Elizabeth Warren vs. Hillary Clinton: Who's the Better Liberal?


When Elizabeth Warren said that she would not run for president in 2016, she gave presumptive frontrunner Hillary Clinton a clearer path to the Democratic nomination. But as popular as Hillary is, is she the best choice for liberals? 


1. Campaign finance reform

Clinton: Although the Citizens United ruling ironically originated because of a film attacking Clinton, who will also benefit from Super PAC funding. While one of Clinton’s aides reportedly dropped the f-bomb as he indicated that the premature super PAC was not sanctioned by her team, other Clinton aides have reacted favorably to it. Additionally, Priorities USA, which served as Obama's super PAC in 2012, is about to transition into a pro-Clinton gold mine.

Warren: During her 2012 senate campaign, Warren had no qualms about making her opposition to the Citizens United ruling known. However, millions of dollars in outside super PAC funding flooded Massachusetts during her 2012 campaign for senate. Her opponent, former Senator Scott Brown, challenged Warren to live up to her rhetoric and denounce out-of-state funding supporting her campaign. Each candidate therefore agreed to donate 50% of the cost of an outside attack ad on their opponent to charity. 

2. Financial reform

Clinton: She has remained conspicuously tight-lipped about financial reform and banking oversight. This is likely because the majority of Clinton's fund-raising ability is contingent on Wall Street. In 2001, Clinton sided with the Bush administration to vote for a bill that would make it harder for debtors to cancel debts via bankruptcy, a move which incurred the wrath of Warren herself.

Warren: After she headed the Congressional Oversight Panel on the TARP bailout program and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Wall Street poured millions of dollars into Massachusetts to stop her 2012 campaign.  

In November, she noted that despite their role in the financial meltdown and subsequent bailouts, the country's four largest banks are 30% larger than they were in 2008 while the five largest banks hold more than half of total U.S. banking assets. Warren has also called for the implementation of a new Glass-Steagall Act to once again separate commercial and investment banking. 

3. Income inequality

Clinton: In the run up to her 2008 presidential bid, she criticized President Bush's extensive tax cuts on the wealthy and noted that in 2005, 1% of the population earned 22% of the nation’s income while all income gains that year went to the wealthiest 10% of households. As with the rest of her party, Clinton is once again using her speeches to focus on income inequality in the lead up to the 2014 midterms. 

Warren: Like Clinton, she supports increasing tax rates on the wealthy, particularly the corporate tax rate, while simplifying the byzantine tax code. Additionally, she is also a big advocate of addressing income inequality via increases on the minimum wage. She has noted that if the minimum wage were tied to the increase in worker productivity since 1960, it would currently be $22 an hour. She has therefore to argued for incrementally raising the minimum wage to over $10 an hour within the next two years. 

4. Deficit reduction

Clinton: As secretary of state, she identified the deficit as a national security threat and argued that it projects "a message of weakness" across the globe. Clinton holds the Bush tax cuts partially responsible for the current deficit. As such, it is reasonable to conclude that she would support letting the tax cuts on earners making over $250,000 a year expire. However, the fact that the Clinton Foundation has run multimillion-dollar deficits over several years despite a high revenue stream may raise some eyebrows concerning Clinton’s ability to effectively manage the deficit.

Warren: An independent analysis that The Boston Globe ran during her 2012 campaign found that her proposals to reduce the deficit could cut U.S. debt by $1.029 trillion over the next 10 years. Her ideas include letting the Bush tax cuts on high-income earners expire, increasing estate taxes, abolishing oil and gas subsidies, partially abolishing agricultural subsidies, reducing the defense budget, and accelerating U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. 

5. Immigration reform and border security

Clinton: As a senator, she was a cosponsor of the Dream Act, which would allow children raised by illegal immigrants in the U.S. to avoid deportation. In November, Clinton called on Congress to pass the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform proposal, which the Republican-controlled House has held up. Clinton has previously supported extensive increases in border security spending with questionable efficacy. As senator, she voted in favor of the infamous Bush-era border fence but backed away from her initial stance during her 2008 presidential campaign by criticizing President Bush’s implementation of the project.

Warren: Like Clinton, she also supports the Dream Act and the Gang of Eight's plan for immigration reform. However, unlike Clinton, she takes a more aggressive stance on excessive border security spending. While the Gang of Eight's compromise pours more money into border security, Warren voted against a more extreme senate proposal to complete former President Bush's U.S.-Mexico border fence. 

6. Foreign policy

Clinton: She has conspicuously failed to issue a statement of support regarding the recent nuclear deal with Iran in Geneva and has gone so far as to express approval for Israeli criticism towards it. As secretary of state, she also condemned efforts by Palestine to achieve statehood via the UN and insists that Palestinian statehood should only happen via negotiations with Israel. Furthermore, Clinton has defended the Obama administration's controversial drone program. Lastly, she has historically aligned herself with the Washington establishment’s insistence on incredibly high levels of military spending.

Warren: Although she espouses the same hawkish rhetoric towards Iran as Clinton and most other establishment politicians, she has publicly endorsed the Obama administration's Iran nuclear deal. Like Clinton, she does not support Palestinian statehood outside of negotiations with Israel and has called for the continuation of Obama’s "assertive operations" against Al-Qaeda, an implicit endorsement of the drone program. Unlike Clinton, Warren has argued for cutting the military budget by reducing the size of the standing army and redirecting that spending towards education and infrastructure improvements. 

7. The surveillance state

Clinton: She has stated that Americans have a right to be upset if the NSA has "gone over the line" and that the American public should be aware of the agency's activities. However, she also implied that excessive transparency runs the risk of alerting U.S. enemies.

The issue of metadata collection aside, there is a strong chance that the former secretary of state was implicated in the NSA's surveillance of foreign states. When the NSA eavesdrops on a foreign leader, it notifies the relevant ambassador, indicating that Clinton likely knew about U.S. surveillance of officials in Germany and Brazil.

Warren: She has been more vocal and less equivocal in her condemnation of the NSA’s activities. In July, she joined 25 other senators in addressing a letter to the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, demanding details about the collection of metadata and specifics about when the metadata was actually useful in thwarting terrorist attacks. More recently, she cosponsored a bill that aims to ban metadata collection under the Patriot Act and to close the provisions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authorizing the harvesting of Americans' communications.