If This Isn’t a Potential Hillary Clinton Campaign Speech, What Is?

At the New America Foundation, Clinton checks off all the progressive boxes.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
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Brian Resnick
May 16, 2014, 9:36 a.m.

Hil­lary Clin­ton just may run for pres­id­ent, al­though you won’t hear that from her … yet.

But in re­cent weeks, she has been up­ping her vis­ib­il­ity, giv­ing speeches, pro­mot­ing her new book, and push­ing Clin­ton Found­a­tion ini­ti­at­ives. Today, she gave the key­note speech at the New Amer­ica Found­a­tion’s “Big Ideas for a New Amer­ica” con­fer­ence. In­tro­duced by a former em­ploy­ee — Anne-Mar­ie Slaughter, who worked with Clin­ton in the State De­part­ment and is now the pres­id­ent of the New Amer­ica Found­a­tion — Clin­ton was pre­sum­ably in front of a pro­gress­ive, like-minded crowd.

And, like­wise, what she said echoed the con­cerns of pro­gress­ives — ex­pand­ing in­come in­equal­ity, the re­turn to a “Gil­ded Age,” the dis­in­teg­ra­tion of the Amer­ic­an middle class, and so on.

It soun­ded like a cam­paign speech. Or, at least, a tem­plate for one. If she were to run, we can ex­pect to hear more on the ideas she ad­dressed today.

Be­low, we dia­gram the main points of her talk.

I have a mor­al found­a­tion, in­her­ited from my par­ents.

I think about what it must have been like, though, to have very dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances dur­ing my moth­er’s life, but nev­er los­ing faith or hope in how far her chil­dren or grand­chil­dren would even­tu­ally go.

And just as our par­ents gave us great things, we need to make a bet­ter coun­try for our chil­dren.


That is really how Amer­ica is sup­posed to work. Each gen­er­a­tion striv­ing to cre­ate op­por­tun­ity for the next, plant­ing trees that we will not be sit­ting in the shade of, but ex­pect­ing oth­ers who will fol­low to be able to; not ex­pect­ing to be handed any­thing on a sil­ver plat­ter, but be­liev­ing that all of us would be giv­en a fair shot at suc­cess if we were will­ing to do the work that was re­quired

To fix Amer­ica is to fix the middle class, and close gaps between men, wo­men, ma­jor­it­ies, and minor­it­ies.

When all our people be­lieve they have the op­por­tun­ity and are in fact due to par­ti­cip­ate fully in our eco­nomy and our demo­cracy. The em­pir­ic­al evid­ence tells us that our so­ci­ety is health­i­est and our eco­nomy grows fast when people in the middle are work­ing and thriv­ing and when people at the bot­tom be­lieve that they can make their way in­to that broad-based middle.

We should be alarmed, be­cause up­ward mo­bil­ity in Amer­ica is erod­ing.

More than four out of 10 chil­dren born in­to our low­est-in­come fam­il­ies nev­er man­aged to climb out of re­l­at­ive poverty. For­get about get­ting rich. I am just talk­ing about get­ting in­to, and stay­ing there in, the middle class and that should not be as hard as it is now. And what is more, an al­most equal per­cent­age of kids who are born in­to the most af­flu­ent fam­il­ies stay there for life no mat­ter what their ef­fort. That is the op­pos­ite of the mo­bil­ity we think of as a hall­mark of Amer­ica.

Ser­i­ously, Canada is look­ing bet­ter than us.

It was something of a wake-up call when it was re­cently re­por­ted that Ca­na­dian middle-class in­comes are now high­er than in the United States. They are work­ing few­er hours for more pay than Amer­ic­ans are, en­joy­ing a stronger safety net, liv­ing longer on av­er­age, and fa­cing less in­come in­equal­ity. That is not how it is sup­posed to be.

My re­cent résumé strengthens my un­der­stand­ing of this.

Now as sec­ret­ary of State, I saw all the way ex­treme in­equal­ity has cor­rup­ted oth­er so­ci­et­ies, hobbled growth, and left en­tire gen­er­a­tions ali­en­ated and un­moored.

The solu­tions ex­ist. We’ve seen them in ac­tion be­fore, con­veni­ently dur­ing a former Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion.  

The 1990s taught us that even in the face of dif­fi­cult, long-term eco­nom­ic trends, it is pos­sible, through smart policies and sound in­vest­ments, to en­joy broad-based growth and shared prosper­ity.

Out­reach to wo­men.

Amer­ic­an wo­men, with the least edu­ca­tion, less than high school edu­ca­tion, and the low­est in­comes are ac­tu­ally liv­ing short­er lives today than their moth­ers did. Short­er lives than wo­men in any oth­er ma­jor in­dus­tri­al­ized coun­try. The only oth­er place where we have seen such a re­versal in life ex­pect­ancy was among Rus­si­an men after the col­lapse of the So­viet Uni­on. There is no single ex­plan­a­tion as to why life ex­pect­ancy is de­clin­ing. But it cor­rel­ates with un­em­ploy­ment and eco­nom­ic stress.

Out­reach to the mil­len­ni­als.

We can­not wait, be­cause we have a rising gen­er­a­tion of young people, the so-called mil­len­ni­al gen­er­a­tion. They are op­tim­ist­ic, tol­er­ant, cre­at­ive, gen­er­ous as a co­hort. They have so much po­ten­tial, so much to con­trib­ute. They can be the par­ti­cip­a­tion gen­er­a­tion, the in­nov­a­tion gen­er­a­tion — not a lost gen­er­a­tion.

But there’s hope for fix­ing the Amer­ic­an gov­ern­ment.

Why are some people across the polit­ic­al di­vide be­liev­ing what they be­lieve? Hold­ing their val­ues so strongly against what we be­lieve to be right? We do not get back in­to a con­ver­sa­tion that cuts across all those lines that di­vide us. It will be very dif­fi­cult to tackle the eco­nom­ic and so­cial prob­lems that stand in the way of mov­ing away from in­equal­ity to­ward great­er equal­ity, eco­nom­ic­ally and so­cially. But I be­lieve that the time has come.

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