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

Clinton Announces When She Will Disclose Her Healthcare Insurance Improvement Plan: She’ll announce it just as soon as the Republican presidential candidates tell us theirs. [Typo in sentence referencing Max Ehrenfreund’s Wonkblog post corrected 3/2 at 2:28 p.m.]

Paul Krugman has been incessantly complaining about some Sanders supporters who accuse him and other high-profile Sanders critics, especially academics, of conflict of interest. The Sanders supporters allege all manner of self-interested reasons for the Sanders animus, much of it (including Krugman’s) expressed with vitriol.

I’m not among the Sanders supporters who subscribe to the academics-who-want-a-position-in-the-Clinton-White-House general theory.  And making that charge against Krugman is ridiculous.  But there is one virulently anti-Sanders healthcare economist who I’m betting is motivated exactly by personal ambition: Emory University’s Kenneth Thorpe.*

Thorpe, a Clinton administration healthcare official, gets his Sanders’-single-payer-critique cred because he worked on the failed Vermont single-payer plan.  Just before it was about to begin being implemented last year, the governor, a supporter of the plan, agreed to kill it because it became clear that its costs would significantly exceed former projections.

Weirdly, the failure of the Vermont plan is used, by Thorpe and others, as evidence that single-payer could not be cost-effective nationally.  As if the tiny state of Vermont has the same contractual bargaining power, regulatory power, medical training funding power, and any other relevant power as the federal government has.

Thorpe recently made big news with a report that deconstructed the Sanders plan as little more than witchcraft in its cost savings and costs overall and in its costs to this or that entity—the federal government, the states, etc.  But in a January 29 response published at Huffington Post, two healthcare economists, David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler—both with credentials at least as impressive as Thorpe’s—deconstructed the Thorpe deconstruction as, well, odd in light of certain facts.  Including several that Thorpe earlier had used.

Not to worry.  Thorpe last week came up with a new headline grabber, this one likely intended to respond to us Sanders supporters who think Sanders would do better in November against Trump than Clinton would.  (Or, it now seems likely, courtesy largely of elderly and middle-aged Southern African-Americans, will.)  It is an issue that this week has become red hot now that Trump is the probable Republican nominee.  And as of this week we Sanders supporters are no longer alone in thinking that Clinton is not quite the perfect candidate to compete against Trump.  According to the NYT, the Clinton campaign itself now shares our concern.

The Washington Post Wonkblog writer Max Ehrenfreund on February 25 summarized Thorpe’s headline grabber thusly:**

Sanders estimates a middle-class family of four would pay an annual premium of $466 under his plan, with no deductible or co-pays. Less affluent households would pay less than that, or nothing at all.

But for at least 72 percent of households enrolled in Medicaid — in which someone is working — the costs of Sanders’s plan would exceed the benefits, according to an analysis by Kenneth Thorpe, a public-health expert at Emory University.

That figure includes 5.7 million households, or 14.5 million people — among them, 4.2 million Hispanic recipients and 2.5 million black recipients. The requirements for eligibility for Medicaid vary widely by state, so that group includes some households living in poverty as well as some that are modestly better off.

How? Well:

“The vast majority of low-income Medicaid workers, who are probably predominantly minority, are going to end up paying more in terms of payroll taxes, and aren’t going to receive really any financial benefits,” said Thorpe, a former Clinton administration health official.

Many lower-income people are already insured or eligible for insurance under Medicaid, at least in the states that expanded the program under President Obama’s health-care reform. Many Medicaid beneficiaries also work, and those workers’ wages would likely decline due to the additional 6.2 percent payroll tax the proposal would levy on their employers.

The lengthy blog post is titled “Study: Bernie Sanders’s health plan is actually kind of a train wreck for the poor.”

That, presumably, is because of course Sanders could not, or at least would not, tweak the plan to remove the payroll tax for people who qualify for Medicaid under current federal law.  Because although the ACA is a very complex and very lengthy statute that took a year of drafting and amending to finalize, Sanders surely has thought of every possible issue and when that one came up he simply said, “Too bad.”

