Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

A little bit about our supreme court and corporate power

In case you did not see this, it is my Senator’s opening comments at the Gorsuch hearings.  He sums up just what a 5/4 split court has been doing.

 

This is his discussion on Cspan about his book: Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of American Democracy

 

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Oh, God. Why does Clinton refuse to run on the Democratic Party platform? And against pro-Citizens United justices?

The Clinton campaign today made a key concession about its analysis of the fundamentals of the race. This concession was made almost in passing, as an afterthought, in a statement released late last night by Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri:

“One upside to Hillary Clinton’s break from the trail was having time to sharpen the final argument she will present to voters in these closing weeks.  So when she rejoins the trail tomorrow, Hillary Clinton will deliver the second in a series of speeches laying out her aspirational vision for the country: that we are “Stronger Together.” Tomorrow’s remarks will focus on what has been at the core of who Hillary Clinton is as a person and the mission of her campaign — how we lift up our children and families and make sure that every child has the chance to live up to their God given potential.

“Our campaign readily admits that running against a candidate as controversial as Donald Trump means it is harder to be heard on what you aspire for the country’s future and it is incumbent on us to work harder to make sure voters hear that vision.”  [Boldface in original.]

Hillary Clinton’s campaign just admitted she has a real problem, Greg Sargent, yesterday morning

 

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Mission Accomplished! (Wow. Thank you, Matea Gold.)

In, I’m guessing, four or five posts here at AB in the six weeks or so, since hedge fund billionaires Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer were profiled in two or three articles because they’re providing substantial funding to Trump’s campaign and for the last few months have served as his puppeteers—steering both his campaign and his fiscal and regulatory policy plans (and therefore whom he will nominate to the federal bench and to the relevant slew of administrative agency officials)—I’ve pleaded for some real attention to this from political news and commentary journalists.

And from Clinton and her campaign.

It’s finally happening.  Clicking on the Washington Post site just now and seeing as featured article Matea Gold’s piece there today titled “The rise of GOP mega-donor Rebekah Mercer” had the feel of an out-of-body experience.  I couldn’t believe it.

As I’ve said repeatedly in my references to this duo, their capture of the Trump campaign and fiscal and regulatory policy plans explains why so few Establishment Republicans (Paul Ryan, for example) are renouncing support of Trump.

Also as I’ve said repeatedly, all Clinton has to do to win the Rust Belt (and, I believe probably Florida, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire, too) is run a few ads apprising the public that Trump indeed has billionaire puppeteers—two of them.  And exactly who they are and what they want.  And where and how they live.

Clinton’s obsessive focus on Trump’s two most obviously scary traits—his dangerousness in foreign-policy matters and his alt-right mania—have been, in my opinion foreseeably, insufficient.  Everyone already knows these things about Trump, which is why so many independents and moderate Republicans won’t vote for him.  Incessantly reminding Republicans and independents of this, and repeatedly saying that these aspects of Trumpism isn’t traditionally Republican, gains her nothing, or close to nothing.

And presumably it was her fear of losing Republican support that caused her and her campaign to remain silent—throughout the summer and well into September—about Trump’s puppet-puppeteer relationship with billionaire far-right donors, and these two billionaire far-right and alt-right donors in particular.  Wouldn’t wanna risk causing Meg Whitman to rescind her support for Clinton, I guess.

But now, finally, ridiculously belatedly … no more. I’m guessing that Gold’s piece today was prompted by a very legitimate request from the Clinton campaign.  How legitimate?  Can anyone really say in good faith that the public is not entitled to learn of this information through in-your-face political news media attention?

I’m thrilled.  And I also want to say this: My main sources of news are the New York Times and the Washington Post; I have online subscriptions to both.  And throughout this campaign season, dating back to the truly wonderful coverage of the Sanders campaign by the Post’s John Wagner and certainly continuing through the general-election campaign to date, the Post’s straight political and political-analysis reportage has been excellent, and the Times’ has been, in my opinion, subpar.

In any event, I sure welcome a finally-enlightened Clinton campaign.  And some real news emphasis on the Mercers.  Normally, when I read a commentary or a statement by a major pol, or some such, that appears to reflect a recent AB post of mine, I joke here that, say, “Obama reads Angry Bear!”, or the like.  But this time I think maybe my posts here imploring Clinton and the news/commentary media to tell the public, very loudly, about the Mercers and their puppet/puppeteer role in the Trump campaign and what that would mean in a Trump administration.

I mean, who knows?  Clinton’s taking a few (very entitled) sick days right now and maybe has happened upon this awesome blog called Angry Bear.  If so, she should take up a related suggestion of mine: asking rhetorically what the Mercers think about Citizens United.

And about Citizens United.  Which the Mercers apparently fund (as they do Brietbart).  And whose founder and president for the past 16 years is now, at their suggestion, Trump’s deputy campaign manager.  As a native Rust Belter I’m sorta thinkin’ that maybe some on-the-fence voters in the upper Midwest would like to know that.  So tell them, Hillary Clinton.

