The little problem with Clinton’s message that Krugman doesn’t mention in his critique of Clinton and Sanders today: Her incessant claim that only taxes bears negatively against “incomes”. [Edited and typo-corrected. 1/20 at 11:34 a.m. Addendum added 1/20 at 11:50 a.m.]

[T]there are serious questions about how we’re going to pay for what we want to see our country do. And, I’m the only candidate standing here tonight who has said I will not raise taxes on the middle class. I want to raise incomes, not taxes, and I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that the wealthy pay for debt free tuition, for child care, for paid family leave. To help us bring down student debt we’re going to refinance that student debt, saving kids thousands of dollars.

Yeah, and that will also come out of the — some of the pockets of people in the financial services industry…

– Hillary Clinton, during Sunday night’s debate

Yep.  She wants to raise incomes, not taxes.  Because all that matters to the financial bottom line of ordinary folk is taxes.  Or so ordinary folk think, cuz they can’t do simple math computations and don’t own calculators that do that.

Or so wealthy Democrats like Clinton, her army of campaign consultants, and Paul Krugman think.

In a blog post this morning critiquing Clinton politically strategically and Sanders substantively, Paul Krugman diagnoses Clinton’s main political problem as against Sanders this way:

[Clinton’s] biggest vice, from my point of view, is listening too much to consultants who want to make cheap shots, like the claim that the Sanders plan would kill Medicaid, when her real strength comes when she lets her inner wonk and fundamental toughness shine through.

Krugman hits Sanders as dishonest for making claims of massive savings in healthcare expenditures in his single-payer plan.  Fair enough—and I dearly wish Sanders would read this post of mine from this morning on healthcare expenditure issues.  (Yes.  My post on this subject.  It’s a good post.  Really.  It mentions Uwe Reinhart!  Who now will post something somewhere on the Supreme Court, in retaliation.*)

But does he think Clinton will actually be able to pay for what she proposes by taxing only the wealthy?  Just wonderin’.

Far more important, though, does he actually think it’s a terrific idea for Clinton to use as a campaign mantra that raising incomes for the non-wealthy and raising taxes on the non-wealthy are mutually exclusive, thus defining “incomes” in a remarkably crimped way?

Why does he think Clinton should claim that, say, healthcare premiums and out-of-pocket healthcare expenditures don’t effect “income” in any but the narrowest sense if those payments are made not to the federal government (horrors!) but instead to UnitedHealthcare, Anthem Blue Cross, hospitals, medical labs, and physicians?

Depends on what the meaning of “incomes” is.  Y’know?

Krugman is exactly right that Clinton is listening too much to consultants who want to make cheap shots, like the claim that the Sanders plan would kill Medicaid.  Actually, though, she should stop listening to political consultants at all.  It doesn’t instill confidence in her abilities as a candidate or officeholder that she mouths imbecilic and easily-verifiably false soundbites proposed by these political consultants.

Or did she actually expect that voters would assume she was correct that Denmark is not a capitalist country and that it has low levels of innovation and a low standard of living?  And that Bernie Sanders wants to remove healthcare coverage from huge swaths of people—or from anyone, for that matter, because universal healthcare coverage means universal for almost no one.

Depends on what the meaning of “universal” is, I guess.  According to Clinton, her daughter, and her campaign, anyway.

It also depends on the meaning of weird. This falls comfortably within that definition.** But a campaign consultant said this was a terrific way to counteract Sanders.  Because …. um …. who knows? Reason enough for Clinton to run with it.

Same with the Republican-governors-could-kill-single-payer-so-I’m-supporting-Obamacare-whose-marketplaces-provision-works-vis-à-vis-the-states-exactly-like-the-2013-Sanders-bill-would.  Nothing—no issue, no matter—is too important for Clinton to profoundly mislead about it. She isn’t paying all those consultants those huge fees for nothin’, you know. She’s gonna get her money’s worth.

Live by the sleight-of-hand, die by the sleight-of-hand.  Or at least because of the sleight-of-hand: you’re own.  At least if your opponent is now, finally, getting real media attention and has a zillion followers.  Who use social media!

But Krugman makes another big mistake that Clinton and her campaign also make: He conflates Clinton’s toughness in defending herself against Republican attacks with toughness in deconstructing, for the public, Republican memes and specific legislative proposals.

Clinton, Professor Krugman, is not Elizabeth Warren.  Warren never conflates herself as an individual with her skill as a policymaker and as a communicator on policy, hers and theirs.  Clinton incessantly does.

Click Krugman’s link, above, to “fundamental toughness”, and up pops a picture of Clinton at … surprise! … the Benghazi hearing last October!  Seriously.

Seriously?

Sorry, Professor Krugman, but I-want-to-raise-incomes-not-taxes is the very antithesis of toughness against Republicans. It’s unnerving that Clinton doesn’t recognize that.

This matters. A lot.

What Krugman gets right in his post today is his reiteration—he’s said this before—that Sanders really, really needs to make clear that he recognizes the abiding importance of regulating the shadow finance industry.  He needs to retain a real expert in this to formulate a specific, detailed proposal to address this.

Please, Sen. Sanders.  Please do this.

But Clinton needs at least as much to ditch the I-want-to-raise-incomes-not-taxes slogan, and to recognize, belatedly, that the price of some cutesy soundbites can be high.

As an alternative, she can switch parties.  Or could if it weren’t too late.

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ADDENDUM: Here in sum is the point: Clinton says that the only thing that matters to people’s bottom line is the amount of taxes they pay.

Which apparently is largely true for the wealthy, but is hardly true for the middle class and so-called working class–whose financial bottom line, financial security and standard of living is impacted tremendously by such things as healthcare insurance premiums, whether paid to the government or instead to a private company, and out-of-pocket payments to hospitals, medical labs and physicians.

That’s was so enrages me. Clinton claims by that soundbite of hers that all that matters is “income,” not income minus such things as private-healthcare-insurance premiums and out-of-pocket payments for health care. Added 1/20 at 11:50 a.m.

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*For those who don’t read Angry Bear regularly, the Supreme Court is my area of expertise; healthcare economics is definitely not.  So that sentence was intended as a joke.

** Sentence rewritten to make sense. Paragraph corrected also to change “know” to “knows.” Post (obviously) written hurriedly yesterday (I had only a few minutes to write it) and posted in anger.  Rather than deleting it, since there are comments posted to it, I edited it somewhat.  The post’s sentiment remains intact. 1/20 at 11:34 a.m.

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