Hillary: "We're going to raise taxes on the middle class!"

Yes, it’s a gaffe, but is it a Kinsleyan gaffe — or perhaps a Freudian slip? This is a couple of days old, but is making the rounds today. While speaking at a campaign rally in Nebraska, Hillary Clinton attacked Donald Trump’s promise to cut taxes, calling them a benefit only for the “super-rich.” Her program, Hillary claimed, would write “fairer rules” for the middle class … and then she promised to raise taxes on the very same peopleD’oh!


If Team Trump wants to get back on message …

Trump wants to cut taxes for the super-rich. [crowd boos] Well we’re not going there, my friends. I’m telling you right now, we’re going to write fairer rules for the middle class, and we are going to raise taxes on the middle class! [crowd cheers]

The most amusing part of this video is the sustained crowd cheer at the end. Were they even listening to Hillary, or just waiting for an applause sign to light up? The state of politics may have devolved into issue-free tribalism, but at least one could hope that voters still responded to actual words on the stump.

But if Hillary wants to claim that she’ll cut taxes for the middle class and raise taxes on the super-rich, she’ll have to explain how she plans to do that while doubling down on Barack Obama’s Porkulus strategy from 2009. Yahoo’s Rick Newman took a look at Hillary’s plans to boost job creation, and gets a wicked sense of déjà vu:

Clinton’s plan would amount to $300 billion in spending on transportation projects spread over five years, or roughly $60 billion per year. That $300 billion would come from new taxes on the wealthy, so, in theory, it wouldn’t add to the national debt. …

The 2009 stimulus plan created both jobs and problems, which serves as a guide to how Clinton’s plan might go. Job gains are hard to pin down, but the midpoint of economists’ estimates is around 3 million jobs created or saved by the 2009 stimulus. If Clinton could manage that, it would lower the unemployment rate by 1 to 2 percentage points, push wages up and draw some people off the sidelines into paying jobs. So far, so good.

But government spending always comes with caveats, starting with savage political fighting over where the money goes. The 2009 stimulus was supposed to fund “shovel-ready” projects, but spending got bogged down as regulators tried to figure out what shovel-ready meant in the first place. Some projects that did get funding were in out-of-the-way rural areas where few people benefited from them.


Well, jobs “saved” was a curious claim that the Obama administration more or less made up when job-creation numbers turned out so dismally after the stimulus went into full effect. The claims kept shifting around, the numbers “wildly exaggerated,” as the Boston Globe pointed out, and turned out to be calculated based on money spent rather than actual jobs identified. Almost a year later, the White House repudiated its own calculations on “jobs saved,” only to readopt them later.

Nor were economic calculations the only issues with Porkulus. In my column for The Fiscal Times, I remind readers that it funded massive fraud and worker exploitation, didn’t actually do anything except accelerate already-scheduled maintenance tasks, and sink the US deeper in debt:

Five years later, McClatchy and ProPublica teamed up for an investigation of the stimulus bill and discovered extensive fraud that cost taxpayers billions – and that government agencies collaborated in the fraud rather than stopping it.

The stimulus program “was riddled with a massive labor scheme that harmed workers and cheated unsuspecting American taxpayers,” they reported in September 2014. Contractors “avoided state and federal taxes and undercut law-abiding competitors,” while “they exploited workers desperate for jobs, depriving them of unemployment benefits and often workers’ compensation insurance.” By the time the failures and frauds were uncovered, though, it was far too late to salvage any of the borrowed cash that fueled the stimulus program. …

Clinton’s plan also envisions green-energy investments, using almost the same slogans as the Obama administration in 2009. Her website promises to make America “the clean energy superpower of the world,” and the installation of a half-billion solar panels by 2021. Obama promised that too, but much of the money wound up going down the drain at Solyndra, Fisker, and SoloPower. Other funds ended up in the hands of Obama’s bundlers, such as Daniel Cruise of Alcoa, a company that doesn’t exactly need taxpayer subsidies to thrive.

In other words, Hillary Clinton proposes the very same policies that did not produce a dynamic economic expansion expected after the Great Recession, that created opportunities for billions of dollars in fraud and exploitation of workers, and that operated as a crony-capitalist ATM at the expense of frustrated taxpayers. It’s not just a rehash of failed proposals; it’s a doubling down on corruption and the same central planning that Obama promised would deliver to working-class Americans seven years ago.


Perhaps Republicans should stop arguing that Hillary wants to be Barack Obama’s third term. It looks more like she wants to be his first term.

Update: Byron York thinks she may have said “we aren’t,” but it sounds like “we are” to both me and Fox 42’s Tom Becka, who first reported it. That declaration wouldn’t have made any sense, though, because she was hammering Trump over his tax cuts and didn’t claim that Trump wanted to raise taxes on anyone. It seems pretty clear that she wanted to promise to raise taxes on the upper class, but fumbled the delivery.

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