Tell. Them.

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Garbo—er, Clinton—talks! (Here’s what she should say.)

“Generally, I’m concerned, frankly,” said former Democratic Senate leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.). “It still looks positive, and I think if you look at the swing states and where she is right now, she’s got a lead. But it’s certainly not in the bag. We have two months to go, and I think it’s going to be a competitive race all the way through. I would say she’s got at least a 60 percent chance of winning.”

At the same time, Daschle said, “all the things that Trump has done, the numbers should be far more explicitly in her favor, but they’re not.”

Among Democrats’ concerns is the fact that Clinton spent a great deal of time over the summer raising millions of dollars in private fundraisers while Trump was devoting much of his schedule to rallies, speeches and TV appearances — although many of those didn’t go as well as his campaign may have hoped.

Clinton has focused more heavily on fundraising than Democratic strategists had hoped would be necessary at this stage, partly to help Democrats running for Congress and state offices who would be useful to Clinton if she is president and partly to hold off further erosion in the polls.

One new goal for Clinton now, aides said, is to spend more time trying to connect directly with voters by sharing a more personal side of herself — and by telling them where she wants to take the country.

Democrats wonder and worry: Why isn’t Clinton far ahead of Trump?, Anne Gearan, Jenna Johnson and John Wagner, Washington Post, today

Back in the late 1920s, after The Jazz Singer, the first Talkie, proved a hit and foretold the rapid end to the silent-movie era and therefore to the careers of any of the stars of that era who could not make the adjustment, the newspapers would cover the transition by writing about various silent-screen stars’ first Talkie.  A famous headline in some tabloid—probably a Hearst paper—shouted: Garbo Talks!

But Garbo also became known for a line of her own, made to a Hollywood reporter: “I vahnt to be uhloohn.”

To be confused with, “I want to be with my close circle of longtime minions and my very wealthy friends and acquaintances.”

I thought of Garbo last week when I read that Hillary Clinton was stepping out after her six-week mostly-hiatus from speaking to the hoi-polloi and her months-and-months-long failure to speak to reporters except once-in-a-while to one or another chosen one.

The latter which wouldn’t have been such a bad thing had she actually said anything to those chosen reporters, rather than simply tried to seem appealing.  And I don’t mean just to talk about her own policy proposals.

I mean, at least as much, to talk about the several really, really important things some mainstream journalists had uncovered about Trump—such as his extortion payment to Florida AG Pam Bondi; his silencing of the plaintiffs who had sued him in the 2000s for what clearly constituted not just civil fraud but also criminal fraud in a Soho condo project, by settling the lawsuit for enough money to cause them to sign a silencing agreement which—for some mysterious reason—also had the effect of killing a criminal investigation because, um, the plaintiffs stopped cooperating in the criminal investigation.

Prosecutors and law enforcement agencies such as the F.B.I. have subpoena powers that trump such silencing agreements.  But, y’know … whatever.

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The New York Post and Citizens United’s executive vice president say Republican administrations magnanimously hire liberal Democrats to fill positions in their Cabinet departments. Someone should educate them that this is not accurate.

Hillary Clinton’s current campaign manager kept a list of people who were not to receive State Department jobs being doled out — just as the new secretary of state entered the Obama administration — The Post has exclusively learned.

“We are beginning the process of separating people we may want to hire from people we do not want to hire at all,” Robby Mook, the wunderkind 36-year-old campaign manager, wrote in an email to various Clinton officials. The email was sent Feb. 23, 2009, just two weeks after Clinton assumed the job as secretary of state.

“Below is a list of people we are proposing NOT to hire (the ‘no-offer’ list), along with the name of the person who submitted their resume,” Mook added.

Mook’s email was released by Citizens United, the conservative group that obtained the message through a Freedom of Information Act request from the State Department.

The email was sent to Clinton confidants Minyon Moore and Tamzera Luzzatto, as well as close Clinton aides and State Department officials Cheryl Mills, Capricia Marshall and Huma Abedin, among others. Tina Flournoy, Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, was on the email chain as well.

– Clinton’s campaign manager kept blacklist of potential hires, Daniel Halper, The New York Post, yesterday.

This, folks, is labeled “News Exclusive”.  Just so you won’t confuse it with, say, “Non-Newsworthy Information, Because It Falls Into the Category of ‘Staffing the New Administration’s Cabinet Departments in Accordance With the Election Results’”.

The article does point out that Mook was not working for Clinton.  Uh-oh.  Specifically, it says:

At the time, Mook does not appear to have been employed by Clinton. He had worked on Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid and then managed the campaign for Jeanne Shaheen, the New Hampshire Democratic senator. A few months after the email was sent, Mook went to work for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

It also appears that Mook, unlike Mr. Halper and his editors, knows the difference between Civil Service positions and, y’know, positions that are not Civil Service positions, wanted to be fair and not mistake a non-enemy for an enemy who as an enemy had the audacity to submit a resume and job application for a non-Civil Service position.  So he wrote in that email:

WE RECOGNIZE THERE MAY BE MISTAKES IN THIS LIST, which is why we are circulating it for comments. If you believe someone on this list should be considered for a position, please send their name to whl@state.gov. If you do not send to whl@state.gov, we cannot guarantee that we will get the information processed,” Mook implored.

