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

The Last (Wildlife) Refuge of a Scoundrel

Tucked into the fiscal relief package for Puerto Rico this spring was a provision to give away a national treasure that belongs to all Americans — 3,100 acres of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge. The proposal had nothing to do with the economic recovery of Puerto Rico. But it would have handed an important victory to extremists in Congress and state legislatures who want to grab national lands and turn them over to the states to be sold or leased. The measure to give Puerto Rico nearly one­-sixth of the island of federally protected coves, beaches and subtropical forests had the support of the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Representative Rob Bishop, Republican of Utah, who is a leading proponent of an agenda to dispose of America’s public lands.

Fortunately, Hispanic and conservation groups helped rouse opposition to the effort, and the provision was taken out of the bill.

But that was only one of several efforts in Congress and elsewhere to dismantle the nation’s system of more than 560 wildlife refuges and 38 wetlands totaling about 150 million acres of land and water. Opponents of federal land ownership also want to dispose of hundreds of millions of acres of forests and rangelands owned by the American people. If they succeed, not even the national parks will be safe.

The lawmakers behind these attacks are determined, as they put it, to “reduce the federal estate” and give these public lands to cash-­hungry states or territories, where they could be leased, drilled, logged or sold to the highest bidder.

Don’t Give Away Our Wildlife Refuges, Jamie Williams, op-ed, New York Times, today

I remember when, back during his 2012 presidential campaign Mitt Romney, speaking somewhere out west, suddenly (or so I thought) included a rant about the vast amount of land the federal government owns, and said he would propose that most of it be turned over to the states.  I believe he made clear that this included most, if not all, national parks.

I was stunned, but quickly learned in reading a couple of articles about Romney’s proposal—there were, best as I could tell, only a couple articles mentioning it—that this is a top item on the wish list of some west-of-the-Mississippi Republican mega-donors, who want to be able to buy the land on the cheap.

It’s also of course a key theme of Cliven Bundy-type ranchers, although Bundy himself and some of the other virulent ones don’t even recognize current federal ownership of the land.  And that’s not where the votes are, in the Electoral College, anyway.  And it’s not why Romney, who already had the Bundy-crowd vote, was saying this.  Publicly.  What Romney wanted was a sort of quid pro quo, and the votes of the donors themselves wasn’t what he was after.

But the few pundits who noted Romney’s statement and commented on it pointed out that although Romney apparently didn’t realize this, most Americans, unlike members of his family, can’t afford lakefront summer homes.  And some can’t afford to stay in resorts.  Nor buy their own leafy acreage in a former wildlife preserve or national park in order to have a place to put down a tent or park an RV.

Romney never mentioned it again.  But I wondered why Obama didn’t.

Well, actually, I knew why.  It’s the same reason that election year after election year, the Democratic candidates, for reelection or election to the Senate or the House don’t mention the things the Republican members of Congress have proposed, sometimes successfully, that are appalling policies dictated by their donors, and that the public does not know about: Apprising the public of these things isn’t on the list of recommendations their political consultants advise them to do.  If it’s not a culture-wars issue or something else that most of the public already knows about, it won’t be on any of their consultants’ list of things to mention.  And if it’s even slightly complex, or the Wall Street folks don’t want the Dems to talk about it, then it’s per se not on the list.

Especially—especially—if it means “nationalizing” the election by pointing out what actually will happen if the Republicans gain control or keep control of the Congress.  As opposed to what will happen if the Dems do.

What won the election for Obama in 2012 was a series of ads run in the spring of that year by a sort-of-independent super PAC that educated the public about what Romney actually did as a venture capitalist, coupled with the 47% videotape in the early fall.  But the spring super PAC ads were attacked by some establishment Dems, including Bill Clinton, and by a few centrist pundits with ties to Wall Street, as class warfare and as attacking capitalism.  And the issue was not “nationalized” for congressional elections, even though the Republican budgets and antiregulatory proposals and other proposed legislation—some of it slipped into an unrelated bill at the last minute, a constant in fact with that crowd—because as always, the Dem consultants were horrified at the prospect of a nationalized congressional election.

