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There are limits to the analogy between Clinton’s 2008 primary contest with Obama and Sanders’s primary contest now with her. Clinton doesn’t get that. But she needs to figure it out because the differences matter.

We got to the end in June, and I did not put down conditions. I didn’t say, ‘you know what, if Senator Obama does X, Y, and Z, maybe I’ll support him.’ I said, ‘I’m supporting Senator Obama, because no matter what our differences might be, they pale in comparison to the differences between us and Republicans.’ That’s what I did.

At that time, 40 percent of my supporters said they would not support him. So from the time I withdrew, until the time I nominated him — I nominated him at the convention in Denver — I spent an enormous amount of time convincing my supporters to support him. And I’m happy to say the vast majority did. That’s certainly what I did and I hope that we will see the same this year.

— Hillary Clinton, at an MSNBC town hall-style event, Apr. 21

That is true.  Six days after she lost the California primary to Obama in early June 2008 she made a gracious speech strongly endorsing Obama and urging her supporters to support him, and repeated it in a primetime speech at the Convention.

Which almost certainly is what Sanders will do, almost exactly.  But what he also will do is attempt to play a role in the drafting of the party platform.  And when he endorses Clinton and then campaigns for her he will point out both that Trump’s actual fiscal-policy and healthcare policy proposals, published on his website, are geared toward gaining favor with the Republican Party elite, especially the donors who have been (very) effectively financing the so-called think tanks that draft and dictate Republican Party dogma and have been doing so for several decades now.

And Sanders also will remind the public that he remains a senator, as does Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown and three or four others–among them now Chris Murphy of Connecticut, he made clear a day or two ago in an eloquent statement–who comprise the Senate’s contingent of what’s often referred to as the Warren wing of the Party.

Which is why it is so off-base, so missing the point, for Clinton and many pundits to claim that Sanders’s primary campaign and his decision to remain an active candidate seeking additional elected delegates in the remaining primary and caucus states endanger Clinton’s, and the down-ballot candidates’, chances in the general election.  Because of critical distinctions between the nature of Obama-vs.-Clinton in 2008 and Clinton-vs.-Sanders now, the very opposite is likely true: There were few significant distinctions between Obama’s and Clinton’s domestic-policy proposals, but fairly large distinctions between some of Clinton’s and some of Sanders’.

The main policy distinction between Clinton and Obama in 2008 was on foreign policy. Clinton as a senator had voted in favor of the Iraq war authorization.  Obama, not yet a member of Congress, nonetheless had publicly voiced opposition to it.  The virulently angry Clinton supporters—the 40 percent of her backers who, if the poll she referenced was accurate, thought in June 2008 that they would not vote for Obama that November—almost certainly were mostly middle-aged women, many of them upscale career women like her, and older women, who were angry at Obama for halting the road to the presidency for a woman.  They were not, suffice it to say, pro-Iraq war voters; instead, for them the chance to see woman elected president was paramount. Policy differences, such as they were between two candidates, were secondary.

As Paul Krugman often reminds, the key domestic policy difference between Obama and Clinton was Clinton’s support of an individual mandate to obtain healthcare insurance as a key part of her detailed healthcare-insurance proposal, and Obama’s rather craven opposition to the mandate in his own proposal.  As someone who supported John Edwards in 2008 until it became clear that the race was between Clinton and Obama, but who remembers well that it was Edwards who brought healthcare insurance into the primary contest, proposing a plan that Clinton quickly adopted almost in full as her own because Edwards was gaining media and voter admiration for making it an issue—and who was not pleased that Obama needed to be prodded to propose his own plan and then proposed one that clearly was weaker than Edwards’s and Clinton’s—I seriously considered switching my allegiance to Clinton rather than to Obama.

The deciding factor for me then in choosing Obama?  That I didn’t want another triangulator as a Democratic president, and figured that while Clinton surely would be that, Obama only might be one.  He wasn’t particularly specific about most domestic-policy positions, something that annoyed ad concerned me.  But he was promising change.

Clinton fails at her own (rather large) risk to recognize the differences between the 2008 primary contest and this one, and why Sanders’ campaign is helping her own chances in the general election—a well as those of down-ballot candidates.  To illustrate the key differences between then and now, I’m selecting excerpts from two campaign reports, one by Baltimore Sun political reporters Kate Linthicum and Chris Megerian, from April 24, the other a lengthy Campaign Stops blog post by New York Times correspondent Emma Roller. Both reports are from

Linthicum and Megerian write from the campaign trail in Reading, PA:

In recent months, Bernie Sanders has transformed Dennis Brandau from a guy who hated politics into a first-time voter. On Tuesday, the 29-year-old line cook will proudly cast a ballot for the Vermont senator in Pennsylvania’s Democratic presidential primary.

But the bruising campaign this year also has turned Brandau into a fierce opponent of the Democratic front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He says he has a hard time imagining backing her this fall if she wins the nomination.

“I don’t know if I can vote for her,” Brandau said. “I don’t even want to hear her talk.”

Sanders’ chances of winning the nomination have dimmed since his 16-point loss to Clinton in last week’s New York primary. Polls show he faces an uphill race in several of the five Eastern states that vote on Tuesday, as well as in California’s June 7 primary.

Some of his supporters remain so steadfast, however, that a #BernieOrBust movement has picked up momentum on Twitter. So has an online pledge for supporters who vow to vote for Sanders as a write-in candidate if he loses the nomination.

Roller reports, also from Reading:

KEITH MANDICH had been to this theater before, to see John Mellencamp.

Now Mr. Mandich, a retired steelworker, was back in downtown Reading, Pa., to see another guy he thought of as a hero for working-­class America: Senator Bernie Sanders.

In his bid for the Democratic nomination, Mr. Sanders has nurtured vocal support from young, college-­educated liberals. But he also has fervent support from people who remember the era of well­-paying union jobs at manufacturing plants — and who are very aware of how far we are from that time.

“I just like Bernie because he’s old like me,” joked Mack Richards, 70, another retired steelworker at the Reading event. Pennsylvania is among the five states holding a primary on Tuesday, and it has the most delegates at stake. Since neither party has locked up its nominee yet, the state’s white working­class voters have more of a voice in the primary process than they have had in years past. In 2008, they were considered Biden voters — the white working-­class denizens of Scranton, Pa., and places like it — whom Joe Biden, Scranton’s own, was supposed to win over for Barack Obama.

This time around, the fight for these voters has focused significantly on a somewhat unlikely contender for juiciest campaign issue: international trade deals and their repercussions.

Any presidential candidate on the stump knows how to work a good metaphor into a speech, and Mr. Sanders knew to use the very ZIP code he was rallying in.

“In many ways, what is happening here in Reading, what has happened over the last several decades, is kind of a metaphor for what’s happening all over this country,” Mr. Sanders told the crowd. “We have seen a city which once had thousands of excellent-­paying jobs lose those jobs because of disastrous trade policies.”

He went on to list corporations, including the Dana Corporation, that had shut down plants in Reading and moved overseas. Mr. Mandich, the Sanders supporter and Mellencamp fan, said that he was laid off from his job at the Dana Corporation, which manufactured automobile frames, when the company closed its Reading plant in 2000. The Dana Corporation was one of the companies that supported the Clinton administration’s effort to pass the North American Free Trade Agreement, which activists and liberal economists argue did more harm than good to the United States economy.

Kevin Wright, a high school physics teacher in line to see Mr. Sanders, saw parallels between the populism on the left and similar sentiments on the right. “We’re the response to the Tea Party,” he said.

His sister, standing next to him, laughed nervously. “Careful!” she warned.

“The Tea Party has taken over the Republican Party,” Mr. Wright continued. “I think our movement’s stronger, and has more numbers, and is more rational and grounded in reality. And you can see that just based on the people here.”

The crowd in Reading skewed a bit older than a typical Sanders rally — possibly because it took place on a weekday afternoon. Fritz Von Hummel, 55, a self­-employed appliance technician who was laid off from his previous job in November, canceled a couple of appointments to come to the event. He said he had not had health insurance for the past seven years because he could not afford it, and he was eager to talk about the shortcomings of President Obama’s signature health care law.

