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

Clinton is Running as the Un-Elizabeth Warren. The Tactic is Succeeding. For now. (And btw, what DO those polls on gun-control laws show about rural-vs.-urban-area views?)

Marco Rubio spoke today to a large group of Iowa Republican activists and urged them to “turn the page on outdated leaders of both parties“. They agreed to do that, and started chanting “Feel the Bern.”

Senator, You’re No John Kennedy.  You’re Just Clumsily Appropriating a Campaign Line of His [from his 1946 run for Congress], Me, Nov. 1

Rubio, whose policy proposals entail returning to 1920s economic and regulatory policies (presumably because they worked so well)—and, regarding such matters as antitrust law, returning to the pre-Teddy Roosevelt era—claims that what determines whether a candidate would be an outdated leader is the age of the candidate, not his or her proposed policies.  As I said in the above-referenced post, Rubio is 44 and probably would support a 43-year-old Communist Workers Party candidate if one were to run, and step down himself as a candidate.  Policy proposals being irrelevant to the datedness of the candidate, and all.

Okay.  But he’s actually right about one of the older candidates.  Not about her policy proposals, but about her campaign itself.   Hillary Clinton as a candidate is the un-Elizabeth Warren.  She’s running an absurdly retro campaign that employs asinine allegations of sexism, racism, and Commie-ism against her main primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, as her go-to misdirection tactics to avoid talking about the issues that Warren and Sanders both have made their trademark, their political raison d’être: the thoroughly rigged power game that has so thoroughly rigged the economics game. And the legal game.  [Trust me on this.]

We all know by now about Clinton’s claim, repeated on six occasions within a few days, that all of the 76 members of the National Rifle Association’s Board of Directors are women—er, that Bernie Sanders told her, and only her, to stop speaking in a literally loud voice and that he said this because she is a woman. The initial reaction to Clinton’s claim was a bonanza for her among non-millennial women—that is, women who are of a generation in which being a feminist requires automatic adoption or acceptance of any charge of sexism (or for that matter rape).

Having been a victim of sexual harassment myself, I don’t take lightly the real deals—sexual harassment, sexism, rape. Which may be why it so offends me when a career feminist, which is what Clinton is, cries ‘wolf’ about sexism, knowing its Pavlovian pull among fellow feminists.  Especially career ones. And baby boomer ones, for whom it will always be the 1992 election cycle. As it always will be for her.  But the allegation quickly was shown as false.  As was part of her substantive charge against Sanders in the exchange at the Oct. 13 debate in which Sanders had made the comments that she claimed were sexist: a 2005 statute called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which she criticized Sanders for supporting and which she as a senator from New York voted against, doesn’t provide what she said it provides.  And the state of liability law at the time, and the state of liability now, that pertains to manufacturers and retailers of products other than guns and ammunition is the opposite of what she claimed.

But not to worry.  Having milked all she could from sexism—she also had claimed that a joke by Sanders’ campaign manager that Clinton would make a fine vice presidential nominee, a standard line that presidential primary candidates use about their nearest competitor, and one that Clinton used about Obama in 2008, was, you guessed it, sexist! —and now being limited to talking about actual gun-control proposals, past and present, she went back to the trumped-up ism well.  (I mean, seriously, good grace; she thought Obama was a woman.  But that was then and this is now.)  She accused Sanders of racism for a comment he made at the debate during, you guessed it, the gun legislation exchange.   William Saletan of Slate, who wrote the most thorough article I’ve read on the sexism smear, wrote in an article yesterday titled “Hillary Clinton Is Stepping Up Her Smear Campaign Against Bernie” by now accusing him of, um, racism!  Seriously.  Saletan reports:

Clinton was in Charleston, South Carolina [on Friday], addressing the local NAACP. She spoke against a tragic background: the massacre of nine black people in a Charleston church by a white racist. Naturally, she talked about guns. But she added a new line: “There are some who say that this [gun violence] is an urban problem. Sometimes what they mean by that is: It’s a black problem. But it’s not. It’s not black, it’s not urban. It’s a deep, profound challenge to who we are.”

The idea that urban is code for black has been around a long time. It’s often true. And it’s not necessarily derogatory: In 1920, the National League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes shortened its name to the National Urban League. But why would Clinton suddenly bring up, in a damning tone, people who call guns an urban problem? Who was she talking about? It can’t be the Republican presidential candidates: They haven’t disagreed enough to debate the issue at that level of granularity. The only recent forum in which guns have been discussed as an urban concern is the forum that inspired Clinton’s initial accusation of sexism: the Oct. 13 Democratic debate in Las Vegas. Pull up the transcript of that debate, search for “urban,” and you’ll see whom Clinton is talking about: Sanders.

Actually, though, Sanders didn’t say that gun violence is an urban problem.  He said that people in rural areas are strongly against gun-control legislation.  Here’s Saletan again:

In fact, [Sanders’ comments are] from the same moments of the debate that Clinton had already seized on. In the debate, Sanders began by saying, “As a senator from a rural state, what I can tell Secretary Clinton [is] that all the shouting in the world is not going to do what I would hope all of us want.” A couple of minutes later, Sanders told former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley: “We can raise our voices, but I come from a rural state, and the views on gun control in rural states are different than in urban states, whether we like it or not.” O’Malley insisted that the issue was “not about rural and urban.” Sanders replied: “It’s exactly about rural.” Only one other candidate used the word “urban” during the debate: former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb. A week later, on Oct. 20, Webb quit the campaign. So when Clinton, on Friday, spoke scathingly of people who call guns an “urban problem” but mean it’s a “black problem,” it’s obvious to whom she was referring.

Which is why I’m wondering what the actual poll numbers are on gun-control legislation in, say, Montana, and Maine, and Vermont.  And what the poll numbers are in Illinois, New York, California, and Maryland.  Since hunting is the primary divide, I’m also wondering what the poll numbers are in Michigan’s Upper Penninsula, northern Lower Penninsula, and “Thumb” region (rural; lots and lots of hunters).  And how they compare to southwestern Michigan (urban, suburban).  Because while there is, of course, some cross-over—some urban dwellers oppose gun-control legislation; some rural residents support universal background checks and bans on assault weapons and huge-capacity magazines—it is, very largely, exactly about rural.  Sanders needs to get the poll numbers on this.  And use them.  There aren’t many hunters in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Chicago or San Francisco. There are a lot of hunters in Vermont, Montana and Wyoming.

But he also needs to suggest that Clinton is willing to cheapen the issues of sexism and racism in order to avoid talking about issues concerning the basic power structure in this country and its clear consequences.  And about Republican plans for further, dramatic imbalance.  And about the havoc that the pro-corporate takeover over government beginning more than three decades ago has wreaked on huge swaths of Americans.  In language that does not consist of soundbites and that actually discusses and explains specifics.

I wasn’t kidding when I said Clinton is the un-Elizabeth Warren.  In her campaign tactics at least, Clinton is far more Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson and Donald Trump than she is Elizabeth Warren.  Far more.  Notwithstanding the gender difference.  Swap out the-debate-moderators-are-biased-and-asking-improper-questions for Bernie-Sanders-said-“shouting”-to-me-when-talking-about-women-and-men-who-take-opposing-sides-on-gun-legislation, and Bernie-Sanders-said-“urban”-as-code-for-African-American-criminals!”.  And … voila!

Is it just a coincidence that it’s the candidates, Democrat and Republican, with the zillionaire backers and consequently the army of political consultants, who employ these misdirect tactics?  Just askin’.

But really, isn’t Clinton’s gender-and-race fraud more pernicious than the Republicans’ media/moderator-bias gimmick?

