Irrelevantly Delegitimizing: What if the Transcripts Looked Like This?

Bryant William Sculos I Politics & Government I Commentary I May 20th, 2016

I'm not suggesting that this is anything like what Hillary Clinton's speech(es) to Goldman Sachs actually sounded like. I'm not even suggesting that this satirical speech actually represents her positions. What I want to suggest is that Hillary's base of support, which is the center and right wing of the Democratic Party, would be minimally affected if the speeches looked anything like this. The people who support her are misguided pragmatists, free-traders, liberal imperialists, Third Wayers, and those who've otherwise given up on the prospect of any kind of significant progressive change happening in American politics. What about this speech would make any calculable portion of this cohort change their minds about Hillary if her career and policy positions haven't done that already?

While I think she should release the transcripts in the spirit of transparency, and because I think it would prevent her from increasing her support unjustifiably, I don't think even a speech like this would drastically change the trajectory of the Democratic presidential primary campaign. Maybe I'm wrong (I really hope I am…), but the fact that these speeches even exist, that Clinton refuses to release the transcripts, and the fact that any rational person would assume the reason for that is because there are damaging comments in them have all failed to palpably decrease her support in any noticeable way-what could? Even if the speeches were this egregious, which is unlikely, what would change? Clinton would simply tell her supporters that this kind of speech is the speech she was paid to give, and that it doesn't actually represent her views.

The American Left needs to present a coherent alternative, and as many have argued, Bernie Sanders and the movement he is inspiring is part of that. Whatever happens with his campaign, his campaign can only be the start, the start of changing people's minds about not only what is tolerable, but what is necessary and possible. The American Left needs a movement that doesn't rely on Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, all of a sudden collapsing. We need a movement with and beyond Bernie Sanders.


Thank you! Oh, thank you all! Thank you so very, very much. (Cheers, applause.)

It is wonderful to be here with all of you.

To be in New York (cheers) with my family, with so many friends, including many New Yorkers who've made names for themselves gouging the poorest among us-well not among us, but around us sort of…well we see then and hear about them occasionally (Pause, deep belly-laughter).

To be right across the water from the headquarters of the United Nations, where I represented our country many times and ensured that American corporations and financial institutions continued to have free reign around the world, especially making sure that all international treaties disproportionately benefitted us (us literally-the superrich [laughter] you all know who I mean) instead of other people who supposedly need help, but who are really just people who've yet to adequately embrace capitalism. (Cheers, applause.).

To be here in this beautiful park dedicated to Franklin Roosevelt's enduring vision of America, the nation we want to be. He was a great man with a vision for more permanently cementing capitalism in the US while offering crumbs to the annoyingly disruptive labor movement and maintaining the minimal consumer health of our exploited, but of course, already entirely liberated labor supply.

And in a place... with absolutely no ceilings, especially for profit-margins, and certainly no basement on capital gain taxes and regulatory loopholes (Cheers, applause.)

President Roosevelt called on every American to do his or her part, and every American answered, with a quiet voice of complete desperation. He said there's no mystery about what it takes to build a strong and prosperous America, to paraphrase slightly: "Equality of opportunity... Jobs for those who can work and don't mind barely getting by... Security for those who need it... The ending of special privilege for the few, the few who are simply too lazy to get a job at a premiere financial establishment such as this one...(cheers, applause.) The preservation of civil liberties for all unless it interferes with our bottom line or American imperialism... (cheers, applause)…and a wider and constantly rising standard of living for the hardest working among us--us."

That still sounds good to me, but we can do better. (Cheers, applause.). We need more capitalism, not less.

It's America's basic bargain. If you do your part you ought to be able to get ahead-if you don't, you're clearly not American enough. And when everybody does their part, and fills their role, whether it is profiting off of the labor of the less industrious or being the unwashed, less industrious, America gets ahead too. We must defend our mega-corporations and the superrich from the constant anti-capitalist rhetoric that threatens the most crucial American imperial values. Yes, we must not forget to placate the poor. We need to offer the poor options too, some unemployment insurance and free broccoli distribution centers, but we cannot in the process demonize the rich and successful. When we criticize the rich, even minimally, we are criticizing what makes America great.

That idea has inspired generations of families, including my own.