“I’m just furious with the situation the way it is,” he added.

Roller went on to report from a Trump rally a few miles away.  Some of the people she spoke with there echoed refrains similar to those of the Sanders’ supporters.  Here article is titled “CAMPAIGN STOPS: Pennsylvania, Where Everyone Is ‘Furious’.”  The Linthicum and Megerian piece is titled “Voters’ ‘Bernie or Bust’ efforts persist despite Sanders’ vow not to be another Ralph Nader.”

I myself think there’s little danger that most millennials like Dennis Brandau and perhaps-millennials but anyway youngish Sanders supporters like Kevin Wright and his sister won’t ultimately vote for Clinton.  I think they’re more likely to fear Trump than the middle-aged and elderly working-class Sanders supporters.  And I think that thanks in part to social media, they’re more likely to know or learn before November, simply from their web use, that Trump’s fiscal-policy platform is drafted by standard-issue Republican operatives, borrowing from Republican lobbyists and the Club for Growth/Koch brothers’ think-tank-payroll folks.

I think this is so even though Clinton effectively wrapped up the nomination by winning by 16 points in the New York primary in which only those who were registered as Democrats by early October 2015 were able to vote in that primary, and large percentages of young and younger New Yorkers were independents.  Clinton, understandably, doesn’t mention that publicly.  But it is a fact.

And what about the middle-aged one-time factory workers who support Sanders now?  And the middle-class white collar workers whose kids will borrow, or have borrowed, large amounts in student loans?  What about those who pay high healthcare premiums with out-of-pocket expenses that to Clinton may seem negligible but seem less so to the ones who pay these?

These are not people who are livid that Clinton is keeping a Jewish 74-year-old male from gaining the nomination.  They are people who care, deeply, about the policy differences between the two candidates.  And I’m pretty sure that many of them care, as I do, that Clinton keeps feigning ignorance about what people mean when they use the phrase “the establishment.”  And that Clinton has campaigned against Sanders largely using a playbook seemingly co-opted from a used-car-salesman sales manual, pre-lemon-laws.

I myself harbor not so much as a second of doubt that I will vote for president in November, and about whom I vote for.  It will not be the Republican nominee.  And I absolutely know that I will be joined in that by many, many millions of Sanders primary supporters.

And I dearly hope that Sanders will follow the playbook I say above that I expect him to.

And I will say this: Far from hurting down-ballot candidates’ fundraising chances for the general election, those of us who have contributed to Sanders’ campaign—we’ve done so through ActBlue.com—will continue to receive, as we already have, ActBlue’s solicitations for contributions to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.  We’ll click the buttons and fill in the blanks, like we have done for Bernie Sanders.  We’ll do so upon our own accord, and also at Bernie Sanders’s urging.  We will be reminded that the Warren wing, the Sanders wing, of the Democratic Party badly needs to grow.  Into a majority in Congress.

Turns out that millennials already have figured this out, according to dramatic results of a newly released poll taken by the Harvard Institute of Politics.  And many progressive older folks know this, too.  At least those who aren’t New York Times op-ed columnists or the like.

____

ADDENDUM: Just want to add that once Trump chooses Scott Walker as his running mate–he seriously seems headed in that direction, and recently hired Walker’s campaign manager as his campaign’s deputy director or something–the Dems’ problems will take care of themselves, thank you very much.

Added 4/27 at 4:29 p.m.

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Denmark, the VAT Tax and Paul Krugman

So Sanders and Clinton are arguing about soda taxes — Clinton for, as a way to raise money for good stuff while discouraging self­-destructive behavior, Sanders against, because regressive. I have no illusions that rational argument will make much difference in the short run; we’re in that stage where anything Clinton supports is ipso facto evil. It’s like that point in 2008 when Obama supporters hated, hated the individual mandate that eventually became, as it had to, a central piece of Obamacare.

But anyway, it does seem worth pointing out that progressivity of taxes is not the most important thing, even when your concern is inequality. Notably, Nordic countries — very much including Denmark, which Sanders has praised as a model — rely heavily on the VAT, which is a regressive tax; but they use that revenue to pay for a strong social safety net, which is much more important.

If we add in the reality that heavy soda consumption really is destructive, with the consequences falling most heavily on low-­income children, I’d say that Sanders is very much on the wrong side here. In fact, I very much doubt that he’d be raising the issue at all if he weren’t still hoping to pull off some kind of political Hail Mary pass.

A Note on the Soda Tax Controversy, Paul Krugman, yesterday

One of the hallmarks of this Democratic primary season is the extent to which high-profile liberal baby-boomer political journalists and pundits have been willing to make what are, at least to me, transparently illogical arguments in support of Hillary Clinton.

One particularly annoying canard, offered originally by Jill Abramson in an op-ed published in The Guardian last month, is that Politifact found Clinton to be the most honest of the candidates.  Specifically, Abramson wrote:

As for her statements on issues, Politifact, a Pulitzer prize-winning fact-checking organization, gives Clinton the best truth-telling record of any of the 2016 presidential candidates. She beats Sanders and Kasich and crushes Cruz and Trump, who has the biggest “pants on fire” rating and has told whoppers about basic economics that are embarrassing for anyone aiming to be president. (He falsely claimed GDP has dropped the last two quarters and claimed the national unemployment rate was as high as 35%).

Referencing both the Abramson op-ed and the Politifact statistic that Abramson used, but dropping the qualifier “on issues” that Abramson had used, Nicholas Kristof wrote in his column last Sunday titled “Is Hillary Clinton Dishonest?”:

One basic test of a politician’s honesty is whether that person tells the truth when on the campaign trail, and by that standard Clinton does well. PolitiFact, the Pulitzer Prize­winning fact­checking site, calculates that of the Clinton statements it has examined, 50 percent are either true or mostly true. That compares to 49 percent for Bernie Sanders’s, 9 percent for Trump’s, 22 percent for Ted Cruz’s and 52 percent for John Kasich’s. Here we have a rare metric of integrity among candidates, and it suggests that contrary to popular impressions, Clinton is relatively honest — by politician standards.

Apparently it didn’t occur to either of these writers that the statistic was a mathematical function of the high number of statements of Clinton’s that fact-checking websites, including PolitiFact, are asked to and do fact check.  And that a high percentage of those statements are ones citing statistics of one type or another.

A review of a number of Clinton’s statements that PolitiFact examined shows that she usually is accurate when stating simple statistics but often misrepresents her opponent’s—Sanders’s—policies, statements or positions, sometimes explicitly, sometimes by clearly-intended inference.  An example of both in a single sentence was one I’ve mentioned in earlier posts: her recent statement that she “couldn’t believe” that Sanders opposes the Paris climate change agreement.  The express falsehood was that Sanders opposes the agreement.  The intended inference, clearly false, was that he opposes it because he thinks it goes too far.  Sanders supports the Paris climate agreement but thinks it doesn’t go far enough and believes much more is necessary.

A favorite tactic of Clinton’s in this primary campaign has been to rely upon the public’s presumption that her statements support (or at least are relevant to) the claim she’s clearly trying to make, in order to mislead by stating something that may be true—e.g., Sanders complained about the Paris agreement—but is irrelevant to her presumed point.  In that instance, Clinton slyly told her listeners that Sanders opposes the agreement because it goes too far.  These pundit apologists for Clinton fool mainly themselves with their obliviousness.  They get neither the substantive policy reasons for the strength and durability of the Sanders movement nor the nature of the distaste for Clinton herself among progressives.  Sleight-of-hand-as-prime-modus-operandi tends not to instill confidence about the general veracity of the hand-sleighter.  People do catch on when it’s a habit.

But Krugman’s Clinton-vs.-Sanders writings stake out a territory all their own.  They are rants notable less for their Clinton puffery than for their vitriol toward Sanders and his supporters, and sometimes include what seems to me real intellectual dishonesty.  That’s how I read his VAT tax remark in the excerpted post above.

