Whom Exactly Is Clinton Preaching Against?
In what some may see as a twist of irony, Hillary Clinton’s official YouTube video announcing her candidacy featured the presidential contender complaining that “the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top.”
“Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times,” declared Clinton, “but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top. Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.”
Clinton was taking a clear dig at economic policies that purportedly favor the very wealthy while trying to image herself as a “champion” of the lower and middle class.
The rhetoric in some ways mirrors her much-lampooned attempt to cast herself on the side of the downtrodden when she claimed last summer that she and President Bill Clinton were “dead broke” when they left the White House.
The “deck is still stacked” comments may come back to haunt her on the campaign trail, when the Clinton’s personal finances will likely once again become an issue. Opponents will seek to paint her among “those at the top” about whom she complained.
In fact, Clinton has already faced scrutiny for her paid speeches, often billed at between $250,000-300,000 a shot, her near record $8 million book advance in 2000 and reports of up to a $14 million advance for her most recent memoir Hard Choices.
Just last month, she banked a six-figure fee for her last paid speech before announcing her candidacy, making in just one hour up to six times more than the inflation-adjusted median household income of $51,939 for 2014.
Many of Clinton’s highly-paid speeches focused on what ails the middle class.
O’Malley Signed ‘Rain Tax’ Into Law
When Martin O’Malley was governor of Maryland, he signed into law a “rain tax” that levied fees on the owners of “surfaces” such as roofs, driveways, and parking lots.
O’Malley, who has been hinting at a possible presidential run in 2016, served as Maryland’s governor from 2007 until being voted out of office last year.
In an attempt to balance the state’s budget when he first came to office, O’Malley increased numerous taxes and imposed dozens of new fees, including the top marginal tax rate, also known as the “millionaire’s tax.”
Between 2007 and 2010, the state population lost major businesses while more than 31,000 departed for other states, resulting in $1.7 billion in lost tax revenue.
Maryland boasted the second-highest foreclosure rate in the nation during O’Malley’s final year in office.
In April 2014, a Gallup poll found that 47 percent of Maryland’s residents would choose to move if they could, representing the third highest dissatisfaction rate nationwide.
On May 2, 2012, O’Malley signed into law a proposal passed by the state legislature formally known as the Stormwater Management-Watershed and Restoration Program, popularly referred to as the “rain tax.”
The fee was a reaction to a 2010 $7.7 billion project by the Obama administration’s Environmental Protection Agency that was seeking to reduce pollution levels in Chesapeake Bay.
While the EPA called for all seven surrounding states to pass legislation to finance the anti-pollution project, O’Malley’s Maryland was the only state to take up the EPA’s recommendation and pass a tax.
The EPA outlined how Chesapeake Bay was damaged over the years by rain that falls on roads, parking lots and other hard surfaces, where the water mixes with pollutants and then washes into rivers and streams.
In response, the “rain tax” created a new stormwater fee that was levied not on all state residents but instead on property owners in Maryland’s 10 most populous jurisdictions.
Jurisdictions assessed “rain pricing” using their own unique formulas, which imposed fees depending on the size of what was termed “impervious surfaces.” This referred to any hard surface area that prevents water from being absorbed into the ground, including patios, roofing, driveways and parking lots.
U.S.-Cuba Rapprochement Comes On Heels Of Tactical Russia Moves
Largely missing from the national conversation about Obama’s rapprochement toward Havana, culminating in a sit-down with Cuban President Raúl Castro this past weekend is that it comes at a time of growing Russian political and military influence in Cuba, located just 90 miles from the U.S. coast.
The president has sought to frame restoring diplomatic ties as an effort to move past the old Cold War mentality. “The Cold War,” Obama said, “has been over for a long time.”
However, recent moves by Moscow to expand its influence in Cuba may be a major factor in White House calculations regarding a rapprochement with Cuba.
In December, the White House announced renewed ties with Cuba including the goal of reopening the U.S. embassy in Havana, which has been closed for 50 years. The U.S. will also ease travel restrictions while making it easier for Americans to do business in the country by, among other things, permitting the use of U.S. credit and debit cards in Cuba.
Secretary of State John Kerry was also ordered to conduct a review of Cuba’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The moves followed Moscow’s recent muscle-flexing in Cuba. In July, the London Guardian reported that Russia had quietly struck a deal with Cuba to reopen the Lourdes military base, a Soviet-era spy base and military facility that was the USSR’s largest foreign base during the Cold War. The Soviets reportedly used the base to intercept American radio and telephone communications.
Last August, Putin paid a visit to Cuba, where the Russian strongman reportedly forgave 90 percent of Cuba’s unpaid Soviet-era debts, which totaled $32 billion.
He also reportedly signed industry, energy, and trade deals with Cuba that includes a search for oil in Cuban waters.
Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies at Princeton University, saw Putin’s trip to Cuba as “a reply to Obama’s notion that Russia could be isolated, by saying, ‘Hey, here we are back 90 miles off your shore with a big greeting, and we’re going back into economic business here.’”
According to media reports, Putin utilized a Latin American tour in August to sign numerous military agreements to place Russian global positioning stations in not only Cuba, but also Argentina and Brazil.
In February 2013, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reportedly signed a deal with Cuba to lease eight of the country’s Russian jets.
In a move undoubtedly watched closely by the Pentagon, in April 2013 Russian Military Chief of Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov reportedly toured key Cuban military and intelligence sites.
Four months later, a spokesman for Russia’s Black Sea fleet told reporters that the fleet’s flagship, the Russian guided-missile warship Moskva, would tour the coast of Cuba and Central and South American ports.
In February, it was reported that another Russian warship, the Viktor Leonov CCB-175, had docked in Cuba. These moves could potentially bring thousands of Russian soldiers to Cuba.