Sort of like Hillary Clinton, who regularly professes plans to build on Obamacare and move toward universal coverage for all—$10,000 deductibles?  No prob.—but who never hints at what her building plans are, and, curiously, is never asked.  Not by the likes of Thorpe or Krugman.  And not by the likes of anyone else I know of.

But she’s definitely working on a plan for that move-toward-universal-coverage thing, and, as with the release of the transcripts of her highly-compensated speeches to large finance-industry and other big-corporate players, she’ll give us a hint about how she plans to do that the very minute after the Republican presidential candidates outline their plans to move toward universal healthcare coverage.

Or instead, she could refer us to Thorpe.  Since he will again be a healthcare official in the Clinton administration.

*This entire paragraph was inadvertently deleted before the post was published. So now it’s back.  And the post makes sense!

____

UPDATE:  Reader J.Goodwin and I just exchanged these comments in the Comments thread:

J.Goodwin

March 1, 2016 6:08 pm

Is there a reason we should anticipate that it would be significantly different than the Health Security Act?

I.e. larger federal subsidies and a stronger employer mandate than the ACA?

 

Me

March 1, 2016 6:54 pm

I think it wouldn’t be anything at all, J.Goodwin. I think it’s outrageous of her to keep saying generically that she wants to build on the ACA without saying what she wants to do, yet criticize Sanders for his plan.

And I think it’s outrageous of the Hillary shillary economists brigade–Thorpe, but Krugman too, and probably others–for not mentioning that she has said nothing at all about what she has in mind, yet keeps saying she has, well, something in mind.

Then again, I don’t know why Sanders hasn’t pointed out that she’s taking a page out of the Republican playbook: just keep saying you plan to do something about the uninsured; just don’t say what that is.

Added 3/1 at 6:59 p.m.

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**Sentence edited and separated from preceding paragraph, to make sense. 3/2 at 2:19 p.m.

Gotta tell ya, Microsoft updated its Office 365 last week, and since then I’ve had nothing but big problems trying to write anything using Word.  With this post, two main parts were just missing from the post by the time I pasted it into AB’s new-post function. There was the mysteriously deleted paragraph that I reinserted last night, and there was a sentence between this now-edited one and the preceding paragraph, and they were two separate paragraphs, as they are now.

This post is not the only thing that the Word update has made very hard for me to write.  I am not happy about this, and do not look forward to calling Microsoft and having them FIX THE SETTINGS SO THAT I CAN USE WORD AGAIN.

Okay. Rant done.  Now back to trashing pols and economists.

I’m very grateful to Yves Smith for reposting this post at Naked Capitalism this morning, and I’ve now posted the following comment to the repost there:

POST SHOULD READ:

“… Not to worry.  Thorpe last week came up with a new headline grabber, this one likely intended to respond to us Sanders supporters who think Sanders would do better in November against Trump than Clinton would.  (Or, it now seems likely, courtesy largely of elderly and middle-aged Southern African-Americans, will.)  It is an issue that this week has become red hot now that Trump is the probable Republican nominee.  And as of this week we Sanders supporters are no longer alone in thinking that Clinton is not quite the perfect candidate to compete against Trump.  According to the NYT, the Clinton campaign itself now shares our concern.

“The Washington Post Wonkblog writer Max Ehrenfreund on February 25 summarized Thorpe’s headline grabber thusly:”

I just corrected the original post at Angry Bear and added a note at the bottom raging about Microsoft’s update to Office 365 that has caused big, big problems for me in drafting anything in Word.  In this case it mysteriously deleted an entire paragraph, which I reinserted last night, and also a sentence that had prefaced the one mentioning Ehrenfreund’s blog post and making clear that his post was about Thorpe’s latest attempt to take down Sanders’ healthcare plan, not about the Clinton campaign’s concerns about the strength of Trump’s candidacy and problems with her own.

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Republicans Have Two Choices: Fall in Line or Sign Up as Hillary’s Oppo Research Attackers against Trump

Not a single R vote has been cast as I type this but all the smart money is on Trump running the win table tomorrow with the exception of maybe Texas. This may not translate into the hugest (or Yuuuugest) pot of delegates compared to the other but will firmly establish the R race as Trump vs the Others.