“As always” included the 2014 elections.  And best as I can tell, this year’s congressional elections, too.

I had envisioned Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren—the two highest-profile progressives—neither of whom is on the ballot this year, and therefore both who are free to do so, barnstorming the country in an effort to apprise voters of the really ugly things that the Republican Congress keeps trying to force via one or another trick, on behalf of the party’s establishment donors.  Including the divestment of federal lands of all sorts to Republican donors via pass-through to, and then from, the states—not only in and of itself but as lucid illustration of the extremes to which the Republican Party is a party of oligarchs.

A party.  Invitation only.  Admission is steep but well worth the price for invitees.  And that whatever else you can say about the Democrats, their donors aren’t trying to turn vast public lands into private preserves of the Republican donors’ industries.

Oh, the horror of nationalizing the congressional elections.  (If you’re a Republican oligarch, not if you’re, well, not.)

Sanders has been aggressively soliciting campaign contributions, via Act Blue, for certain progressive congressional candidates.  And a few days ago he began soliciting contributions for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, in an email with the subject, “Time to elect a Democratic Senate”, or some such.

But I think he and Warren have been held back somewhat by Clinton’s open, aggressive courting of high-profile Republicans.  And now, as of yesterday, her weird and awful selection of—good graceKen Salazar as her transition team head seems to like a deliberate slight to progressives.  Young voters, at least outside of Colorado, don’t know about him, so she thought this would be freebee, but given social networking, it may well not be.  But Sanders and Warren know about him.  How do you campaign for a progressive Congress to team up with, well, someone who thinks Ken Salazar should head her presidential transition team?

I don’t know who it is that has her ear and is so enamored of uber-triangulating Colorado pols, but it’s someone who thinks it’s still the 1990s. Okay, I do know.  Probably. It’s Bill Clinton—the same person, I’d wager, who told her to jump right on it in going after those Republican endorsements and those Republican donors.  No time to waste.  And no time was wasted.

Maureen Dowd, in a stunning column last Sunday perfectly titled “The Perfect G.O.P. Nominee,”, got pretty close to the heart of why Clinton is so widely viewed as untrustworthy.  And as long as she remains under her husband’s spell there will be no easing of that view.

I’ve repeatedly analogized Donald Trump and Paul Ryan to Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen, but both parties have nominated puppets as their presidential nominees.  I’ll certainly vote for Bill Clinton over Paul Ryan.

Although if Edgar Bergen’s name appears on my ballot, all bets are off.  I like transparency in presidential candidates.  And, who knows?  Maybe he likes the national parks system enough to mention its political endangerment while campaigning.

____

POSTSCRIPT:

In November, 2012, asked a question he did not like by a reporter for The Gazette of Colorado Springs regarding Salazar’s association with [a] hauler who shipped wild horses to slaughter plants, Salazar told the reporter, “If you do that to me again, I’ll punch you out”. Salazar later apologized.

Wikipedia

Great.  Also great:

US presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton has raised eyebrows with the hiring of Washington DC powerbroker and vocal Trans-Pacific Partnership supporter Ken Salazar.

Mr Salazar will head Ms Clinton’s White House transition team.

The appointment adds weight to speculation Ms Clinton, who became a TPP opponent when running for president, was a closet supporter of the proposed landmark pact between the US, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada and seven other Pacific Rim nations.

“The TPP is a strong trade deal that will level the playing field for workers to help middle-class families get ahead,” Mr Salazar, a former Colorado senator and interior secretary under President Barack Obama, co-wrote in a USA Today op-ed in November.

“It is also the greenest trade deal ever.” Ms Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump have both vowed to nix the TPP, a move that contrasts with Mr Obama’s pro-TPP stance. Ms Clinton’s vice president running mate Tim Kaine was also pro-TPP.