“Please keep in mind when editing this list that we have over 1,300 applications and less than 180 jobs to slot — we must be selective. Pretend you work for the Harvard admissions department,” the email concluded.

But don’t think Mr. Halper is an incompetent journalist.  He’s clearly not, since he does know an illegal political blacklist when he sees one, and also has the contact information of Citizens United executive vice president Michael Boos and can get a good quote from him conflating the decision to reject employment applications of ideologically or politically unfriendly applicants for jobs normally filled in White House administrations by people who are friendly to the administration ideologically or politically with Richard Nixon’s Enemies List listing the names of unfriendly journalists and others whose tax returns should be reviewed by the I.R.S. and who should have dossiers about them opened at the F.B.I. and the C.I.A.

In an appropriately breathless tone, he writes:

The names on the blacklist were redacted upon their release from the State Department to Citizens United.

The blacklist.  Got it? And he follows that with the money quote, writing:

Hillary Clinton’s similarities to Richard Nixon are more striking than anyone could have imagined,” Michael Boos, Citizens United executive vice president, told The Post.  “Now we’ve learned she even maintained a secretive blacklist while heading the State Department. The American people deserve to know who is on that list,” Boos added.

I’m sort of relieved about this, now that the polls are tightening.  At least we can be sure that if Trump wins the election he’ll stop soliciting and accepting advice from Robert Mercer, his daughter Rebeka, John Rakolta Jr., Sheldon Adelson, and the other far-right billionaires whom Trump is accepting advice from and making tacit promises to in exchange for their extensive financial support for his campaign.  Including during meetings in The Hamptons. Which is strange, considering that according to the news media no major-party presidential nominee this year other than Clinton is allowed to enter for the purpose of seeking campaign contributions.

I guess Trump is violating those municipal ordinances, and is attending fundraisers there—as are a few of his billionaire donors, who are violating the ordinance sections proscribing contributing to the delinquency of a presidential candidate not named Hillary Clinton.

At least according to the Washington Post’s terrific Matea Gold, who reported on this, in-depth, all the way back on Sept. 1.  And whose reporting no one but me noticed.  Certainly the Clinton campaign didn’t.

Down the road,  when an Establishment Republican is nominated as the party’s offering for president—Paul Ryan, say—we progressive Democrats will be able to take comfort in knowing that his cabinet heads won’t discriminate against progressive Democrats in staffing their departments.  Maybe I’ll apply.

Okay, look.  I bow to few other progressive Democrats in the intensity of anger at Bill and Hillary Clinton for, beginning in 2013, commandeering the mechanism by which the party chooses its presidential nominee and foisting upon us a standard bearer whose husband received exorbitant secret payments from companies with interests potentially touching upon normal State Department concerns when she was Secretary of State.

And I’ve wondered from time to time in the last few months how many of those Establishment folks who were Ready for Hillary back in 2013, 2015 and the first five months of 2015 feel regret.  Or maybe even remorse.  Partly because our party now has a presidential nominee who along with her husband was unwilling to choose between great riches and power of another presidency, rejecting mere ordinary riches and opting instead for far more than that, risking so much for so many of the rest of us when they decided to muscle other potential candidates, and actual candidate Bernie Sanders, out of their way because they not only wanted extraordinary wealth but also the White House or a second time.  And partly because we have a presidential nominee whose idea of a terrific campaign strategy in 2016 is to court endorsements from Henry Kissinger and Meg Whitman, on the apparent theory that the more uber-Establishment celebrities who endorse you the better this particular election cycle.  At least if they’re Republican.

And partly because we have a nominee who thinks that the way to effectively attack her opponent is to constantly remind people of what they already know about him and haven’t forgotten, and be sure not to tell them about the stuff they don’t already know about him but really should learn of.  Like that he’s soliciting policy promises—er, policy advice—from the Mercers and his other billionaire donors.  And that the Mercers live in … the Hamptons.

And who thinks it’s a good idea to spend most of her time at the height of the campaign season cocooning with her extremely wealthy friends, and with the extremely wealthy friends of those friends, none of whom will sit out this election or vote for her opponent or a third party candidate. And who wouldn’t be caught dead actually campaigning on her policy proposals to rallies or audiences whose votes she thinks she has but may actually not have.  They’re not mainstream Republicans, so why bother to address them, right?

