The Non-Hypocrisy Of Being Wealthy While Criticizing Inequality

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

The Wall Street Journal is pushing the false narrative that Hillary Clinton is a hypocrite for taking sizable speaking fees while Democrats criticize inequality.

Since leaving public service as secretary of state, Clinton has followed in the footsteps of predecessors Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell by embarking on a nationwide speaking tour, reportedly receiving fees of more than $200,000 per appearance to speak to a variety of industry groups. She typically discusses her experience at State and takes questions from a moderator or the audience about current events. These engagements have come amid a flurry of media attention over whether Clinton will seek the presidency in 2016. 

The Journal editorial board is using these appearances to attack Clinton and try to drive a wedge between her and the Obama administration. "We don't begrudge anyone making a buck," they write in an April 13 piece, "though it is amusing to see the Clintons getting rich off the same 1% that President Obama's Democratic Party blames for most of mankind's ills, at least in election years."

Conservatives have long sought to tar rich progressives as hypocrites for seeking to help the poor while being wealthy. But there is no inherent inconsistency between making money and opposing inequality -- what matters is the policies one espouses while doing both. If Clinton was calling for policies that enriched the 1 percent while making money hand over fist and decrying inequality, the Journal might have a point. But there is no evidence that is the case.

Clinton is not currently a candidate for office, and thus has not fleshed out a detailed policy platform. But a cursory review of her rhetoric and proposals from her 2008 presidential run shows that she both called attention to inequality and put forward policies intended to reduce it -- including tax increases that would have hit her own family.

In a 2007 speech laying out her vision of "shared prosperity," Clinton explained the need to "solve this growing problem of inequality" with "a new vision of economic fairness and prosperity for the 21st century." Her proposals included "return[ing] to the income tax rates for upper-income Americans that we had in the 1990s" as well as increased access to early childhood and college education, more support for job training, increasing the minimum wage, and increasing access to health care. 

At the time, Bill and Hillary Clinton had made between $10 million and $20 million for the last several years, meaning that the tax increases Hillary Clinton was proposing would have impacted her own bottom line.

By contrast, while often speaking of the need to help the middle class, Sen. John McCain in 2008 and Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012 both put forward tax proposals that would have given huge tax breaks to wealthy families like their own.

It's those policies that are the key in determining hypocrisy, not personal wealth alone.

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Wall Street Journal
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