If Ms Clinton wins the November 8 presidential election, Mr Salazar will guide her in the months leading up to Mr Obama’s January exit from the White House. It is during that “lame duck” period Mr Obama has the best hope of pushing the TPP proposal through Congress.

Mr Salazar, who has worked at the influential Washington DC firm WilmerHale that has lobbied on trade policy, has also shown support for fracking and the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

“He is pro-Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), pro-fracking and pro-Keystone XL pipeline,” Molly Dorozenski, campaign director for Greenpeace Democracy, wrote.

“If Clinton plans to effectively tackle climate change, the last thing her team needs is a fossil fuel industry friend like Salazar.”

On a trip to Australia in 2012 as US secretary of state Ms Clinton declared in Adelaide the “TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade”.

Clinton supporters query pro-TPP hiring, Peter Mitchell, NZN US Correspondent – NZ Newswire, today

Dowd has it right.

Added 8/17 at 8:06 p.m.

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About That Optimism Thing …

Watching the Democrats’ smoothly staged, potently scripted convention last week, voters could easily think that Hillary Clinton has this election in the bag.

The critiques of Donald Trump made devastatingly clear that he’s a preposterous, dangerous candidate for the presidency. The case for Clinton was compelling, and almost every party leader who mattered showed up to make it.

That included President Obama, who answered Trump’s shockingly gloomy vision of America with a stirring assurance that we have every reason to feel good. Clinton forcefully amplified that assessment. She peddled uplift, not anxiety.

But in 2016, is that the smarter sell? Are prettier words the better pitch?

They made for a more emotional, inspiring convention, so much so that many conservatives loudly grieved the way in which Democrats had appropriated the rousing patriotism and can­do American spirit that Republicans once owned. But Trump has surrendered optimism to Clinton at precisely the moment when it’s a degraded commodity, out of sync with the national mood. That’s surely why he let go of it so readily.

Clinton has many advantages in this race. I wouldn’t bet against her. I expect a significant bounce for her in post­-convention polls; an Ipsos/Reuters survey that was released on Friday, reflecting interviews spread out over the Democrats’ four days in Philadelphia, showed her five points ahead of Trump nationally among likely voters.

But she nonetheless faces possible troubles, and the potential mismatch of her message and the moment is a biggie. She has to exploit the opportunity of Trump’s excessive bleakness without coming across as the least bit complacent. That’s no easy feat but it’s a necessary one. The numbers don’t lie.

The Trouble for Hillary, Frank Bruni, NYT, today

For a few weeks last winter, into the spring, I kept getting ads on my computer screen from the Clinton campaign asking that we “Tell Trump that America’s already great.”  I don’t think I ever failed to groan or roll my eyes at that ad.  It was vintage Clinton campaign—a campaign that struck me as never failing to go for the most obvious cliché or, worse, clichéd misinformation about Bernie Sanders’ policy proposals and statements.

They—certainly including Clinton herself—came off as campaign software algorithms.  True to form.

It would have been fine to specify things about America that are great.  Michelle Obama did that beautifully in her convention speech when she said she wakes up every morning in a home built by slaves, and followed that sentence or preceded it, if I recall, with a statement that America is great.

Her point being that a source of America’s greatness is ability to change in critically important and progressive ways.

And certainly Clinton makes the point, repeatedly, that America’s greatness is so largely because of its ethnic and racial mix, so much of it the result of immigration.

But Clinton undermines her chance to win the election when she just grabs the obvious slogan or generic retort rather than identifying specific areas in which we’re no longer so great: the near-complete end to the long era of social mobility; the downward mobility of many people; the near-complete end to the long era of shared economic gains, and the consequent spiraling, gaping inequality of wealth and of income; and the conversion of the political system from a largely democratic one to an entirely plutocratic one.

The policies in the party’s platform address these.  I wish Clinton had mentioned those problems and then said, simply, that the party’s platform and additional ideas from her campaign and from Dems in Congress—Warren, Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Dick Durbin, Jeff Merkley, although she wouldn’t have had to name them—address these and do show the way toward further greatness.

