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POTUS Election 2008: Hillary Clinton on Strengthening The Middle Class – Part 1

POTUS Election 2008
Examining The Issues
This is a special series written by the staff of The Conservative Reader. We will examine each of the candidates’ positions on issues they have deemed relevant enough to post on their web sites.

Today we start our review of the 3 remaining candidates for President. The structure of this series will be based on the candidates’ own stated positions on issues from their web sites.

We’ll start with one of the issues on Hillary Clinton’s site: Strengthening The Middle Class [1].

Hillary’s site essentially abbreviates the more substantive plan called the Economic Blueprint for Rebuilding the Middle Class [2]. Amazingly enough, the abbreviated content includes 5 specific points from the “Blueprint”, 2 of which lack any substance at all, two of which make me squirm, and 1 which makes sense (balanced budgeting rules).

Let us examine the “Blueprint”.

Today we will start with the challenges Hillary sees for the American Middle Class.

The Challenges

Hillary starts by enumerating the concerns of Americans today with unattributed statistics that paint n extremely bleak picture… a picture intended (especially with references to “1929”) that gives the impression that we are already in the midst of the Second Great Depression.

Point one: “Income inequality is rising“. Aside from the obvious sense of fairness driven out by this observation, so what? If the wealthy are becoming wealthier, that should be a sign of continued success in the marketplace, meaning job growth should be maintained in the long run. It is difficult to see why this is a “challenge”.¬† A concern here should be the first two words: “Income inequality”. These are the words of Socialism, although¬†one would be negligent to accuse Clinton of being a Socialist. To her goes the benefit of the doubt, but this is the direction she will tend to steer things, while perhaps for good reasons, to our demise. For our government to continue driving toward a sense of income equality will result in oppressive taxation and the beginning of mediocrity.

Point two: “It is increasingly hard for middle class families to make ends meet.” Some of the statistics in this section could be troublesome. But are they? Middle class income is down $1000 since 2001. If you look at middle class median income, it climbed steadily through a large part of the 90’s, and then dropped in 2001 to 2004, and has steadily started climbing again. The total range from peak to valley is about $1500. There are likely a number of factors, including 9/11 and the overpricing of tech resources in the late 90’s to support Y2K and the burgeoning of new technologies (particularly in networking and Windows Servers). Those costs have normalized, and over the past few years the middle class median income has been climbing again as it was before. College tuitions are up 40%. College tuition inflation has been relatively stable at twice the rate of general inflation (as it has been for decades). The rate over the same period of Bill Clinton’s presidency as 38%. Health care premiums have almost doubled. Health care premiums have risen at a dramatic rate (above income and inflation rates) since 1999. This is a legitimate area of concern, and it seems as if the issue is how to actually lower health care costs. Gas prices have doubled. Yes they have, and along with Health Care Premiums, deserves attention.

A few points here: 1) It’s not entirely clear how the income numbers are really derived, and it is possible there are other ways to interpret the data. Nonetheless, a drop of 3% in median income over a few years seems non-critical at this point and does not attend to the more important question of whether families are truly unable to support themselves on their current income. 2) College tuition is not behaving any differently than it always has, so the point is moot. 3) Some costs have gone up that there is potential for reducing… seems like a good area of focus.

Point three: “The impact of globalization.” Too many jobs are going outside the US. We need a good assessment of why this has happened. A lot of things have been done to help the economies and education of foreign countries, including providing key technologies. Clinton specifically references jobs going to China… interesting since Bill provided technologies to China that have probably contributed to the success of China in the technology related industries. However, she does make a valid case for understanding and perhaps developing appropriate protections for American service industry jobs.

Point four: “The Bush administration’s lack of fiscal discipline is burdening today’s middle class and future generations.” It does not make sense to attack Bush on this for two reasons: 1) Best to focus on the actual challenge, which in this case would be the national debt (politics!) 2) fiscal discipline should first and foremost be the responsibility of Congress. According to Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

It seems as if Clinton should take some responsibility for this herself. Regardless, we have a very real issue with the national debt and deficit. We do need to resolve this.

Point five: “Weakness in the housing market is hurting families.” DJ said it best [3]: “The real issue here is greed, plain and simple.” It may sound uncaring, but too many people got greedy and bought more house than they could afford. They took loans at lower rates by using ARMs. Frankly, the holders of the mortgages themselves are struggling a lot more than the homeowners. They end up with a house that’s not worth the remaining principal on the mortgage, and perhaps no one to buy the property. They bear the burden of the administrative costs of resolving the situations, and in many cases will give up income they have rightfully earned to help the homeowner get into a loan they can manage. Many of these homeowners ought to have been able to simply get a new loan, yes at a higher rate but if they’ve had the mortgage for more than a year or so, the payment on the new loan would probably be the same or less than the old one. Unless they’re already upside down because they had little equity in the first place. Regardless, if they’ve bought more than they could afford, or carelessly and greedily spent their equity, they need to buy a smaller home or rent until they can afford what they want. That’s how life works.

In Part 2, we will examine Clinton’s plan of action for American workers. In Part 3, we will examine Clinton’s other plans to improve the lives of the Middle Class.