It is, as Krugman says, worth pointing out that progressivity of taxes is not the most important thing, even when your concern is inequality.  And the Nordic countries’ strong social safety net, I agree, is much more important than the progressivity of the tax to fund it.*

But the Nordic VAT taxes are on all, or at least most, types of products.  The social safety net, or any one part of it, is not funded mainly by lower-income people by applying the tax only to a product or products favored more by lower-income people.  And since the gap there between lower and higher income people is tiny compared with the gap in this country, and since lower-income people have access to a full panoply of safety-net and other government programs and therefore can better afford to contribute substantially to the funding of the safety net, Krugman’s invocation of Denmark as a slam against Sanders for voicing objection to the soda tax proposed by Philadelphia’s mayor is a real sleight of hand.

Krugman links to a blog post from last Friday in the New York Times by Margot Sanger-Katz titled “A New Policy Disagreement Between Clinton and Sanders: Soda Taxes,” which reports:

Last week, Mrs. Clinton became the first presidential candidate to explicitly endorse a tax on sugary drinks. At a Philadelphia event Wednesday, she said a proposal there to use a soda tax to fund universal prekindergarten was a good idea.

“It starts early with working with families, working with kids, building up community resources,” Mrs. Clinton said, according to a CNN report. “I’m very supportive of the mayor’s proposal to tax soda to get universal preschool for kids. I mean, we need universal preschool. And if that’s a way to do it, that’s how we should do it.”

Yes, that’s a way to do it.  But of course there are other ways to do it, too.  One would be a small across-the-board sales tax increase, rather than a large one on this one product.  Another, albeit not one available to city mayors, of course is a slight income tax increase or a securities-transaction tax.

Clinton’s statement that “[i]t starts early with working with families, working with kids, building up community resources” strikes me as really troubling.  She’s running for president.  Does she really think the best way to fund universal preschool is to build up community resources?   How about building up federal resources, via a more progressive tax code, and funding universal preschool universally?  A municipal soda tax may be okay as a stopgap funding method.  But beyond that?  That’s it?

The issue of whether or not to tax soda pop as a way to discourage its use, especially by kids from lower-income families, is separate.  I think there are better ways to try to accomplish that goal, just as I think there are better ways to fund universal preschool.  But my concern here about Krugman’s post is his disingenuous use of Northern European VAT taxes in the service of another of his gratuitous attacks on Sanders and Sanders’ supporters.  Including me.

*Sentence rewritten for clarity and typo correction. 4/26 at 11:25 p.m.

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Krugman The Clairvoyant

[Paul Krugman] has a negative view of Bernie Sanders “Why I Haven’t Felt the Bern “ which links to his column on insulting Dixie.

The post is brief and a bit odd — Krugman criticizes Sanders for:

“… the casual adoption, with no visible effort to check the premises, of a story line that sounds good. It’s all about the big banks; single-payer is there for the taking if only we want it; government spending will yield huge payoffs — not the more modest payoffs conventional Keynesian analysis suggests; Republican support will vanish if we take on corporate media.

“In each case the story runs into big trouble if you do a bit of homework; if not completely wrong, it needs a lot of qualification.”

Disagreeing with Paul Krugman? 1, Robert Waldmann, Angry Bear, yesterday

I posted the following in the Comments thread:

Robert, you quoted two seminal sentences from Krugman’s blog post, but you failed to quote the preceding paragraph and therefore missed Krugman’s real point: that he possesses powers of clairvoyance and knew last spring that eventually some economist not connected with Sanders’ campaign would publish erroneous findings about economic gains from the government spending on some of Sanders’ policy proposals and that a couple of top people in the campaign would announce those findings, and that Sanders would make no inroads with elderly and middle-aged African-Americans in the South and then make dumb claims that Southern primary results shouldn’t have the impact they have due to their frontload in the primary and caucuses schedule since those states are mostly very Republican ones.

That said, you did zero in on Krugman’s mystifying claims, first, that Sanders is saying that single-payer is there for the taking if only we want it—an assertion by Krugman that is both flatly false or represents a deep understanding by Krugman of Sanders’ actual statements—and, second, that it is dishonest and improper for a serious candidate for the Democratic nomination for president to propose single-payer.  Or, for that matter, to propose ANYTHING that isn’t simply a tweaking of the status quo.

And then there’s the issue of why Krugman hasn’t noticed, or pretends not to have noticed, that at the heart of Sanders’ break-up-the-big-banks argument is that those few financial institutions—including those like Goldman Sachs and Morgan-Stanley that do not accept ordinary deposits and make ordinary business and personal loans, but that do do things such as buy and sell mortgage-backed securities banks—control vast amounts of wealth and correspondingly have vast amounts of economic and political power.  And you do address that.

It really IS outright dishonest of Krugman to claim, again and again and again, that Sanders’ single concern about the size of the big banks is that they could again trigger a financial and economic meltdown unless they are bailed out by the federal government.  It is by no means the only issue that Sanders mentions with respect to those institutions.  But is an important one.   And the head of the FDIC is in agreement with that, which you would think Krugman would acknowledge when he criticizes Sanders, but doesn’t.

And I downright love your questioning of the basis for Krugman’s obsession with accusations by some Sanders supporters that Krugman, etc., are members of the establishment, personally corrupt, and such—and his odd passive phrasing of it there.

But now that he has challenged assertions that he is a member of the establishment, he might care to address the larger issue of whether he thinks Clinton is—and if he does, whether he thinks she should stop playing cutesy games about the meaning of the word and stop denying that she is indeed, rather obviously, a longtime, high-profile member of it.

Which as I mentioned in my post just below yours, she did again claim at Thursday’s debate.

Specifically, in that preceding paragraph of Krugman’s that I reference, which is the opening paragraph of his post, he writes:

Today’s column offers an opportunity to say, for the record, why I haven’t been the Bernie booster a lot of people apparently expected me to be. For the business about discounting Clinton support as coming from “conservative states” in the “Deep South” actually exemplifies the problem I saw in the Sanders campaign from the beginning, and made me distrust both the movement and the man.

So, okay, we get it.  Paul Krugman isn’t just a great economist (which he is; no sarcasm intended there).  He’s also clairvoyant, prescient, a talented tarot card reader.  He’s just not all that good, or for that matter, all that honest a political analyst. He either has no actual idea why Sanders’ campaign really matters or he pretends not to.

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A question looming before the debate last night was: Which of two mutually exclusive positions Clinton has taken recently on Dodd-Frank’s too-big-to-fail provision would she repeat in the debate? The answer: Both. [Updated 4/16]

As for Clinton herself, her bandwagon-jumping nature is a big reason why so many people dislike her.  But in this instance there was the additional element of dishonesty: she knew that Sanders rather than the editorial board members had it right about what Dodd-Frank provides. She had said so publicly, recently, in a statement in which she also said she had said that before.

ForExTraderProfits.com, linking to my Apr. 13 post here

Which in turn was excerpted from a post of mine from Apr. 10.

The instance I was referring to was Clinton’s decision a day after the New York Daily News published online its editorial board’s interview of Bernie Sanders—a truly weird interview in which the board members asked questions based upon their inaccurate factual beliefs across a panoply of issues, including that Dodd-Frank does not include a provision that allows the Fed together with the Treasury Dept. to designate a financial institution systemically important and dangerously large and order the institution to pare down.

And including that most experts, including those from the finance industry, believe that the best mechanism by which a financial institution would be pared down would be for the government to give them parameters such as a cap-size and permit the institutions to determine for themselves how to accomplish it.

This, while also demanding that Sanders comment on a lengthy opinion, issued four days earlier and reported about and analyzed in the media three days earlier, in which a single federal trial-level judge ruled unconstitutional the Dodd-Frank provision that allows the Fed together with the Treasury Dept. to designate a financial institution systemically important and dangerously large and order the institution to pare down—the Dodd-Frank provision that the Daily News editorial board said doesn’t exist.  The opinion also was based partly on the judge’s erroneous belief that that provision requires something that it actually does not: a cost-benefit analysis, which, Paul Krugman notes, would be absurd.

