Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street

Nothing seems to rattle Hillary Clinton quite so much as pointed questions about her personal finances. How much she’s made. How she made it. Where it all came from. From her miraculous adventures in the cattle futures market to the Whitewater real estate scam, many of the most venal Clinton scandals down the decades have involved Hillary’s financial entanglements and the serpentine measures she has taken to conceal them from public scrutiny.

Hillary is both driven to acquire money and emits a faint whiff of guilt about having hoarded so much of it. One might be tempted to ascribe her squeamishness about wealth to her rigid Methodism, but her friends say that Hillary’s covetousness derives from a deep obsession with feeling secure, which makes a kind of sense given Bill’s free-wheeling proclivities. She’s not, after all, a child of the Depression, but a baby boomer. Hillary was raised in comfortable circumstances in the Chicago suburbs and, unlike her husband, has never in her life felt the sting of want.

Mrs. Clinton’s stubborn refusal to disclose the text of her three speeches to Goldman Sachs executives in the fall of 2013 fits this self-destructive pattern of greed and guilt. She was fortunate that Bernie Sanders proved too feeble a candidate to seize the advantage. Each time Sanders was asked to show a nexus between the $675,000 she was paid and any political favors to the financial vultures at Goldman, the senator froze, proving strangely incapable of driving a stake into the heart of her campaign.

A less paranoid politician would have simply released the tedious transcripts of the speeches on a Friday evening to bore insomniac readers to sleep. The real question, of course, was never about the content of the speeches, but about why Goldman was paying her $225,000 an hour to give them. Goldman executives weren’t huddling around Mrs. Clinton to listen to her recite the obscurantist mish-mash ghost-dictated by her top economic advisor Alan Blinder. Blinder, a well-known Wall Street commodity himself, is a former vice-chair of the Federal Reserve and co-founder of Promontory Interfinancial Network, a regulatory arbitrage outfit whose top executives pocket $30 million a year. Blinder has publicly assured his Wall Street pals that Clinton will not under any circumstances break up the big banks and neither will she seek to reanimate Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era regulatory measure whose exsanguination by her husband enabled the financial looting by firms like Goldman and Lehman Brothers that spurred the global economic collapse of 2008.

The lavish fee from Goldman for Hillary’s speeches was both a gratuity for past loyalty and a down payment on future services. Goldman’s ties to the Clintons date back at least to 1985, when Goldman executives began pumping money into the newly formed Democratic Leadership Council, a kind of proto-SuperPac for the advancement of neoliberalism. Behind its “third-way” politics smokescreen, the DLC was shaking down corporations and Wall Street financiers to fund the campaigns of business-friendly “New” Democrats such as Al Gore and Bill Clinton.

The DLC served as the political launching pad for the Clintons, boosting them out of the obscurity of the Arkansas dog-patch into the rarified orbit of the Georgetown cocktail circuit and the Wall Street money movers. By the time Bill rambled through his interminable keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic Convention in Atlanta, the Clintons’ Faustian pact with Goldman had already been inked, their political souls cleansed of any vestiges of the primitive southern populism Clinton had exploited so effortlessly during his first term as governor.

In 1991, the Clintons traveled to Manhattan, where they tested the waters for Bill’s then rather improbable presidential bid. At a dinner meeting with Goldman’s co-chair Robert Rubin, Clinton made his case as a more pliant political vessel than George H.W. Bush, who many of the younger Wall Street raiders had soured on. Rubin emerged from the dinner so impressed that he agreed to serve as one of the campaign’s top economic advisors. More crucially, Rubin soon began orchestrating a riptide of Wall Street money into Clinton’s campaign war chest, not only from Goldman but also from other banking and investment titans, such as Lehman Brothers and Citibank, who were eager to see the loosening of federal financial regulations. With Rubin priming the pump, Clinton’s campaign coffers soon dwarfed his rivals and enabled him to survive the sex scandals that detonated on the eve of the New Hampshire primary.

After his election, Clinton swiftly returned the favor checking off one item after another on Rubin’s wish list, often at the expense of the few morsels he’d tossed to the progressive base of the party. In a rare fit of pique, Clinton erupted during one meeting of his National Economic Council, which Rubin chaired, in the first fraught year of his presidency by yelling: “You mean my entire agenda has been turned over to the fucking bond market?” Surely, Bill meant this as a rhetorical question.

When the time came to do the serious business of deregulating the financial sector, Rubin migrated from the shadows of the NEC to become Treasury Secretary, where he oversaw the implementation of NAFTA, the immiseration of the Mexican economy, imposed shock therapy on the struggling Russian economy, blocked the regulation of credit derivatives and gutted Glass-Steagall. When Rubin left the Treasury to cash in on his work at Citigroup, Clinton called him “the greatest secretary of the Treasury since Alexander Hamilton.” Nine years later, following the greatest upward transfer of wealth in history, the global economy was in ruins, with Clinton, Rubin and Goldman Sachs’ fingerprints all over the carnage.

In mid-May, Hillary announced her intention to make Bill the “economic czar” for her administration. This served to quell any anxiety that she might have been infected during the primary campaign by the Sanders virus. For Wall Street, the Clintons are still as good as Goldman. Quid pro quo.

More articles by:

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter  @JSCCounterPunch

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South