U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took swipes at Wall Street and her Republican rivals on Monday, promising to impose tougher regulations on banks and raise the wages of ordinary Americans if she wins the 2016 White House race.
Under pressure from a campaign rival on the left, Clinton said she would appoint strict overseers to ensure that financial institutions never again indulge in the risky behavior that helped cause the 2008 banking crash.
In an address that her campaign promoted as a major economic policy speech, the former secretary of state vowed that banks cannot be "too big to fail."
"As we all know in the years before the crash, financial firms piled risk upon risk, and regulators in Washington either couldn’t or wouldn’t keep up," she said at The New School, a liberal university in Manhattan's Greenwich Village.
"I will appoint and empower regulators who understand
that too big to fail is still too big a problem," Clinton said.
She promised to go beyond the 2010 Dodd-Frank law that imposed stronger regulations on the financial industry.
But Alan Blinder, an economist who advises Clinton's campaign, told Reuters she had no plans to reinstate the
Glass-Seagall Act to split commercial banks from their investment banking operations.
A former first lady and U.S. senator, Clinton is the clear favorite to win the Democratic nomination for the November 2016 presidential election but is facing a challenge from Bernie Sanders, a Vermont senator and self-styled socialist who is drawing large crowds at campaign events.
Clinton put the fight for higher wages for everyday Americans at the heart of her economic agenda, although her speech was short on specific policy proposals.
She said the U.S. economy will only run at full steam when middle-class wages rise steadily along with executive salaries and company profits.
"Corporate profits are at near-record highs and Americans are working as hard as ever but paychecks have barely budged in real terms," Clinton said.
STEPPING UP ATTACKS
Stepping up attacks against Republican rivals for the White House, Clinton took a dig at former Florida Governor Jeb Bush who said last week that Americans should have the chance to work longer hours.
"They don’t need a lecture, they need a raise," she said. Clinton also took Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to task for his strong opposition to union collective bargaining. Walker announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination on Monday.
Clinton will unveil more specifics of her economic policy in a series of speeches in coming weeks as liberal Democrats flirting with Sanders seek more details of her plans on increasing the minimum wage, creating universal preschool and investing in infrastructure.
Putting some meat on the bones of her economic policy could divert focus from issues dragging on Clinton's popularity, including a controversy over her use of a private email account while she was America's top diplomat.
"I think substance is her friend on the campaign because she has credibility as a substantive person, with extensive experience. Thoughtful, innovative proposals are going to help her," said Democratic strategist Bill Carrick.
It remains unclear how Clinton's tough-sounding language might affect the deep ties she and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, have with Wall Street. Both have been handsomely paid for speeches by major finance and investment institutions in recent years, including Goldman Sachs and The Carlyle Group.
Hillary Clinton, who represented Wall Street as part of her constituency when she was a U.S. senator from New York, has long looked to people in the finance industry for large campaign donations.
(Writing by Alistair Bell, additional reporting by Amanda Becker; Editing by Howard Goller)