And also while repeatedly conflating legislation that Sanders has proposed to augment and clarify that provision of Dodd-Frank with Dodd-Frank itself, making it impossible for Sanders to follow what even was being asked.

Nonetheless, the political—but curiously, not the finance-law pundits and experts nor economists (including the ones who double as pundits, with the exception of Paul Krugman)—put out word that Sanders’s answers indicated that he has no understanding of this seminal issue of his campaign: current law on breaking up the banks as too big too fail, and the mechanism by which this would be decided either under current law (Dodd-Frank) or Sanders’s proposed legislation.  (Krugman subtlely walked back his take three days after he included that take in a column published three days after the interview transcript was released.)

Clinton, in an interview the morning after the transcript was released, characteristically parroted the take of the in mainstream political pundits and journalists that it was Sanders rather than the editorial board members who lacked knowledge and understanding of that relevant part of Dodd-Frank and of what the consensus mechanism to pare down the financial institutions would be—that the institutions themselves, like MetLife in the case in which the new court ruling was issued, would be allowed to determine themselves how to comply with the cap order.  Sanders, Clinton said, hadn’t done his homework.

But if so, then neither had she, since, as a couple of dismayed non-household-name journalists quickly noted, she had said at the February debate, repeating what, as she herself pointed out, she had said earlier in the campaign: that Dodd-Frank indeed authorizes a forced breakup of too-big-to-fail financial institutions and that she as president would have her administration invoke the provision.

So a question looming before the debate last night was, which of these mutually exclusive positions would she take?  The answer: Both.  This is, after all, Hillary Clinton we’re talking about.

A few minutes after she reiterated her position of February, December, November, and October that her administration would invoke the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t-now-you-see-it-again Dodd-Frank provision that authorizes the compelled paring of huge financial institutions, she turned to Sanders and repeated her parrot line that Sanders’s answers to the New York Daily News editorial board indicated that he didn’t even know much about his own signature policy: break up the big banks.  But this time (if I recall correctly), Clinton being Clinton, she phrased as something like, “The New York Daily News editorial board said Sanders ….”  Because a cool way to mislead is to note that you’re repeating (and thus adopting) a claim made by someone else.

I have no idea why neither Sanders nor the debate questioners didn’t ask her why she claims Sanders was wrong and that editorial board right while repeatedly saying, before that Sanders interview and now after it, exactly what Sanders said in that interview.  And why they didn’t ask her why, if Dodd-Frank doesn’t authorize the too-big-to-fail designations and a mandate to pare down, she nonetheless keeps saying, when asked, that her administration would invoke the provision.

And I have no idea why neither Sanders nor the questioners asked her why she thought it was a bad idea to allow the banks themselves to decide how to pare down in compliance with the Dodd-Frank order.  Other than, y’know, that the editorial board thought it indicated incompetence and unpreparedness on Sanders’s part and that lots of pundits agreed.  In fact, some still do; this is a meme that is proving particularly resistent to actual fact, especially among big-name baby-boomer and Gen-X major-media writers who themselves are clueless about, say, Dodd-Frank.

What the questioners did do, though, is ask Sanders questions that gave him the opportunity to in essence respond to the punditry’s sheep stampede, such as why he would prefer to allow the banks to decide for themselves what path to take to comply with a pare-down order.  Which he did, beautifully, although Nicholas Kristof (probably among others) didn’t notice.

I don’t want to continue to beat this horse, which I’d hoped and expected would have been explicitly killed last night but instead was merely wounded: Not just about Clinton’s shamelessly snakelike handling of this particular matter but that it is part and parcel of who she is, at least as a candidate.

My concern–obsession, really–with this isn’t so much because I support Sanders, who mostly is defending himself just fine, but because I expect that Clinton will win the nomination, and then I will switch my allegiance (without enthusiasm) to her.  Clinton clearly does not get how much this type of thing hurts her as a candidate; presumably, she thinks it helps her, which itself indicates a problem with her perception.  So it is part of her regular repertoire.

As I’ve said before, it probably won’t matter in the outcome of the election.  She will be opposing (almost certainly) a pathological liar who (absolutely certainly) will be pushing most of the same fiscal-policy snake oil, dictated by the donors and their puppets and fellow travelers who comprise the Republican establishment, as the folks who unabashedly are part of that establishment have been pushing for decades now.

But Clinton has a dangerously weird thought process in some key respects, and her failure to recognize that her incessant sleight-of-hand misrepresentations, or outright misrepresentations, confirm what so many people already think about her: that she’s dishonest, that she’s untrustworthy, that you can’t simply accept at face value what she says.

Another example of this, albeit of a slightly different nature, is the ridiculous claim, repeated again last night, that she‘s not part of the establishment.  The very last thing the Democrats need in this particular election is a nominee at the very top of their ticket who is the very definition of “establishment” but doesn’t know it because she doesn’t know what voters mean by “establishment” and therefore why the word matters.  I have no idea whether Clinton is feigning that she doesn’t know what is meant by “establishment” or whether instead she actually misunderstands the term.  I suspect the former**, but will take her at her word.  And I don’t know which is worse.  It’s a fielder’s choice, I think.

Sanders is by no means a perfect candidate, and I have to say that Krugman finally made a criticism of Sanders that I agree with, in his column today.*  But Democrats fail at their own peril to reckon with Clinton’s inability to understand that some of her tactics and gimmicks are counterproductive.

—-

*Krugman does think that only Sanders among the Democratic primary candidates misrepresents things.  Guess he doesn’t follow the Clinton campaign as closely as he follows the Sanders campaign.  Or at all.  He just shills for it.

Added 4/15 at 5:42 p.m.

**Originally and erroneously said “latter”.  Corrected 4/17 at 10:08 a.m.

____

UPDATE: In response to criticisms of this post in the Comments thread, which insist that Sanders really, really doesn’t understand the relevant Dodd-Frank provisions and that Clinton was right to say last week that he didn’t do his homework and that he doesn’t understand this key issue of his and hint that this means he’s unqualified to be president—and that it’s fine for Clinton to talk out of both sides of her mouth, one the side that says Sanders is clueless about a key issue, the other the side that agrees completely with Sanders on the issue and expands upon it, going further than Sanders does—I wrote:

NYT The Upshot blogger Peter Eavis, who actually specializes in coverage of Dodd-Frank and related finance-industry matters, begs to differ with you.

His post, which is lengthy and detailed, is titled, “At Debate, Hillary Clinton Leaves Questions About Approach to Banks.” It’s theme, which it establishes damn clearly: That Sanders knows more that Clinton does about the relevant provisions of Dodd-Frank, and wayyyy more than the Daily News editorial board members or any of the mainstream political pundits who bought the editorial board’s line, know.

The subtext is that Clinton is either truly confused or being deliberately misleading. And that either way she well knows that it was the Daily News editorial board members and the political pundits who jumped on their bandwagon, rather than Sanders, who actually is clueless about what is a really complex and not precisely clear statutory provision, but a provision that the editorial board members had no understanding of at all.

Clinton’s invoking of that editorial board’s belief that Sanders is confused and clueless—he didn’t do his homework!—is necessarily also a statement that Clinton too is confused and clueless. Either those editorial board members and all the pundits who adopted their line are wrong or both Sanders and Clinton are wrong; she knows this. And Eavis makes clear that what Clinton said about her intentions under Dodd-Frank are seriously weird, implying that she didn’t do her homework or that her homework reading assignment included a suggestion that she repeat the editorial board’s bogus claim that Sanders doesn’t understand this key premise of his campaign.

All the way back on April 5 the day that that interview transcript was released, Eavis in blog post at The Upshot deconstructed the claim that it was Sanders rather than his interviewers that was clueless about Dodd-Frank.  Most pundits, including those at the Times, who commented on the interview presumably didn’t read (and at least one, Nicholas Kristof, still hasn’t read) Eavis’s April 5 post.