Only just a week ago it appeared that Clinton’s decision to agree to a party platform incorporating so many of Bernie Sanders’ ideas, entirely or in part, was mainly lip service.  Her campaign was sending clear signals of this, telling reporters that she was more interested in courting moderate Republicans than Sanders supporters, and suggesting that consequently triangulation would be more prevalent than progressiveness.

Her selection of Tim Kaine as her running mate signaled this, or seemed to anyway, and probably did all the way back 10 days ago.  And clearly the courting of moderate Republicans was Bill Clinton’s desired direction; he himself is effectively one these days, after all.  And his convention speech, to the extent that it suggested a policy direction, seemed to me to suggest that one.

But to the surprise of, I think, most political journalists and most progressives she appears instead to have flipped the script.  It’s the view now of several high-profile commentators that Clinton at the last moment decided break from her norm and do the opposite of what she was expected to do because it’s what she always does: She offered lip service to the triangulators and a seemingly sincere promise to progressives that on much of domestic policy she’s now, genuinely, with them.

I think they may be right.

What if Clinton suddenly had an epiphany and realized three key things?  One is that it is not just the Sanders supporters who almost all will vote for her no matter what because the alternative is appalling; it also is moderate Republicans who are likely to do so, almost irrespective of her policy positions.  Another is that this is so of the big pro-corporate, pro-Wall Street donors, the ones who lean Democratic and usually donate to Dems, and the ones who are moderate corporate Republicans.

The third one is that most of the Sanders-induced platform planks aren’t actually radical, and are likely to spur a new wave social mobility, reduction of poverty, and a profoundly needed narrowing of wealth and income gaps.  Making America great again, in other words.

And the planks are popular.

What Clinton may suddenly have realized, even if her husband has not, is that the Trump nomination accomplishes something no one thought possible: It effectively repeals Citizens United, if only for this one presidential election cycle. Clinton had assumed that she could take for granted progressives’ votes, because as a practical matter progressives have nowhere else to go.  But since the regular moderate Democratic mega-donors, and moderate Republican ones too, similarly have nowhere else to go—the rabbit hole isn’t an inviting possibility—Clinton need not actually promise them anything, really, at all.

She may or may not feel liberated.  But I’m sort of guessing that once this sinks in fully, she’ll feel not only liberated but elated.  This is, after all, the strangest of election cycles.  And that would be a very welcome bit of strangeness.

Bruni’s column goes on to illustrate, quite evocatively, the conflicting signals of Clinton’s campaign.  His point, which he makes in spades, is that that itself needs to stop, because it’s self-defeating.  But he comes down, clearly, on the side of warning against a campaign of continuity-with-a-bit-of-incrementalism.

Campaigning as a true progressive and really meaning it and putting her heart into it would mean cutting the political umbilical cord from her husband and so many of the Clintons’ tight circle.  But the political and, here’s betting, the emotional reward to her would more than compensate for the loss of those crutches.  She could truly become her own person, if that truly is who she now is.  And oddly enough, she, and we, would have Donald Trump, of all people, to thank.

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If Clinton chooses Hickenlooper as her running mate, I will not vote for her. I mean it. [Updated]

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was spotted being dropped off at Clinton’s home and remained there for about an hour, according to CNN and NBC News. A person familiar with that meeting confirmed that Warren did meet with Clinton.

The same networks reported that Clinton also met at her home with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose name has been less prominent on Clinton’s list of potential running mates. Clinton also met with Hickenlooper while campaigning in Denver late last month, and he later told reporters that the vice presidential search “briefly” came up.

Clinton meets with Warren, Castro, Hickenlooper as part of VP search, Abby Phillip and Ed O’Keefe

Time and again when asked by a reporter why she thinks so many people, including many Democrats and Dem-leaning Republicans, don’t trust her and don’t like her, Hillary Clinton offers her opinion that that is the result of a quarter-century of vicious attacks by Republicans.  And again and again she claims that her vaunted toughness in defending herself against those Republican attacks will translate into toughness in fighting congressional Republicans on policy issues.

