Hillary speech: HSBC for we, but not for thee

After spending most of the year offering little in specifics on any issue, Hillary Clinton gave a major economic policy speech earlier today. She focused on middle-class wages, which have remained stagnant over the last six years of recovery, telling her audience that Americans “need a raise”:

Hillary Clinton pledged to rein in out-of-control financial institutions on Monday as she detailed an economic vision that she said would achieve the “defining economic challenge of our life” of lifting middle-class wages.

The Democratic front-runner lambasted a marketplace she said is too obsessed with second-to-second stock trading and quarterly earnings reports, at the expense of long-term growth and stability.

Hillary went on the attack over “trickle down” economics, calling it a failure for 35 years. Actually, it proved remarkably successful beginning in 1983, kicking off a 25-year expansion which only got lightly dented by a couple of slight recessions until 2008’s crash. That was largely the result of a housing bubble promoted by Congressional mandates that irrationally distorted the mortgage markets for political gain of both parties. It’s the kind of crony capitalism against which Hillary Clinton inveighed in other parts of her speech.

Besides, which party’s economic policy has produced stagnation and the lowest workforce participation rate in almost 40 years? That’s not a trick question, folks. Talk about playing Name That Party!

One other part of her speech on that topic bordered on the bizarre. Obviously pandering to the progressive wing, Hillary slammed Barack Obama for not going after bankers after the crash, and vowed to reduce or eliminate their political draw in Washington:

Clinton even took a veiled shot at President Barack Obama’s administration for failing to prosecute individuals for banking crimes in the wake of the 2008 economic downturn.

She accused hedge funds and high-frequency traders of “criminal behavior,” and promised to “prosecute individuals as well as firms” when they break the law — which liberals have long clamored for, but the Obama administration largely didn’t do. She also said she’d seek to expand on the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulatory law designed to prevent future economic crises.

In fact, Hillary named names on this particular point, and may have opened up yet another can of Clinton Foundation worms:

Stories of misconduct by individuals and institutions in the financial industry are shocking. HSBC allowing drug cartels to launder money, five major banks pleading guilty to felony charges for conspiring to manipulate currency exchange and interest rates? There can be no justification or tolerance for this kind of criminal behavior.

One potential reason that HSBC didn’t get punished too severely may be because of its political connections — something that the Clintons know all about. As the pro-GOP America Rising PAC quickly pointed out in a blast e-mail, HSBC is a major Clinton Foundation donor, noted as corporate partners in several foundation projects. HSBC also put $200,000 into the Clintons’ pockets in 2011, the year after the US began its second probe of HSBC’s involvement in money laundering.

Sure seems like the Clintons have plenty of tolerance for this kind of behavior, as long as it produces cash for their coffers. Say, maybe that’s why malefactors like HSBC don’t pay terribly steep prices for corruption. Crazy idea, no?

Finally, Market Watch notes that the Clinton economic thrust seems aimed at the very kind of cooperative networks that younger voters have passionately embraced:

When the Democratic presidential frontrunner outlines her economic vision on Monday, she’ll reportedly have critical words to say about the impact of firms like ride-sharing service Uber on wages.

According to Politico, the former secretary of state will discuss some of the structural forces that are conspiring against sustainable wage growth. Those forces include globalization, automation and even “sharing economy” firms like Uber and lodging-rental site Airbnb that are creating new relationships between management and labor. But, says Politico, she’ll argue that policy choices have contributed to the problem, and that she can fix it.

Of course she can fix it. Just as soon as they start paying Bill to give $500,000 speeches, she’ll leave them alone.