Ditto for some straight-news reporters covering the campaigns.  Politico’s Annie Karni, who covers the Clinton campaign but who I mistakenly said in a recent post, covers the Sanders campaign, is a case in point.

Which is understandable, I suppose, since The Upshot is just a blog, and The Times hides Eavis’s work there.

But the real purpose of my post was to highlight a major problem with Clinton’s candidacy that Democrats need to recognize: That the fairly widely held view of her as less-than-honest, less-than-trustworthy, and not particularly admirable in character, is not solely the result of relentless, decades-long Republican efforts to portray her that way, nor mainly because of her asinine email mess.  It also is because she consistently goes for the misleading cheap shot in an effort to con voters about, in this campaign, Sanders’ policy proposals or Sanders himself. And that she has no idea that this tactic is counterproductive rather than productive.

I was delighted that one of the questioners at the debate Thursday night—Dana Bash, if I remember right—pointed out her attempt to mislead last week that Vermont is the state from which the most guns come from that are used in crimes in New York state.  That claim is emblematic of the dual problem here that Clinton does this kind of thing regularly and that she thinks it helps her.

The Times today has an editorial online that will be published in tomorrow’s paper that I think pretty clearly is a quickly revised, post-debate draft of what originally was written as an endorsement of Clinton and instead endorses neither Clinton nor Sanders.  Here are the last two paragraphs of it:

Too often, Mrs. Clinton appears defensive in answering legitimate inquiries, for which she should have sound answers. This tendency has led to some errors and has prevented her from correcting others. Her decision to use a private server for her government emails was a lapse in judgment that she has yet to explain convincingly. Criticism of her lucrative speeches to Wall Street is also legitimate. She could easily deprive Mr. Sanders of one of his strongest points if she simply released the transcripts, instead of concocting absurd reasons not to. [Link in original.]

The breadth of experience that Mrs. Clinton — former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state — would bring to the presidency is impressive and rare. But as tough as this long fight with Mr. Sanders has been, a tougher challenge could lie ahead: appealing to younger Democrats and resolving doubts about her forthrightness and her policies. She will need to do both if she is to stake a clear claim to the White House.

Watching that debate Thursday night, a majority of the Times editorial board members finally got the essence of the problem with Clinton’s campaign: It’s Clinton herself.  My hope, since she almost certainly will be the nominee, is that someone high up in her campaign also gets it and gets that maybe if it is explained to her and illustrated to her that her misrepresentations and incessant sleight-of-hand gimmicks in addressing Sanders and things related to him are reinforcing the belief among so many voters that she’s slimy and that she will say almost anything to win an election, she will finally get this herself.

Democrats are fooling themselves if they think this is trivial.

Added 4/16 at 1:35 p.m.  Addition re Karni inserted 4/16 at 2:15 p.m.

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Paul Krugman Retracts a Key Part of Last Friday’s ‘Sanders Over the Edge’ Op-ed: That Sanders, rather than the New York Daily News editorial board members, don’t know what Dodd-Frank authorizes the federal government to do concerning ‘systemically important’ (a.k.a., too-big-to-fail) financial institutions. Good for him.

Which brings us to Snoopy, who has, for reasons I don’t fully understand, long been the emblem of the insurance giant MetLife.

“At the end of 2014 the regulators designated MetLife, whose business extends far beyond individual life insurance, a systemically important financial institution. Other firms faced with this designation have tried to get out by changing their business models. For example, General Electric, which had become more about finance than about manufacturing, has sold off much of its finance business. But MetLife went to court. And it has won a favorable ruling from Rosemary Collyer, a Federal District Court judge.

It was a peculiar ruling. Judge Collyer repeatedly complained that the regulators had failed to do a cost­benefit analysis, which the law doesn’t say they should do, and for good reason. Financial crises are, after all, rare but drastic events; it’s unreasonable to expect regulators to game out in advance just how likely the next crisis is, or how it might play out, before imposing prudential standards. To demand that officials quantify the unquantifiable would, in effect, establish a strong presumption against any kind of protective measures.

Of course, that’s what financial firms want. Conservatives like to pretend that the “systemically important” designation is actually a privilege, a guarantee that firms will be bailed out. Back in 2012 Mitt Romney described this part of reform as “a kiss that’s been given to New York banks” (they never miss an opportunity to sneer at this city, do they?), an “enormous boon for them.” Strange to say, however, firms are doing all they can to dodge this “boon” — and MetLife’s stock rose sharply when the ruling came down.

The federal government will appeal the MetLife ruling, but even if it wins the ruling may open the floodgates to a wave of challenges to financial reform. And that’s the sense in which Snoopy may be setting us up for future disaster.

It doesn’t have to happen. As with so much else, this year’s election is crucial. A Democrat in the White House would enforce the spirit as well as the letter of reform — and would also appoint judges sympathetic to that endeavor. A Republican, any Republican, would make every effort to undermine reform, even if he didn’t manage an explicit repeal.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that the 2010 financial reform was enough. The next crisis might come even if it remains intact. But the odds of crisis will be a lot higher if it falls apart.

Snoopy the Destroyer, Paul Krugman, New York Times, today

I posted here twice in the last few days about the stunningly bungled political commentary about the New York Daily News editorial board interview of Sanders, a transcript of which that paper released last Tuesday.  The second of my two posts was titled:

Why did Paul Krugman and the Washington Post editorial board—both of whom know better—misrepresent that it was Sanders rather than the New York Daily News editorial board that was wrong about what Dodd-Frank provides, and about whether it would be Treasury or instead the financial institutions themselves that would determine the method of paring down?

In today’s op-ed Krugman has retracted that allegation against Sanders in his op-ed from last Friday.  But what prompted the retraction—and especially the timing of it—is itself important: The federal judge’s opinion in the MetLife case was issued on March 30, the news reports about it were published mostly on March 31, and the New York Times published a critical editorial on it on Apr. 4, the day of the New York Daily News editorial board’s interview of Sanders.

A significant part of the media-criticism frenzy of Sanders for saying that he was unsure about the extent to which Dodd-Frank authorizes the federal government to determine that a financial institution is systemically so important because of its size that it must be pared down concerned questions about that opinion, by that one federal judge, issued less than a week earlier and containing some strange and unexpected—and inaccurate—statements about the relevant part of that statute.

Apparently on the ground that Sanders by then should have read the opinion and discussed it in detail with legal and finance-industry experts, the New York Daily News editorial board and most of the mainstream political analysts and pundits who opted to weigh in on it did so with the verdict that Sanders does not know much about this signature issue of his.  Or maybe it was just on the ground that no politician should ever, regardless of the circumstances, say he or she does not know something, does not know enough yet about a new development or about an obscure fact, point or event, or hasn’t thought through something in particular—or maybe everything in particular—and that any politician is, according to the prevalent assembly-line political-journalist guidelines, is toast.

And Hillary Clinton, who at a televised debate two months earlier had said the very opposite of what the New York Daily News editorial board and its journalist parrots were saying about that exchange between the editorial board and Sanders, and emphasized that she had made the same point earlier in the campaign—specifically, about Dodd-Frank, what it authorizes, and how clear those provisions and their breadth are—herself parroted that take.  With no indication of irony.

The first of my two posts on that interview and its aftermath was titled:

Clinton admits she failed to do her homework, and therefore misunderstood, when she stated at the February debate that Dodd-Frank already authorizes the Treasury Dept. to force too-big-to-fail banks to pare down and that therefore no further legislation authorizing it is necessary.  That’s quite an admission by her, and the New York Daily News editorial board (and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza) should take note.

This will be my last post on that editorial board interview and the punditry’s reaction to it.  Gratefully.

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CORRECTION: The second-last paragraph in the excerpt from Krugman’s column that opens this post somehow ended up with a really big cut-and-paste error in it as I posted it there. Someone I don’t know emailed me and told me about the error.  I’m very grateful.  Apologies to Paul Krugman.  I didn’t do that on purpose.  Although next time he writes something nasty about Bernie, I might.

