MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
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According to an article in The Hill a few weeks back, Lloyd Blankfein - head of Goldman Sachs and symbol of Wall Street's lack of accountability - warned that Bernie Sanders is "dangerous." Blankfein told CNBC that Sanders is too set in his ways, adding, "It's a liability [in this anti-Wall Street environment] to say, 'I'm willing to compromise'… It's just incredible. It's a moment in history. Eventually people, the electorate, will notice nothing is getting done."
At no time did Blankfein, who personally supported Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama in 2008, find fault with Clinton; his alarm is solely focused on the senator from Vermont. He contrasted Sanders with more flexible candidates who are willing to work with Wall Street when he emphasized that a candidate must be "willing to compromise."
The Sanders campaign - supported by public records - charges that Wall Street donations make up a considerable portion of the Clinton war chest. She is supported by at least one huge Wall Street PAC, and, of course, has made millions of dollars in speaking fees from Wall Street financial firms.
On February 4, MSNBC reported that Clinton was surprisingly flummoxed - given that this wasn't a new question - when asked in a debate why she accepted $675,000 for three speaking Goldman Sachs' engagements:
Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton struggled Wednesday night to answer a question about why she took more than $600,000 in speaking fees from Goldman Sachs in one year.
"Well, I don't know. That's what they offered," she said when asked about the fees by CNN host Anderson Cooper in a forum televised by the network with less than a week away from the Granite State's first-in-the-nation primary. Clinton had a lucrative turn on the paid speaking circuit after she stepped down as secretary of state, which rival Bernie Sanders has used as fodder against her.
"I wasn't committed to running. I didn't know whether I would or not," she added when asked why she took the money knowing it would look bad if she ran.
Clinton would have you think that she was naive and almost indifferent to the more than $10,000-per-minute speaking fees paid by Blankfein's firm on at least three occasions - and the similar fees she accepted from a plethora of similar financial firms.
To put it bluntly, Wall Street doesn't pay that kind of money to its enemies.
In the one-on-one format of Thursday's Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders spent much of the first hour trading and landing punches. (Figuratively.) Sanders landed solid blows with his well-honed argument about the role of money in politics and how that keeps Wall Street powerful. He argued that he, not Clinton, would take Wall Street on.
Clinton rebutted by implying that Wall Street was more afraid of her than of him.
"You've got hedge fund billionaires aligned with Karl Rove," Clinton said, "running ads against me to try to get Democrats to vote for you. I know this game. I'm going to stop this game."
In the New Hampshire debate, Clinton also referred to the Koch brothers as examples of how Wall Street is opposing her. What is specious about Clinton's argument is that she is referring to Republicans who want to keep her from getting the Democratic nomination, not "too-big-to-fail" Wall Street banks, hedge funds and other predatory financial agencies.
Indeed, in the same Washington Post article cited above, the newspaper reports: "Our campaign finance reporters estimated that Clinton and the PACs supporting her had received more than $21 million from Wall Street donors -- and more than that in total for her other campaigns in 2000, 2006 and 2008." By shifting attention to Republican political partisans who oppose her, she attempted to divert attention from the Wall Street money that is pouring into her effort to be elected president.
Lloyd Blankfein and his fellow masters of the universe know that they don't need to ask for a specific quid pro quo from Hillary Clinton; she is a member of their elite neoliberal economic club.
Although Clinton, just a short time ago, said she was "looking into" releasing the transcripts from her Wall Street speeches, she then said she would release them only if Bernie Sanders did. Bernie Sanders said he was never paid to speak to a financial firm, so had no speeches to release. Clinton is now declaring that she will only be transparent and share her remarks with the public if the Republican candidates release their speeches to financial firms (which will, of course, never happen). This exchange at a South Carolina town hall with Clinton and Sanders sums it up pretty well, as recorded by CNN:
He [Sanders] opened the town hall by reiterating his call for Clinton to release transcripts of paid speeches that she made to Wall Street banks after she left the State Department.
"I am happy to release all of my paid speeches to Wall Street - here it is," Sanders said, with a wave of his hands. "There ain't none."
Clinton, who appeared on stage after Sanders, sidestepped questions about the senator's call for her to release her speeches.
"If everybody does it, and that includes the Republicans - because we know they have made a lot of speeches," Clinton said.
On February 7, BuzzFeed reported that "Clinton owns transcripts and rights to [her] paid speeches." That language is in Clinton's speech contracts, according to BuzzFeed. That means that the presidential candidate who said, "I've gone longer and farther to be as transparent as possible" about her private server for her State Department emails, has gone opaque when it comes to her paid remarks to Wall Street.
A December 2013 article in Politico offers some insight, albeit second hand, into what Hillary Clinton may have been offering Wall Street investors and CEOs in those speeches: reassurance. The Politico article recounts, through persons who attended (media was not allowed), how Clinton was perceived by those in attendance:
On a recent afternoon, executives at Goldman Sachs invited a few hundred major investors to the Conrad Hotel in lower Manhattan. The bankers and their guests filed into a large room and turned their eyes to Hillary Clinton.
Ordinarily these masters of the universe might have groaned at the idea of a politician taking the microphone....
But Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, according to accounts offered by several attendees, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish. Striking a soothing note on the global financial crisis, she told the audience, in effect: We all got into this mess together, and we're all going to have to work together to get out of it. What the bankers heard her to say was just what they would hope for from a prospective presidential candidate: Beating up the finance industry isn't going to improve the economy—it needs to stop. And indeed Goldman's Tim O'Neill, who heads the bank's asset management business, introduced Clinton by saying how courageous she was for speaking at the bank.
Herein lies the reason why Lloyd Blankfein is only shooting arrows at one of the two Democratic presidential candidates - and why Hillary Clinton won't release the transcripts of her speeches to financial firms, for which she received nearly a quarter of a million dollars each.
In an interview with CNBC on February 3, Blankfein stated,
Eventually people, the electorate will notice nothing is getting done and somebody will come up with a new idea of saying, hey, send me to washington and i'll compromise and I'll get things done and that will be the new new thing and everybody will rally to that point.
Now, who might he have in mind?
Clinton says that she has a plan to crack down on Wall Street, but Wall Street doesn't believe she means it.
Why should we?
Note of Interest: On February 8, CNNMoney reported this,
Hillary Clinton won't rule out appointing a Wall Street veteran to the top economic post in the White House.
"You have to have a Treasury Secretary who understands the economy, the American economy and the global economy," Clinton said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
When Clinton was pressed on whether she would appoint someone from Wall Street to be her Treasury Secretary, she refused to say no.
Not to be reposted without the permission of Truthout.