Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Her Economic Advisor, Oh My!

[Cross posted at Daily Kos]

Today Hillary Clinton entered the clueless world of George W Bush. She displayed her "my way or the highway" modus operandi that made her 1990s healthcare foray into such a debacle. Back then she didn’t care to listen to healthcare experts, this time she doesn’t care to listen to economists.

This morning on ABC’s This Week she showed us that she would be no less of an heir than John McCain to George W Bush’s head-in-the-sand governing style:

Pressed to name an economist who supports her plan to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said today that commuters, truck drivers and other gas customers know it would make a difference.

“We have to get out of the mindset where somehow elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantage the vast majority of Americans,” Clinton said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. “I’m not going to put my lot in with economists because I know if we did it right … we would design it in such a way that it would be implemented effectively.”

An Obama supporter picked from the audience by Stephanopoulos to ask a question in the town hall meeting format of the show said she makes less than $25,000 a year, so the price of gas is not an academic issue for her.

“I really do feel pain at the pump,” said Kara Glennon. “However, I do feel pandered to when you talk about suspending the gas tax. I don’t think that it’s really a reasonable plan. Call me crazy, but I actually listen to economists because I think they know what they’ve studied.”

Later on CNN’s Late Edition Gene Sperling, a top economic advisor to Hillary Clinton (who was also economic advisor to President Clinton), was left with the unenviable task of cleaning up after his candidate. Sperling, who is a man of integrity, could not bring himself to justify Hillary Clinton’s gas tax holiday for the oil companies. Pressed repeatedly by Wolf Blitzer to explain Clinton’s proposal Sperling punted:

BLITZER: …As you know, Gene, a lot of economists out there think it is not going to achieve its desired results, and it is largely political pandering.

SPERLING: I think the problem with a lot of the criticism is that they have not recognized that this is a balance between two competing long-term agendas. Senator Clinton has a very bold long- term agenda on moving us towards a low-carbon, pro-jobs future. That includes, as you know, a capital trade proposal, fuel efficiency, commitment for 5 million jobs, and a windfall profits tax. These are all things that are part of the long-term agenda.

But she also has an agenda about empowering people to deal with the middle-class squeeze, which includes a bold $1,000 savings incentives for savings in your IRAs and 401(k)s, a $3,500…

BLITZER: What about the gas tax?

SPERLING: I’m getting to that. $3,500 credit for college loans, and, as you heard Elizabeth Edwards say recently, the best plan for actually reducing health care costs.

BLITZER: But what about the gas tax?

SPERLING: Well, the point is that you have to try to find a balance. And the way her balance is working is she’s saying we’re going to take the savings from the windfall profit tax and from closing energy loopholes, and use them for energy efficiency and creating these 5 million green energy jobs.

But for just three months, for just three months, as you noted, she would say you can put this into the highway trust fund, so the families who are dealing with the middle-class squeeze now, in terms of higher food prices, $3.70 gas, lower home prices, could have a little relief over three months. And I think a lot of the criticism has been as if this was her long-term agenda, which it is not.

BLITZER: All right. So on this specific issue, she’s more aligned with McCain than she is with Obama.

Later after Robert Reich called Hillary Clinton’s plan "dumb" and "stupid", Blitzer tried again with Sperling:

BLITZER: Is there any serious economist out there who thinks this is a wise policy? Because as you heard Robert Reich just say, there is — the notion out there, if you eliminate this gas tax, the demand will go up, and then the price will simply go back up right away.

SPERLING: Listen, it’s like I said before, she’s got a long-term agenda for a low-carbon energy future with a strong cap and trade proposal.

BLITZER: But let’s go back to this. What is the economic rationale for eliminating these gas taxes over three months?

SPERLING: The economic rationale is simply that we have very rarely ever been in a time like this, where you almost have a bit of a mini-stagflation going on. You have got an economy that is almost in recession. You have people paying twice as much for eggs as they used to. They’re paying twice as much for gas prices as they used to. And when you have a campaign and an agenda that focuses on the middle class squeeze, as Senator Clinton does, and when you’re focusing on that in terms of lowering health care prices, in terms of lowering the cost of sending your kids to college, making it easier to save, just to simply say that for this three months we could just put some of that money into the highway trust fund, not cost any jobs, as Senator McCain would. It is just a little bit of relief for the people that are struggling and the truckers that are struggling day by day right now.