Added 4/11 at 8:41 p.m. 

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Why did Paul Krugman and the Washington Post editorial board—both of whom know better—misrepresent that it was Sanders rather than the New York Daily News editorial board that was wrong about what Dodd-Frank provides, and about whether it would be Treasury or instead the financial institutions themselves that would determine the method of paring down?

As Dean Baker and several (mostly) alternative-media and hobbyist bloggers—including actual experts on Dodd-Frank and on financial-institution governance—have noted since the New York Daily News editorial board released a transcript last Tuesday of its interview with Bernie Sanders, it was not Sanders but instead members of that editorial board who were deeply confused about what Dodd-Frank actually provides.  Specifically, about whether that law grant’s the federal government authority to determine that a financial institution is so large that its sheer size poses a systemic risk to this country’s economy.

And also specifically, about whether experts within the finance industry and the Treasury Dept., and economists, think the method of any such government-mandated paring down of a financial institution—absent enactment of the Glass-Steagall-like law—should be devised by Treasury of the Fed of instead by the financial institutions themselves.

And also about whether none other than Hillary Clinton, their candidate of choice, had said during this campaign something along the lines of:

We now have power under the Dodd-Frank legislation to break up banks. And I’ve said I will use that power if they pose a systemic risk.

Which, it has been pointed out since now since Wednesday when Clinton joined the chorus of those saying that Sanders in that interview had demonstrated a lack of basic knowledge, thoughtfulness and competence about this signature issue of his, Clinton herself at last February’s debate in fact said exactly:

We now have power under the Dodd-Frank legislation to break up banks. And I’ve said I will use that power if they pose a systemic risk.

Leading me to post this here at AB on Thursday.  It’s titled:

Clinton admits she failed to do her homework, and therefore misunderstood, when she stated at the February debate that Dodd-Frank already authorizes the Treasury Dept. to force too-big-to-fail banks to pare down and that therefore no further legislation authorizing it is necessary.  That’s quite an admission by her, and the New York Daily News editorial board (and the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza) should take note.

Which drew some blowback in the Comments thread from a couple of fellow progressives, including their insistence that Clinton did not admit that she failed to do her homework before February’s debate and therefore misunderstood, like she now says Sanders does, what Dodd-Frank actually provides.

Which in turn drew blowback from me.  Specifically:

Clinton’s statement that Sanders is incorrect that under Dodd-Frank the Treasury Dept. does have the authority to declare particular financial institutions so large that a failure of that institution would create significant danger to the economy or to the broader financial industry and therefore to the economy, and therefore would effectively require a federal bailout, is EXACTLY a reversal of what she said at that February debate when fending off Sanders’s suggestion that additional legislation is needed.

So she either was right at the February debate or she was right this week in her comments about Sanders’s interview with that editorial board, but the statements, two months apart, are mutually exclusive. Since the February one matched Sanders’s statements to the editorial board, her comment that Sanders was wrong and would know this had he done his homework sometime during the 11 months since he began his campaign, she did indeed say by necessary implication that she was mistaken in that statement at the February debate, and that had she done her homework she would have known that.

Clinton is not making the issue of NOT proposing further legislation on too-big-to-fail, but in resisting proposals for further legislation, she sure has made her claim that there is no need for it because Dodd-Frank already takes care of the problem a part of her defense against Sanders’s candidacy.

Further, since apparently there is nothing in Dodd-Frank that authorizes, much less requires, the Treasury Dept. to actually take over the financial institution and break it up, or to dictate how exactly it would be broken up, but does apparently give Treasury the authority to determine that a bank must pare down to a specified size—Clinton was right in February, and Sanders was right in his interview with that editorial board, according to Stephen F. Diamond, an actual expert on Dodd-Frank who both teaches the subject at Santa Clara Law School and advises on it in private practice—the claim by most of the news media and also by Clinton that Sanders’s statement that this is so is exactly what those folks are claiming Sanders’s statement was: wrong as a matter of fact, and indicative of a failure to do homework on the subject. Or, in Paul Krugman’s case in his op-ed piece yesterday, a deliberate misstatement. (I assume that Krugman is sufficiently familiar with Dodd-Frank to know that, although—who knows? – maybe not.)

Diamond had a lengthy post on his own blog on Thursday titled “Don’t blame Bernie – of course the banks can be broken up”, (Dan here…link corrected) which I learned of because Naked Capital posted its title and link immediately about its post of the title of and link for this post of mine.  I clicked the pingback link, saw my post listed, and saw Diamond’s immediately above mine.

The first four paragraphs read:

“In a recent interview, a very confused New York Daily News reporter continually mixed up the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve in the face of a very straightforward statement of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that Congress can give the President power to impose changes on the structure of the financial system “under Dodd Frank.”

“Well, the Treasury is an agency of the executive branch while the Federal Reserve is an independent hybrid public-private entity. The former is an extension of the power of the President while the latter has autonomy that limits, understandably, Presidential influence. Apparently in the minds of financial journalists the two entities can be conflated without consequence.

“Sure enough Secretary Clinton jumped on the bandwagon and slyly and indirectly suggested on Morning Joe that Bernie Sanders does not “seem” to know enough about how the economy works to be qualified as president.

“Now that we have cleared up the fact that it was the Daily News reporter who was confused not Sanders, let’s focus on the agency that a President does control, the Treasury. When Sanders said he wanted to use Dodd-Frank to break up the big banks one could consider that from two angles. First, does the current language of that law enable the federal government to break up the banks; and second, could Dodd-Frank be amended to give the federal government the power it needs to break up the banks. Since Sanders talked about going to Congress to empower the government to break up the banks it seems reasonable to conclude he means the latter, second method. But he is taking the view that any such amendment would be consistent with Dodd-Frank, a necessary extension consistent with the spirit of what Congress intended to do.”

Clinton did her usual thing: Someone fed her a line and she parroted it. I hope that at the debate on Thursday Sanders hangs this one around her neck. and tightens the noose until she gets that she needs to stop that tactic–even if she needs methadone to help her break the habit.

And, in response to a response:

Clinton said at the Feb. debate: ““We now have power under the Dodd-Frank legislation to break up banks. And I’ve said I will use that power if they pose a systemic risk.”  What can that possibly mean other than that she thought then—or was saying that she thought then, even if she did not think then—that the federal government now has power under the Dodd-Frank legislation to break up banks.   And since she said “And I’ve said I will use that power if they pose a systemic risk,” this presumably was not the first time she said that.

So she said, then and presumably earlier, that she will use that power if they pose a systemic risk.  How so? What exactly did she have in mind then?  And how exactly did she plan to exercise that power?   Did she plan then to have the Treasury Dept. dictate how each bank must pare down?  Or did she plan, as Sanders told that editorial board he would, to allow each bank to determine it, maybe with the assistance and recommendations of the experts at Treasury?

This was not merely a flip-flop by her last week; this was a statement by her that Sanders did not know what he was talking about on an issue critical to his campaign.  She’s now retracted her own earlier statements—the one during the Feb. debate and the earlier ones she was referring to in that comment at the Feb. debate—and doing so by parroting journalists who clearly have no idea what Dodd-Frank actually contains and what the actual experts suggest would be the best way to have these banks pare down (a method the banks choose or instead a method that Treasury chooses).  Did she herself not know what she was talking about when she made those earlier statements?  And what exactly are her plans?  And if she now believes that Dodd-Frank does not confer that power, does she think further legislation should do so—as Sanders has proposed?

Some of the journalists and political commentators who jumped on this bandwagon—Paul Krugman and the Washington Post editorial board, for example—do know that it was not Sanders but the New York Daily News editorial board who was clueless. Yet they chose to misrepresent—outright misrepresent—that Sanders was wrong about Dodd-Frank, the role of the Treasury Dept., and the role of the Fed, as well as the actual mechanism that would be used in paring down these financial institutions: it would be the institutions, not the Treasury or the Fed., that would structure it.

