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Clinton team courts progressive economists

In the run up to her presidential campaign launch, expected Sunday, Hillary Clinton has been working to put together a progressive economic agenda.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Photo by Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks during the 2015 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting award in Washington on March 23, 2015.

In the run up to her presidential campaign launch, expected Sunday, Hillary Clinton has been working to put together an economic agenda that incorporates progressive ideas on economic inequality.

Clinton’s team has been making a concerted effort to reach out to progressives economists and activists, and last week joined a meeting on inequality organized by economist Joseph Stiglitz and the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think tank, msnbc has learned.

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The Washington, D.C., meeting included officials from the labor unions SEIU and AFL-CIO, congressional staffers, representatives from advocacy groups like Color of Change, American Women, and the Black Civic Engagement Fund, and others, including former Clinton pollster Stan Greenberg. 

The aim was “creating an agenda to combat inequality that goes further than anything we've seen so far and rewrites the rules of how our economy and markets are structured,” Roosevelt Institute spokesperson Marcus Mrowka told msnbc.

After the meeting, Stiglitz held a private dinner with three Clinton aides at the restaurant Poste. Clinton was represented by speechwriter Dan Schwerin and Anne O'Leary, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who also works on a Clinton Foundation-related initiative. Roosevelt President and CEO Felicia Wong was also in attendance.

Dan Geldon, an adviser to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, whom some liberals are pushing to run against Clinton, attended the larger meeting, but did not attend the dinner.

Stiglitz is influential among progressives, who view him as one of the Democratic Party's counterweights to the influence of former Bill Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Clinton herself has earned criticism from some on the left for ties to Wall Street and fears she would follow in Rubin’s footsteps.

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In an essay distributed to attendees, Stiglitz called for an alternative analytical framework to economic growth and equality, which have often been assumed to be in competition with each other. “The increase in inequality and the decrease in equality of opportunity have reached the point where minor fixes — such as modest increases in the minimum wage and continuing to strive to improve education and educational opportunity — will not suffice. A far more comprehensive approach to the problem is required, entailing redistribution and doing what one can to improve the market distribution of income and to prevent the unfair transmission of advantage across generations,” he wrote.

Clinton is expected to put inequality at the center of her campaign’s economic message, but to address is in a less confrontational manner than Warren. A recent 160-page white paper from the Center for American Progress on “Inclusive Prosperity” gives a hint about her agenda.

Mrowka said the meeting was constructive and that Clinton aides were receptive.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Clinton aide Jake Sullivan attended the dinner with Stiglitz. He was slated to participate, but ultimately did not attend.