Frederick Johnston

Hillary Clinton: Wall Street’s next President?

With the spotlight on the U.S. Presidential race focused elsewhere, Frederick Johnston recognizes the gratingly familiar moves of Hillary Clinton.


The U.S. Presidential primary race has been a memorable one if only for the runners clearing the hurdles. Donald Trump seems to be against anybody who isn’t Donald Trump. Meanwhile, the relatable/unrelatable tour de force that is Bernie Sanders rolls on (#feeltheBern). All of this has largely turned the spotlight away from Hillary Clinton, who is no less culpable of the same polarizing political moves.

In mid-November, when pressed by Sanders in the Democratic debate on the source of her campaign funds, her response was, “I represented New York, and I represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild. That was good for New York. It was good for the economy, and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists who had attacked our country.”

Predictably, the response from social media was swift and unsympathetic. As a side note, it also revealed the sensitivity that many Americans still hold over a decade since 9/11. Lis Smith, the deputy campaign manager for Clinton’s opponent, Martin O’Malley, tweeted, “My dad worked in WTC from the day it was built to the day it went down. Never invoke 9/11 to justify your Wall St positions.”

With her reference to the funding by Wall Street of Clinton’s campaign, Smith implies the populist assumption that one hand will eventually wash the other—companies like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase, etc. (These names might sound familiar; they all received record bailout money in 2008.)

The whole situation is reminiscent of Barack Obama’s actions around the time of his election campaign. Obama vowed to stand up to Wall Street’s fat cats as a president for the people. The problem was that, once he was elected, he handpicked key individuals from Wall Street to lead the change as the financial crisis unfurled.

Henry Paulson, the Treasury Secretary at the height of the crisis in 2008, who decided how part of the $700 billion bailout money was used, was a former Goldman Sachs CEO. Tim Geithner, who took over from Paulson in 2009, was largely criticized for proposals he put forward for the use of bailout funds. Geithner was mentored by Robert Rubin, a former Treasury Secretary to President Bill Clinton, and was also a former board member of Goldman Sachs. Leaving the key decisions of the 2008 bailout to be made by former banking CEOs and those mentored by banking executives was a worrying oversight to say the least.

There is a fear that Hillary could be doing the same since her economic adviser, Alan Blinder, is Vice-Chair of the Wall Street firm Promontory Interfinancial Network. Promontory have been noted for bypassing regulations regarding deposit insurance by separating investors’ income into smaller accounts to ensure the entire amount would receive insurance coverage, rather than being limited to the standard $100,000. Actions that scream dubious merit in a familiar voice.

Another thing to note is her response to terrorism. While addressing the think-tank Council on Foreign Relations, Clinton claimed the response to extremism is a global one—one that requires America and its allies to “go after terrorists wherever they plot, using all the tools at our disposal.” It’s an unspecified and potentially unprecedented level of force to counter terrorism; “tools” provided by the military-industrial complex. I came across this speech thanks to a chart put together citing quotes from candidates and whom they would target if they took charge.

Gung-ho responses towards terrorism from leaders in the U.S. are unsurprising. What intensifies this issue, however, is her patchy track record as Secretary of State. Under Hillary Clinton, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments had given millions to the Clinton Foundation. These countries included Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Oman, Kuwait, and Qatar—some who possess a questionable track record with human rights.

Perhaps you’re thinking, How can this be legitimate? Under federal law, foreign governments seeking State Department clearance to buy American-made arms are barred from making campaign contributions—a prohibition aimed at preventing foreign interests from using cash to influence national security policy. But, nothing prevents them from contributing to a philanthropic foundation controlled by policymakers.

The president will change in 2016, but the response to critical issues such as terrorism and the toleration of campaign funding from dubious sources will remain the same, regardless of ideological orientation. In fact, Clinton looks to have a stronger stance towards the global threat of radical extremism. The full effect of such fervid and questionable actions on the issue is difficult to predict, and yet to be seen.


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