Hillary Clinton puts her right foot forward on minimum wage, climate change in New Hampshire

Hillary Clinton has been making a series of left turns relative to her 2008 campaign ever since she announced her 2016 bid. However, many of those appeals to the party base have come in prepared statements and scripted events.

In a series of unscripted answers to questions from journalists and event attendees in New Hampshire yesterday, Hillary Clinton struck a decidedly more centrist tone on two issues at the core of the liberal agenda: increasing the minimum wage and regulating fossil fuel extraction on public grounds.

In response to a question from Buzzfeed if she would support raising the national minimum wage to $15, Clinton had this to say:

I support the local efforts that are going on that are making it possible for people working in certain localities to actually earn 15…

…I think part of the reason that the Congress and very strong Democratic supporters of increasing the minimum wage are trying to debate and determine what’s the national floor is because there are different economic environments. And what you can do in L.A. or in New York may not work in other places.

Notably, Clinton declined to commit both to taking federal action to raise the minimum wage and to advocate for a $15 minimum wage nationally.

Hillary Clinton with Tim Geithner, via Creative Commons

Hillary Clinton with Tim Geithner, via Creative Commons

Clinton is right to say that “there are different economic environments,” but that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t all benefit from an increased minimum wage. In fact, one of the reasons why we set a federal minimum wage is because they in theory work better when they are adopted across the board; if one city or state adopts a higher minimum wage than another, employers will, in theory, set up shop where the lower minimum wage is in effect.

Theory aside, that isn’t how recent increases in local minimum wages have played out. Preliminary evidence from Seattle’s minimum wage increase show that employers are, if anything, expanding in the city. Not only has the number of monthly restaurant permits held steady since the increase was passed, and the overall number of restaurants has increased. Restaurants are used as a proxy for the effects of minimum wage both because data is readily available and because they often rely on minimum (and sub-minimum) wage workers.

But Hillary Clinton wasn’t done putting her right foot down on centrist economic theories that are empirically dubious. Later in the day, she told a town hall in New Hampshire that she opposed banning fossil fuel extraction on federal lands “until we get alternatives in place,” which prompted her to be confronted by another questioner who asked her if her refusal to commit to banning fossil fuel extraction on federal lands was due to her acceptance of campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Her muddled, rambling answer led to heckling, with protesters chanting “Act on climate!”:

The exchange exposed one of Clinton’s biggest weaknesses on the trail: unscripted conversations with actual liberal voters.

Hillary’s assertion that she can’t oppose banning fossil fuel extraction on federal lands for pragmatic, economic reasons is pure bunk. The same people who would be put out of work if she banned fossil fuel extraction on federal lands could and would be put to work elsewhere. This would be especially true if she made a serious investment in expanding our green energy sector, which is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the global economy. To say you’re against making changes until alternatives are in place, while having obviously not thought seriously about what those alternatives might be, is troubling to say the least.

Of course, for political reasons, Hillary feels no great pressure to take a progressive position on climate. As Slate’s Josh VoorHees commented:

…the unfortunate reality for climate activists is that Hillary doesn’t need to be overly concerned about them in the primary since she doesn’t have to worry about them in the general election. Their legitimate fears about what a climate science-denying Republican president would do will be a much greater motivating force on Election Day than their doubts about Clinton ever could be.

That said, such a clear calculation from Clinton reinforces the strongest narrative against her candidacy: that she is a distillation of everything Americans hate about politics; one part focus group and one part donor sellout. She is more than willing to say that the upcoming election is a pivotal moment in American history; climate is one of the most pivotal issues for America in the next century. If there is any issue on which liberals should demand Hillary Clinton be to the left of President Obama, it’s climate; instead, she’s basically tracked at or slightly to the right of the President’s positions.

Yesterday provided a number of reasons why Hillary Clinton had previously avoided taking too many questions from reporters and unscreened event attendees. She has clearly either not thought seriously, or completely dismissed, a number of issues that her base cares deeply about.

