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What Hillary Clinton’s Wall Street Speeches Say About Her Politics and Authenticity


Photo by kansieo, Creative Commons License.

Fact: Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made money giving speeches to big banks on Wall Street.

Fact: the amount of money Clinton made making speeches on Wall Street is obscene, to be sure, but also curious given what an adamant, consistent and uncompromising critic of Wall Street she is. According to reports, Clinton raked in $8 million from speaking engagements with eight big banks. Goldman Sachs alone shelled out $675,000 to host her. Y’all catch that? Goldman Sachs, one of the financial firms behind the economic crisis that collapsed the country and destroyed the lives of millions of Americans, paid Hillary Clinton over half a million dollars to come visit and bless them with a few words.

Here’s another way to think about it: In a few short speeches, Hillary Clinton made more than Bernie Sanders’ earnings throughout his entire political lifetime.

Fact: Clinton refuses to release the transcripts of these speeches to the public. Because “every secretary of state does it.” Because she’ll “look into it.” Because she’ll do it when every candidate releases the transcripts of the speeches they’ve delivered on Wall Street. Everyone, in this case, in this race, being no one.

Related: Hillary Clinton Isn’t the Only Woman Running for President

To be fair, going to Wall Street to make obscene amounts of money is not surprising or alarming. It’s a basic fact of capitalist ecology, like breathing or photosynthesis, if photosynthesis means stealing other people’s light.

But this is different.

When you’re a presidential candidate who supposedly identifies with the Democratic party — the party that claims to represent, stand up for and fight on behalf of working people — making money from delivering private speeches to big banks poses a potentially huge problem for you. And, if you’re a candidate who, among every candidate running in this year’s election, has been weighed down by an authenticity problem, the stakes could not be higher.

What these speeches say about Hillary Clinton’s politics could make or break her presidential run. Should she knock Bernie Sanders off the political blimp — and she looks to be in a very good position to do so — there’s still the general race to contend with. There, Donald Trump, who currently leads her in general election polls, could find himself with all the weapons of scandal he could ever ask for. It could turn out to be his election to lose.

Since she entered this race, the Wall Street speeches have been a thorn in Clinton’s side in forum after forum, debate after debate. In just about every PR scenario, she has ducked and dodged. One is forced to wonder why.

We know what it means and why it’s essential to raise questions about Clinton’s ties to the wolves of Wall Street. We know that Clinton has vowed to voters that no one, certainly not an old, feeble man from Brooklyn, will be tougher and firmer on Wall Street’s financial operations than she. Tougher and firmer equals negotiate. Negotiate, that is, with the same banks and firms that in one blow destroyed millions of American lives.

But never mind that! *sips Flint water*

If that’s the case, if your plan is to take Wall Street to task, why the secrecy? Why so hesitant? I mean, you’d think she would be in a rush to absolve herself of any criticism by publicizing the content of her private, closed-door statements to luxury firms. As it is, she’s not, for what turns out to be very obvious and damning reasons.

Word is, the material of the speeches Clinton gave to Wall Street paints her as an ally of the financial world — not the fierce opponent she claims to be. Want to know what rhymes with “an ally of Wall Street”? Middle-finger to working people.

Related: Why Bernie Sanders Supporters Should Not Consider Voting for Hillary Clinton

So, how exactly did she spend her time at Goldman Sachs?

“She spent no time criticizing Goldman,” Politico reports, “or Wall Street more broadly for its role in the 2008 financial crisis.”

One attendee remembers Hillary Clinton’s word to Goldman Sachs in this way:

“It was pretty glowing about us … It’s so far from what she sounds like as a candidate now. It was like a rah-rah speech. She sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director.”

That’s right, y’all. Hillary went to Wall Street and gave a “rah-rah” speech. But, wait. There’s more.

On another occasion, in front of Goldman Sach personnel and asset clients, she deemphasized the role of banks in 2008 crisis and criticized what is inarguably the most progressive piece of economic legislation to come out of The Obama Era — The Dodd-Frank Act.

Just so we’re on the same page, and in case you have no idea what this act is: Dodd-Frank reform law, signed into law by Barack Obama in 2010, is designed to protect consumers and hold banks accountable. And here Hillary Clinton is — champion of working people, uncompromising critic of too-big-too-fail banks — expressing the need to find flaws in a law that puts consumers first.

Curiously absent from her remarks is any discussion of the part played by the 1999 Gramm Leach Bliley Act, which repealed Glass-Steagall during the Great Recession.

And why would it be? That’s not why Goldman Sachs — or, for that matter, any of the other eight big banks — opened up their pew.

It is, however, the reason why Clinton is antsy about publishing these transcripts. They’re damning, revealing about Clinton what most voters following this election cycle already assume anyway — her duplicitous nature and the conniving lengths she’ll go to play both sides of the social aisle in order to win one side, ultimately — her own. On a grander scale, it underscores, to evoke Mark Twain, a basic trope about politics in civil society: When it comes to shopping for the best political system money can buy, the moneyed aristocracy spares no expense.


Antwan is an educator, cultural critic, actor, and writer for Wear Your Voice Mag (WYV), where he focuses on the dynamics of class, race, gender, politics, and pop culture. Prior to joining the team at WYV, he was an adjunct professor in the African American Studies Department at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, where he taught African American Literature. He has traveled the U.S. and U.K. showcasing a fifty-five minute, one-person play titled Whitewash, which focuses on the state of black men in the post-civil rights era. Antwan received his B.A. in English and Literature from California State University, Dominguez Hills, and M.A. in African American Studies from University of California, Los Angeles. He is a Ronald E. McNair Scholar and NAACP theater nominee.

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