And the Others have a choice between now and the Conventions. Do Hillary’s dirty work for her while she sits back and triangulates between left, center and center right, saving her own attacks dogs like David Brock for the General. Or just pivot and sign up like Christie and Brewer and Sessions as officer/supporters of the Army of El Douche.

For example Trump’s weaseling around the KKK issue elicited a response from Clinton that was about as hard hitting as “My that wasn’t a nice thing to say”. Because for this weekend at least she doesn’t have to make the case that Trump is the White Supremacist candidate: his new supporters are making that clear as day and his erstwhile R opponents are forced to make hay by trying to shame Trump’s base with accusations of racism. Which given the history of the R’s Southern Strategy since 1968 might as well be the illustration of ‘cognitive dissonance’ in Webster’s Dictionary.

Will the Republican Establishment allow Rubio to wage all out war on Trump between now and June? When that looks to drive up Trumps negatives beyond their already high levels for November? That is de facto acting as Hilary’s Oppo Research Deployment Team? I wish I had answers as good as the question. Over to you all. For live commenting the day time developments or just frankly speculating on tomorrow evenings results. And the week after. And the three months after that.

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Democrats and Progressives need to accept the likelihood that their nominee will be facing Trump in November. And they need to seriously consider what that actually means. [Edited. Cringe-inducing cut-and-paste typo corrected**.]

— Clinton [at a CNN-sponsored town hall last night in South Carolina] promised to go hard after Wall Street. The former Secretary of State faced criticism in a different department: her failure to release transcripts of paid speeches given to Goldman Sachs. “Sure, I’ll do it if everybody else does,” the former Secretary demurred, circling back to a familiar refrain after being pressed by moderator Chris Cuomo. “But this is about whether I have the best plan to go after Wall Street,” she said. “Why is there one standard for me and not for everybody else?” [All boldface in original.]

— James Hohmann, the Washington Post’s PowerPost blog, today

Okay, you probably have figured out the answer to Clinton’s question all by yourselves: She, unlike, say, Marco Rubio, who wants Dodd-Frank repealed and replaced with no financial-industry regulation at all, and who wants also to eliminate the capital gains tax—completely eliminate it—is a Democrat who has proposed a detailed plan to regulate some aspects of the financial services industry but believes that nothing beyond the provisions in Dodd-Frank is necessary regarding actual banks.

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Ted Cruz says that if one of his daughters as a young adult joins the Navy and her boat strays into the territorial waters of an unfriendly country whose own Navy then holds the boat and crew, he would want the president to torpedo diplomatic discussions for their release by speaking belligerently about it on national television hours after the incident began.*

I can’t remember which network I watched the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, but one of the post-speech commentators was Hugh Hewitt, a winger talk radio host whom I had never heard of until he participated as a questioner in one of the earlier Republican debates this cycle. Hewitt began his commentary by saying that the speech seemed very off to him because, well, first and foremost, Obama had been silent about the 10 sailors being held by Iran on their boats in the Persian Gulf since that morning.  Hewitt was shocked.  And angry.

Which caused me to wonder whether it had occurred to him that, y’know, intense diplomatic discussion for the prompt release of the sailors might be underway.  Or whether it had occurred to him but that he thought the sailors’ quick release wasn’t as important as public, verbal belligerence toward an unfriendly country.

Not sure about that; I haven’t followed Hewitt’s post-release-of-the-sailors-the-next-morning comments on the matter.  And anyway, Hewitt isn’t running for president.  Or for anything, to my knowledge, other than a radio-ratings sweepstake victory.

Ted Cruz, of course, is running for president.  I watched the debate last night for about a half-minute.  Literally; about 30 seconds.  That was the half-minute or so after one of the hosts asked Cruz his first question, something about the economy, and Cruz was beginning his answer by saying that he would answer the question about the economy in a moment, but first wanted to express his outrage that Obama had not mentioned the sailors Iran was holding in Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf right during the very hour when Obama was addressing the country on the state of the union.  This was nearly 48 hours after the sailors had been released after being held on their own ships for about 24 hours.