It's what kept my grandfather going to work in the same Scranton lace mill every day for 50 years, and has kept me giving speeches like these for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It's what led my father to believe that if he scrimped and saved, his small business printing drapery fabric in Chicago could provide us with a middle-class life. And it did. Lucky for us though, because all of our neighbors' parents were too lazy and kept getting laid-off from factory closures. How lazy can some people be? Their children became super-predators…

When President Clinton honored the bargain, we had the longest "peacetime" expansion in history, a balanced budget-balanced on the backs of those poor people we keep hearing about. Somehow we convinced them we were doing them a favor by gutting welfare and laying the groundwork for the prison industrial complex (cheers, applause).

When President Obama honored the bargain, we pulled back from the brink of Depression, saved the auto industry, gladly used tax-payer money to pay huge bailouts to the hard-working CEOs who tried their hardest to keep America afloat-people like all of you here at Goldman Sachs. I love you guys…oh no there is a woman or two in the crowd I see. I do want to ask that you encourage your clients to hire a few more people. It would certainly make me look good if you could wait until after Jan 2017 though.

But, it's not 1941, or 1993, or even 2009. We face new challenges in our economy and our democracy. The rich are systematically having their influence threatened by the upsurge in calls for increased restrictions on Super PACs and ending the very fruitful revolving door between government and the private sector that keeps our economy going.

We're still working our way back from a crisis that happened because time-tested values were replaced by false promises.

Instead of an economy built by every American, for every American, we were told that if we let those at the top pay lower taxes and bend the rules, their success would trickle down to everyone else. (Jeers, booing.) Right? No, no. This isn't true. We need to do a better job of making it seem like you are all paying more in taxes while actually cutting them so you can drive the American economy into the (new) ground of the 21st Century! (cheers, applause).

What happened?

Well, instead of a balanced budget with surpluses that could have eventually paid off our national debt, the Republicans twice cut taxes for the wealthiest, borrowed money from other countries to pay for two wars, and family incomes dropped. You know where we ended up. In a war that didn't even end up being that profitable! (boos, jeering).

Except it wasn't the end.

As we have since our founding, Americans made a new beginning.

You worked extra shifts, took second jobs, postponed home repairs... you figured out how to make it work. And now people are beginning to think about their future again -- going to college, starting a business, buying a house, finally being able to put away something for retirement. And most people are going massively into debt to do it. This is how capitalism grows. We need more of this, but if we're going to convince the American people to go along with this we need to continue to pander and pander more effectively. We do need to increase the minimum wage-but not by enough to make a real difference. It will be symbolic only, I promise. We need other symbolic victories for the working class like a slightly bigger stipend for buying health care.

Don't worry boys, all that money will find its way into your accounts…and then mine…and we can keep this system going! (cheers, applause).

So we're standing again. But, we all know we're not yet running the way America should.

You see corporations making record profits, with CEOs making record pay, but your paychecks have barely budged. Regular account analysts need a raise! (cheers, applause). We need to cut cap gains while pretending to increase it. We need more loopholes! (cheers, applause).

While many of you are working multiple jobs to make ends meet, you see the top 25 hedge fund managers making more than all of America's kindergarten teachers combined. And, often paying a lower tax rate. I'm not just looking out for the top 1/10th of 1%, but also the broader 1% and even maybe the top 5%. We need to look out for the little guys, like those in the lower-upper class. We need to motivate the upper middle class to get them out of the relative poverty that makes them unable to live in the lap of luxury as consistently as most of us.

So, you have to wonder: "When does my hard work pay off? When does my family get ahead?"


I say now. (Cheers, applause.)

Prosperity can't appear to be just for CEOs and hedge fund managers.

Democracy can't appear to be just for billionaires and corporations (Cheers, applause.)

Prosperity and democracy are part of your basic bargain, but other people need to feel included, even if they aren't.

You brought our country back.

Now it's time -- your time to secure the gains and move ahead.

And, you know what?

America can't succeed unless you succeed. (Cheers, applause.)


This hypothetical speech was adapted from an actual speech given by Hillary Clinton. It has been significantly altered from its original form.

Bryant William Sculos is a Ph.D. candidate in political theory at Florida International University, whose research focuses on Critical Theory, postcapitalism, and global ethics. His work has been published in Class, Race, and Corporate Power, Political Studies Review, Marx & Philosophy Review of Books, and New Politics. He occasionally blogs at and is a member of Socialist Alternative-CWI in the US.