I can’t stand Hillary Clinton.  But I’m absolutely sure that her domestic-policy proposals, if actually enacted, would make a significant difference to a lot of people—in a good way—and that this country would be a meaningfully better place.  And I won’t even mention Supreme Court and lower federal court nominees—although I will ask whom the Mercers would recommend for appoint to the Court and to the courts.  Anyone who favors overturning Citizens United?  Or who thinks people who don’t have driver’s licenses or passports should be allowed to vote?  Or who favors plaintiffs’ access to federal court in consumer cases, employment cases, habeas corpus cases, or constitutional-rights cases that don’t concern religious freedom (loosely defined), gun ownership rights, or reverse discrimination by state universities or some such?  Didn’t think so.

I do acknowledge that her cabinet members probably would discriminate against job applicants who may be hostile ideologically or politically to Clinton or to the cabinet member.  But if so, there’s always the option of impeachment.  Just as there was for Nixon.

Clinton is saddled with a political media that can’t distinguish between normal, expected and trivial special, often meaningless, access, and even appropriate favoritism, on the one hand, and meaningful pay-to-play.  Or maybe a political media that thinks that the propriety of what has gone on in the respective professional lives of Clinton and Trump, and what promises to go on in a Clinton, or instead in a Trump, administration depends not on what is likely to go on but rather on whether it will be going on in a Clinton or instead a Trump administration.  The Clinton Foundation is just a distraction, in my opinion.  Bill Clinton’s half-million-dollar payments here for this no-actual-work activity, a whole million and then some for that no-actual-work activity–those are problems.  But they’re problems that fade into the landscape, or should, in comparison to Trump’s appalling, breathtaking decades-long career of breathtaking immoral greed.

These two men are stunningly, pervertedly greedy.  But Bill Clinton’s greed probably didn’t directly hurt anyone. by contrast, Trump’s very business model was, to a dismaying extent, to hurt people, some deliberately, some as casual collateral damage.  Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton is a sociopath.  Donald Trump is.  Yet it is the Clintons’ pattern of greed that the news media details and obsesses about, upon the pretext that these constitute conflicts of interest.   A few do, most don’t, and none reaches anywhere near the level of casual, deliberate harm to others and clear violations of law that Trump’s very modus operandi has caused and has constituted.

We, for our part—those of us who support this Democratic nominee, extremely grudgingly or otherwise—are saddled with a candidate who is running a god-awful campaign, apparently thanks mainly to campaign decisions by the candidate herself and her husband, both of whom mistake the 2016 campaign cycle for the 1988 one.

Those old enough to remember the 1988 campaign will get my drift.  It’s a double entendre.

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I finally agree with (much of) a Krugman criticism of the Sanders campaign. (And why I’m glad he made the criticism in the way he did.) [Clarification added 2/20 at 11:05 a.m.; update added 2/21 at 9:40 a.m.]

Bernie Sanders hates the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC, which held that corporations have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited sums advocating for their preferred candidate. Who doesn’t? Citizens United was a deeply misguided decision that vastly underestimated the state’s compelling interest in preventing the appearance of corruption that massive corporate electioneering inevitably creates. An overwhelming supermajority of Americans despise the decision and wish to see it overturned. That includes most Democrats—which is probably why Sanders recently tweeted a guarantee that his Supreme Court nominees “will make overturning Citizens United one of their first decisions.”

Bernie Sanders Has No Idea How the Supreme Court Works, Mark Joseph Stern, Slate, Jan. 22

Okay. As an obsessive Bernie Sanders supporter, and as someone who knows that Supreme Court justices cannot make overturning Citizens United one of their first decisions simply because they want to, I cringed.  To understate it.  There are certain prerequisites to overturning Citizens United: specifically, an existing state or federal campaign-finance law that conflicts with the holding in Citizens United, and a legal challenge to the statute’s constitutionality that has been decided by a federal trial court and then by a federal appeals court, and then then a filed “cert.” petition asking the Supreme Court to agree to hear the case.

Granted, something not all that different than what that tweet proposed did happen in none other than Citizens United, but at least there was an actual statute in existence—McCain-Feingold—which they could, and most of which they did, pronounce unconstitutional.*  (In a follow-up case, they pronounced most of the rest of it unconstitutional.)

But I also knew that Bernie Sanders himself knows this, and that he was not the one who published that tweet.  Some 20-something member of his communications staff did.  I gritted my teeth and said to myself something like: “Okay, Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, has a law degree from Georgetown.  Sanders should order that no tweets or other communications on technical legal issues—or on legal-related things that involve legal technicalities, even his 20-something communications staff doesn’t recognize that it does–ever again be published without approval from Weaver.  Or someone else who has some actual knowledge of actual legal procedure and such.

There are, in other words, certain subjects that plainly require expertise—sometimes extensive expertise—before a statement about them is made. Supreme Court jurisdiction is one of them.  And obviously, macroeconomics is another.

