This series ends where it started, sort of. On the night of the Democratic debate, I posted If You Were Listening Closely Tonight…. The thrust of that piece was to focus on the difference in the ways Clinton and Sanders spoke about economic inequality:
Sanders spoke, as he always does, as a Democratic Socialist. Essentially, that means he wants to address our extreme inequality through policies that will compress — bringing the bottom up and the top (the billionaires) down.
Clinton’s framing, by contrast, was all about equality of opportunity. She may have thrown in a line here or there about “fairer” tax policy, but those were throwaways. The thrust of her message was that every one should have the chance to succeed the way she and Bill have.
I went on to make the point that only 1% of the population can be in the top 1%, so there needs to be more to it, much more to it, than equalizing opportunity.
But I left out an equally important point.
In my previous post in this series, I discussed the messages that Hillary is sending to her corporate and Wall Street sponsors with her positions. For example, it’s okay for her to vaguely diss the TPP, without speaking to trade deals in general, because the TPP will be a done deal when she takes office. But it’s not okay for her to favor the re-institution of Glass-Steagall, because that’s not cool with the Wall Street crowd.
And so it is with the discussion of inequality. The 1% know that equality of opportunity is a farce. They’re not threatened by it. They know that under the current system their kids and grandkids will occupy the same perch they do one day.
If you want to speak about economic inequality in a way that doesn’t offend or threaten the top 1%, you speak about equality of opportunity; how everyone should have a chance to make it to the top. But you don’t speak about greedy billionaires, as Sanders does, whose massive fortunes must be redistributed so that we all can share in the country’s prosperity. You don’t speak, as Sanders does, about growth for growth’s sake being pointless if the benefits all flow to a select few.
If you listen carefully how Hillary Clinton is speaking about inequality, her message to the 1% is unmistakable: “You have nothing to worry about under a Clinton presidency.”
Which means that the rest of us do.
Previous posts in this series: