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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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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.

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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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Liberals, and especially African-American liberals, should not encourage Senate confirmation of Garland to the Supreme Court

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.

— Me, here, yesterday

Today, Greg Sargent writes at length about that possibility:

[T]here is a scenario worth entertaining here in which Obama has the last laugh — and the GOP posture ends up leaving Republicans with only downsides, and zero upsides.

That scenario goes like this: If Republicans don’t give Garland any hearing, and a Democrat (most likely Hillary Clinton) wins the presidential election, Republicans could then move to consider him in the lame duck session, to prevent Clinton from picking a more liberal nominee. But at that point, Obama could withdraw his nominee, to allow his successor to pick the next justice, instead.

The Republican argument for refusing to consider Garland (or anyone Obama nominates) is that the selection of the next justice is so hugely consequential that only the next president should make that choice, so that the American people have a say in it, by choosing who that president will be. Lurking behind this rationale is the understandable fear that if the court is tilted in a more liberal direction, it could deal a serious blow to a number of conservative causes — so better to roll the dice by holding out and hoping a Republican is elected president.

But with Donald Trump tightening his grip on the nomination, and the more electable “establishment” GOP candidates falling like dominoes, the prospect of Clinton winning the presidency is looking very real, and may continue to look even more likely as the campaign progresses. Republicans themselves fear that a Trump nomination could cost them the Senate, too. If all of that happens, Republicans might see no choice but to try to confirm Garland in the lame duck, before Clinton takes office and picks a nominee, possibly with a Dem-controlled Senate behind her. Some Republicans are already floating this idea.

But Obama could decline to play along with that scenario.

His post is titled “How Obama could get last laugh in Supreme Court fight.”  He posted this update:

It occurs to me that I probably should have argued that in this scenario, Democrats and liberals would be getting the last laugh, as opposed to Obama getting it. After all, Obama by all indications does want Garland confirmed; he’d merely be deferring to Hillary after the election. And liberal Dems (some of whom are already disappointed by the Garland pick) would be getting their preferred outcome. I’m not predicting this will happen, just floating it as an interesting possibility. You may also see some liberal pressure on Obama to do this, if Democrats secure a big victory in November (though whether Obama would bow to it is anybody’s guess), which would also be an interesting scenario to see play out.

But liberals should not push this man’s confirmation, and certainly African-Americans should not.  To quote Politico’s Josh Gerstein, “A former prosecutor, Garland often split with his liberal colleagues on criminal justice issues.”

Garland would not bring the court leftward in the absolutely critical realm of criminal justice issues, including jurisdiction to challenge via federal habeas corpus petition anything state-court criminal convictions or sentences on grounds that some aspect that lead to the result was unconstitutional–including police or prosecutorial misconduct and ineffective assistance of counsel, and including immunity of cops and prosecutors from civil liability in civil rights lawsuits.

That, in fact, reportedly was a big plus for him in Obama’s opinion in 2009 and 2010 when he was being considered to replace Souter and Stevens–even though the Dems controlled the Senate.

Thomas Friedman, of all people, had a terrific line about Obama in his NYT column a day or two ago, something like, “Let’s face it; you wouldn’t want President Obama to be the one selling your house for you.” The column, which really was quite good, was about the TPP, and what Clinton should say about it now. But that comment about Obama was hilarious, and absolutely spot-on.

I’ve thought for about seven years now that Obama’s primary concern is to be considered a moderate by The People Who Matter. I don’t think he cares all that much about anything else, really.

Or maybe he thought in 2009 and 2010 and today that what the Supreme Court needs is a former prosecutor who will join with Samuel Alito in anything related to criminal law and law enforcement.

Garland is being hailed in some quarters as a brilliant legal mind, but I have yet to see an iota of evidence of it.  On a par with Samuel Alito, maybe? Or maybe just in comparison to Samuel Alito. And best as I can tell, not by all that much.

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UPDATE: This article by Janell Ross on the Washington Post’s The Fix blog about both Obama and Garland is outstanding.  I disagree with her that the anger toward Obama among what she calls the far left (which as a Sanders supporter I guess I qualify as part of, right?) is misplaced, but I agree with her about pretty much everything else she says in the article.  It’s a terrific analysis of Obama’s presidency as well as of Garland’s career.

Added 3/17 at 4:40 p.m.

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SECOND UPDATE: Just saw this article on Politico via Yahoo News, titled “Black lawmakers irked by Obama’s Supreme Court choice“. Their concerns are that Garland is a moderate rather than a progressive, and that Obama didn’t consult them before finalizing and announcing the selection.  Some of them also are angry that a member of a racial minority wasn’t selected.

Good for them.  I myself don’t care one whit about the nominee’s race, gender, family background, religion, ethnicity.  I care only about the person’s professional experience, views on legal issues I care about, and intellect, because that is what will determine how this person will effect the law. I can’t think of a clearer in-your-face affront to African Americans, at this particular moment, than the nomination of a pro-police, pro-prosecutor, anti-habeas corpus judge to be the swing justice on the Supreme Court for, very likely, the next several years.

I also have to say how very retro it is that Obama thinks the public is 1980s-’90s-era pro-police, pro-prosecutor. Then again, for some people–i.e., politicians–it will forever be the 1980s or ’90s.

Added 3/17 at 7:15 p.m.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And I need to end this very long post.

____

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

____

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

EMichael

February 20, 2016 9:25 am

Bev,

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

 

Me

February 20, 2016 10:08 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____

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

Urban Legend

February 21, 2016 2:49 am

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

 

Me

February 21, 2016 9:29 am

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

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

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

But Krugman and the others themselves mislead in this.

This is it for me on this subject.

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

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