Among the slew of private emails WikiLeaks recently released from the Hillary Clinton campaign, one focused on the Democratic nominee’s proposed $15 federal minimum wage.
Apparently her advisers and others in Clinton’s orbit knew that position might not actually be helpful in practice.
On April 28, 2015, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta emailed Neera Tanden who is the head of the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank that Podesta chairs, about Clinton’s progressive agenda and particularly support for a minimum wage hike. Tanden emailed Podesta back,“Substantively, we have not supported $15 – you will get a fair number of liberal economists who will say it will lose jobs.” Tanden also emailed Podesta that she was not getting any political pressure to support such a high minimum wage.
Clinton foreign policy advisor Jake Sullivan then emailed Tanden and Podesta calling the Democratic Party’s progressive base the “Red Army”—an obvious communist reference—and said they want to support $15 an hour. Bernie Sanders later made a $15 minimum wage a centerpiece of his socialist campaign against Clinton.
It’s worth taking a moment to put this in context: Tanden, a former Obama administration staffer, is the head of one of the largest and most powerful liberal policy institutions in Washington, and she is a leading figure for a top position in a Hillary Clinton administration. She’s writing to a group of top Clinton campaign staffers, including Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman and a former president of the Center for American Progress himself, Campaign Manager Robby Mook, and Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri, all of whom with intimate knowledge of the liberal policy consensus. And not only does Tanden state that many liberal economists would object to a $15 minimum wage because it would result in job loss, no one else on the thread appears to push back in any way.
What that means is that Clinton’s top advisers—and, almost certainly, Clinton herself—know full well that there’s essentially no good evidence, even from liberal evidence, to support moving to a $15 federal minimum, and are aware that doing so would likely cost jobs. But Clinton, under pressure from the party’s left flank, has indicated that she would nonetheless support $15-an-hour legislation.
It’s the type of cynical politics we have come to expect from Clinton and the Democrats. They support policies they know are destructive for votes. It might be why polls show voters consider Hillary Clinton less honest than Donald Trump.