And she wonders why Bernie Sanders is attracting such a devoted following.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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36 Responses to “Hillary Clinton puts her right foot forward on minimum wage, climate change in New Hampshire”

  1. andy.lotiya says:

    The current market is nothing but debt fueled smoke.’
    Jobs and job growth. Very funny, that was a good one. You know there are actually people out there who don’t know what is happening and believe that. Good one!!..
    Next Page

  2. Zorba says:

    Parakalo.

  3. Demosthenes says:

    Efharisto!

  4. Zorba says:

    Well, I’m old enough to be SpaceCommie’s grandmother, which would make me old enough to be your mother. You are probably close to the same age as my kids.
    Enjoy your youth, Demosthenes. ;-)

  5. Demosthenes says:

    OMG! You’re that young! Wow, your excellent comments hide your youth. Are you starting college next month? My youngest goes away to college as a freshman then.

    I’m literally old enough to be your father.

  6. SpaceCommie says:

    Yep, Great America. Anyways, no: I’m eighteen.

  7. Demosthenes says:

    Six Flags in Gurnee? I worked there in high school. Are you a teacher the rest of the year?

  8. Bributly says:

    Super Media Jobs 589$ / day

    >r..

    http://www.World Media Point Express//Digital//jobs

  9. Stuart Wyman-Cahall says:

    I agree with you…when it comes to off year elections. Dem turnout is a disgrace. I think younger people are starting to appreciate how important those mid terms are. But the general election does draw the people whose opinions always poll well on the issues. And Democrats do well. Obama’s reelection was supposed to be a nail biter. Turned out to be a good night for him.

  10. dubinsky says:

    ” Notably, Clinton declined to commit both to taking federal action to raise the minimum wage and to advocate for a $15 minimum wage nationally.”

    good for her. there’s nothing sacred about the $15/hr minimum wage and there’s no proof that it’s the right thing to do under current economic conditions, which vary across the country.

  11. SpaceCommie says:

    That’s a generous interpretation, Demo—thanks.

    But no, I’m working at Six Flags this summer; everyone got a raise a couple of weeks ago. I assumed it was in anticipation of a minimum wage hike.

  12. Demosthenes says:

    I couldn’t agree more. The current radical Supreme Court needs to change.

  13. Demosthenes says:

    Sometimes it takes being busy to get noticed. I’m delighted you got sole financial recognition!

  14. SpaceCommie says:

    Rauner doesn’t oppose raising the minimum wage. He wants to bump it up to $9 or $10. (I forget which.) This isn’t, incidentally, intended as a defense of Rauner, since I’m annoyed with his squishiness on the subject.

    Coincidentally, I have also been quite busy at work lately, and the reason I was convinced that the minimum wage had gone up was that my wage went up to $9 an hour.

  15. taxicolor says:

    Stuart Wyman-Cahall, I think you underestimate the Republican ability to get all their people out to vote. Their demographic are people who always vote. The Democratic Party do not do well historically getting their base to vote. This is all my perception but occasionally they get someone who strikes a chord with their voters Such as FDR, Kennedy, Obama and hopefully Bernie. Some such as Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were offering a definite choice against a weak Republican candidate. I am not a member of any party because none of them coincide with my views so it is just my observation that the Dems. are bad at getting out the vote and Repubs. are very good at it..

  16. Demosthenes says:

    Illinois GOP Gov. Rauner opposes increasing the minimum wage, so the Democrats would need a veto proof majority or a few Republicans in the General Assembly.

    I must admit, like you I’m not exactly sure what is happening, as I’ve been very busy at work recently.

  17. SpaceCommie says:

    I think I was wrong about this: there is a minimum wage bill in the works, but it hasn’t been passed yet.

  18. Stuart Wyman-Cahall says:

    You would be right….However, the clown car of Republican offerings is so frightening to most Democrats and independents, that’ll be all the motivation that center and center/left voters will need. For me personally it’ll be all about who is going to nominate whom to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court.

  19. hidflect says:

    Hillary’s like some cardboard villain out of a Disney movie, so transparent is she. Mumbles to left and bolts to the right. If she wins there’ll be a sheath of lobbyist bills on her desk ready for a’signin’ y’all.

