I missed the speech when it was live but that’s ok because I read the transcript. I recommend this, by the way, because you should be evaluating your candidates in a cold, dispassionate manner. I really mean this. Even today, I read a post from Digby who said 1.) Hillary doesn’t give a speech like Obama, implying that Obama is some kinda terrific speech giver, and 2.) She was never much impressed by Obama’s speeches anyway.
What the hell does that even mean, Digby?
Well, from my own personal experience, I found Obama’s speeches to be almost unlistenable. His sentences were so full of sequential prepositional phrases that I lost track of his point part way through. But if you’re the kind of person who wrote those kinds of papers as an undergrad and got rewarded for them by some overworked and underpaid TA, I can understand why you might be overly impressed by them. Besides, after the amazing similarity of Obama’s “Just Words” speech with Deval Patrick’s “Just Words” speech and other deconstructions of Obama’s speeches, I just couldn’t take him seriously. He and his speeches were manufactured and field tested by other politicians first. I suspect Digby means the same thing but it’s still not fashionable to go against the consensus reality in the party to say this so she has to say that Hillary doesn’t give a speech like Obama does.
For this, I am eternally grateful.
In general, I think it was a good kick off speech. She is channeling Roosevelt. That’s good. I think she has her mind in the right place. She also makes reference to drug discovery and there is some indication that she’s not entirely ignorant of what has been happening to the R&D field.
I also like what she says about immigrant workers. But there is a potential tie in with something I’ll get to in a minute that I think is the major flaw in this speech. As for immigrants, there are two possible audiences she may be addressing. The first audience consists of illegal immigrants who are long time residents. It’s wrong to split up families and even worse to deprive talented young students of a future just because they were brought here as children and didn’t have any choice in their immigration status. The other group of immigrant workers are high tech workers. I’ve worked (and am working) with many of these people. Let’s face it, they are treated like “just in time” cogs in a vast machinery with little thought given to their families or futures. I do favor quotas, by the way. There are plenty of well educated people in the biotech industry that are still struggling to make ends meet after the brutal layoffs of the last 7 years. But if you have to import tech workers, give them long term green cards and don’t tie that to any particular employer. These workers are human beings, not resources.
Now, onto the major flaw.
The highlight of the speech was supposed to be about growing the middle class and helping the poor with opportunity. Hillary tells the story of a single mother who was attending classes and working and asking her why this process has to be so hard? And while I liked the direction of her “Four Fights”, they aren’t going to go far enough. What is the point of fighting to make something that is one zillion times hard only half a zillion times hard?
Hillary talked about incentives to make businesses concentrate on long term investments. That’s going to mean taking on the 401K elephant in the room. We can’t have the entire nation watching their quarterly statements for a boom cycle based on the layoffs of their friends and neighbors. What is she planning to do about that?
It’s also great that she talked about giving people sick days. If you are a temp on contract, like I am, you don’t really get sick days or at least nothing like the reasonable time off policies that I had for 23 years.
But it was these two items that caught my eye and made me wonder. Here’s the first one:
“I will give new incentives to companies that give their employees a fair share of the profits their hard work earns.”
I don’t like this. It smells too much like “profit sharing”. And some of you may be asking, what’s wrong with that, RD? Why are you harshing my mellow, fergawdssakes?? I’ll tell you why. I have seen the way one of America’s biggest companies does profit sharing. Their very poorly paid employees get up at 5:00am twice a year to head on down to their workplace to attend an employee profit sharing meeting where they are made to listen to “pep rally” speeches by management about how “everything is awesome!” and play silly games for door prizes. Then, for giving up the one day of the week when they can sleep in, they are given measly “profit sharing” checks averaging less than $50.00. Ta-Da! Isn’t that nice??
No, it is not. It is not nice if the incentives are still going to the management at the top and what the ordinary worker gets is humiliation and just enough money to cover the gas to work and back for the week. But that’s just part of what’s annoying about profit sharing that I’ll get to in a moment.
The other item that caught my eye was this:
“And today’s families face new and unique pressures. Parents need more support and flexibility to do their job at work and at home.
I believe you should have the right to earn paid sick days.
I believe you should receive your work schedule with enough notice to arrange childcare or take college courses to get ahead.”
Ok, let’s just cut to the point here. The thing that I really needed to see her mention in this speech which didn’t come out of it was:
“If we are going to grow the middle class, then working people need income stability. That’s right, no more part time, half time, under time, everything but full time, contract only for a brief period of time working conditions. We need the vast majority of working people to have regular full time jobs without constant churn, impending unemployment and income instability. Because otherwise, people will not have confidence in their future and won’t be able to invest or buy things like homes or college educations.”
That is what I wanted to hear and that is not what I am hearing.
The absence was very noticeable.
Cue Bernie Sanders to step up to fill this void. Elizabeth Warren also understands this.
A real champion is going to go there. A real champion has to be able to look these donors in the face and say, “You need to fix this problem with income instability because these are people you are dealing with, not resources. Your economy depends on their economy. No, I am not kidding and profit sharing is not income stability. Nice try. Do I looks stupid to you?”
That’s what Roosevelt did. I mean Franklin. He put a steady stream of money in families’ pockets by stabilizing their incomes. Yes, part of this was through infrastructure jobs and private-public partnerships and I am all in favor. But if you do not have the income stability piece in place, it isn’t going to kick start the middle class enough.
As Atrios is always saying, “give people money”. Actually, you don’t even have to do that. Most people don’t want to sit around collecting unemployment and god knows, most companies are understaffed now, running the remaining staff into the ground. What they need is a stiff kick in their asses to stop hoarding cash and making poor investment and M&A decisions, and more incentives to hire people full time.
Maybe I’m too close to this issue. No, I don’t think so. It’s happening to everyone and making the entire workforce twitchy. Plus, with the constant employment churn, people are either taking their experience with them (a lament I recently heard from a manager about his contractors) or not getting enough experience at all. It undermines everything else. Flexibility means different things depending on whether you are an employer or employee.
So, that’s where I am with this speech. I am waiting to see the policies.
Recently, someone referred to my support of Hillary as dogmatic. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t do dogma of any kind. I would have called my support loyal. And I still support Hillary. She is the best candidate we have for many, many reasons. Bernie is a close second for me because he reminds me of what Democrats used to stand for.
And I don’t mind that she has friends in high places or that she knows people in the finance industry or Silicon Valley. I don’t see any evidence that she is taking orders from those people- yet. But she needs to really understand what is at stake here and that means feeling not what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck but to be constantly worrying about what is going to happen when the paychecks stop and having to sell yourself all of the time on the job market. When searching for a job becomes a full time job, even when you’re employed, that’s a problem that needs to be addressed because it is a serious impediment to the growth of the middle class.
You can use that line, Hillary. It will be a big hit at campaign rallies. You’re welcome.