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

The Bizarre and Manipulative Crusade by Centrist NYT Columnists to Persuade Clinton to Adopt the Republican Fiscal and Regulatory Agenda – [with update]

All the experts tell us not to pay too much attention to polls for another week or two. Still, it does look as if Hillary Clinton got a big bounce from her convention, swamping her opponent’s bounce a week earlier. Better still, from the Democrats’ point of view, the swing in the polls appears to be doing what some of us thought it might: sending Donald Trump into a derp spiral, in which his ugly nonsense gets even uglier and more nonsensical as his electoral prospects sink.

As a result, we’re finally seeing some prominent Republicans not just refusing to endorse Mr. Trump, but actually declaring their support for Mrs. Clinton. So how should she respond?

The obvious answer, you might think, is that she should keep doing what she is doing — emphasizing how unfit her rival is for office, letting her allies point out her own qualifications and continuing to advocate a moderately center-­left policy agenda that is largely a continuation of President Obama’s.

But at least some commentators are calling on her to do something very different — to make a right turn, moving the Democratic agenda toward the preferences of those fleeing the sinking Republican ship. The idea, I guess, is to offer to create an American version of a European-­style grand coalition of the center­-left and the center-­right.

I don’t think there’s much prospect that Mrs. Clinton will actually do that. But if by any chance she and those around her are tempted to take this recommendation seriously: Don’t.

No Right Turn, Paul Krugman, New York Times, Aug. 5*

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Ugh. Okay, still …

In a letter co-signed by 15 other Senate Democrats — and every Senate Republican — Kaine asked the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to exempt community banks and credit unions from many of its regulatory requirements. In justifying these exemptions, the letter suggests that these regulations would make it more difficult for these small banks to continue “spurring economic growth” and that such rules are unnecessary, anyhow, since community banks “were not the primary cause of the financial crisis.”

This latter point is a bit of non sequitur. Just because a reckless activity was not the “primary cause” of the last global economic crisis doesn’t mean that activity isn’t worth preventing. According to the Intercept’s David Dayen, the rule Kaine proposes “could allow community banks and credit unions to sell high-risk mortgages or personal loans without the disclosure and ability to pay rules in place across the industry.” Such bad loans may not take down our financial system, but they could ruin the lives of the families that receive them.

In a second letter to the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Kaine and his co-signers argue that large regional banks like PNC, BB&T, and SunTrust should be exempt from two regulations meant to reduce their risk of collapse.

Currently, these banks are required to issue daily reports about their levels of liquidity, so as to assure the government that they hold enough assets to cover a 30-day period of financial stress. Kaine and 69 of his colleagues would like to exempt regional banks from this requirement, regardless of their size.

Kaine would also like these banks to be exempted from the “advanced approaches” capital requirements that dictate the ratio of reserves a bank must hold to cover potential losses. At present, any bank that holds $250 billion in assets is deemed systemically important and thus subjected to these requirements. Kaine argues that this threshold is too low, in light of the fact that the financial sector has grown substantially since the rule was written. Since regional banks “do not share the same risk profile or complexity as their larger, systemically important brethren,” the letter writers argue, they should not be forced to comply with the same regulations. But it’s not clear why the signatories believe that the collapse of a large regional bank wouldn’t create significant ripple effects in our deeply interconnected financial system.

While Kaine stepped up to the plate for banking interests this week, he simultaneously snubbed consumer-advocacy groups. On Wednesday, Kaine was one of 13 Democratic senators to withhold his signature from a letter authored by Sherrod Brown, which called for strengthening new rules against abusive payday lenders. The senator’s office told the Huffington Post that he is “working on his own separate ‘Virginia-focused’” letter on payday lending.

Clinton VP Favorite Just Gave the Left Two More Reasons to Distrust Him, Eric Levitz, New York magazine, yesterday (H/T Naked Capitalism)

An article I read late last night (I can’t remember where) said Clinton had been leaning toward Kaine partly because she thinks he will help her win votes of white men because he is originally from the Midwest and is, well, a white man.

That concerned me, because it suggests that Clinton sees white men as somewhat fungible: What matters is the region of the country he hails from and the fact that he is white and male.  But this election season has shown rather clearly that there are two distinct types of populism, one far more important in the South than elsewhere, the other far more important in the Midwest and the Northeast—respectively, the racial and xenophobic white-grievance mania that Trump has promoted so successfully, the other traditional economic-populism issues of the sort that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have come to represent in the minds of so many voters.