It’s not surprising that Gene Sperling is having trouble justifying a gas tax holiday. Back in 2000 he advised President Clinton not to suspend the gas tax. Here is President Clinton at a press conference in 2000 explaining that a gas tax holiday would not pass the savings to the consumer:

Q. Mr. President, in light of the fact that OPEC has decided to increase production, do you see it as a mistake for the Senate to proceed with a bill that would suspend the gas tax? And if it reached your desk, would you veto it?

A. Well, I don’t expect it to reach my desk because there seems to be bipartisan opposition to it in the House, including among the leadership. But the problem I have with it, apart from what it might do to the Highway Trust Fund and the spending obligations that have already been incurred by the acts of Congress, the budgets, is that I’m not sure that the savings would be passed along to the consumers in addition to that. So I think there are a lot of questions about it. But I don’t expect it to pass. 

Hillary Clinton herself was against cutting the gas tax before she decided to pander to Indiana and North Carolina voters. Here she is debating Rick Lazio in 2000:

And one of my fundamental disagreements during this campaign with my opponent was when he called for the repeal of the gas tax. Now, the gas tax is one of those few taxes that New York actually gets more money from Washington than we send. And we are totally reliant on it to do things like finishing I-86 in the Southern Tier, or the fast- ferry harbor works up in Rochester, as well as the work we need to do here in the city.

But now Hillary Clinton has decided that the economists, her husband, her own economic advisor and common sense be damned. It’s her way or the highway – and it will be a highway in disrepair because she would rather give billions in tax giveaways to oil companies than pay for the maintenance of the nation’s infrastructure.


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8 Responses to Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Her Economic Advisor, Oh My!

  1. zm says:

    I am worried about tomorrow’s poll.
    The particular demography that has been supporting Clinton and been the target of Obama campaign in NC and IN is the working class voters – factory and construction workers. It is assumable that they are not reading the analysis of the fine blogs such as this one, or listening to Blitzer in CNN but rather watching the last minute vicious ad by Clinton where she pretended to be the one realizing their pain the in the pump.
    Yes it was another dirty trick by Clinton’s camp. Unfortunately it worked before, and it might work tomorrow as well.
    Obama’s response to the ad had this to say about Clinton’s proposal “More of the same old negative politics.” And went on to mention “A war that should never have been waged. An economy in turmoil. Record prices at the pump. America held hostage to foreign oil,” etc. Is that going to be enough?
    Seriously, how many of the working class voters realize that Clinton’s option is the real gimmick and NOT the other way around and are just happy with the idea that they might actually pay less money to buy gas during summer?
    Obama did not counter Clinton strongly on home-foreclosure and health-care issues in his response ad.
    To top it off, the pastor issue is not really a dead horse as some may claim – it is very much alive in the minds of many white laborers.

  2. Mash says:

    zm, the gas tax issue is relevant to the superdelegates. The election is over when it comes to pledged delegates. Obama has already won. Clinton and Obama are now playing for the remaining superdelegates. The gas tax issue puts Hillary Clinton at odds with the Democratic party elected officials. That is who the real audience is, and it has backfired for her.

    This story has gotten some play. In the morning on ABC David Axelrod raised Hillary Clinton’s 2000 debate with Rick Lazio. Later John Aravosis’ AmericaBlog and Jed Report linked to this post on Bill Clinton’s 2000 press conference. The pander is clear now.

  3. zm says:

    Nobody is disputing that Obama will win NC. And he’ll very likely lose Indiana. Once the vote distribution is sorted it might show that Obama still is unfavorable to the working class whites.
    I doubt the superdelegates’ decision of electing a candidate is pivoting on the gas tax issue alone.
    Come November most Obama supporters will vote for the “Democratic candidate”, whereas most Clinton supporters will either stay home or vote for McCain. The states where Obama had beaten Clinton are predominantly Republican states anyway.
    The DNC will make a decision and select a candidate based on who has the better chance of making it to the White House.
    I will continue to be anxious till the nomination process is over. And then I will either be elated or gravely distressed.

  4. Mash says:

    zm, I hope the following will ease your anxiety.

