15 Questions Hillary Clinton Should Answer Right Now

15 Questions Hillary Clinton Should Answer Right Now

15 Questions Hillary Clinton Should Answer Right Now

As Clinton launches her second presidential bid, serious questions remain about her positions on key economic and foreign policy issues.


This Sunday, Hillary Clinton is expected to announce her candidacy for president of the United States. This should surprise exactly nobody. The “prolonged prologue” to her second presidential bid, The New York Times drolly noted, has reached its “suspenseless conclusion.”

By all accounts, Clinton’s rollout is expected to be a tightly choreographed sequence of events. First a series of promotional messages on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Then meet-and-greets with small crowds in Iowa and New Hampshire. Meanwhile, Clinton will gradually grow her campaign staff, which is headquartered in Brooklyn and is expected to raise and spend upwards of $2 billion during the election.

In this first phase, Clinton will be cautiously testing her early campaign themes, which will focus on reviving the economic fortunes of the middle class and her status as a trailblazer for women. As campaign subjects go, Clinton could do a lot worse (remember the Red Phone ads?). Nonetheless, the rollout already carries the stilted air of an overproduced commercial—not a vigorous campaign. The Nation has consistently called for a contested primary in order to engage the full range of urgent issues before the American public. Candidate Clinton should be pressed hard on the issues by rivals, the media and voters. Towards that end, we polled editors and contributors and compiled the following first draft of questions that Hillary Clinton should answer promptly and with candor.

Jobs: Overall, the jobless rate is nearly back to what it was before the recession began. But if we dig deeper, the recovery looks remarkably uneven. Unemployment among black Americans—11 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014—remains higher than the overall rate at the peak of the recession and well above the rate among black Americans before the recession began. Similar disparities exist between cities and states. Progressive economists have called for new, targeted public investment in job creation, to get us to full employment. What public investments will you demand so that all of America recovers from the 2007 crash? Can there be a second stimulus for the people and communities left behind? (Kai Wright)

Inequality: A key question all candidates should address is how can we boost hourly wages for the large majority of American workers who have seen their pay stagnate even as the economy grew over the past three-and-a-half decades. This crisis is at the root of nearly every troubling economic trend with us today—rising income inequality, persistent poverty, failure to boost economic mobility, and increasingly anemic recoveries following economic downturns. There is no one silver policy bullet that would get wage growth in gear. It will take an intentional reorientation of policy across the spectrum, including tax and budget policies, regulations, trade and macroeconomic policy. In this mix, where does Hillary Clinton see labor reforms like strengthening workers’ ability to bargain collectively and paid family sick leave? How would she work with Congress to pass such measures? (Josh Bivens, Economic Policy Institute)

Student debt: Student loan debt-strikers have launched an increasingly visible campaign asking the Department of Education to cancel all federal debt incurred by students. Elizabeth Warren has also laid out a clear plan for student-loan debt relief that goes well beyond the measures enacted by the Obama administration. Her plan, which gained the support of every Senate Democrat and even three Republicans before falling victim to a filibuster last year, is simple: Allow any student with federal loans to refinance at government subsidized rates, currently quite low at below 4 percent. This would cost the government money, but Warren proposes enacting the Buffett rule (which imposes a minimum 30 percent effective tax rate on people who earn over $1 million annually) to pay for it. Would Clinton support such measures that would, as Warren puts it, invest in students and not billionaires? (George Zornick)

Education: Secretary Clinton, would you please state where you stand on the expansion of privately managed charter schools, which drain funding from public schools that accept all children, and on whether you think the federal government should continue to require every student in grades 3-8 to take standardized tests every year, a practice unknown in the world’s highest-performing nations? (Diane Ravitch, Steinhardt School at New York University)

Wall Street and Washington: Last year in an op-ed for Politico, Senator Elizabeth Warren warned that a disproportionate number of people from the banking industry have been appointed to policy-making positions within the government. She singled out Citigroup in particular, noting that three of the last four Treasury secretaries, beginning with Robert Rubin, whom your husband appointed, were former Citigroup CEOs. Do you think Citigroup or Wall Street in general is overrepresented in Washington? And if so, what would you do about it? (Richard Kim)

Pentagon Spending: Along with his goal of ending two wars, Obama came into office with the intent of reforming the contracting process to rein in Pentagon waste. He successfully got the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act passed in his first year in office. But it turned out to have loopholes big enough to drive the proverbial truck through—like giving the Pentagon the option of issuing a waiver to jettison any recommended cost-saving it doesn’t like. What do you plan to do to make sure the taxpayers don’t get rolled by the defense lobbyists again? (Miriam Pemberton, Institute for Policy Studies)