I read recently that Cruz has expressed regret that he did not serve in the military. But the fact is that he did not serve in the military.  If he wins his party’s nomination and begins campaigning at VFW halls and events, Clinton or Sanders, the Dem nominee, should mention when campaigning at veterans events and meeting halls that Cruz thinks that the wellbeing of military personnel is trivial as compared with political opportunism.  As president, Cruz would rather score political points with tough-on-Communism-er-Mullahism bellicosity than secure the quick release of military personnel held then-only- briefly by an unfriendly nation whose territorial waters or land the military personnel had accidentally breached.

And that he’s now made clear that if an unfriendly country’s Naval vessel strays into U.S. territorial waters, he as president would shrug and politely allow them to go on their way.

In a race in which the top two Republican contenders are so very casual about the wellbeing of deployed members of the military—when Trump called John McCain a loser because he had been captured by the enemy in Vietnam when his plane was shot down, he insulted not only McCain but also (just as examples, from WWII) soldiers captured in the Philippines who died during the Bataan Death March and those who survived it, the paratroopers killed or taken prisoner after being dropped behind enemy lines in preparation for the D-Day invasion or the invasion of Leyte Island or Luzon Island or earlier at Guadalcanal, the Marines who died on Iwo Jima, those killed or captured during the Battle of the Bulge, the bomber and torpedo pilots killed or captured after taking off from one of the four aircraft carriers during the Battle of Midway, the many killed when their submarine or ship was torpedoed in the Pacific, those killed or captured as they stormed the beaches at Normandy, those killed in North Africa under Patton’s command, and so many, many more—this is a party whose base apparently does not actually care very much after all about the welfare of deployed military personnel.

The base’s standard bearers, in any event, have other priorities: their own political ambition. Deployed members of the military, current or former, are just like everyone and everything else. They’re fair game as collateral damage in the service of others’ political career advancement.

In the space of about 30 seconds last night, I’d seen more than enough.

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*Title edited for clarity. (Minor editing elsewhere, as well.) 1/15 at 7:53 p.m.

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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

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

Bill Clinton had a line during his 1992 campaign that he said, mantra-like, so often in fact that eventually it lost its meaning and was just a cringe-inducing song-like chorus.  The line, the slogan, was, “People who work hard and play by the rules.”  It was—until he repeated it to a point well beyond when people actually would think of its meaning when they heard it, rather than just cringe or role their eyes—a very effective campaign mantra and also one that said something meaningful.  And it’s a line that I’ve thought of repeatedly since Thursday night’s debate.

Marco Rubio neither works hard nor plays by the rules.  Except, of course, the rules that politicians these days play by, although Rubio has throughout his political career—which is to say, virtually throughout his adult life once he graduated from law school—been jaw-droppingly adept at it, finding two billionaires to sponsor his political career and shore up his personal finances. One of them is human, the other is a corporate person.

The corporate person is GEO Group, the second-largest private, for-profit prison company in the United States—is there another country that has a private-prisons industry?  I have no idea—and whose company’s only client is government entities.  Including the State of Florida, thanks to Rubio during his tenure as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives (of billionaires, human and corporate).  The other is Miami billionaire Norman Braman.

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.

Regarding GEO-Group-as-Rubio-family-financier, the first article about it (to my knowledge) in a major national publication was by Staten Island-based freelance writer Michael Cohen published in the Washington Post on April 28 of this year.  Its title is “How for-profit prisons have become the biggest lobby no one is talking about.”  Its subtitle is “Sen. Marco Rubio is one of the biggest beneficiaries.”  Among its paragraphs about Rubio is this one:

Marco Rubio is one of the best examples of the private prison industry’s growing political influence, a connection that deserves far more attention now that he’s officially launched a presidential bid. The U.S. senator has a history of close ties to the nation’s second-largest for-profit prison company, GEO Group, stretching back to his days as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. While Rubio was leading the House, GEO was awarded a state government contract for a $110 million prison soon after Rubio hired an economic consultant who had been a trustee for a GEO real estate trust. Over his career, Rubio has received nearly $40,000 in campaign donations from GEO, making him the Senate’s top career recipient of contributions from the company. (Rubio’s office did not respond to requests for comment.)