The article I read last night also reported, and the New York magazine article also says, that Bill Clinton had been pushing strongly for Kaine.  This too concerns me.  Bill Clinton remains ossified in the ‘90s; there has been indication upon indication of that in the last year.  He makes Hillary Clinton look observant of the current political climate.  Hillary Clinton spent the last year and a half until roughly three weeks ago seemingly unobservant of the current political climate—the very morning after the California primary, when she effectively secured the nomination, she was on the phone to moderate Republican donors, apparently on the assumption that they couldn’t figure out for themselves that if they couldn’t abide Trump they should support her, since she’s the only actual alternative.  So Bill Clinton’s feat is notable.

And Hillary Clinton’s decision to choose Kaine suggests what I, and I know many other progressives, fear: that she is manipulated by her husband to an unnerving extent.

I’m on a listserve of Sanders supporters whom the Clinton campaign occasionally targets with messages from Clinton promising to be a progressive president, and last night I received a message titled “Welcome Tim Kaine”.  It begins by assuring that she and Kaine both are genuine progressives.  The rest of the message is, I assume, the message she sent to her supporters announcing her choice of Kaine.  What caught my attention was something that also caught my attention when I read his Wikipedia page last night before posting this post (and titling it as I did): Kaine graduated from Harvard Law School and then practiced law in Richmond.

Why Richmond? I wondered when I read the Wikipedia entry, which doesn’t answer that question.  Kaine had no ties to Virginia.  And, it hit me, after graduating from Harvard Law he didn’t work for the government and didn’t work for a corporate mega-firm.  Yet he did practice law.  That’s really important.  (Trust me.  It is.)

In her email, Clinton details this.  After graduating from Harvard Law School, Kaine moved to Richmond to litigate against that city’s pervasive racial discrimination in housing.  He practiced law there, in Richmond, for 17 years.  Just ordinary law, I guess (although Clinton doesn’t say); not law of the corporate variety, I presume.

This matters.  But not as much as, I fear, Clinton thinks.  Economic populism matters right now in domestic policy, beyond all else.

I can’t emphasize enough that there is, I’m pretty sure, nothing that would cause me to not vote for this ticket.  But I’m a single vote.  And the way to win the votes of enough white men in Midwestern swing states is run on the progressive economic policy platform that so largely reflects Sanders’ and Warren’s policy prescriptions, if not enough.  It is not to rest on the belief that a majority of voters want experience and steadiness.  And that a majority of white men in swing states care mostly about whether or not the candidate has chosen a white man as her running mate.

____

UPDATE: I want to really emphasize my point above that Bill Clinton apparently is having disconcertedly undue influence over Hillary in critical respects.  I’ve just read more about Kaine’s time as governor, and while these essentially Republican actions and positions he took may well have been necessary in order to enable a potentially successful Senate run, this is not a candidate who should be the Dem VP nominee, least of all in this election cycle.

As I say above, I was just dismayed when the very morning after the California primary, Hillary Clinton was on the phone soliciting contributions from moderate Repub donors.  But in thinking about this today, I realize that this probably was at Bill’s  elated suggestion.  This is NOT good–this retro chokehold on the current nominee.

Added 7/23 at 12:47 p.m.

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Why are so many pundits conflating U.S. blue-collar voters’ concerns that are similar to their British counterparts’ who voted for Brexit with the separate issue of whether the Brexit vote itself will influence U.S. blue-collar voters’ votes in November? These are completely different issues.

Some of our wisest political observers informed us that Brexit would be great news for Donald Trump, because it shows (somehow) that there may be more support here than expected for his nationalist message of restoring American greatness through restrictionist immigration policies and turning the clock back on globalization.

So it’s a bit surprising to see that a new Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll shows that Brexit will not influence the votes of a majority of Americans, and if anything, may benefit Hillary Clinton marginally more than Trump:

“A majority of U.S. voters — 57 percent — say they don’t expect the U.K. verdict will influence their vote in the presidential election. For the roughly quarter who say it will, almost half say it will make them more likely to support Democrat Hillary Clinton, while 35 percent say Republican Donald Trump.”

This is only one poll, so don’t place too much stock in it, but I wanted to highlight it to make a broader point: There is simply no reason to assume that the debate over globalization, which Trump joined with abig speech on trade yesterday, will automatically play in the Donald’s favor. Indeed, Trump is running a massive scam on American workers on many fronts, and the contrast between his positions and those of Hillary Clinton on trade and other economic matters may prove more important in the end than his blustery rhetoric.