Immigration: Our broken immigration reform system is not working for anyone in America. Most importantly, we are tearing families apart and preventing hard-working families from contributing to the American Dream fully—something they desperately want to do. There are three commitments any Democratic candidate could make. First, immediately extend the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) programs for three years, adding additional categories of immigrants to the programs. Second, ensure just and humane enforcement that prioritizes keeping families together through agency accountability at the national and local level, along with robust community participation. Finally, send Congress a comprehensive immigration reform bill that keeps families together—and do it in the first 100 days of the next presidency. Will Hillary Clinton make these commitments to voters? (Deepak Bhargava, Center for Community Change)

Iran: You sounded a cautious note in your statement of support for the recent framework agreement for a nuclear deal between world powers and Iran. “I know well that the devil is always in the details in this kind of negotiation,” you said, calling for a deal to “be part of a comprehensive strategy to check Iran’s regional ambitions.” Both the Iranians and the US have said a nuclear deal would be a discrete agreement, though further understandings could follow. What measures did you have in mind, in the case of a deal, to curtail Iran’s influence? What specific details are you looking for in a deal and what would be your red lines? Would you honor a deal struck by Obama even if it didn’t meet all your conditions? (Ali Gharib)

NATO Expansion: Do you think NATO expansion, which began under President Bill Clinton, has played a positive role in contributing to the security and stability of East and Central Europe? If so, why?” (Katrina vanden Heuvel)

Russia: Do you agree with your friend and former Senate colleague John McCain who has said that “Mr. Putin wants to revive the old Russian empire”? (Katrina vanden Heuvel)

US/Israel Relations: In May 2014, you spoke to the American Jewish Committee. The Forward, the leading Jewish weekly in the United States, described the speech as being designed to reassure the pro-Israel community that “a Clinton presidency would smooth over tensions ruffled by the Obama White House.” Political tensions with Israel have only gotten worse. Fourteen percent of Americans say Israel’s interests should be our top concern—as president would you join them by increasing US military or economic or diplomatic support for Israel to ease those tensions? Or would you hold Israel accountable for its human-rights violations, in keeping with the 31 percent who believe human rights is the most important factor in the conflict? (Phyllis Bennis, Institute for Policy Studies)

Social Security: On Social Security, the American people are united. Seventy-nine percent of likely voters and 90 percent of likely Democratic voters favor increasing the program’s modest benefits. The Democratic Party is getting the message: 90 percent of the Senate Democratic caucus and over three-fifths of the House Democratic caucus have gone on record in support of expanding our Social Security system. Potential 2016 candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley also enthusiastically support increased benefits. Senators Harry Reid and Elizabeth Warren have both called on the Democratic nominee to run on bold, populist economic ideas, including expanding Social Security. Now it’s Secretary Clinton’s turn to answer two critical questions: Do you support expanding our Social Security system? And will you commit to opposing any and all cuts to Social Security’s earned benefits? (Alex Lawson, Social Security Works)

Climate: The latest climate science says that humanity must leave roughly 80 percent of the earth’s remaining fossil fuels reserves in the ground to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees, a goal the United States and other nations agreed at the Copenhagen summit in 2009 when you were secretary of state. But the whole point of fracking, an extraction method that enables drillers to reach previously inaccessible deposits, is to exploit that remaining 80 percent of reserves. By definition, does this fact not rule out fracking for any champion of climate action, and would you, as president, ban fracking? (Mark Hertsgaard)

Campaign finance: In the wake of Citizens United, our elections are now dominated by Big Money. A relative handful of super-rich individuals and giant corporations are funding the outside groups that are blasting the airwaves with vicious attack ads and defining the terms of elections. The American people are outraged by this state of affairs and demanding action. Sixteen states and 600 cities and towns have passed resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United; and last year a majority of the Senate voted in favor of a constitutional amendment. More than 1 million people have called on the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue a rule requiring corporations to disclose their political spending. Does candidate Clinton support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United, and will she advocate aggressively for one? Will Clinton endorse legislation that would replace our current, Big Money–dominated campaign finance system with one fueled by a combination of small donations and matching public monies? And, will Clinton advocate for campaign spending transparency reforms, including through legislation, at the SEC and through executive action? (Robert Weissman, Public Citizen)

Drug Policy: “Marijuana prohibition was born in racism and remains racist in its effects,” says Maia Szalavitz, an author and journalist who writes about neuroscience and addiction and who has noted that “marijuana laws are mainly enforced against black people.” Despite your frequent calls for more research, the scientific consensus (not to mention public opinion) is clear that pot is less harmful than alcohol, which is legal. President Obama agrees. Do you? Given pot laws’ unjust effects, would you push for an end to marijuana’s “flawed, outdated and unscientific” classification as a prohibited drug with no medical benefits, already belied by federal funding for research into its uses? (Ali Gharib)

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