Hillary Clinton and Goldman Sachs: The Issue that Won’t Go Away!

Dear Commons Community,

Anyone watching the Democratic Party Presidential Candidate debate on Thursday between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were treated to a battle between two passionate campaigners.  Trying to determine who won this debate was difficult. I thought it was a draw.  However, I also thought that Hillary seriously stumbled on the moderator’s question about her revealing the transcripts of her Goldman Sachs’ speeches for which she was paid $675,000. Bernie Sanders has brought up this issue many times during this campaign and Hillary fails every time to give a good reason for not releasing the transcripts.  She did it again on Thursday alluding to the need for all the candidates to release transcripts of their speeches which I don’t think the audience either in the auditorium or watching CNN understood.   She actually was referring to the need for Sanders’ to reveal his tax returns.  Regardless, Hillary appeared less than forthright and the Goldman Sachs transcript issue continues to undermine her credibility.  The New York Review of Books has an extensive article commenting on this.   Here is an excerpt:

“Why is Hillary Clinton refusing to release the transcripts of her Goldman Sachs speeches? After losing eight of the last nine contests to Bernie Sanders, Clinton is trying to reassure voters that she is a reform-minded politician who can be trusted. Yet she has repeatedly refused requests to make public the texts of the three speeches she gave to executives of the Goldman Sachs investment bank in the fall of 2013, for which she was paid a total of $675,000. First she said she would look into it; then she said that she would release the transcripts only if all the other presidential candidates of both parties released the paid speeches they had given. What does she have to hide?

In a February 25 editorial, The New York Times argued that Clinton’s “stonewalling” on the Goldman transcripts “plays into the hands of those who say she’s not trustworthy and makes her own rules” and “most important, is damaging her credibility among Democrats who are begging her to show them that she’d run an accountable and transparent White House.” But the Times editorial did not get to the heart of the matter. The larger question is, Why was she giving these speeches at all—and accepting such hefty payments for them—given Goldman Sachs’s record during the Great Recession of 2007–2008?

Set alongside such stricken competitors as Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns, Goldman and its CEO Lloyd Blankfein are the great survivors of the crash: they actually came out ahead in their own derivatives trading during those years. Goldman and Blankfein’s admirers, including many in the financial media, have for the most part ignored the bank’s activities during the crash, despite multiple investigations and billion-dollar penalties against Goldman for its aggressive and deceptive marketing of financial derivatives. This has included a $5 billion settlement levied against the bank this January. How does this fit with Clinton’s self-portrayal as an opponent of the big banks and their excesses who is committed to their reform? 

On the stump, Clinton’s criticisms of Wall Street can sound as radical as Bernie Sanders’s or Senator Elizabeth Warren’s. During a CNN debate with Bernie Sanders in March, Clinton said that she was in agreement that, “no bank is too big to fail, and no executive too powerful to jail” and that she has “the tools” to do it. In its earlier endorsement of Clinton in January, The New York Times itself highlighted her “proposals for financial reform” and her support for “controls on high-frequency trading and stronger curbs on bank speculation in derivatives,” which it cited as evidence that “she supports changes that the country badly needs.”  

The article goes on to raise many other questions about the Goldman Sachs issue.  I don’t think it will matter much to her in winning the Democratic Party’s nomination but it will be a liability during the general election when she goes up against the Republican opposition whether it be Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or anyone else.



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