It’s a safe bet that Sanders doesn’t think Warren is shouting.  But then, maybe that’s because it’s Warren and female politicians like her—whose gender is not their defining political identity and who in fact never mention it, but who do discuss intricate fiscal, economic and regulatory issues—who are the actual feminists.

Saletan’s article, which is fairly long, goes on to say this:

This line of attack is rich in irony. When Clinton ran for president in 2008, she explicitly used race against Obama. She told USA Today that she should be the Democratic nominee because “I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on.” Clinton cited an article that, in her words, showed “how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in [Indiana and Pennsylvania] who had not completed college were supporting me.” A reporter asked Clinton whether this argument was racially divisive. “These are the people you have to win if you’re a Democrat,” Clinton replied dismissively. “Everybody knows that.”

Now Clinton accuses others of playing the race card. In Charleston, she told the NAACP, “Some candidates talk in coded racial language about ‘free stuff,’ about ‘takers’ and ‘losers.’ And boy, are they quick to demonize President Obama. This kind of talk has no place in our politics.”

Clinton, too, speaks in code. But in this election, her coded phrases—“some people think we’re shouting,” “some who say that this is an urban problem”—aren’t designed to veil racism. They’re designed to veil her meritless insinuations that her Democratic opponent is sexist and racist. You can argue, based on power or privilege, that playing the race card or sex card from the left isn’t as bad as playing it from the right. But even if you believe that, Clinton’s smears bring discredit on the whole idea of bigotry. If accusations of misogyny and racism are casually thrown at Sanders, voters will conclude that these terms are just rhetoric.

Seven years ago, when Clinton’s own campaign was accused of prejudice, her husband was outraged. “She did not play the race card, but they did,” Bill Clinton said of the Obama campaign. The former president went on: “This is almost like, once you accuse somebody of racism or bigotry or something, the facts become irrelevant.” Three months later, Mr. Clinton was still fuming. “They played the race card on me, and we now know from memos from the campaign and everything that they planned to do it all along,” he protested. “This was used out of context and twisted for political purposes by the Obama campaign to try to breed resentment elsewhere. … You really got to go some to try to portray me as a racist.” Now Hillary Clinton is doing to Sanders what her husband said was done to her. She’s taking Sanders’ remarks out of context and twisting them to breed resentment. You’ve got to twist the facts pretty hard to portray Sanders as a racist or sexist. But politically, it’s easy, because once you start throwing around charges of bigotry, the facts become irrelevant. You’re just another beautiful baiter. And you won’t be silenced.

I remember these incidents well.  I especially remember the “Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in [Indiana and Pennsylvania] who had not completed college were supporting” her” comment, because my jaw dropped when I first heard about it.  And because this is exactly what she’s doing again, with her incessant “hardworking families” cliché, repeated again and again by her on the campaign trail this year.

The difference between the “harworking” dog whistle and Sanders’ comment that the level of support for gun-control legislation is very different in rural areas than it is in urban ones is that tSanders’ comment is accurate and is borne out in the polls. And would be borne out in informal converations between Clinton and people in rural areas, should she take another listening tour, one that doesn’t prescreen attendees and keep unscreened folks on the other side of a rope line.

Clinton reaped a poll bonanza from her debate and her Benghazi-hearing media successes.  But only among Democrats.  Her ratings on honesty and trustworthiness, and her general favorability, rose substantially among Democrats, but remained about the same among the public overall.  Which means that among non-Democrats, her ratings decreased.

Which may in turn mean that Democrats who now support her because they think, in light of those performances, that she would be the stronger candidate in the general election may begin to waver.  And others may catch on that there’s a reason why she wants to talk about anything other than what progressive Democrats and many others want most to hear about.

The Saletan article mentions the uber outrage at Sanders that some prominent feminists have expressed as his employing of–gasp!–gender stereotyping about women shouting, and their equally rote outrage at Sanders’ campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, for suggesting that a woman could qualify for vice president but not for, y’know, the actual head of the federal government.

Yup. Good ole Bernie Sanders never would have supported a presidential primary run by Elizabeth Warren, and not run himself, had Warren decided to run.  Uh-uh.  No, Ma’am. No how.  And no way.

Two of the three women have made careers out Feminism, and one of them has never met a sexism or rape allegation that she thought just possibly could be false.  Or, regarding sexism, ridiculous. But really, how many millennial women think it’s a good idea for the first woman who has a real chance to be elected president to engage some sort of word game, trolling for a word or phrase whose meaning, alone or in the context in which it was used, could be tortured to suggest gender stereotyping?  Marco Rubio is right about Hillary Clinton.  And in her instance it does appear to be age-related.  She’s running a ridiculously retro campaign.  And only partly to regain the support of women.  Mostly, to reiterate, it’s in order to avoid addressing the economics-related issues that Sanders, and Warren, raise.

Gun violence is a tremendously important issue.  But it is not the only tremendously important issue. It’s just the only tremendously important issue that seems to offer opportunities for false sexism and racism allegations against Bernie Sanders.

And therefore opportunities to then, in the light of day, reveal Clinton for who she really is after all.

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FOLLOW-UP TO: “Instead of nominating Marco Rubio, the Republicans should just cut out the pretense and nominate his doppelgänger: Charlie McCarthy”

[Rubio] turned a question about his finances into an opportunity to retell his compelling family narrative, and then, into even sweeter lemonade: “I’m not worried about my finances, I’m worried about the finances of everyday Americans who today are struggling in an economy that is not producing good paying jobs while everything else costs more.”

Nicely played. But there are legitimate issues involving Rubio’s personal and campaign finances. At some point, “my father was a bartender” isn’t going to be a sufficient answer, especially if the debate helps turn this into Rubio’s moment, and Rubio’s nomination.

This strange, worrisome GOP race, Ruth Marcus, Washington Post, today

—-

A common refrain about Rubio is that he’s a man in a hurry.  A refrain that I trust is about to become common is that he also is a man on the take.  Which he is.  Pure and simple.  This spade needs to be called a spade, and will be, whether it’s Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders—or a massive swell from the news media of the sort that, finally, is occurring in the wake of Wednesday’s debate calling all but one member of the entire cast (Kasich was the exception) grifters, scam artists, fraudsters, liars on a truly grand scale—that begins it loudly enough to be heard.

Instead of nominating Marco Rubio, the Republicans should just cut out the pretense and nominate his doppelgänger: Charlie McCarthy, me, yesterday

According to a post-debate NBC News/SurveyMonkey post-debate poll of 3,387 Republican or Republican-leaning registered voters, including 1,226 who watched the debate, there is … virtually no change in the status of the various the respective candidates from their pre-debate status.   With the exception of Cruz, who has bounced to third place.

Trump and Carson tie at 26 percent, Cruz has 10 percent, Rubio 9 percent, Jeb Bush 5 percent), Fiorina 4 percent, and the other four tied at 2 percent.

In the comments thread to my post from yesterday, AB reader William Ryan and I had this exchange:

William Ryan

October 31, 2015 11:00 am

Lets all face the fact Marco Rubio is not presidential material. I think if I read correctly this morning in the Daily Kos. com they did call him a liar. Please go see and read that story about his personal financial situation . This guy to me is too young and inexperienced that makes him in my mind’s eye very unpresidential material. He needs much more experience in lying and should take lessons from the Clintons.

Beverly Mann

October 31, 2015 12:22 pm

I beg to differ, William. It sure looks like Rubio has had loads of experience lying. And loads of experience doing shady things under the radar.

The radar now has him in its sights. Can’t wait till he gets the nomination and the Dems start running ads with adult children of bartenders, maids and other blue collar workers, who have mortgages, retirement funds and college tuition funds without having exchanged government favors for salaries for themselves and their spouses paid by billionaires, and without arranging for nine-figure government contracts in exchange for massive financial but quiet political support, and who didn’t improperly use an organization’s credit card for personal travel and home-improvement projects. Or who get by without luxuries or retirement funds or college tuition funds, because their jobs don’t pay enough to allow it.