Okay, well, by now y’all know about the controversy concerning a report by UMass-Amherst economist Gerald Friedman, commissioned by the Sanders campaign, that apparently is so of a mirror image of the macroeconomic claims of Arthur Laffer to Ronald Reagan, and Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Jeb! Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, etc., to the public.  In this case the claim is that Sanders’ economic-policy proposals will produce something along the lines of 5.3% annual GDP growth, an unemployment rate of less than 4%, and a significant increase in the labor-participation rate (notwithstanding the aging of this country’s population).  You’ve read Krugman’s blog posts about it and you’ve read his column today. Or many one of the other excoriating commentaries about it as well.  Or maybe Krugman’s and some others’.

The growth and unemployment rates apparently are theoretically possible, so it is not quite the mirror image of Laffer economics.  But also apparently, historically it is extremely unlikely.

No one has ever accused me of being an economist, man, but I’ve read enough Paul Krugman blog posts and columns, and AB posts, over the years—including Krugman’s repeated mockery of Jeb!’s promise of 4% GDP growth annually within the last year—for Friedman’s conclusions to raise series questions of accuracy, even to this novice.  Yet Sanders’ campaign began trumpeting the report.

This creates three huge problems, perhaps the most important of which Krugman flags: that if Democrats start pushing voodoo economic theories, they give away a fundamental part of their raison d’être.  The Republicans push voodoo (or highly implausible) economic theories; the Democrats do not.

I’ve argued that a big, big reason why I think Sanders would be a stronger general-election candidate than Clinton is that there is so very much that the Dem candidate should argue against, say, Rubio or Bush or Cruz that would as a practical matter be unavailable to Hillary Clinton to actually argue, but that are at the very center of Sanders’ campaign and Sanders’ appeal. And now suddenly, there is this wrench that’s been thrown into this.

Another huge problem is how extremely easy it is to conflate this issue with the incessant claims—by Clinton, by Krugman, by the Washington Post editorial board, by the Washington Post centrist-left and centrist-right columnists, etc., etc.—that Sanders’ high-profile substantive policy proposals (e.g., Medicare-for-all; tuition-free public colleges and universities) are financially unworkable. These are entirely distinct issues.  Yet just the headlines on some of these stories, which is all that many people will read, makes this conflation very easy.  Some mainstream-media political journalists (inexplicably) are doing it in their articles or blog posts about it.

But counterintuitively, I think Krugman’s column, which identifies and explains the actual issue, will help make clear the distinction.

And then there is this: If Sanders does, as I dearly hope, become the next president, his administration’s economic success will be judged against this.  A 3.5% annual growth in GDP, for example, will be called a broken promise.

But I disagree with Krugman’s political assessment that this indicates that the Sanders campaign and maybe the candidate himself are not ready for primetime.

If not nipped in the bud—repudiated very soon by Sanders himself—his campaign success could begin unraveling; that is true enough.  But every modern presidential campaign makes mistakes, some of them major ones, and the Sanders campaign, unlike the Clinton campaign, is not well stocked with presidential-campaign veterans.  Weaver himself is a novice.

And Sanders and Weaver are navigating a 20-ring circus right now, with several campaign appearances of one sort or another every single day. They both must be exhausted.

What Sanders needs to do—seriously needs to do—is to determine the types of published things ostensibly by Sanders himself (tweets, for example) and by his communications staff are fine for them to publish on their own, and the types of things that are not. Law things, not. Macroeconomics things, not.

For law things, there needs to be a designated person with actual knowledge of law things.  For macroeconomic things, there needs to more than one.  Nothing—nothing—should be published about macroeconomics without prior review by more than one macroeconomist.

I absolutely get the Sanders campaign’s frustration with the incessant torrent of uses of the word “SOCIALIST” to misrepresent Sanders’ actual policy positions.  I share the frustration.  But the way to handle it is to do what Sanders had been doing: Pointing out the capitalist, entrepreneurial success of countries such a Canada, Denmark, Sweden, Germany and … Australia (which has universal healthcare coverage!).

And pointing out that this country’s most entrepreneurial period was the post-WWII period, with tax rates higher than anything Sanders is proposing. A period of organized-labor strength.  Of Glass-Steagall separation of traditional banking and investment banking.  And of aggressive enforcement of antitrust laws and securities laws. And, in 1967, the start of Medicare.

An addition to this torrent came earlier this week from another high-profile Friedman, New York Times columnist and aggressive-centrist Thomas Friedman, who wrote:

Bernie Sanders shows zero interest in entrepreneurship and says the Wall Street banks that provide capital to risk-takers are involved in “fraud.” …

I’d take Sanders more seriously if he would stop bleating about breaking up the big banks and instead breathed life into what really matters for jobs: nurturing more entrepreneurs and starter-uppers. I never hear Sanders talk about where employees come from. They come from employers — risk-takers, people ready to take a second mortgage to start a business. If you want more employees, you need more employers, not just government stimulus.

Apparently he’s been reading too many Washington Post centrist-right and centrist-left columnist columns.  Or else he concluded on his own that such things as breaking up the big banks, or for that matter government stimulus, has nothing at all to do with what really matters for jobs: nurturing more entrepreneurs and starter-uppers.

