Foroohar is an assistant managing editor at TIME and the magazine’s economics columnist. She’s the author of Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business.
She did it. Wednesday, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech that actually made me feel excited about her economic vision.
It wasn’t so much that she gave us ideas we hadn’t heard before. Things like a big infrastructure build, affordable childcare, equal pay, and worker training have always been part of Clinton’s plan. It was more about the energy she brought to the speech, (in sharp contrast with Tuesday’s yawner) and the way in which she connected the dots.
Here are the five things Clinton talked about, which, if delivered on, could be most impactful in creating a more robust, sustainable, shared economic recovery.
- Raising incomes is the only way forward in a 70% consumption economy. As Clinton said, you can’t have a sustainable recovery in a country in which consumer spending is two-thirds of the pie when people haven’t gotten a raise in real terms since the early 1990s. Clinton presented a multi-pronged view on how to do this, from strengthening unions to backing portable benefits to making sure that scheduling software doesn’t wreak havoc with people’s lives. It’s smart to get in front of these sharing economy challenges, which will only grow more pressing for more people in the coming years.
- You have to curb short-term thinking in corporate America to help companies make the investments they need for the long haul. Here, Clinton touched yet again on the contentious issues of share buybacks, which grew in part because of changes made during her husband’s administration. If she can fix this problem by curbing buybacks, she’ll be doing something that’s not only good for America, but for the Clinton legacy.
- Expand Social Security – it’s the only part of the retirement system that’s working well right now. It’s the reason we didn’t have vastly higher numbers of older people falling into poverty during the Great Recession. Particularly in an era in which asset returns are likely to be lower (and thus 401(k)s not as fat), it makes huge economic sense to expand this safety net.
- Make corporations and rich individuals pay their fare share of taxes. Clinton made it clear that if she gets her way, carried interest is on its way out, companies would be penalized for tax inversions, and tax optimization loopholes would be closed. That’s important not only because of the revenue it could raise, but also because we need to close the divide between Main Street and Wall Street in order to curb the populism that has created this ugly election cycle.
- Connect the dots between race, class and economic opportunity. By talking about things like immigration reform and the fact that the unemployment rate for African Americans is still double what it is for whites in our “recovery,” Clinton underscored that race, class, and economic sustainability issues are very much interconnected. I think that making that connection — and also underscoring the fact that structural shifts in the economy make it almost certain that more people will face the same challenges that immigrants and minorities have faced for years (stagnant wages, no safety net, less secure employment) unless something changes, she starts to move the Democratic Party away from divisive, 1990s-style identity politics and towards more economic unity. That is, to my mind, the first step in a bigger, deeper, broader labor movement that could move the needle on the wealth share for workers.
“Don’t grow weary – there are great ideas out there,” said Clinton during her speech. Today, I believed her. More of this, please.
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