One thing that struck me about the my-father-was-a-bartender excuse is how really demeaning of people who come from working class families it is. If you’re from a working class family, you’re entitled to act unethically because, y’know, how else can you support your family in style?

Another thing that struck me is something really obvious: That Rubio wants to further undermine collective bargaining, is against raising the minimum wage, and wants to end government assistance in making healthcare insurance available. Because those things make us weak as people, see.

I’m guessing that some Republicans had a similar reaction to mine.  Minus the Medicare-and-Social-Security-make-us-weak-as-people part, since that wasn’t mentioned specifically at the debate.

As Steve Benen wrote on Thursday (I linked to it also in my earlier post), Rubio’s big moments all came in what were patently memorized lines and responses.  And Benen appears to be on to something.  Here’s an excerpt:

RUBIO: No Jeb, I don’t remember – well, let me tell you. I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s vote record. The only reason why you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position, and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you.

If it was boxing, someone would have intervened to stop the fight. It was the confrontation everyone knew was coming – Jeb telegraphed his punch for days – but the intended target knew exactly what to say. It led to headlines about Rubio being “spectacular.”

And to a degree, the gushing praise is understandable. Rubio looked as if he’d practiced that soliloquy in front of a mirror for hours, and then delivered his scripted lines nicely. Later, the far-right Floridian referenced entitlements – Rubio is on record condemning Medicare and Social Security for “weakening us as a people” – and said to laughter, “Nothing has to change for current beneficiaries. My mother is on Medicare and Social Security. I’m against anything that’s bad for my mother.”

It’s the sort of quality that impresses debate scorers: candidates who memorize their carefully crafted lines and hit their marks are seen as the “winners.”

But it’s also true that we saw two very different Marco Rubios last night. The scripted senator excelled, dazzling pundits and earning hearty audience applause. The unscripted senator struggled in ways careful observers shouldn’t overlook.  [Italics in both sentences in the original.]

I suspect that we’re actually in a post-political-consultant period in presidential campaigns, in that sizable swaths of the electorate is repulsed by, or at least resistant to, the packaged, scripted crescendo lines that so many politicians think is the ultimate in campaigning.  But most of political journalists haven’t quite caught on yet. Kathleen Parker, who’s a Bush cheerleader, writes today:

While Bush’s attempted takedown [of Rubio about Rubio’s Senate attendance record] may be a worthy discussion — at what point are missed votes a firing offense? — Bush’s jab boomeranged. Just minutes after he had identified his central weakness as not being able to “fake anger,” Bush attempted to fake anger — or at least disgust. In an odd little flourish, he tossed a little leftover red meat to the fragment of the GOP base that still hates all things French.

“The Senate,” he said, “what is it — like a French workweek? You get like three days where you have to show up?”

Like, not really. Although France officially has a 35-hour workweek, French Ambassador Gérard Araud tweeted, “The French work an average of 39.6 hours a week compared to 39.2 for the Germans.” And Fortune magazine reports that French workers are about as productive as Americans.

No “fact” goes unchecked these days.

Though not exactly crucial to the global flow of things, this speck of a moment was nonetheless revealing. Bush’s snark attack obviously wasn’t spontaneous and came across like a committee-produced “laugh line.” Someone apparently forgot to cue the audience and it collapsed like a Roquefort souffle.

Parker’s exactly right about Bush, but missed the same point about Rubio.

Trump and Carson don’t memorize scripts written for them by consultants.  So, tacitly, they won the debate.  Just as Bernie Sanders’ appeal is based somewhat on his own refusal to memorize scripts and zingy soundbites prepared for him by consultants.  In dramatic contrast to Clinton, who’s downright addicted to zingy soundbites prepared for her by consultants.

Clinton has the advantage of being extremely familiar to, and popular with, older Democrats, especially female ones.  And her campaign, unlike Trump’s and Carson’s, is based on normal, coherent policy proposals, in addition to the ad nauseam I AM WOMAN! theme of it.  Unlike Trump and Carson, Clinton’s not crazy. She’s just wedded—welded, I think—to an outdated mode of campaigning for president.  I don’t think she can change that.  And it’s one reason why I think that in this election, Clinton is not the Democrat in the race who has the strongest potential general election appeal.

I just don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.  Y’know?

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Why Does Hillary Clinton Think We Want Elizabeth Warren to Be Vulnerable?

Hillary Clinton says women are “held to a totally different standard” in politics — and that it’s been that way since she first ran for office.

“You’re expected to be both strong and vulnerable at the same time,” Clinton said in BuzzFeed’s “Another Round” podcast that was published online Sunday. “That’s not easy to do.”

The Democratic frontrunner said it’s “frustrating” for women in “any profession” to be criticized for being themselves.

“It’s just so hard to get people to realize that, you know, we’re all different,” Clinton said. “We may all be women, but we all have our strengths, we all have our weaknesses. We get up every morning and do the best we can. And eventually people either get you or they don’t.”

Clinton said she faced similar sexist questions when she first ran for Senate in 1999 and again during the 2008 presidential campaign — but, interestingly, not during her time as secretary of state.

“Because I wasn’t in politics, people were really nice,” Clinton said. “They said all kinds of nice things about me, which, you know, I appreciated.”

But that changed when she announced her 2016 presidential bid.

“How is a woman supposed to behave? Well, how about the way she is,” Clinton said. “And then people have to figure out her as opposed to her having to figure out everybody else.”

Hillary Clinton: ‘How is a woman supposed to behave? Well, how about the way she is’, Dylan Stableford, Yahoo Politics, yesterday

Yup.  We definitely expect Elizabeth Warren to be both strong and vulnerable.  And since she’s only one of those things, we Democrats are darned lucky that she’s not running for the presidential nomination!

Heck, I’m not sure Warren will even be reelected to the Senate, unless she adopts Barbara Mikulski’s or Debbie Stabenow’s feigning-vulnerability thing. They did it so well that they have both had a cakewalk to reelection.  Mikulski, repeatedly!  And Stabenow, in a swing state!

What concerns me most about Hillary Clinton’s candidacy is that she believes, obviously unshakably, that what really matters in this election is herHer personality.  Her gender.  Her ongoing, decades-long war with the Republican Party, not about policy but instead about her.  It permeates every single thing about her campaign.  Because ultimately, yes, it does show, to use her words, the way she is.

One of the ways she is is a politician who is paying consultants exorbitant fees to advise her that she should be a guest on one after another comedy-skit show or women’s daytime interview show, and talk about herself and act silly.  But who apparently don’t advise her that, maybe, her actual problem is that she never actually engages in a back-and-forth discussion publicly about policy specifics and their impact, and that her vaunted toughness toward Republicans has almost nothing to do with the specifics their economic and fiscal policy proposals but instead in defending herself against their allegations of misconduct.

See?  She can go toe-to-toe with those Republicans!  Just not in explaining that, contrary to their incessant claims, this country’s most successful and creative period was when income taxes were far more progressive, and far higher for higher-income individuals and for corporations, than they have been during periods of slow economic growth.  And that it was during those decades that most of this country’s dramatic upward mobility occurred.

And that while, say, Marco Rubio makes patently ridiculous claims like that Uber couldn’t exist in any other country because only in the United States is it not banned by regulations instituted at the behest of taxicab drivers and taxicab company owners.  And even here in the United States it didn’t exist in Miami when it did exist in New York City because of those of those regulations that taxicab drivers had managed to successfully lobby the city’s government to kill Uber’s plan to that city.

