Where Hillary Lost Me

In politics, there are usually lots of arguments going around, and quite often there are arguments that have merit both ways, depending on how you look at things. The current dispute for the Democratic nomination between Hillary and Bernie is no exception.

But there was one situation where she really lost me. It was bad. It happened when she was asked about the speaking fees, and whether there she thought there was anything wrong with a $200,000+ speaking fee. All she could say was “well, no… they offer it and and I accept it, what would be wrong with this?”

There is so much wrong with this that it’s difficult to understand why this isn’t obvious to her. And to so many others.

The first thing is a matter of scale. Her speaking fees are more than four times the median US household income — per year. Four times what a median family lives on in a year, for a single speech, and she doesn’t feel that this is worthy of some explanation. I know that she isn’t stupid; she of course can explain what happens here, but chose not to and rather faked there wasn’t anything to explain. For me, this means there’s something wrong.

Then there is the quid pro quo thing and the basis of a market economy. Companies don’t just spend a few hundred thousand dollars for anything. They do so when they think they get value from the transaction that matches the amount spent. I’m rather certain that it’s not the speech that is the value they got out of this. (I’m waiting for the transcripts, but I’ve a hard time imagining that the speech — or better, all the speeches in Hillary Clinton 2013 speech income — are worth the values paid.) If it’s not the speech, it’s something else; something worth explaining when asked. The only reason I can think of that would prevent her from just talking about this is that there’s something wrong.

There is the remote chance that she really doesn’t understand what there is to explain. Since she isn’t stupid (I think we all can agree on that), that would mean that she is so out of touch that she doesn’t have a clue what it means to receive four times the annual household income of a whole, median family for a single speech. (Incidentally, these median income workers had to work a whole lot for the payer of the fee for him or her to have so much money left over that they can afford her speaking fees.) Anyway, if this is the case, there definitely is something wrong.

No matter how I look at this, there is something wrong with her comment “they offer it and and I accept it, what would be wrong with this”. (And it’s not the obvious fact that they didn’t just “offer” some value that she then “accepted”— from her data I gather that she has a minimum speaking fee of $225,000. She doesn’t seem to “accept” anything less.) She could have just answered honestly (whatever the honest answer is), but that’s not really her style. And this is what I think is missing.