He is, though, certainly right that these days, if you want more employees, you need more employers.  The large, current employers plow most of their profits into stock dividends and stock buybacks, not into hiring more employees and not into upgrades of such things as manufacturing plants.  The ones here in the States, anyway.

But about the risk-takers whom I’m betting he really has in mind—his wife’s father and uncle, who during the postwar period began one of the first shopping-mall development companies and grew it into the very largest, turning their relatively small family collectively into multibillionaires before the collapse of the shopping-mall real estate business because of online shopping (the family still is extremely wealthy, but not nearly to the extent that it was).

Sanders is in fact the most pro-entrepreneurial of the presidential candidates in either party. He combines Theodore Roosevelt’s antitrust vigor with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal regulation of the financial services and securities industries, and FDR’s and Dwight Eisenhower’s massive building programs, mainly in major infrastructure projects.

What the centrist crowd doesn’t understand, or pretends not to, is that just as in Teddy Roosevelt’s day, there are critical conflicts between the interests of entrepreneurs (current and would-be) and ongoing small-businesses, on the one hand, and large corporations (especially certain types of large corporations), on the other.  One of my favorite examples is what is known as the Durbin Amendment, which pitted the interests of Visa and Mastercard against small retail businesses.  The Democratic Congress pushed it through. The nature of the charges at issue made it especially difficult for small retailers to compete with large ones. Walmart lost on that one; Mom and Pop won.

As for business loans and home mortgages, Friedman, who neither has a home mortgage nor a small business, may not be aware that the very size of the megabanks makes it ever harder for small local banks of the type that surely funded his in-laws’ startup in Marshall, Iowa back in the ‘50s, to remain in business.  The megabanks, like Walmart, set market prices. And pretty much everything else.

And the collapse of antitrust enforcement has had an enormous effect not merely on direct competition but also on small manufactures in the supply chain of large ones.  The fewer the buyers of the type of part manufactured by the small manufacturer, the less bargaining power the small manufacturer has in order simply to stay in business.

Sanders and his campaign need to bring the conversation back to where it was before this Gerald Friedman debacle.

And I need to end this very long post.

____

*Sentence edited slightly for clarity and precision. 2/19 at 8:57 p.m.

____

CLARIFICATION: Reader EMichael and I exchanged these comments this morning in the Comments thread:

EMichael

February 20, 2016 9:25 am

Bev,

It is the unforced errors of the Sanders’ campaign that scares me. Perhaps it is simply, as you state, that there are not enough knowledgeable people working for the campaign and that those who are capable are simply exhausted. Kind of scary when there are still nine months before the election. If Sanders wins the nomination, how can the campaign pick up capable people to stop these kind of errors?

 

Me

February 20, 2016 10:08 am

EMichael, every major presidential campaign makes unforced errors, and the Sanders campaign is chock full of competent people. Clinton’s campaign has made a slew of them.

It’s just that there are some policy areas that require some real expertise in before a statement that has the potential to get a key thing wrong (e.g., the Citizens United tweet) or that requires expertise to evaluate (e.g., macroeconomics projections).

I plan to post a follow-up to this post clarifying some things and making the point that it now appears that Krugman way overblew what the Sanders campaign actually did, which was that its policy director mentioned the Friedman study and praised it as outstanding work. That was all.

But this key point I was trying to make is still valid: that while it is necessary for the Sanders campaign to refute the Sanders-will-kill-entrepreneurship-in-this-country-and-destroy-the-banking-system-and-kill-all-the-apple-trees-in-order-to-keep-Americans-from-making-apple-pie slurs, he should keep the focus of his campaign on his policy proposals and their benefits for their own sake. This macroeconomics controversy has been a big distraction, and–as I said in the post–is one that is far too easy for my comfort to conflate with the issue of the cost of his policy proposals.

The link I included in my comment is to an article on Salon by Elias Isquith, detailing what prompted the controversy and rebutting Krugman’s political argument.

Several other readers in the Comments thread supplied important links, among them: to James Galbraith’s two-page letter to Krueger, Goolsbee, Romer and Tyson deconstructing their high-profile letter that has played such a large role in the controversy; and to an article by David Dayen in the New Republic rebutting Krugman’s political argument.

On second thought I think I’ll just let this Clarification suffice rather than post a separate follow-up post.  I’m tired of this subject.

Added 2/10 at 11:05 a.m.

____

UPDATE: An exchange between reader Urban Legend and me in the Comments thread this morning:

Urban Legend

February 21, 2016 2:49 am

I am strongly pro-Clinton in the primaries, but Galbraith’s letter seems absolutely unassailable. Nothing justified this assault by Krugman and the others except their feeling that their credibility is undermined because of their giggling at the Bush et al projections. Somehow, the difference between massive stimulus and increasing regressive tax policies — differences they themselves have emphasized for years — escaped them.