Some excellent political journalists, such as Annie Karni, who covers the Sanders campaign for Politico even late last week in reporting on Sanders referenced the NYDN editorial board interview with a comment that Sanders seemed to lack specifics about this signature issue of his (or some such).  But she and the others were just picking up what the political-opinion journalists were saying.  The editorial and op-ed folks who know the specifics of this issue quite well abuse their positions when they misstate the facts of actual legislation (e.g., Dodd-Frank) or expert policy consensus (e.g., who should determine how to restructure).  And before they again accuse Sanders of dishonesty (as Krugman does in that op-ed), they should look in the mirror.  And at their chosen candidate.

As for Clinton herself, her bandwagon-jumping nature is a big reason why so many people dislike her.  But in this instance there was the additional element of dishonesty: she knew that Sanders rather than the editorial board members had it right about what Dodd-Frank provides. She had said so publicly, recently, in a statement in which she also said she had said that before.

I added an addendum to my Thursday post, on a different matter—but it’s really part and parcel of the same one: The New York Times fact check blog had fact checked a recent statement of Clinton’s in which she said she “couldn’t believe” it when she learned that Sanders was opposing the recent Paris climate-change agreement.  Her intended implication of course was that Sanders thinks the agreement goes too far.   Both the statement itself and the intended implication were false.  Sanders supports the agreement as a first step and says much more is needed.

What’s the real story?  What’s she leaving out?  What intended inference is not true?  What connection is she implying that is false?  What word is she parsing or cutely redefining?  Both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are habitual, maybe pathological, liars, so hopefully it won’t matter that, in Clinton, the Democrats will be nominating someone who campaigns like a used-car-salesman cliché.

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The ACTUAL Likely Reason That Clinton Won Ohio by 15 Points: Blue-Collar Whites Voted in Large Numbers for Kasich Against Trump. (This matters. Maybe a lot.)

Okay, so Paul Krugman blogged yesterday that the Clinton campaign’s numbers guru, Joel Benenson, claims that Clinton lopsidedly won the Ohio primary because:

Ohioans took a hard look at Senator Sanders’ claims, and rejected them. Despite his attempt to portray Hillary as an ardent free­trader, Hillary voted against the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), the only multi­national trade agreement that ever came before her in the U.S. Senate.

Krugman mocks it, saying:

The rules of the game require, of course, both that he be totally positive about his candidate and that he profess a certainty about the meaning of every victory that I’m fairly sure he does not, in fact, possess. The truth is that nobody can be sure exactly why Ohio was so different from Michigan. … I very much doubt that many Ohioans knew about Clinton’s anti­CAFTA vote, or even what CAFTA was.

Clinton voted against CAFTA.  Krugman goes on to say that he was surprised back then when he read it to learn that CAFTA wasn’t a true trade agreement at all in the usual sense; it dealt mostly with intellectual property rights, especially with pharmaceutical companies’ patents. Like TPP.  He concludes by characterizing Clinton as a senator as cautious about trade deals and in selective opposition to them.

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GAG. (And Paul Krugman is just so, so mystified that so many progressives support Sanders. Be mystified no longer, dear professor.)

Dan Crawford gave me the news this morning before I’d already learned of it. He emailed me with the subject title: “Merrick Garland…here we go!” He linked, without comment, to the NYT article on the announcement.

I responded:

UGH. I guess the idea is that there just aren’t enough super-establishment Supreme Court justices already. We definitely need one more.

And Krugman is just so, so mystified that so many progressives support Sanders.

I WANT TO SCREAM.

Beverly

I’ll post at more length later today; I don’t have time right now.  But at the risk of drawing attention to the attention of the Secret Service, in an unpleasant way, I will take the time right now to say to Obama: Drop dead.*

And I’ll take the time to note this: The title of the NYT article is “Obama Chooses Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court.”  Its subtitle? “Appeals Court Judge Is Respected by G.O.P.”  Well, the G.O.P. that the Washington in-crowd hasn’t noticed isn’t all that popular right now with, um, some of the G.O.P.

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*Na-na-no; this is said facetiouslyThe  drop-dead part, that is. Please, Secret Service. Really.  I don’t like Joe Biden all that much, either.

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UPDATE:  This blog post in Slate by someone named Michael Gerhardt, whom I’d never heard of before and who is not identified there by anything other than his name, makes me cringe.

This guy’s bottom line: Yup, can’t be a merit nominee to the Supreme Court unless you’ve been an intrinsic part of the Centrist Establishment in Washington for, say, several decades.

And interestingly narrow definition of merit, wouldn’t you say?

Okay, well, actually he is identified by more than his name.  He’s a Centrist Establishment person.  Just an educated guess, but still ….

Fittingly, the post title is, “Merrick Garland deserves to be on the Supreme Court.”  Because what matters is what Merrick Garland deserves, not what the multitude millions of people whom the Supreme Court pretends don’t exist.  Or just aren’t worth the time of such an august group.  Or even a moment’s thought.

Then again, there is this hopeful note, also from Slate.  It’s by Jim Newell, Slate’s main political analyst.

Added 3/16 at 6:32 p.m.

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UPDATE TO UPDATE:  Calmer now.  Reread Jim Newell’s awesome article and agree with every word of it.  Including why Obama almost nominated Garland to fill John Paul Stevens’ seat for real. Which pretty much sums up why I can’t stand Obama and don’t want a third Obama term in the person of a chameleon.

Added 3/16 at 7:10 p.m.

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PS: Greg Sargent writes:

I’ll bet that a big part of his selection was that Garland was willing to go through the process knowing he probably won’t get to actually serve on the court, while a younger judge who could have another chance later might not want to.

In thinking about it more, I’m betting that that was a very big part.  As in, none of the others would accept the nomination, and told Obama so.

Repubs apparently now think they can have the last laugh.  Senate Repubs reportedly now are considering whether to confirm during the lame duck session after the election if Clinton wins.  But of course, then Garland would be expected to withdraw if Obama does not withdraw his name saying that Clinton and the new (Democratic-controlled) Senate should handle it.

This post is starting to feel not like a blog post but like a blog.

Added 3/16 at 8:36 p.m.

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PS TO PS:  Yup.  It’s been officially confirmed by go-to-Centrist Ruth Marcus: Garland resoundingly (her word) deserves to be confirmed, and what really matters is what Garland deserves.

Her piece is titled “A Supreme Court nominee too good for the GOP to ignore.”  I’m not kidding.  That’s its title.  You really have to read this thing.  The whole thing; you don’t want to miss the part about her running into him on the street after she became a well-known Washington Post journalist.  Her piece apparently is not intended as a parody of a Washington insider’s view, although it does double duty as that.

Yup. This post is a blog unto itself.

Added 3/16 at 9:02 p.m.

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The Key to Defeating Trump in the General Election Is in a Single Sentence of His in Last Night’s Debate: Angry Americans want big tax cuts for the wealthy

People come [to Trump campaign events] with tremendous passion and love for their country. … When they see what’s going on in this country, they have anger that’s unbelievable. They have anger. They love this country. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals. They don’t like seeing higher taxes. They don’t like seeing a loss of their jobs. … And I see it. There’s some anger. There’s also great love for the country. It’s a beautiful thing in many respects. But I certainly do not condone that at all.

— Donald Trump, during last night’s debate

Back last fall when Ben Carson was surging and according to the polls had overtaken Trump in Iowa, the Koch brothers’ main super PAC saw an opening to end the Trump phenomenon once and for all: It announced plans to buy, I think it was, $1 million in ad time on Iowa and New Hampshire airwaves.

Trump, up to that point, had been campaigning as sort of a fiscal progressive, suggesting (among other things) that he supports a more progressive tax code and maybe even universal healthcare insurance.  Uh-oh; he definitely had to be stopped by a Koch brothers’ super PAC ad campaign.

Unless, of course, he adopted Koch brothers fiscal-policy positions and continued his climate-change-is-a-hoax thing. The latter would be easy, of course, but the former required the hire of a mainstream-wingy Republican fiscal-policy consultant who could, and did, chose a mainstream-wingy Republican fiscal-policy candidate’s already published trickle-straight-down-to-the-sewer-system fiscal policy platform and just double the tax cuts for the wealthy.  Take that, Jeb!