  20. Demosthenes says:

    To what? I thought only Chicago raised it.

  21. SpaceCommie says:

    It has been, Demo.

  22. *NmySkynn70* says:

    wow; no wonder no one can ever save $$$ (well at least some of us . . . )

  23. taxicolor says:

    Demosthenes, yes, he would be problematic for someone. He might even use his sincerity and zeal as a motivation for apathetic voters to actually get out and vote. He is able to bring the same kind of excitement to the people as did Obama vs. Clinton not too long ago.

  24. Demosthenes says:

    I understand your point and agree wages in general need to increase. Accordingly, I vote up your comment.

  25. Demosthenes says:

    I am not a huge fan of Secy. Clinton, but Sen. Sanders, despite his sincerely and zeal, would be a highly problematic candidate.

  26. Demosthenes says:

    No, I can’t live on my state’s minimum wage of $8.25 an hour. It needs to be increased.

  27. Bill_Perdue says:

    Obama’s contemptuous proposal for a $10.10 and Hillary Clinton’s equally anti-worker proposal for a minimum wage in a few cities where are the best the Democrats can do and both are pitiful.

    (Until very recently HRH HRC was for marriage equality in some states but not all states. She seems to have a strategy of pretending to for workers rights or LGBT rights etc, but only in the most limited way.)

    The fight for $15 is a fight begun and won by socialists and our allies in the left wing of the labor movement. We had to defeat Democrats to get it passed and even then they tried to impose more limits. From Sanders in the center of the Democrat party to HRH HRC on the it’s far right, the Democrats are politically bankrupt. Their policies which they borrowed from Republicans – NAFTA, TPP, attacks on Social Security and Medicare and deregulation of predatory lenders – created the economic decline that now affects tens of millions of US workers and offers us only one way out, the creation of workers party’s to defeat Democrat/Republicans and create a workers government. That fight will go in the movement to organize workers into unions and to fight for decent wages and in the far less important electoral arena, but in all cases, it will go on without the support of Democrats and in opposition to both parties of the rich, Democrats and Republicans.

  28. 2karmanot says:

    Yes!

  29. 2karmanot says:

    Clearly you can live on $7.00 an hour. Most of us can’t. That’s why it’s a bad thing.

  30. 2karmanot says:

    The soon to be appointed Empress is just another Obama. Her seemingly left turn is nothing more than Kabuki and the kind of mega propaganda that pretends to progressive values. Remember: Clinton = NAFTA, DOMA, DADT and other betrayals. Hills is just another lying dance master.

  31. taxicolor says:

    I agree with Jon here. As you note, a $15 minimum wage is seen as a political non starter by the politically cautious. I feel this is why Clinton is seen as the worst kind of politician. Without honest conviction but with ruthless ambition. I personally don’t trust her to do the right things. Which is why despite the odds I support Bernie Sanders. The Republicans will be getting their voters out in large numbers. I don’t think Clinton can inspire the Democrats and Independent voters to vote.

  32. Knottwhole says:

    A nonstarter for who? Oh yea, the Clinton donation team…..Big banks.

  33. Doug105 says:

    Not enough.

  34. Demosthenes says:

    Politically a $15 an hour national minimum wage is a nonstarter. A far more realistic aim is to set it at $10.10 as national Democrats seek and to include an automatic inflation kicker.

  35. Jon Green says:

    The idea would be that San Fran, New York and Boston would be more than welcome to go above $15, but $15 (indexed to inflation) should be the new baseline. Given how ridiculously skewed our current wage structure is, there’s every reason to believe the economy could and would sustain it.

  36. Demosthenes says:

    Purely from an economic standpoint, Secy. Clinton’s position on the minimum wage makes sense. While she supports raising the ludicrously low national minimum wage, obviously states and localities should have flexibility to increase it to reflect local conditions. Thus, San Francisco, New York and Boston may need a higher minimum wage than Alabama and South Dakota.

    Why is this a bad thing?

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