    1. Although Hillary Clinton would like you to focus on “working class whites” the more important demographic is African Americans. No Democrat can become president without the African American vote. If superdelegates take the nomination away from Obama after he has won more delegates after all the votes are in, the Democrats will lose the African American vote (and then some). That will be a seismic shift in the Democratic party not seen since the 1960s. Superdelegates know this and will not give the nomination to Clinton knowing she will lose because AAs will abandon the party.
    2. Majority of working class whites dont usually vote Democratic. Dems have to hold their own with this Demographic – they happen to be the Republican party’s base, not the Dem base. For Dems they are not the key demographic, AAs are (as noted above). And to burst Clinton’s bubble an analysis in the NYT last week showed that Obama has actually gained support amongst whites since the beginning of the year while Clinton has dramatically lost support with AAs.
    3. Look carefully at the county by county election results in Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton won all the counties Republicans win in the general, and Obama won the Democratic strongholds. That tells you that come November Obama is well positioned to carry the Dem strongholds needed to win Pennsylvania. Take a look at county results from other states – you will see the exact same thing. Obama wins Dem counties and Clinton wins the Republican counties.
    4. Let’s talk Pennsylvania. Either Clinton or Obama will carry Pennsylvania. Why? Two words: Rendell and Nutter. Pennsylvania is a machine state and the Dems have the machine with Ed Rendell driving it. With Nutter in Philly and Ed Rendell as Governor no Democrat will lose Pennsylvanie this fall. Contrary to the spin from Clinton, Pennsylvania is in the Dems camp.
    5. Hillary Clinton’s big state argument is nonsense. Does anyone seriously think a Dem will lose California or New York? Ohio is stronly favored to go Democratic in the fall because of NAFTA. Dems will lose Florida regardless of who is the nominee – the demographics in Florida have been trending away from the Dems for some time now.
    6. The way you win elections is not by winning the blue states (which you will anyway), its by winning the purple (battleground) states. Horserace polls from all 50 states show that Obama wins swing states where Clinton loses against McCain. The electoral map is much more favorable to Obama. He does well in states that count like Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, etc. And dont forget the Obama won Missouri – the grand daddy of all swing states and Claire McCaskill of Missouri is one of Obama’s strongest backers. That’s how elections are won, not by showing testicular fortitude in New York or California (which are guaranteed to go Democratic).
    7. No Dem will win Texas this year. So you can take that out of the equation.
    8. Virginia. Obama will likely carry Virginia, whereas Hillary simply cannot. I am willing to bet my other shoe that it will be Virginia and its large haul of electors that puts Obama over the top in November.
    9. Independents. The way you win elections is by holding your base and winning your share of independents. In nearly every state Obama has won more independents than Clinton. Even in Pennsylvania, Clinton’s supposed strong state, Obama won more independents than Clinton
    10. NBC has changed its terminology from “uncommitted superdelegates” to “undeclared superdelegates”. That is closer to the truth. Most superdelegates that have not declared are in Obama’s camp, and the drip-drip-drip of endorsements confirms that.
    11. Since Super Tuesday Obama has received endorsements of about 90 superdelegates compared to about 13 for Clinton. Since Pennsylvania, where Clinton apparently got momentum, Obama has picked up more superdelegates than Clinton. Why? Because the superdelegates know who is going to be the nominee.
    12. Superdelegates look at who can raise the most money. Obama wins this hands down.
    13. Superdelegates look at who will benefit down ballot races. Again, Obama has the money and the organization to have long coattails.

    Finally, the gas tax is more important than you think. Clinton made the mistake of threatening Dem senators and congressmen to go on record with a vote – she said “you are either with us or with the oil companies”. The Dem nominee does not threaten Dem elected officials like that. Its no wonder Joe Andrew, former DNC chairman, jumped ship from Clinton to Obama after that. Listen carefully to what Pelosi and Ried have said on the issue. Also, note that Clinton’s proposal is not part of the bill the Dems will introduce next week. The gas tax is a proxy for other issues. Clinton has taken a Republican position and insulted the Dem establishment – expect some payback.

    Look, no one with an unfavorability rating as high as Hillary will ever get elected president. There is no way around that. So, who is more electable? It was never Hillary.

  5. zm says:

    Oh wow! Whatever your current day-job is, you can easily quit that and become a political analyst. 🙂

    Yes, those are definitely great points to remember and should be enough to not get deterred by those right wing pundits on TV.
    Hopefully there are more of Andrews and Councils among the sups.

  6. Mash says:

    zm, expect more super delegates to announce for Obama tomorrow and the rest of this week.

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