Today, 2008 Democratic frontrunner, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) gave a major policy address at Manchester School of Technology in New Hampshire. She talked about globalization, strengthening the middle class, and income inequality. “I believe that one of the most crucial jobs of the next President is to define a new vision of economic fairness and prosperity for the 21st century — a vision for how we ensure greater opportunity for our next generation, Clinton said.

Clinton pointed out that globalization used to work for all people, but today it benefits the corporations. “Now, in past economic expansions, that’s not the way it was. In the past, about 75% of net corporate revenues have gone to employee compensation, and only 25% to profits. However, for the past five years, the comparable figures are 41% going to employee compensation and 59% going to profits. Think about this: last year, the share of America’s national income going to corporate profits was the highest since 1929 — while the share going to the salaries of American workers was the lowest, Clinton said.

She continued, “The genius of the American economic in the 20th century was that it helped to counter that tendency for people to push as far as their own interests would take them so that we created a leveler playing field that benefited everyone. Unfortunately, for the past six years it’s as though we’ve gone back to the era of the robber barons. Year after year the president has handed out massive tax breaks to oil companies, no-bid contracts to Halliburton, tax incentives to corporations shipping jobs overseas, tax cut after tax cut to multimillionaires, while ignoring the needs and aspirations of tens of millions of working families.”

Clinton also pointed out a major contradiction in the Bush administration’s economic policy, “It’s also important to understand these policies are consistent with the administration’s theory about how we should manage our economy: leave it all up to the individual. That’s why they want to privatize Social Security and let individuals bear the risks. It’s why their answer to the health care crisis is limited to creating health savings account, which allows the healthiest people to get the best deal, with little concern if the sickest get worse. They call it the ownership society. But it’s really the “on your own” society. On the other hand, they protect the drug companies from competition, including from their own products coming back across the border from Canada. And they give health care companies a subsidy of more than $1,000 per person to compete with Medicare. That is hardly the free market at work.”

As become her usual, Clinton’s criticisms were sharp, but her solutions were vague. In some ways this was the best speech that she has given so far on the campaign, but she has yet to show that she has any concrete ideas for advancing her agenda.  Her progressive agenda contains nine points. They are: level the playing field and reducing special breaks for big corporations, eliminate incentives for American companies to ship jobs and profits overseas, reform the governance of corporations and the financial sector, restore fiscal responsibility to government, give every young person an opportunity to attend college, and ensure that education starts early in life and continues into adulthood, increase support for community colleges and alternative schools, help working people earn enough to support their families and help them save for the future, ensure that every American has quality, affordable health care, make investments necessary for creating new jobs.

These all sound good, but what do some of them mean? What kind investments are needed to create jobs? What kind of incentives do you offer the private sector to spur that investment? Hillary’s big problem is that her answers always seem to lead to more questions. As far as playing to liberal base, this was a very good speech, but she still stuck to the game plan. She talked in generalities that almost any Democrat can agree with. As a candidate, I think she is making progress, but she is still not as strong as her staff and supporters would like the public to believe. However, she is never going to be popular, and remains the easiest candidate for the Republicans to run against in 2008.

Full text of Clinton’s speech

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics

Jason can also be heard every Sunday afternoon at 1:30 pm (ET) as the host of The Political Universe Radio Show at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/thepoliticaluniverse
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