The statute of limitations has run on potential public corruption charges under the federal criminal code.  But many public officials have been charged and convicted for conduct that bears, let’s just say, a resemblance to Rubio’s. Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell would dispute that his was one such case, since McDonnell contends that when he pushed that vitamin supplement in exchange for $165,000 (or whatever the amount was) in gifts and sweetheart loans, he did so not in his official capacity but as a private individual.

Then there is the curious case of Norman Braman, Florida tax policy when Rubio was speaker of the Florida House, and Rubio’s job teaching Political Science at a Florida public university courtesy of a newly created and paid for in full by Braman after Rubio left the Florida House in order to run full-time for the U.S. Senate.  (Full time except for that adjunct teaching position, of course.)  In an article published Monday on Alternet, Lou Dubose of the Washington Spectator summarized the details as revealed earlier by The New York Times:

In an interview with The New York Times, the senator described Norman Braman, a Miami billionaire who once owned the Philadelphia Eagles and now sells BMWs, Rolls-Royces, Cadillacs, Audis and Bugatis, as “a father figure who had given him advice on everything, from what books to read to how to manage a staff.”

Braman, the Times reported, gave Rubio more than advice.

He contributed $255,000 to an advocacy group Rubio formed to lobby for one of his signature-mark initiatives while he was speaker of the Florida House of Representatives: a dramatic reduction of property taxes and increase in the state sales tax.

When Rubio left state government, he got a job teaching at Florida International University, committing to raise his salary from private donors. Braman contributed $100,000 to the university, earmarked for Rubio’s salary.

Braman donated to Rubio’s U.S. Senate campaign, and hired Rubio as a lawyer for seven months while he campaigned. He hired Rubio’s wife, and her company, to work for his charitable foundation. And he is reported to have committed $10 million to Rubio’s presidential campaign.

The New York Times reporters suggested that Rubio’s involvement with Braman will lead to a more thorough examination of the Florida Senator’s personal finances as the presidential campaign continues.

Dubose’s article is titled “Marco Rubio’s Financial Messes” and subtitled “Fishy financials don’t make for a great campaign.”  And, really, they don’t.

Rubio’s debate riposte—not about any of this, which he wasn’t asked about, but to a question about problems with his and his wife’s handling of their family’s cash flow—was that, well, he unlike Bush and Trump comes from a family of very modest means, and as an adult he received no financial assistance from his parents.  This presumably will do double duty as a response to questions about what the conduct that many people, I suspect, will view as amounting to public corruption.  But it’s a line that will continue to work only until someone other than me—to reiterate, e.g., Trump, Sanders, Clinton, or journalists—points out that many, many people who come from families of very modest means actually do work hard and do play by the rules.

Many of them, like Rubio’s mother, whom he mentioned during the debate in reference to Medicare and Social Security—he said she relies on them—are weak as people.  So, too, is he, by his own admission, for allowing his mother to rely on those federal programs rather than supporting her, including paying her healthcare costs.  Like people did in the old days. I was unaware of this admission by him, and in fact was unaware that he thinks Medicare and Social Security weaken us as people, until I read Steve Benen’s post yesterday on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC blog (h/t Paul Waldman):

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.”

That same record (video, actually) includes, specifically, Rubio’s statement that Medicare and Social Security have made us as a people lazy.

It will be a relief to many that as long as Mrs. Rubio is alive, Medicare and Social Security will be safe under a Rubio presidency.  Enabling the lazy Rubio to avoid having to support her.

The Democrats can only hope that Marco Rubio will be the Republican nominee for president.  Our current campaign finance system reduces most American politicians to ventriloquists’ puppets, but Rubio is unmistakably Charlie McCarthy reincarnate.  To the point of comedy.  Like the original Charlie McCarthy.  Next time you hear or see him speak, just think of how comfortably he would fit on Edgar Bergen’s lap.*

A week or two ago I read—I don’t remember where—that there is a Super PAC tied to Rubio that has a huge amount of funding but only one donor, whose identity is anonymous.  Rubio indeed would fit perfectly on Edgar Bergen’s lap, but here’s betting that that donor isn’t Edgar Bergen.

—-

*Link to Paul Krugman’s blog post from this morning titled “Policy and Character” added. 10/30 at 11:01 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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