screwed-up, privileged worldview.”

    Indeed, EVERTHING about her world view is sick, twisted and screwed up royally. Isn’t that why she wants to be queen of the world?

    She isn’t one of us.

    #NeverHillary