Neil Irwin has a good piece this morning on Trump’s big trade speech, in which he pledged to rip up our trade deals with his  large and powerful hands and to bring manufacturing roaring back. As Irwin notes, Trump is right to highlight the very real possibility that trade deals have badly harmed American workers, and that elites have in many respects let those workers down. (Bernie Sanders, too, isrightly calling on Democrats to fully reckon with this phenomenon.) But as Irwin also notes, Trump is selling American workers a highly simplistic, anachronistic tale that doesn’t level with them about the likelihood of reversing trends in globalization and automation

Morning Plum, Greg Sargent, Washington Post, today

I’m certainly no fan of NYT columnist Thomas Friedman—he of “Go for the Grand Bargain, President Obama!” and “Michael Bloomberg for President!” fame.  But his column today is, in my opinion, exactly right.

The first several paragraphs sum up what has become clear to everyone following the news on the Brexit-vote aftermath: that the leaders of the Brexit movement harbored no compunctions about selling it with lies and gross distortions because they didn’t expect their campaign to actually end in, well, Brexit.  And that now that that these dogs have caught the car, they have no idea what to do with it.  They have the car keys but don’t know how to drive the car.

This certainly is why, as Sargent points out, the Brexit vote itself has not helped Donald Trump and instead appears to be helping Clinton slightly.

But the remainder of Friedman’s column addresses the separate issue—and clearly, it is that—of the reasons why so many Britons and Americans and citizens of several other Western countries are susceptible to the type of simple-elixir manipulation that apparently many Britons now regret that they fell for.

Friedman writes:

Because although withdrawing from the E.U. is not the right answer for Britain, the fact that this argument won, albeit with lies, tells you that people are feeling deeply anxious about something. It’s the story of our time: the pace of change in technology, globalization and climate have started to outrun the ability of our political systems to build the social, educational, community, workplace and political innovations needed for some citizens to keep up.

We have globalized trade and manufacturing, and we have introduced robots and artificial intelligence systems, far faster than we have designed the social safety nets, trade surge protectors and educational advancement options that would allow people caught in this transition to have the time, space and tools to thrive. It’s left a lot of people dizzy and dislocated.

At the same time, we have opened borders deliberately — or experienced the influx of illegal migration from failing states at an unprecedented scale — and this too has left some people feeling culturally unanchored, that they are losing their “home” in the deepest sense of that word. The physical reality of immigration, particularly in Europe, has run ahead of not only the host countries’ ability to integrate people but also of the immigrants’ ability to integrate themselves — and both are necessary for social stability.

And these rapid changes are taking place when our politics has never been more gridlocked and unable to respond with just common sense — like governments borrowing money at near zero interest to invest in much­-needed infrastructure that creates jobs and enables us to better exploit these technologies. “Political power in the West has been failing its own test of legitimacy and accountability since 2008 — and in its desperation has chosen to erode it further by unforgivably abdicating responsibility through the use of a referendum on the E.U.,” said Nader Mousavizadeh, who co-­leads the London­-based global consulting firm Macro Advisory Partners.

But we need to understand that “the issue before us is ‘integration’ not ‘immigration,’” Mousavizadeh added. The lived experience in most cities in Europe today, is the fact that “a pluralistic, multiethnic society has grown up here, actually rather peacefully, and it has brought enormous benefits and prosperity. We need to change the focus of the problem — and the solution — from the physical reality of immigration to the political and economic challenge of integration.” Schools, hospitals and public institutions generally will not rise to the challenge of the 21st century “if social integration is failing.”

Which brings me to another current conflation by much of the punditry: that Bernie Sanders has squandered his clout by waiting to endorse Clinton until after the party platform is completed, by which time most of his supporters already will be planning to vote for her, swayed partly by Trump’s simple awfulness and partly by Elizabeth Warren, who has started campaigning with Clinton.

That analysis misses two key points.  First, Sanders’s supporters who are not so thoroughly horrified at the thought of a Trump presidency that they have not yet decided to vote for Clinton care a great deal about the policies they will have some reason to believe will be enacted, or, conversely, blocked, by a Democratic White House teaming with a clearly ascendant and finally-high-profile progressive wing of what hopefully will be a Democratic-controlled Congress.