 

Me

February 21, 2016 9:29 am

Urban, that struck me, too, when I read the Galbraith article: Somehow, the difference between massive stimulus and increasing regressive tax policies — differences they themselves have emphasized for years — escaped them.

There is still the (I would think) obvious problem that apparently Friedman didn’t take into account: the ageing of this country’s population in considering projected increase in labor participation. And there probably are other things that he didn’t consider that should have been considered.

And the main point of my point–or at least the intended main point–holds and is important: on subjects that require some technical expertise or special knowledge, it is really important that Sanders have someone with the expertise or special knowledge screen what his campaign is about to say about it.

But Krugman and the others themselves mislead in this.

This is it for me on this subject.

Added 2/21 at 9:40 a.m.

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Pictures of the Trans Pacific Partnership and to Giroux’s biggest lie: Capitalism is Democracy

HENRY GIROUX: Oh, I mean, I think that’s the biggest lie of all actually. The biggest lie of all is that capitalism is democracy. We have no way of understanding democracy outside of the market, just as we have no understanding of how to understand freedom outside of market values.

I learned about two maps that show the connection of corporations.  I found copies of them at Occupy Educated.   The first one “Corporate Connections” was created in 2003.  You can read about it here.

corporateconnection World

 

 

The second one is a condensed update looking at just 10 corporations and the brands which they control.

Corporate connections by brand

 

These two maps make me think of all sorts of things.  Like, do we have choice in the market place?  Do we have choice in the market place of ideas?  Choice of  ideas are professed to be necessary for a healthy capitalistic system.  It is ideas that compete not products as they only represent an idea.

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Sooo … Akhil Reed Amar and Neal Katyal confuse the IRS and TSA with the FBI. I mean … really, profs??

Update: Link at Scotus blog http://www.scotusblog.com/2013/06/wednesday-round-up-187/.

As prosecutors, police agencies and civil libertarians consider the ruling’s implications, Justice Scalia’s stark dissent — and the fact that President Obama’s two appointees to the court so far agreed with it — makes it worthy of scrutiny, even if he was on the losing side. His argument is deeply flawed, because he did not get his history quite right.

Justice Scalia summarized his scathing dissent from the bench — a rare act that signals sharp disagreement. His opinion opened with these lines: “The Fourth Amendment forbids searching a person for evidence of a crime when there is no basis for believing the person is guilty of the crime or is in possession of incriminating evidence. That prohibition is categorical and without exception; it lies at the very heart of the Fourth Amendment.”

But the Fourth Amendment’s text is not nearly so simple as he makes it out to be. It merely requires that all searches and seizures be not “unreasonable.” Its words do not distinguish between intrusions seeking “evidence of crime” and other sorts of intrusions — say, to collect revenue, or preserve public safety.

Why the Court Was Right to Allow Cheek Swabs, Akhil Reed Amar and Neal K. Katyal, New York Times,* today

Oh, dear.  Looks like we should all take the Fifth instead of filing income tax returns.  Now that we can no longer take the Fourth.

The referenced ruling, whose implications prosecutors, police agencies and civil libertarians are considering, is yesterday’s 5-4 Supreme Court opinion in a case called Maryland v. King.  Lyle Denniston of SCOTUSblog explains:

Treating the solution of unsolved crimes as a legitimate part of routine police station “booking” procedures, a divided Supreme Court on Monday upheld the power of government at all levels to take DNA samples from every person legally arrested for a “serious” new crime.  What a suspect may have done in the past, the Court majority ruled, is a part of the profile that police may constitutionally begin to assemble at the time of arrest for a separate offense.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for a five-four majority, insisted that the ruling in the case of Maryland v. King (docket 12-207) involved little more than what happens when police take a suspect’s fingerprints or mug shot.  But Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the dissenters, said the Court had validated the use of scientific evidence taken without a warrant not to make an identification but to gather evidence to solve cold cases — something he said the Court has never allowed before.

Whether or not Scalia got his history right, at least he, unlike these these two eminent law professors, recognizes that, as a matter of both fact and the Fourth Amendment, solving an already-committed crime is not the same as requiring the filing of tax returns or thwarting an attempt to carry out a crime.  Or, well, at least until yesterday there was a difference as a matter of both fact and the Fourth Amendment.  Now I guess there’s only a factual difference, not a legal one.

But these two writers think there’s no factual difference. Or maybe they just think Scalia thinks there’s no factual difference.  Or maybe they just didn’t notice the words “for evidence of a crime” in that sentence they quote from Scalia’s dissent: “The Fourth Amendment forbids searching a person for evidence of a crime when there is no basis for believing the person is guilty of the crime or is in possession of incriminating evidence.”

Hard to tell.  And rather than clear up that mystery, they just go on to enhance their weird conflation of past and present, and of crime and regulatory compliance:

Justice Scalia failed to identify even one source from the founders articulating the ultraprecise rule that he claims is the central meaning of the Fourth Amendment. And his version of the Fourth Amendment would lead to absurd results.