Mm-hmm.  Only the likes of taxicab drivers lobby for favorable legislation and contracts.  Not, say, private prison corporations.  Although, of course, private corporations taking over government functions in exchange for payment to them of huge public funds and payment by them to, say, Marco Rubio’s campaign funds is capitalism!  And democracy!  Unlike taxicab driver and labor union lobbying.

And Uber operates not just in the United States but in cities all over the world.  Even in Scandinavia.  And also in Miami.  But it didn’t start in Miami.  Probably because of the strength of the taxicab driver lobby there.

For months and months after Clinton announced her candidacy, as it started to become clear that it wasn’t quite taking off as they’d expected, her campaign engaged in an intense attempt via political journalists to characterize her as a wonk. Repeatedly, sometimes several within a few days, there were articles describing her as a wonk.  Which, it turns out, now means, simply, a claimed interest in policy.  (Jeb Bush began to borrow the he’s-a-Wonk-campaign campaign strategy, also with some success.  Jeb Bush is not a wonk, but he is a Wonk.  Then again, he can explain why the left wants slow growth; it’s that it means people are more dependent upon government.”  The thing is, though, that he can’t explain why his brother wanted slow growth.  Or at least wanted much slower growth than lefty Obama has wanted.  Or, if he’s wonkish enough to know why, he has so far kept it to himself.)

After reading yet another Hillary-Clinton’s-a-wonk article, circa July, shortly after she made political headlines with an addition to her website in which she assured small-business owners and people who aspire to be one that she fully understood that the biggest problem in starting and then in owning a small business is federal regulation, and that she planned to get right on that as soon as she’s inaugurated, I said to myself:

Yep.  She’s a wonk.  It’s just that she’s a wonk who thinks small businesses are regulated mainly by the federal government, and  thinks that the locale and the nature of the business are irrelevant to the type of regulations required to start and then operat a small business.

It didn’t occur to her, apparently, to not condescend to small-business owners and aspirants, and state that most small-business regulation is not by the federal government but by states and municipalities. Much less did she think that maybe she should point out that, regarding small businesses, federal regulation usually supports them as against mega-businesses that control such things as credit/debit card payment methods and fees, and as against business-sector monopolies.  That’s what the Durbin Amendment and the Sherman Antitrust Act respectively do.

Then again, in order for her to do that she’d have to have the ability to do that, as well as the willingness to do it.  Bernie Sanders has the ability to do that.  And does do it. So does Clinton’s husband, even now; he did it, extemporaneously, on some complex subject—I can’t remember what, but I read about it—when he appeared recently on some interview show.  Granted, they’re both men.  But Elizabeth Warren is a woman, and she can, and does, do it too.

Hillary Clinton speaks only in soundbites because, apparently, she thinks only in soundbites.  And because, maybe after all, and for all her feminism talk, she believes that complex discussion of such things as the Sherman Antitrust Act and the level of its enforcement (or lack of it), and of Keynesian economics, and of the actual history of federal taxation, spending, and regulation—and the actual nature of federal regulation—are subjects only for male politicians to discuss with journalists for the enlightenment of the hoi polloi.

Clinton doesn’t have to show she’s vulnerable.  But, oh, she does.

And she doesn’t realize that it is she who is really the one with the gender bias.  Or at least for whom it will forever be the 1990s.

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Scott Walker vs. the Walton Family and McDonald’s’ CEO

The left claims they’re for American workers, and they’ve got lame ideas, things like minimum wage. Instead of focusing on that, we need to talk about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go well beyond minimum wage.

Scott Walker, yesterday

Yep, raising the minimum wage and instituting policies that get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage definitely are mutually exclusive.  Which I presume is why “the left” never, ever talks about getting people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage. They’re talking about raising the minimum wage instead!

When Clinton, Sanders, Obama, whoever, proposes free community college and free or low-tuition state university access, they always make clear that those proposals are alternatives to, not in addition to, raising the minimum wage.  It’s one or the other; not both.

So really, it comes down to three alternative choices: (1) raise the minimum wage (the Democrats); (2) or make community college and state universities free or low-tuition, by supporting them through state and federal funding (the Democrats); or gutting state funding for state university and community college systems (Scott Walker).

We do indeed need to talk about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.  And talk, we will.  Or at least the Democratic primary candidates will; not sure that the Republican ones will, since neither Walker nor any other the others has, yet.  But, I mean, maybe Douglas Holtz-Eakin has some ideas that he can pass along to one or another of them.  Who knows?  Maybe to Scott Walker!  Ideas about how we get people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage, while further gutting the federal and state tax bases, at least for the wealthy and for corporations.

Of course, we also need to talk about how we get people jobs that employ those newly acquired skills and qualifications—the ones they needed to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.  Presumably jobs that pay more than the minimum wage.  Scott Walker apparently is unaware that there are huge numbers of people who have skills and qualifications for good jobs but haven’t found a good job, some of them who lost the one they had.  Or maybe he’s aware of it and wants government to get out of the way.  Let Detroit go bankrupt!  Kill the National Labor Relations Act!  And the Fair Labor Standards Act!

In any event, it’s completely unclear where people will stop in for hamburgers and fries, and where they will buy extremely cheap household items, once the fast food industry and Walmart have ceased to exist because there no longer are Americans who lack the skills and qualifications for good jobs and they’ve all found good jobs because we elected a Republican president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law that says that the way for people to get good jobs is for people to get good jobs.  Rather than, say, electing a Republican president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law that says that the way for people to get full-time jobs is for people to get full-time jobs although with no promise that they will be good jobs and instead might be full-time minimum-wage ones.*

And certainly rather than electing a Democratic president who has persuaded Congress to enact a law significantly increasing the minimum wage, thus precluding persuading Congress to enact legislation than would assist people in getting people skills and qualifications they need to get jobs that go beyond minimum wage.  And precluding even talking about it!

The good news for us Dems is that if Walker wins the nomination, we won’t have to worry about Walmart and McDonald’s exercising their First Amendment speech rights by donating to Walker’s campaign or Super PAC, since if he wins he will put them out of business.

*Paragraph edited slightly for clarity. 7/15 at 10:09 a.m.

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ADDENDUM: Okay. Just want to clarify, with the following exchange between reader Carol and me in the Comments thread:

Carol

July 14, 2015 3:11 pm

I was just curious, maybe I haven’t been listening closely, but when do Democrats state that education and the minimum wage are mutually exclusive? The minimum wage would be a short term solution to the fact that we have more and more people working in minimum wage jobs (that require a lot more skills than hamburger flipping, but hey, who cares about that discussion?) who can’t even feed their family, including those who have been pushed out of jobs that paid OK into jobs that don’t during this last and current depression. Education and training are long term solutions to meet a work world that (foolishly in most cases) wants more and more certification for jobs that don’t warrant the training. OJT really should be what should be provided, but most employers are too short-sighted and stupid to invest in their workers (see how many tolerate huge turnover when the real solution would be adequate pay and OJT). Whether education really should serve as the free training ground for employers who don’t even know what is needed is dubious. Education is always a good, but jobs training? Each business has specific skills, and from where I sit no one wants to take the time to show their employees what those are, preferring the sink or swim method. I see the massive stupidification of management as a big issue, and employees suffer.

 

Beverly Mann

July 14, 2015 3:56 pm

Damn. I forgot to say that this post is sarcasm. It’s sarcasm, Carol. The Democrats have not stated that education and the minimum wage are mutually exclusive. Scott Walker said that; the Democrats have not. The Democrats do understand that raising the minimum wage for people who right this very minute have minimum wage jobs—a large percentage of Walmart employees, fast food and other restaurant workers, hotel workers, and many, many others—does not actually preclude training people for non-minimum-wage jobs.

As [commenter] Denis Drew points out, the Germans have figured out how to train most of their workforce for non-minimum-wage jobs. And, largely because German labor has a big say in how businesses are run there, through co-determination worker councils that bring the workers into the design and manufacturing process throughout, Germany has managed also to actually have non-minimum-wage jobs available to their skilled workers, through increased productivity (the kind that economists talk about; not the kind that Jeb Bush talked about a few days ago).

Now that that’s clear ….

Added 7/14 at 4:10 p.m.

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UPDATE: Am I reading too much into this, or did Oklahoma’s Republican Party call Walmart and fast food chain minimum-wage workers who receive food stamps animals who live in national parks?

Whoa. If the Republicans keep this up, the Walmart family and fast food chain executives will start their own Super PAC.  To help Democratic candidates!  If a Republican wins the White House, their companies might have to start paying their employees enough for them to afford groceries.

Added 7/14 at 5:45 p.m.

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Okay, so Douglas Holtz-Eakin thinks that proposing policies that have been proposed before but have not been adopted (or are no longer in force) is the same as proposing policies that have been adopted and are still in place. Seriously, he completely conflates the two.

Many conservatives breathed a sigh of relief after the speech, having feared a fresh set of innovative proposals that might have required serious responses. “I think it’s a horse race between what’s more tired, her or the material,” said Douglas Holtz-Eakin of the conservative American Enterprise Institute. “There really isn’t anything new here. It’s really more of the same, and I don’t understand how that would produce an outcome different from the last six or seven years.”

Clinton speech react: ‘Is that it?’, Ben White, Politico, today

Okay, I realize that the Republicans have settled on a tactic of pretending that Democratic economic policy proposals that either never were in place or that have been repealed (e.g., Glass-Steagall) or have been dramatically altered (a progressive income tax system; e.g., large government expenditures for infrastructure, college funding, science and medical research) don’t work because they currently aren’t working.

But if Douglas Holtz-Eakin truly doesn’t understand how implementing policies that have never been implemented, and reimplementing ones that worked very well during their existence, might produce an outcome different from the last six or seven years, he’s not very smart.

The subtitle of White’s article is “The Democratic front-runner manages to underwhelm both Wall Street and its reformers in her signature economic policy speech.”  And I myself certainly would like to see an end to what feels like a repeated tease.  It’s past time for her to stop announcing (or hinting) that she’ll be announcing specific policy proposals on such-and-such day, and actually announce specific policy proposals.  The generics phase of her campaign has more than worn out its welcome, I think.

I, of course, hope that the Republicans actually expect to convince people that the George W. Bush administration’s and current Kansas’s, Wisconsin’s, New Jersey’s detaxification/disinvestment policies—the ones that were enacted, not just proposed—worked, and that earlier, far more progressive tax policies didn’t, and that the deregulation of the finance industry was a good thing and the laws that the deregulation juggernaut repealed held back the economy of the postwar decades.  That way they’ll keep up their Mad Hatter routine long enough for someone—Bernie Sanders, if not Clinton—to ask them, rhetorically, which of the policies Clinton and other Democrats are proposing are currently in place.  And which of the policies that the Republicans are proposing more and more and more of worked during the Bush administration.

Or, for that matter, during the Hoover administration.  Jeb Bush has said that the way to raise GDP substantially is for people who have part-time jobs and want, but can’t find, full-time jobs to get full-time jobs.  Isn’t that similar to what Herbert Hoover’s economic plan was in 1930, and in 1931, and in 1932?  The way to end the Great Depression was for the unemployed to get jobs?

Maybe not.  Maybe Hoover just never thought of that plan.  Jeb Bush, though, has thought of it.  And if he’s elected, we’ll see how it works.

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Taking a page from John Roberts, Jeb Bush solves the problem of workers working part-time who want to work full-time: The way to create full-time jobs for part-time workers who want, but can’t find, full-time jobs is for part-time workers who want, but can’t find, full-time jobs to start working full-time. [With awesome update!]

My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see. Which means we have to be a lot more productive, workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours.

— Jeb Bush, in an interview published today in the Manchester, NH Union Leader

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Anyone who discounts 6.5 million people stuck in part-time work & seeking full-time jobs hasnt listened to working Americans @hillaryclinton

— Jeb Bush, on Twitter later today, responding to a Tweet by Hillary Clinton that included a chart from the Economic Policy Institute showing stagnating wages in the face of dramatically rising worker productivity since the 1970s.

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The way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.

— John Robertswriting for a 4-1-4 Supreme Court plurality in 2007 in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, saying that voluntary-student-participation school race desegregation/integration plans in Seattle and Louisville (in two separate cases argued together) violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Okay, these aren’t quite the same thing, but one reminded me of the other.  Roberts conflated remedial government policy with longstanding private-sector race discrimination that resulted in the need for government remedial policy.  Bush, by contrast, identifies a problem (people who work only part-time because they are unable to find a full-time job) and thinks that’s the same as proposing a solution to the problem (how to create an economy in which everyone who wants a full-time job can get one).

Which I suppose is why everyone interpreted his comment to mean what the statement says. They assumed he knows the difference between problem and solution, between coherence and tautology, and therefore was suggesting that the way to bring about 4% annual growth in GDP is for workers to decide to work 24/7.  Silly them.

Of course, also, by his decision to use the term “productivity,” he unwittingly walked headlong into the stark facts of wage stagnation in the face of significant worker-productivity gains in the last forty years.  For which Occupy Wall Street, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are grateful.  I am, too.

This guy is dumber than a rock. The Koch brothers badly need to find a smarter puppet. Soon.  

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UPDATE:  Reader Sandwichman and I just exchanged the following comments in the Comments thread to this post:

 Sandwichman

July 10, 2015 11:53 am

Dean Baker at the Guardian (not Dean’s headline):

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jul/10/jeb-bush-work-longer-hours-economy-socialist

Beverly Mann

July 10, 2015 1:23 pm

Well, with due respect to Dean Baker, Sandwichman, I think that what Bush is suggesting is not that we emulate the old Soviet Union but instead current Russia. And that countries such as Germany, Holland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Austria do so, too. See the chart published yesterday by Hunter Schwarz online at the Washington Post.

Wow, no wonder Germany’s GDP growth has held up so poorly, and that that country’s unemployment rate was so much worse than this country’s during the aftermath of the 2008 international financial-industry crash!  [This is sarcasm, folks.  Germany’s economy held up way better than ours.]*

Seriously, folks, here’s the list:

  1. Mexico: 42.8 hours
  2. Costa Rica: 42.6
  3. Greece: 39.3
  4. Chile: 38.3
  5. Russia: 38.2
  6. Latvia: 37.3
  7. Poland: 37.0
  8. Iceland: 35.8
  9. Estonia: 35.75
  10. Hungary: 35.7
  11. Portugal: 35.7
  12. Israel: 35.6
  13. Lithuania: 35.3
  14. Ireland: 35.0
  15. United States: 34.4
  16. Czech Republic: 34.2
  17. New Zealand: 33.9
  18. Italy: 33.3
  19. Japan: 33.25
  20. Canada: 32.8
  21. Spain: 32.5
  22. United Kingdom: 32.25
  23. Australia: 32
  24. Finland: 31.6
  25. Luxembourg: 31.6
  26. Austria: 31.3
  27. Sweden: 30.9
  28. Switzerland: 30.1
  29. Slovenia: 30.0
  30. Denmark: 27.6
  31. Norway: 27.4
  32. Netherlands: 27.4
  33. Germany: 26.4

Yup.  Definitely prefer Russia’s economy to Germany’s!  Sounds like a winning argument for Bush.

Other great comments in the thread include this one by Frank Stain:

July 10, 2015 9:55 am

“This should not pass unnoticed: in trying to wriggle out of his “people need to work longer hours” gaffe, he characterized people working 30 hours a week instead of 40 as “getting in line and being dependent on government.” The scroungers! ”

Why does Jeb Bush hate stay-at-home moms?

And this one by Sandwichman:

July 9, 2015 10:28 pm

McCarthy, eh? Now I remember who Jeb reminds me of. Not Joe but Charlie.

Actually, I came this-close to adding, after my comment that the Koch brothers badly need to find a smarter puppet, that Charlie McCarthy would qualify. Wish I had!

Updated 7/10 at 2:25 p.m.

*Bracketed comment added 7/11 at 1030 p.m.

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The Bizarre Attempt to Present Bernie Sanders As the Democrats’ Donald Trump

Stranger things have happened in American politics, but the sudden surge of Democratic/populist Bernie Sanders and Republican/populist Donald Trump puts one in mind of alternate universes.

And I don’t mean Miss Universes.

Both men are holding second place in some polls behind Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, respectively. And both are steadily ascending in the polls at a greater pace than anyone could have predicted — or imagined.

Sanders, a socialist running on a platform that should send shivers up the spines of most Americans, drew his largest crowd of the season — nearly 10,000 — in Madison, Wis., last Wednesday night. The anti-establishment candidate, who wants to break up big banks and redistribute wealth, makes President Obama (and Clinton) look like robber barons by comparison.

— The unexpected rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, Kathleen Parker, Washington Post, Jul. 3

Stranger things have happened in American political journalism, but really, it’s not a shock that political pundits equate Sanders and Trump.  Not all political pundits.  Just some of them.  Several, actually; Parker’s piece is one of three or four commentary or analysis pieces I’ve read in the last few days that suggests not simply that the surge of attention and poll recognition is, in each case, unexpected, but that these two both are on the crackpot fringe.

Since Trump is appearing mentally unhinged, Sanders must be borderline-crazy, too.  After all, neither is part of his respective party’s establishment, and therefore, necessarily, both are extremists.  And equally so, since they both rose dramatically in their party’s polls during the same short period of time.

Yup, reinstituting the Glass-Steagall Act separating deposits-and-lending banks from investment-banking-and-derivatives-speculation financial institutions, and federally insuring only the former, is just like accusing Mexican immigrants of bringing drug traffic to this country and raping American women!  Not to mention babbling incoherently. The resemblance is striking, although not to me.  Especially since Glass-Steagall was in fact the law for forty-six years until its repeal in 1999.  During which time this country had several Communist presidents, including Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Yes, Elizabeth Warren may send shivers up the spines of most Americans, but a majority of Americans probably would vote for her as a presidential candidate.  Especially since she would be running against a Tea Party Republican or a George W. Bush Republican.  As will the eventual Democratic nominee.  Whether it’s Clinton or Sanders.

And while, in the opinion of many of the targeted wealthy, Parker among them, raising taxes on them to levels above those enacted under George W. Bush, and reinstating meaningful estate taxes to, say, inflation-adjusted 1960s levels, should send shivers up the spines of most Americans, including the ones who aren’t wealthy—at least the ones who don’t like safe and modern infrastructure and access to college by the non-already-upscale—it doesn’t appear, judging from poll answers, that these policy proposals would be deal-killers for a nominee who proposes them.

And while single-payer Medicare-for-all-type healthcare insurance—another of Sanders’ proposals— would solve, once and for all, problems such as these, it’s likely that most Americans shutter at the thought.  Especially those who think Medicare itself is socialized medicine and want it repealed.  And all those Democrats who considered Ted Kennedy and extremist because he fought for decades for single-payer healthcare insurance.

First among those Democrats being Claire McCaskill, who as a Clinton surrogate told an interviewer last week that Sanders couldn’t win the general election—against Scott Walker, Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush—because he’s an extremist.  Luckily for her—and for Clinton—McCaskill wasn’t asked which of Sanders’ proposed policies she, and Clinton, thought a majority of the public would consider extremist.

And which of Walker’s, Rubio’s or Bush’s she thought a majority of voters wouldn’t consider extremist.  Rubio’s proposal to repeal the estate tax completely?  Walker’s to effectively end collective bargaining in the private as well as the public sector, and his attempt to turn Wisconsin’s state university system into a lightly-funded job-training apparatus?  Jeb Bush’s Romney-esque cut-taxes-even-further-on-the-wealthy-and-corporations-and-we’ll-see-an-annual-4%-rise-in-the-GDP promise, because that worked so well for his brother?  (Glenn Hubbard for Treasury Secretary!)  Every single one of the Republican candidates’ Romney-esque cut-taxes-even-further-on-the-wealthy-and-corporations-and-we’ll-see-an-annual-4%-rise-in-the-GDP promise, because that worked so well for Jeb’s brother?

Ah, I know!  It’s their completely-deregulate-the-financial-services-industry plans!  And as a bonus, their Koch brothers’-dictated environmental policy proposals.

The point here being that while the claim of a mirror-image symmetry between Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump is preposterous, an analogy of that sort between Sanders and Walker, Rubio and Bush would be pretty close to spot-on.  And this is so even though those three rose in the polls weeks and even months before Sanders and Trump did.

Don’t think so, Ms. Parker?  Strangely enough, it is.

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What Worries Me Most About Clinton: That she may not have the intellectual capacity to discern even critically important distinctions. Including glaring ones.

Update appended, 6/13 at 12:42 p.m.

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“It should not take longer to start a business in America than it does in Canada or France. But that is the fact.”

— Hillary Clinton, during a small business discussion, Cedar Falls, Iowa, May 19, 2015 

Our antenna always goes up when a politician asserts a “fact.” Clinton made this remark in the midst of a discussion about the “perfect storm of crisis” that she said small businesses face in the United States.

She made a similar point in an article she posted on LinkedIn on May 21, but with an additional country added:  “It should not take longer to start a business in the U.S. than it does in Canada, Korea, or France.”

Clinton’s claim that it takes longer to start a business in the U.S. than in Canada or France, Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, May 22

My own antenna always goes up when I hear a politician assert as fact a generic statement that is intended to imply what I know is a falsity or that patently makes no sense.  In this instance, it was both, and, stunningly, was intended to imply a false fact that supports a key line in the Republican playbook: that federal regulation is keeping middle-class folks from starting or expanding a small business.

Marco Rubio claimed something similar in April—to which Martin O’Malley famously responded, when asked about it in an interview, “It is not true that regulation holds poor people down or regulation keeps the middle class from advancing. That’s kind of patently bulls—.”  And Jeb Bush hinted at it a couple of months earlier.

When I read about Clinton’s statements before I read Kessler’s post (I didn’t see the post until about a week after it was posted), I was absolutely dumbfounded.  As Kessler notes, Clinton complains about “red tape” in starting small businesses and says that the length of time in starting a business, caused by red tape, keeps people from starting businesses.  The claim startled me; most red tape in starting businesses is state and local red tape, not federal, and the amount and type of red tape depends almost entirely upon the type of business and factors such as whether it requires a trade license of some sort (e.g., beautician), or a liquor license, and whether a permit of some sort must be obtained.

Opening a restaurant, for example, requires local health department permits and adherence to health department rules.  It also requires procuring a physical space in which to have the restaurant, and usually also means obtaining a business loan.  Starting a home-based web-design business requires none of those things.  The incorporation process involves filing a short filled-out form with the state Secretary of State’s office and paying a fee.

Clinton doesn’t know these things?  Really?

So the generic breadth of her statement was stupefying.  She holds a law degree from Yale, was a partner in a corporate law firm, an active First Lady of a state and then of the country.  Did she really not know that most red tape in starting a business does not touch upon anything that the federal government regulates?  Or did she have something accurate and specific in mind, but rather than identifying it, indulged her penchant for talking in incoherencies apparently in order to avoid ever saying anything specific about, well, anything?

Kessler’s post answered that question.  She did indeed have something specific in question: average statistics for businesses that employ between 10 and 50 people within one month, having five owners, using start-up capital equivalent to 10 times income per capita and being engaged in industrial or commercial activities and owning no real estate.  In Los Angeles, where it takes an average of eight days to start such a business.  Whereas in Paris it takes only 4.5 days and in Toronto five days.  In New York City, though, it takes only four days.

Clinton lives near New York City and represented New York state as a senator.  She knows that New York City is in this country.

This information was taken from the World Bank website, which, Kessler says, provides statistics that “lets you compare the individual cities to countries, so New York ends up tied for 6th place — with Belgium, Iceland, South Korea, the Netherlands and Sao Tome.”  Los Angeles, he says,  is in 15th place, tied with Cyprus, Egypt, Madagascar and the Kyrgyz Republic, among others. Oh, dear. But he points to another World Bank report that notes that “the differences are so large because, in the United States, ‘company law is under state jurisdiction and there are measurable differences between the California and New York company law.’”

I knew that!  I should run for president in the Democratic primary. Every small-business owner and aspiring small-business owner knows that, so I’d have a natural constituency.  And I have the advantage of actually recognizing problems that do affect many small businesses and that the federal government can address, by regulation.  Including ones that recent Democratic congresses, together with a Democratic president, actually enacted.

Kessler comments, “So what does data about starting a business in the largest city have to do with small businesses in Iowa? Beats us.”  It surely also beats small-business owners and people who are seriously considering becoming one.  Including those who are fairly recent immigrants to this country and who don’t hold a law degree from Yale.

Kessler notes that even if Clinton were accurate in her claim that it takes longer, on average, throughout this country than in the other countries she mentioned to start small businesses generally, the difference would be a matter of a day or two.  He writes:

The World Bank’s database lists 189 countries in terms of the time required to start a business. For 2014, in first place is New Zealand, with one day. In France and Canada, along with eight other countries, it takes five days. (South Korea, along with six other countries, is listed as four days.) The United States, with 12 other countries, is listed as six days.

First of all, one extra day does not seem like much of a hindrance — so much so that, as Clinton asserted in the LinkedIn article, the fact signified the “red tape that holds back small businesses and entrepreneurs.”

This is crazy.  What, pray tell, is her point?  To show that she’s too dumb to recognize distinctions between state and federal regulation, and between one type of small business and another?  If you’ve seen one small business, you’ve seen ‘em all?  And if you’ve seen state or local regulation, you’ve seen federal regulation?

Elsewhere in her LinkedIn letter she says that it takes longer to complete small-business federal tax forms than it is to complete multi-national corporations’ federal tax forms. Maybe so, but is that because the multi-nationals keep PricewaterhouseCoopers or Deloitte on retainer and the owners of the Thai food restaurant down the road probably don’t?  She doesn’t say. She thinks the ultimate in clever political rhetoric is to make some dramatic comparison; the accuracy and even the coherence of the comparison doesn’t matter to her.

Clinton does this conflation/sweeping-two-or-more-things-together-that-need-to-be-recognizated-as-separate-things thing regularly. In her brief comment in Iowa in April in which she said she would support a constitutional amendment, if necessary, to reverse Citizens United and get “unaccountable” money out of politics, she misrepresented that Citizens United bars election laws that would require super PACs to identify their donors, and corporations to report the recipients of their political largesse.  It doesn’t.  No constitutional amendment is needed to permit such statutes and SEC, IRS and FEC regulations.

I had planned to post on all this earlier but didn’t get around to it.  But two articles published in recent days, one in the Washington Post last weekend about the 2008 Clinton campaign’s gift of snow shovels to supporters in Iowa before the caucuses, the other a Washington Post column yesterday by Katrina vanden Heuvel, prompted this post.  The snow shovels article, by David Fahrenthold, begins:

AMES, Iowa — In Phyllis Peters’s garage, there is a snow shovel. A nice one: green, shiny, with an ergonomic steel handle. It came from Hillary Rodham Clinton.

And it plays a part in a modern-day political legend, about some of the strangest money a candidate has ever spent.

Eight years ago, Peters was a volunteer for Clinton’s first presidential run. She had been an admirer of Clinton since her time as first lady. But just before Clinton lost the Iowa caucuses, her staffers did something odd: They bought shovels for Peters and the hundreds of other volunteers.

“If you’re in Iowa, you [already] have a snow shovel,” the article quotes Peters as saying.  But she accepted the gift so as not to be rude.  “For both those who gave out the shovels and those who received them,” the article says, “they came to symbolize a candidate who never quite got their home state.”

Clinton grew up in a suburb of Chicago, then spent four winters in Wellesley, MA.  That was decades ago.  But, geeez.  She didn’t get cold-climate folks?

Vanden Heuvel’s column, titled “A new definition of freedom in America,” argues that the term “freedom” has had different meanings in different political eras, and that it’s imperative now that the Democratic presidential nominee, presumably Clinton, move aggressively away from the Conservative Movement definition of freedom as economic laisse faire, and reinstitute and expand upon FDR’s famous Four Freedoms. She writes:

This is Hillary Clinton’s historic opportunity. The greatest threat to freedom now is posed by the entrenched few that use their resources and influence to rig the rules to protect their privileges. She would do a great service for the country — and for her own political prospects — by offering a far more expansive American view of what freedom requires, and what threatens it.

Clinton should make it clear to Americans that in a modern, globalized world, we are in the midst of a fierce struggle between economic royalists and a democratic citizenry. If we are to protect our freedoms, citizens must mobilize to take back government from the few, to clean out the corruption and to curb the oppressive power of the modern day economic royalists.

But this requires a candidate who is both mentally quick enough and willing to respond, accurately and in specifics, to the Republican anti-regulation, supply-side-economics nonsense.  Clinton doesn’t seem like she has either of these attributes.

Clinton appears to think that all that matters is the generic ideas people have about what she stands for, and a few specific policy proposals all in good time.  She’s wrong.  She needs to respond, in full oral statements, using clear fact-based arguments, to the anti-government policy cant of the Republican sheep herd, from which her opponent eventually will come.  But I don’t think she can.

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ADDENDUM: I posted a comment in response to a comment by Mark Jamison that says in part:

One thing that comes through loud and clear from her attempt to Sister Souljah small-business owners and aspirants, Mark, is that she thinks Democrats NEED a Sister Souljah moment for small-business owners and aspirants. Dick Durbin could educate her on that, simply by referring her to what’s known as the Durbin Amendment.

Another thing that comes across is that, just as she didn’t realize in 2008 that Iowans all have snow shovels, she apparently doesn’t recognize that small-business owners and aspirants want solutions to problems that they actually have, and that that requires knowing the specifics of the problem, including the cause.

I want to make clear that I think the concerns of small-business owners are very much appropriate issues for progressive Democratic politicians to address. And that progressive Democratic elected officials do address them–the Durbin amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act being an example.  What Democratic candidates and officeholders should not do is create straw men for them to swat down.

Added. 6/10 at 5:41 p.m.

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UPDATE: Naked Capitalism’s Yves Smith yesterday linked to this post (thanks, Yves!), and the link spawned a surprisingly long exchange of comments there, started by reader Carolinian, who noted and linked to a Harpers piece from last year that makes similar or complementary arguments.

Carolinian notes in one of her comments in that thread that Clinton’s campaign is hellbent on getting across the claim that Clinton is a wonk–something that I’d planned to post on here at AB.  A day or two after I read the articles about Clinton’s federal-red-tape-is-discouraging-people-from-starting-small-businesses tack, I read two articles, one by Peter Beinart on The Atlantic website (I can’t remember where I read the other, or who wrote it), assuring readers that Clinton is a wonk. I remember thinking, “OK, got it. Clinton is a wonk.  It’s just that she’s a wonk who thinks most small businesses need permits or licenses from the federal government in order to open.  And just this morning I read two more along that line, one of them (in Politico, I think), which says that her staff is pushing the “wonk” moniker because it’s accurate: that’s what she is.

The gist of these articles is that she really cares about policy–the nitty-gritty of policy, especially how best to achieve a policy goal.  One problem with that, though, is that she keeps making sing-songy soundbite statements that are either inaccurate or misleading or irrelevant or downright incoherent.

Clinton and her staff seem to be misconstruing the meaning of “wonk,” which does including within it the ability to understand the meaning and implications of the statistics and other facts–and recognize the actual sources of those facts, as distinguished from the cliches that the Republicans are selling.  The problems that people have in trying to start a business almost never involve federal red tape.  By saying otherwise, Clinton’s now made clear that she’s no wonk.

Updated 6/13 at 12:42 p.m.

 

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Jeb Bush discovers a hypothetical he’s willing to address—and assures us that he, unlike Obama, would have ensured a second Great Depression. Jeb for President!

Questioned by a voter inside a sports bar about whether there is “space” between himself and his older brother on any issues, Bush offered a clear critique.

“Are there differences? Yeah, I mean, sure,” Bush said. “I think that in Washington during my brother’s time, Republicans spent too much money. I think he could have used the veto power — he didn’t have line-item veto power, but he could have brought budget discipline to Washington, D.C. That seems kind of quaint right now given the fact that after he left, budget deficits and spending just like lit up astronomically. But having constraints on spending across the board during his time would have been a good thing.”

—  Jeb Bush: George W. spent too much money, Eli Stokols, Politico, yesterday

Okay, so Bush has now found a hypothetical that he wants to discuss.  Two hypotheticals, actually: (1) what his fiscal policies would have been between Jan. 2001 and Jan. 2009; and (2) what his fiscal policies would have been between Jan. 2009 and, oh—at what point did the federal budget deficit decline dramatically?  2013? And … what is the deficit now, as compared with the Bush years?  And what role did the Bush tax cuts play in that?

But really, since these are to separate hypotheticals, we—well, the people who actually can ask and maybe get an answer (i.e., the news media; Hillary Clinton)—should ask two sets of questions.

First, we (they) should ask what spending, specifically, Jeb Bush would not have authorized during his brother’s presidency that his brother authorized.  The military spending for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?  The massive spending on increased security after 9/11?  The Medicare Part D prescription-drug law?  The frantic stopgap finance-industry bailout that George Bush’s Treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, put together in the fall of 2008 in order to try to fend off a near-complete collapse of the banking system?

Or maybe the initial part of the auto-industry bailout, without which George Bush said the unemployment rate would have jumped to about 20%?

So, would Jeb Bush—knowing then what we know now, about the near-collapse of the banking system, and of the economy, late in his brother’s presidency, and the fact that the Iraq war went on and on and on—have supported his brother’s two massive tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy, during his first term?

Just askin’.  Although I’d bet that’s a hypothetical that he’d take even longer to answer than the five days it took him to answer the infamous Iraq one.  Maybe even as long as 18 months.

Then, of course, there’s that second hypothetical that Bush answered yesterday—the one in which he said the budget deficits at the end of his brother’s term seem “kind of quaint right now given the fact that after he left, budget deficits and spending just like lit up astronomically,” indicating that he (Jeb) thinks Obama, in the face of the collapsing economy and banking system, should have … what, exactly?

Cut funding for unemployment compensation, or capped it at its 2007 level?  Refused to allow extensions of it?  Cut funding for food stamp access, or capped it at its 2007 level?

Ended the financial industry bailout begun under his brother?

Let Detroit go bankrupt?  (That wasn’t such a winning tack for Mitt Romney.  But, I mean, ya never know. …)

Ah. Maybe he means the stimulus bill, which provided funding for job training and college for hundreds of thousands of people, especially in states hardest hit by the collapse of the economy.  States like Michigan, Ohio, Nevada, Florida.  And the direct spending from that bill, on infrastructure projects and such.  Y’know, the stuff that virtually all mainstream economists now say helped keep the unemployment rate from reaching Great Depression levels and helped start the recovery.

It’s not surprising, I suppose, that the political media played up Bush’s comments yesterday–at least in headlines and soundbites if not in the actual reportage itself by reporters who wrote full articles about the comments (see, e.g. the quote at the opening of this post, and the title given the article)–as Bush Brother v. Bush Brother.  Because of course it’s the family saga, not the specifics of the policies, that matter, right?*

And some mainstream political reporters, including a couple of them from Politico, where (unrelatedly) the above quotes were originally published, couldn’t analyze their way out of a paper bag.  And Clinton herself pretty clearly has settled on a campaign of mindless clichés, Republican soundbites about federal regulation, and cutesy gimmicks.  Does she really not understand that most small business red tape has nothing at all to do with federal regulations? Or does she just think that most people don’t know the difference between private-bank business-loan operations and federal regulation, and between state and local business regulations—a.k.a., red tape—and federal regulations?  And that no one will ask her what regulations, exactly, she thinks are holding back small-business owners and aspiring small-business owners?

On that last point, she may be right, since she has almost no direct contact with the press and no contact at all with everyday Americans who haven’t been prescreened as props.

So maybe Bernie Sanders or Martin O’Malley—or Elizabeth Warren—will question the specifics of Jeb Bush’s answers to those hypotheticals.  And the specifics of Clinton’s claim that federal regulations are hindering small business.  Like, which federal regulations, specifically?  And maybe, at least regarding Bush’s, a Dem SuperPAC that is not coordinating with Clinton and her silly campaign, will run web ads or TV ads eventually that do that.

And maybe Sanders, O’Malley, Warren, or a progressive Democratic SuperPAC will point out that the biggest hindrance to small business loan availability, by far, is not federal regulation, or even state or local regulation, but instead federal deregulation—of the banking system.  Specifically, the disastrous repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.  And mention the incessant Republican push to repeal the Dodd-Frank bank-regulation law, and their fight against instituting the Volker Rule.

Clinton is right that “[t]oo many regulatory and licensing requirements are uneven and uncertain” and that “[i]t should not take longer to start a business in the U.S. than it does in Canada, Korea, or France.” But small-business regulation is mostly, and licensing is entirely, state and local, not federal.  So maybe she’ll get around to pointing that out and detailing what she, as president, would propose as a national fix.  In any event she should not further the Republican misrepresentation that small-business regulation and licensing is done by the federal government. With the exception of federal tax laws, including FICA tax laws, and environmental laws and worker-safety laws, “cutting the red tape that holds back small businesses and entrepreneurs” means tackling state and local, not federal, red tape.

As for my earlier dismay at Clinton’s senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan’s Fox News-ish claim that Democrats support obstacles for small businesses, and are against small businesses having easy access to loans—we don’t want them to compete with Walmart, see—I now get it.  Sadly. Blame imagined Democratic anti-small-business sentiment, and big federal gummint, rather than the deregulated banking industry, for the labyrinthine high-hurdle event that is the small-business loan situation now.

Clinton speaks of her father’s success in opening and running a very profitable small business. His business loans, though, weren’t from banks competing for profits with multinational hedge funds masquerading as JPMorgan Chase Bank, Citibank and Bank of America.

But, as for Jeb Bush, at least he’s honest.  He’s told us now that had he, instead of Obama, been president in the aftermath of his brother’s presidency, he’d have ensured a complete collapse of the economy.  Vote for Jeb!

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