WASHINGTON — Two years after leaving the State Department to run for president, Hillary Clinton has yet to say anything critical about the underperforming Obama economy. Or offer the voters even a bare-bones agenda about how she would drive stronger economic growth and put millions of long-term jobless Americans back to work.
She’s talked about some issues, from income inequality to wage stagnation, and embraced bogus ideas President Obama has offered, such as raising the minimum wage.
But the troubles she identifies are the symptoms, not the causes, of a sluggish economy that produced them. More important, they’re not among the larger concerns that most Americans complain about.
Polls still tell us that they worry most about the overall economy and the lack of full-time, good-paying jobs. And with good reason.
The economy has been growing slowly, by an average of 2 percent or so in recent months. An independent financial analysis in The Wall Street Journal says it looks like GDP growth in the months ahead “is shaping up to be soft,” about 2 percent and possibly “a bit less.” That’s not enough to create the large number of jobs that will be needed in the months and years to come.
“By historic standards, jobs creation is not that strong,” University of Maryland business economist Peter Morici wrote this week. “The recent recovery has added 11.4 million jobs, an increase of 8.8 percent of the total employed at the bottom of the recession.”
Compare the Obama recovery to President Reagan’s record in the 1980s, when GDP “proceeded to grow 4.7 percent annually and employment increased by 17.4 percent over the period comparable to the current recovery,” Morici says.
Forecasters at Wells Fargo and Action Economics say that monthly job growth will slow to about 215,000 by this summer, well below last month’s 295,000 jobs.
Yet Clinton never utters a discouraging word about the Obama economy. Certainly not in the president’s first term when the economy remained weak and unemployment was high.
But now that she has left the administration and is free of any self-imposed political constraints, you still won’t find in her $300,000 speeches any criticism that tackle issues like the bleak long-term jobless rate, or the shrinking labor force, as discouraged workers give up looking for a job.
Nor will you find many hints of how she would boost wage growth, which has remained largely flat in the last six years of this administration’s paralyzed agenda.
She does say she would raise the minimum wage, an idea the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office asserts would result in the loss of between 500,00 to 1 million jobs — as struggling small businesses cut their payrolls to remain solvent.
If you go online to examine the economic issues Clinton has talked about or supported in the past, you will see a laundry list of liberal losers, like the big-spending stimulus bills that fattened government but created few permanent jobs.
In 2008, she was calling for raising the capital gains tax by 20 percent on investors and retirees who live off of the dividends in their 401(k) and IRA savings.
She’s still supports that idea, which would hurt economic growth, kill jobs and, history shows, reduce tax revenue to the government. The reason: Why sell any stocks when the government’s going to take a bigger bite out of your return on investment?
In 2006, she was calling for repealing the tax cuts that President George W. Bush signed into law, which created a lower 10 percent tax rate for those in the bottom income bracket, doubled the tax credit for families with children and reduced taxes on small businesses.
Hillary Clinton considers economics to be the dismal science, something she knows little or nothing about. Her approach to economics, judging from her speeches, is demagoguery, pandering to special interests, and crying about the income gap and inadequate pay scales.
But she offers no economic road map that would lead to stronger growth fueled by capital investment in business startups that will produce more jobs and higher incomes.
Many academic studies in recent years have pointed to a sharp decline in new business startups in the Obama economy since 2009, and a steep downturn in business investment in new enterprises.
Ironically, Clinton has one of the sharpest political and policy strategists in the business: her husband, Bill Clinton, who signed a Republican-passed capital gains tax cut in his second term. It unlocked a wave of capital investment in the high-tech industry, creating millions of new jobs that drove unemployment down to 4 percent.
He was also an aggressive free-trader, signing the North American Free Trade Agreement — that Ronald Reagan had begun — on Dec. 8, 1993, after a furious fight within his party. Economists said the trade agreement was a key factor that fueled economic growth in the 1990s.
Hillary did not share her husband’s pro-growth views on NAFTA or spurring capital investment when they occupied the White House.
In an uneven, low-wage economy that may get worse in Obama’s last two years, does she really think she can win the presidency by supporting his policies? By offering the voters what would essentially be a third Obama term?
She is as liberal as Obama, maybe more so. There are no serious ideological differences between them. But she also read the handwriting on the wall in last year’s midterm elections, when an angry electorate declared they’re fed up with Obama and the Democrats.
But she also knows that if she dares to attack Obama’s dreadful economic record, she risks dividing her party and losing his voters. And if that happens, she can kiss her presidential dreams goodbye.
This week, in the wake of her clumsy, sophomoric handling of the email scandal, Democrats are voicing doubts about whether she is ready for prime time.
But in the final analysis, the race for the presidency is going to be won or lost on the economy. And so far she’s shown that she doesn’t have a clue how to fix it.