The government, for example, permits searches at the border to prevent contaminated livestock and plants from entering the country — is such authority permitted only because these searches are not seeking “evidence of crime?” If so, if what happens if the government at some point criminalizes the intentional introduction of diseased animals and vegetables? Why should these searches magically now become unconstitutional?

The title of Denniston’s piece is “Opinion recap: Solving ‘cold cases’ made easier.”  Maybe that refers to handling of refrigerated containers of meat and produce by the Border Patrol and the Agriculture Department.

What exactly is the ultraprecise rule that Scalia claims is the central meaning of the Fourth Amendment?  That livestock and plants trying to enter the country should be forced to submit to a DNA swab in case they plan to violate the tax code when they file their tax returns with the IRS? That certainly is ultraprecise.  Not to mention deeply flawed and historically inaccurate. As is the claim that a statement that the Fourth Amendment forbids searching a person for evidence of a crime when there is no basis for believing the person is guilty of the crime or is in possession of incriminating evidence has anything to do with mandatory filing of tax returns, or airport security, or livestock and plants crossing the border.

My own reaction to the opinion was more along the lines of revulsion than relief that the country’s food supply will continue to be relatively safe from foreign contamination; that I won’t be planting poison tomato seeds imported from Timbuktu; and that Mitt Romney and the Koch brothers won’t have new Fourth Amendment grounds for tax avoidance.  And judging from similar sentiment expressed overwhelmingly in comments threads I’ve read about it, I think this opinion will prove to be the Fourth-Amendment/criminal-law Citizens United–a watershed moment of awareness of the chasm between the Supreme Court justices who think it’s forever the days of the Reagan presidency and the substantial majority of the public who think it’s 2013.

Yes, the Fourth Amendment’s text merely requires that all searches and seizures be not “unreasonable.” Which itself is a distinction between intrusions seeking “evidence of crime” and other sorts of intrusions — say, to collect revenue, or preserve public safety.  Or so I and others, including Scalia, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan, had thought.

Then again, Amar and Katyal must know what they’re talking about.  They’re eminent law profs, after all, who by virtue of their eminence get anything they submit published anywhere they submit it.

Anything they submit. Even this.

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*“Akhil Reed Amar is a professor of law and political science at Yale. Neal K. Katyal is a former acting solicitor general of the United States, a professor of national security law at Georgetown and a partner at the law firm Hogan Lovells.

 

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Next step to citizenship

Via Crooks and Liars comes notice of this proposal for corporate/business voting right and elected official in municipal elections,  except for school elections (hat tip Dan B.):

Rep. Steve Lavin has introduced HB485,

A BILL FOR AN ACT ENTITLED: “AN ACT REVISING ELIGIBILITY TO VOTE IN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS AND TO FILE FOR CANDIDACY FOR MUNICIPAL ELECTED OFFICE; ALLOWING A QUALIFIED NONRESIDENT PROPERTY OWNER OR DESIGNEE OF AN ENTITY TO VOTE IN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS AND TO FILE FOR CANDIDACY FOR MUNICIPAL ELECTED OFFICE; AND AMENDING SECTIONS 7-1-4121, 7-4-4104, 7-4-4301, AND 7-4-4401, MCA.”

Lifted from an e-mail from Linda Beale in response to a short note from me:

This law does definitely include a section that allows any company that owns real property in a municipality to designate one of its officers to vote for it in municipal elections. Talk about plutocracy—now some billionaire managers/shareholders will get TWO votes, compared to ordinary persons who actually live in, and enjoy the beneifts and bear the burdens of the elected officials’ decisions. Plus nonresident property owners get to dilute the locals’ interests as well. This is clearly a part of the “property is the only right we really care about” trend, which in my perspective personifies most of the S Ct’s jurisdiction decisions on rights…..

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Trevor Potter on Citizen’s United

Trevor Potter offers a thorough treatment (for an article sized piece) of the Citizen’s United decision by the US Supreme Court in a speech at an Annual Meeting of the American Law Institute. The link is to the transcript via Alternet.

…coverage is so successful because it accurately describes a campaign finance world that seems too surreal to be true. A system that claims to require disclosure of money spent to elect or defeat candidates, but in fact provides so many ways around that requirement as to make disclosure optional; a system that says that “independent expenditures” cannot be limited as a matter of Constitutional law because they cannot corrupt because they are “totally independent” of candidates and parties—…

Beverly Mann points us to a June 14 date for SCOTUS review of the case:

Here’s a link to a SCOTUSblog article from yesterday laying out the Court’s timeline and options concerning how they’ll proceed in the Montana case. They’re expected to decide on June 14 whether to simply summarily reverse the Montana Supreme Court without briefing and oral argument, or instead to agree to decide the case after full briefing and oral argument next term:  http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/05/montana-detainee-cases-set/.  I expect them to do the latter. But, who knows?

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