You’re Bankable Enough, Hillary

Her latest quote on personal wealth to cause consternation:

‘But they don’t see me as part of the problem,’ she protests, ‘because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off, not to name names; and we’ve done it through dint of hard work,’ she says, letting off another burst of laughter.

But Eric Boehlert believes that the media, such as the anchors seen above, are taking Clinton’s words out of context. Regardless, Morrissey sees a pattern emerging that could hurt the Dem narrative this fall:

Senate Democrats wanted to use income-inequality messaging against Republicans in the midterms as a way to distract from the non-recovery economy, ObamaCare, multiple scandals, and the collapse of Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Obama himself has been teeing up this strategy for more than a year. With Hillary Clinton actually embodying the persona that Democrats tried to hang on Romney in 2012, that messaging will backfire as Hillary Clinton sucks up more and more of the oxygen from the political scene. The phrase “limousine liberal” will be poised for a big comeback this midterm season, and Democrats will have Hillary to thank for it.

Beutler cautions the Republican strategists ready to exploit such remarks:

Nearly all viable presidential candidates are extremely rich. Obama is himself quite rich, though not exactly Kennedy/Bush/Kerry/Romney rich. The next GOP nominee might not be quite as cartoonish a plutocrat as Romney, but he will almost certainly be wealthy, and, crucially, will almost certainly promote an agenda that would exacerbate economic inequality.

When Clinton said “we pay ordinary income tax” she wasn’t just taking a gratuitous jab backwards at Romney for paying taxes at a sub-15 percent rate. She was presaging an agenda that will almost certainly call for eliminating or reducing tax preferences that allow an entire class of people of great wealth to reduce their effective tax rates. I don’t know if she’ll propose jacking up the capital gains tax, or closing the carried-interest loophole. I don’t know if she’ll target individual tax loopholes, or advocate for capping tax expenditure benefits or anything about what her economic agenda will look like. But I am 100 percent confident it will include some measures along these lines, and nearly as confident that the Republican candidate will oppose it in every particular.

This is the GOP’s core problem. Clinton’s gaffes don’t really solve it for them.

Cillizza is less forgiving:

“It’s going to be a massive issue for her,” one Obama adviser told WaPo’s Phil Rucker in a terrific piece about Clinton’s wealth as an issue in 2016. “When you’re somebody like the secretary of state or president of the United States or first lady, you’re totally cut off [from normal activity], so your perception of the middle-class reality gets frozen in a time warp.”

Democrats are right to be worried. Here’s why. The single most striking number from the 2012 exit poll was how voters responded when asked which candidate attribute was the most important to them in deciding how to cast their ballot. Roughly one in five (21 percent) said the most important candidate trait was that he “cares about people like me.” (That was more than double the 9 percent who said caring about people like them was most important to their vote in 2004.) Of that group, President Obama beat Mitt Romney 81 percent to 18 percent. Let me repeat: 81 to 18 — in an election that was not exactly a blowout. …

Now, Clinton is not Romney. (That’s the whole point she keeps trying to make.) And voters tend to be more open to the “X politician is only looking out for rich people” attack when it’s made against a Republican rather than a Democrat. But Clinton needs to understand that her clumsy talk about her wealth can, if not handled properly going forward, turn into a gateway to a broader “she just doesn’t get it” argument that could be very effective for Republicans looking for a way to slow her momentum in the race.

But Waldman, roughly on the same page, doesn’t think Clinton’s gaffe “will mean much politically, nor should it”:

She’s right that people don’t see her as part of the problem, but it isn’t because of what kind of taxes she pays. It’s because she’s a Democrat, and most voters understand that there is a fundamental difference between the two parties on questions of economics generally, and the treatment of the wealthy in particular.

She could have just said, “People don’t see me as part of the problem, because of what I and other Democrats stand for. We want a higher minimum wage, and a fair tax system…” But because of the blue-collar imperative, Clinton obviously felt that she had to make a statement of identity that bound her to ordinary people. Which is really hard when your wealth runs into the nine figures.

Recent Dish on the Clintons’ money problems here. Update from a reader:

FDR, JFK, RFK … HRC.  Very wealthy people all.  It’s the values and policies that count.

Democrats are naturally less vulnerable than Republicans on the issue of personal wealth for the simple and excellent reason that, regardless of their own circumstances, they promote an agenda that is more clearly designed to help working people.  Americans don’t begrudge rich people their wealth; they begrudge them their cluelessness, or callousness, or hypocrisy, or general unhelpfulness – all of which tend to be more typical of Republican candidates when it comes to economic policy.

The irony is that if Hilary continues to be defensive and evasive about her personal fortune, she’ll come across as a hypocrite, which actually will turn people off.