Hillary Clinton Takes Aim at Uber, Wall Street In First Economic Speech

Photo: Ethan Miller/ Getty Images.
Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton mid-speech.
Hillary Clinton outlined her economic platform on Monday, taking aim both at big banks on Wall Street and the "gig economy" created by companies like Uber and AirBnB.

Held at Manhattan's New School, it was the Democratic presidential candidate's first major economic speech on the campaign trail. In addition to promising to close the wage gap and push for paid family leave, Clinton said she planned to take a hard look at the sort of short-term sharing economics that sustain companies like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit.

"Many Americans are making extra money renting out a spare room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car," she said. "This on-demand, or so-called gig economy, is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation, but it's also raising hard questions about workplace protection and what a good job will look like in the future."

Clinton has made supporting the middle class a cornerstone of her campaign since she announced on April 12 that she was running for president. In past speeches, she has pledged to shatter the glass ceiling for working women as well as to support small businesses. But on Monday, she filled voters in on the details of her economic plan.

This on-demand, or so-called gig economy, is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation, but it's also raising hard questions about workplace protection and what a good job will look like in the future.

Hillary Clinton
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"Advances in technology and expanding global trade have created whole new areas of commercial activity and opened new markets for our exports," Clinton said, "but too often, they're also polarizing our economy, benefiting highly skilled workers but displacing or downgrading blue-collar jobs that used to provide solid incomes for millions of Americans."

The pros and cons of a "sharing economy," where the value of a good or service is heightened when information is used to increase demand, have been the subject of heated debate. Many sharing-economy jobs give Americans flexibility to earn extra money or set their own hours, but these jobs often don't have the health benefits and long-term career opportunities of full-time work.

Refinery29 reached out Uber, which declined to comment on the record for this article. Lyft and AirBnB have not returned Refinery29's requests for comment.

Alan Krueger, an economics professor at Princeton University and the former chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, is a fierce defender of the sharing economy.

In a highly cited paper he co-authored on Uber's effect on the labor market, Krueger found that the company, whose drivers reflect the general workforce both in age and education level (about 25-to-44 years old with some college or an associate degree), "has increased total demand for workers with the requisite skills to work as for-hire drivers, potentially raising earnings for all workers with such skills."

These are the "high-skilled" workers Clinton referred to, whose ability to capitalize on technology's cutting edge leaves less educated, lower-income workers further behind. And that means that the gig economy could look a lot like profit-hungry Wall Street, the kind of place where wolves reign.

the gig economy could look a lot like profit-hungry Wall Street, the kind of place where wolves reign.

However, Lisa Gansky, an entrepreneur and the author of The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing, believes that the sharing economy can be a positive force in America.

"We are in a moment of economic and societal transformation and transition. Closed systems, like transportation, and companies are becoming open platforms intertwined with the communities they serve," Gansky told Refinery29 in an email. "These marketplaces offer value in the form of community, flexibility, and financial gain. Like with all change, I expect political support to align as we, the people, demand new models and opportunities."

In Clinton's speech, she also spoke about the drawbacks of trickle-down economics, and reiterated the economic successes that her husband, Bill Clinton, accomplished during his eight years in the White House. Clinton also cited America's need for clean energy and her support for science and innovation, as well as calling for an overhaul of our infrastructure.

"When we get Americans moving, we get our country moving," Clinton said, referring to big projects to improve roads and bridges. But, evidently, Uber won't necessarily be the way Clinton gets moving.
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