Second—and a point I’ve made repeatedly in my posts here at AB—there are two types of Trump voters or potential ones, and only one of these will matter to the outcome of the election.  Suffice it to say that the Build the Wall and Ban Muslims voters in the South and Southwest are not the ones who will matter.

The ones who will are Democrats in the Rust Belt who support much of Sanders’s proposed platform and are now considering voting for Trump.  And whose vote could turn on such things as discussions about what political consultants wouldn’t dream of advising their clients to discuss, but that Sanders did discuss during his campaign: hostile labor union policy, including NLRB member appointees; antitrust enforcement; banking regulations that reign in the political power of the financial services industry generally and the mega-banks in particular; the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—what it is and does.

Free tuition at public colleges and universities.  Guaranteed access to healthcare.  Guaranteed medical and family leave, for the cost of $1.50 a week in, yes, taxes.  Increased Social Security benefits, in recognition of the demise of defined-benefit pensions.

As so many pundits note, and as Sanders himself says, the Sanders campaign has achieved a great deal in the general outlines of the party platform.  The process has been like pulling teeth, but still ….

But one of the Clinton campaign’s super PACs, I read a day or two ago, is about to flood the internet with ads reminding people that Trump is a misogynist—because apparently there are three or four voters who, although they already know this, will decide against voting for Trump after they’re reminded of it yet again.

And the Clinton campaign itself, I also read, has ads running on TV in some swing states apprising voters that in the ‘70s and ‘80s Clinton pushed some policies that helped children in Washington, DC and in Arkansas, and that as First Lady in the ‘90s she devised and helped push through the CHIPS healthcare insurance plan—not a trivial thing, by any stretch, but also not relevant to voters’ current concerns about this candidate and about the likelihood of major change of the sort so many people who badly want major change want.

Those who continue to cite Clinton’s popular-vote margin over Sanders in support of resistance to this overlook the critical fact that it was, until late in the primary seasons of both parties, broadly believed gospel that an economic populist could not win the general election—and that that, not some broad antipathy toward populist economic policy proposals, tells the tale of that popular-vote differential.  It is, for example, unlikely that a majority of African American and Hispanic voters oppose free public university and college tuition.  And universal, Medicare-like healthcare coverage.  And a $15/hr. minimum wage.  And guaranteed medical and family leave in exchange for a $1.50 weekly tax.  And the reduction of the size and economic and political power of the largest financial institutions.

Polls have not been taken on this, to my knowledge.  That’s too bad.  But in any event, Rust Belt voters considering voting for Trump despite rather than because of his personality and offensiveness would not be among those interviewed in a poll limited to Clinton primary voters.

The real hope for the Clinton campaign lies not just in showing Trump for what he is, not just regarding his temperament, breadth of ignorance, and breathtaking grifterism, and not just the Build the Wall and Ban Muslims policies that everyone already knows about, but also in apprising the pubic of his actual proposed fiscal policies.  And Paul Ryan’s.  And also every bit as much in Clinton’s appearing comfortable with the fact that her campaign’s car was caught by the Sanders dog.

And in seeming fine with allowing that dog’s tail to wag her campaign, to a very large extent.

The fallout from Brexit is already being recognized by U.S. voters as a warning about gullibility and a belief that any dramatic change is better than no or little change.  Turns out that some of the positive changes Britons were promised already have been withdrawn, and the changes that cannot be withdrawn aren’t particularly promising ones.  But as Friedman’s column makes clear, the status quo in the remaining EU is untenable, too, and the EU leaders now recognize that.  So there is a silver lining after all to the Brexit vote.  It’s just not one that helps Britain.  But in addition to helping the remaining EU members, it could help the Clinton campaign.

____

UPDATE: OH. WOW.

Finally, the Clinton campaign is being forced, by Trump’s speech yesterday on trade, to actually educate the public about Trump’s actual fiscal and regulatory policies.  Well, more accurately, it is Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, the source Trump cited more than a dozen times in that speech, who is doing that.  In spades.

Painful though it may be for the Clinton campaign to see someone who has the attention of the news media apprise the public that Trump’s fiscal and regulatory policies are long those of the Republican Party elite and Republican elected officials at every level of government—the very mission of which has been to crush ordinary workers, duly accomplished—it looks like it will have to suffer this indignity.

Which is better than having to do this themselves.  Anything is better than having to do that themselves.  For some reason.

Added 6/29 at 4:49 p.m.

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