Politics & Policy

Hillary’s New Economic Agenda Sounds Remarkably Familiar

Clinton and Obama campaign in New Hampshire, June 2008. (Mario Tama/Getty)

Yesterday’s speech from Hillary Clinton was supposed to unveil a new, bold economic agenda. Instead, it offered a remarkable sense of déjà vu: Just about every major policy prescription it laid out was proposed by Barack Obama in 2008.

Make no mistake, candidate Clinton pledged to offer an agenda of new ideas, not just photocopies of dusty white papers from past campaigns. “We’re not going to find all the answers we need today in the playbooks of the past,” she began. We can’t go back to the old policies that failed us before. Nor can we just replay previous successes. Today is not 1993 or 2009.” But her proposals were almost entirely from “the playbooks of the past,” nearly every one of them having been first put to the public seven years ago, or even earlier.

Yesterday Clinton proposed an “infrastructure bank that can channel more public and private funds, channel those funds to finance world-class airports, railways, roads, bridges and ports.”

In 2008, then-candidate Obama pledged to create “a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank to expand and enhance, not supplant, existing federal transportation investments.”

Yesterday Clinton urged the country, “Let’s build those faster broadband networks.”

Yesterday’s speech from Hillary Clinton was supposed to unveil a new, bold economic agenda. Instead, it offered a remarkable sense of déjà vu.

In 2008, on the campaign trail, Obama declared, “As president, I will set a simple goal: Every American should have the highest-speed broadband access, no matter where you live or how much money you have.”

Yesterday, Clinton said, “There’s no excuse not to make greater investments in cleaner, renewable energy right now.”

In 2008, Obama pledged to direct “billions in loans and capital to entrepreneurs who are willing to create clean-energy businesses and clean-energy jobs right here in America” as part of a plan to “produce enough renewable energy to replace all the oil we import from the Middle East.”

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Yesterday, Clinton demanded “fair pay and fair scheduling, paid family leave and earned sick days” for American families.

Back in 2008, Obama said he would encourage states to adopt “paid family leave, require that employers provide seven paid sick days per year, enforce new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines on discrimination against family caregivers, urge businesses to adopt flexible work arrangements for working parents, and expand high-quality after-school programs for children of working parents.”

Yesterday Clinton said bluntly, “We have to raise the minimum wage.”

Seven years ago, with Clinton standing beside him at a unity rally, Obama declared, “We can raise the minimum wage, index it for inflation, and ensure that in America, hard work pays.”

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Yesterday, Clinton said, “I’m committed to seeing every four-year old in America have access to high-quality preschool in the next ten years.”

“We can start by investing $10 billion to guarantee access to quality, affordable, early-childhood education for every child in America,” Obama told a crowd at a rally in Flint, Michigan on June 16, 2008.

Yesterday, Clinton called Wisconsin governor Scott Walker “mean-spirited,” and said that, “It’s time to stand up to efforts across our country to undermine worker bargaining power.”

“We’re ready to play offense for organized labor,” then-candidate Obama told the AFL-CIO in 2008. “It’s time we had a president who didn’t choke saying the word ‘union.’ A president who strengthens our unions by letting them do what they do best: organize our workers.”

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Yesterday Clinton argued for “reviving the New Markets Tax Credit and Empowerment Zones to create greater incentives to invest in poor and remote areas.”

Republican Jack Kemp touted “enterprise zones” back in 1981. President Bill Clinton renamed Kemp’s idea “Empowerment Zones” at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And Obama unveiled his own “Promise Zone” proposal last year.

#related#The heavy recycling of Obama’s 2008 agenda is a nod to two hard truths that Clinton and most elected Democrats would like the Democratic base, and the electorate as a whole, to ignore. First, despite all the talk about changing times and the need to address today’s unique challenges, the big-government agenda doesn’t change: make illegal immigrants citizens, reward Big Labor for its Election Day loyalty, tell business owners how to run their companies, raise taxes, and direct as much money as possible to your loyalists through massive spending projects. Eight years from now, sixteen years from now, that agenda will remain unchanged.

The second hard truth is that the “hope and change” of Obama’s 2008 campaign never came to fruition. The parts of Obama’s agenda that were enacted, such as green energy “investment” and infrastructure spending, have not discernably improved American life; Clinton can repeat the same promises because most Americans didn’t notice any impact from the last round of spending. Obama’s 2008 campaign was a profligate orgy of bold promises to every interest group under the sun. Clinton is borrowing heavily from the same playbook here — and hoping no one asks how she will succeed where Barack Obama failed.

— Jim Geraghty is the senior political correspondent for National Review.

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