It worked. At least to my knowledge, the ad buy never materialized. Carson collapsed in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, Trump’s campaign regained steam—and never looked back.  Until two weeks ago or so, anyway, when comments he made about not wanting people to die in the street for lack of access to medical care raised questions about whether he – he – he supports Obamacare and its Medicaid expansion.

Not to worry.  That mainstream-wingy Republican fiscal-policy consultant was still under contract with the Trump campaign and could quickly rattle off the points on the Movement Conservative list of heathcare-insurance-reform clichés for Trump to post on his campaign’s website as his healthcare-reform proposal.  There was increasing healthcare savings accounts.  There was allowing insurance companies to sell policies nationally.

And of course there was the end-Medicaid-by-giving-the-money-to-the-states-to-use-for-anything-they-wished-even-maybe-Medicaid-which-of-course-Republican-controlled-states-won’t-use-it-for proposal.

And you, Tea Partiers, were starting to worry that Trump doesn’t really want to kill Obamacare and Medicaid!  Fear no longer. It’s safe to vote for him.  Whew.

That was a relief, of course, for Establishment wingers, too.  But, dang.  It’s not enough.  Some of them are pretty worried that although that fiscal policy proposal is still there on his website, Trump never actually talks about it.  Instead he’s always just playing to the white blue-collar folks who’ve been financially devastated by the free-trade treaties.  And by other policies that have had the effect of favoring the well-off, to the detriment of, well, these Trump supporters.  And this guy Bernie Sanders keeps detailing the statistics about wealth and income distribution over the last thirty-five years.  He won’t shut up about it.

Big problem.  Especially since this week it became time for Trump to try to unite the Republican establishment behind him.  Not easy for someone who’s one positive contribution to the political climate is to expose Republican establishment financial-elite proxies as not really so in sync with the Republican blue-collar base after all.

The answer? Ah. Higher taxes! The perfect fiscal dog whistle to the Koch folks and their ilk.

So … the people who come to Trump rallies?  They have anger.  They love this country. They don’t like seeing bad trade deals.  And they don’t like seeing higher taxes on the wealthy.  Because, see, the angry people who come to Trump rallies and who don’t like seeing bad trade deals are wealthy.  Just ask them.

Interesting, isn’t it, that now that Trump has all but wrapped up the nomination and wants the party establishment’s support, his first olive branch is assuring them that he really does support massive tax cuts for the wealthy?

____

UPDATE: An exchange between reader Warren and me today in the Comments thread:

Warren

March 12, 2016 2:43 pm

I missed the part where Trump said “for the wealthy”.

Or are you saying that only the wealthy pay taxes, so it is implied?

 

Me

March 12, 2016 7:06 pm

You missed the part where Trump said “for the wealthy”, Warren? Guess you didn’t read Trump’s tax proposals or any of the articles summarizing them. You should.

The link is to an Oct. 2 blog post by Paul Krugman.  Trump had released his tax plan earlier that day.

Then:

Warren

March 12, 2016 8:53 pm

So is it “a single sentence in his in last night’s debate” or isn’t it?

Did he say “for the wealthy” in that sentence, or didn’t he?

 

Me

Beverly Mann

March 12, 2016 10:39 pm

I said the KEY to defeating Trump in the general election is in a single sentence of his in Thursday’s debate. In a debate performance in which he was saying he wanted to unite the party, he dog-whistled the Kochs, the other donors, and the rest of the Republican establishment that, as president, he would attend to their needs: big tax cuts for the wealthy.

Angry Americans don’t want big tax cuts for the wealthy. But the Republican donors and the rest of the Republican establishment do, and the only one they’re angry with right now is Trump. He announced to them on Thursday that he wants to change that.

The key to defeating him in the general election is to simply point that out. Trump’s tax plan says what it says. It’s just that the only ones who know what it says, other than Paul Krugman and a few other journalists and progressive economists, are the people it was targeted to: the Republican establishment, to keep them at bay.

He was reminding the Republican establishment of his tax plan.

Added 3/12 at 7:44 pm and 10:50 p.m.

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Harry and Louise Now Support Sanders’ Medicare-for-All Plan. With Good Reason.

In the Comments thread today to my post yesterday titled “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,” reader Urban Legend wrote, as part of a several-paragraph comment:

While a single payer plan is superior in theory — and has been proven in practice — thought should be given to the extreme political danger of offering a program at this time that can and will be painted by Republicans as one that will destroy half a million jobs in many different states. There was more than spite in Joe Lieberman’s objection to the public option. Think Hartford, Connecticut, insurance capital of the country. We would see “Harry and Louise” in spades. (Look it up if you’re too young to remember, and see what happened to Congress in the following election in 1994.)

I responded:

Guys, I’ve pretty much given up on trying to convince Dem baby boomers and silent generationers that it’s no longer the ’80s and ’90s and that the Bernie-is-a-SOCIALIST thing would mean a George McGovern-like trouncing and a Repub sweep in congressional elections. Finally, that argument is no longer being made by the punditry; instead it’s now the reverse: Can Clinton beat Trump, given the public’s now-obvious anti-Koch-brothers-Republican-platform mood.

But I do want to respond to Amateur Socialist’s concerns about Harry and Louise, whom I remember quite well.

The reason for the success of the insurance industry’s anti-Hillarycare ad featuring the young couple Harry and Louise was that the essence of Hillarycare was that it would all-but-force people who had choose-any-doctors-and-hospitals-you-want insurance into HMOs or PPOs that limit the choice of doctors and hospitals to those in a network, sometimes a small network, especially back then, and that sometimes required a referral by a primary care doctor for access to a specialist.

Most people back then had employer-provided insurance that did not have those limitations.  Their insurance was like Medicare—usually like Medicare with a supplemental plan is now.  The problem back then was that there still were tens of millions of people who had no access to insurance, many of them because of preexisting medical conditions, and also that premiums had been skyrocketing. And suddenly many employers were no longer paying the entire premiums.

But of course now, very few employers provide insurance that does not involve healthcare networks.  And very few now pay the full premiums.  And most policies have much larger copayments and much larger deductibles.

These are the really big problems with the ACA’s marketplace plans, too.

And these are the problems that Sanders’ Medicare-for-all proposal would eliminate.  No provider networks, no large copayments, no large deductibles, and affordable premiums.

In other words, Harry and Louise would support the Sanders plan now.

Enough said on that, I would think.

The two paragraphs in Urban Legend’s comment that precede the one I quoted read:

I agree that the Thorpe alleged take-down of Sanders’ single payer proposal is ridiculous. As you say, you can’t expect a candidate to dot every i and cross every t in a broad campaign proposal. The experience of other countries indicates almost certainty that in the long run, everyone would come out ahead with a “Medicare for All” system.

And:

I disagree completely that Clinton has no proposals for healthcare. She has quite specific proposals, including tax credits up to $5000 to reduce co-pays and deductibles (which she says are excessive), efforts to reach 16 million people who are eligible for Medicaid (a single payer plan) but haven’t signed up, and revival of the public option, the primary purpose of which was to make a genuine non-profit, efficient insurance offering available and force insurance costs further downward through direct competition. Whether they are adequate or not is a matter of opinion, but it should not be said that she has no proposals. They are there for everyone with a finger and two seconds to see.

The first of those paragraphs refers to the main point of my post: the sheer silliness of Emory University healthcare economist Kenneth Thorpe’s most recent attempt at a takedown of the Sanders proposal. The second of the paragraphs—well, it’s meaning needs no background.

But it does raise this question: Why has there been no study by mainstream progressive economists about the costs of these proposals of Clintons’, and an explanation of why this would be better than a plan that would, among other things, significantly reduce what are now the very high premiums that employers now pay to private insurers and that employees themselves pay in contributions to the premiums costs and also in copayments and deductibles?

Paul Krugman, maybe?  Nah.

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