Hillary Clinton's 'Tough On Wall Street' Speech Wasn't Very Tough

She didn't tell Wall Street to "cut it out."
Hillary Clinton might not have been quite as tough on Wall Street as she has suggested.
Hillary Clinton might not have been quite as tough on Wall Street as she has suggested.

WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton has repeatedly said she told Wall Street to "cut it out" during a 2007 speech she gave at Nasdaq. The speech itself, however, is far more sympathetic to Big Finance than Clinton's presidential campaign rhetoric has suggested.

By December 2007, the economy was already in recession. Widespread abuses in the mortgage market were not a secret. Big banks had not only issued predatory loans and packaged them into disastrous securities, they had financed specialty mortgage firms who had issued their own garbage loans.

In her speech, Clinton did not absolve Wall Street of responsibility. But she didn't exactly pin the blame for what was about to become a Wall Street crisis on, you know, Wall Street.

"Now, who's exactly to blame for the housing crisis? Well, that's always a question that the press and people ask and I think there's plenty of blame to go around," Clinton said. "Wall Street may not have created the foreclosure crisis, but Wall Street certainly had a hand in making it worse."

Billions of dollars in foreclosure fraud settlements suggest that Wall Street was, in fact, responsible for the foreclosure crisis. Clinton was a senator from New York at the time. Although Clinton belittled calls from "the press and people" to pinpoint responsibility for the financial mess in 2007, those demands would intensify dramatically after the bailouts began in 2008.

After referencing stagnant wages, rising gas prices and rising home heating costs during the speech, Clinton said: "Now these economic problems are certainly not all Wall Street's fault -- not by a long shot."

The St. Louis Federal Reserve and others have concluded that, in fact, wild swings in oil prices are driven in part by Wall Street speculation.

Clinton didn't totally let financial firms off the hook.

"If we're honest, we need to acknowledge that Wall Street has played a significant role in the current problems, and in particular in the housing crisis," Clinton said. "I believe Wall Street shifted risk away from people who knew what was going on onto the people who did not."

But her proposed solution was for Wall Street to find a "voluntary solution" to the mess. If big banks and hedge funds couldn't eventually cut a deal with one another, she raised the terrifying prospect that she would "consider legislation" to deal with it. That legislation? Exonerating "mortgage servicers" -- many of which were owned by big banks -- from lawsuit liability if they modified loans to help families stay in their homes.

This threat was pointless. Servicers were already legally required to modify mortgages if doing so would help keep people in their homes and protect investors from losses on foreclosures.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chair Sheila Bair had been making far more aggressive calls for anti-foreclosure action for several months before Clinton offered her version. Bair is a Republican.

Read the full Clinton speech here.

Zach Carter is a co-host of the HuffPost Politics podcast "So, That Happened."Subscribe here or listen to the latest episode below: 


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