Neither claim is accurate, and both are part and parcel of the heart of Clinton’s campaign problems: That she has a long history of feigning cluelessness about what is so off-putting about her, and that one reason so many people don’t like or trust her is that she feigns cluelessness about what is so off-putting about her, or, worse, isn’t feigning cluelessness about the reason for a problematic public reaction to something about her or something she has said or done.  Or even just the meaning of a term like “the establishment.” which, her protestation notwithstanding, is unrelated led to gender.  And that she’s a triangulator and that, with the exception of traditional women’s issues, her progressive feints appear to be exactly that: feints.

For those who don’t know, although I assume Clinton does: Hickenlooper, who won reelection in 2014 by a hair to, um, this character, spent his entire first term as the ultimate triangulator.  So eager was he to advertise his nonpartisanship (read: moderate-Republican leanings) that he appointed a Republican nobody trial-court judge known for his illiteracy in anything resembling actual law, including his state’s statutes in the main area of law specifically assigned to him to handle as a judge, to the state Supreme Court.

Colorado has an appalling method of judicial selection that gets high praise because the judges are selected initially not via election but instead by appointment of the governor.  The problem is that a private committee, operating secretly, is charged with receiving bids for vacancies and then forwarding to the governor three names from which to choose.

But the three names become public (so to speak) only after they are announced as the three finalists; the names of the applicants are not publicly announced when they become applicants.  And then there is a window of approximately three minutes (okay, I think it’s 15 days) before the governor must make the appointment.  The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it time period is of course long enough for the three to get their supporters to weigh in, but unless you know the announcement of the three is coming, not long enough for anyone else to do so.  Hickenlooper, provided with a choice between two Dems and this Republican-out-of-your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine, chose, to the dismay of many Dems, many progressives, and many victims of this judge’s stupidity, chose the latter.

In (I believe) the second election cycle after the appointment, the judge must run for “retention” by the voters—getting 60% (or some such figure) approval of the voters.  For this (misnomered) justice, that election was the one in November 2014, the one in which Hickenlooper running for reelection topped the ballot for state offices.  A state agency charged with contacting people (i.e., lawyers) who have had cases before the judges running for retention, and summarizing the statements, had reported about this Republican-out-of-your-guess-is-as-good-as-mine that many lawyers—some who had argued cases at the state Supreme Court since his appointment there and some who just had to try to deal with the opinions (such as they are) authored by this moron—that he was notably ignorant of the law and was either unable or unwilling to explain the bases for his opinions.  The agency’s report assured readers, though, that the moron said he’s working on improving.  Apparently, no one had noticed, though.

But Hickenlooper, who apparently also used other important appointments to advertise his nonpartisan (read: pro-business) cred, got a big look-at-me-I’m-not-really-a-Democrat-or-at-least-not-really-a-progressive chit.  The problem, though, was that his triangulation damn-near cost him reelection.

Someone I know who badly wanted to see Hickenlooper’s Republican Supreme Court appointee denied retention, and who believed he could accomplish that by reporting certain specifics to high-profile journalists, instead made the very painful decision to not do that.  The governor’s race was nip-and-tuck until the end.  Anyone appointed by the alternative to Hickenlooper would be horrific.  And highlighting the utter cravenness of Hickenlooper’s I’m-not-a-progressive-just-look-at-my-appointments tenure as governor conceivably could tip the balance toward the other guy in such a close election; progressives, whom Hickenlooper belatedly realized were sooo not pleased that some were considering not voting, and who late in the campaign he started frantically to court, could find it even harder to vote for this guy.

Which should be a lesson to Clinton and to the two people charged with drafting her Convention acceptance speech, and who want to try to explain what, specifically, their candidate means by her slogan “Stronger Together.”  They want, they say, to convey what kind of country Clinton will try to mold as president.

That is incredibly weird, if you think about it.  On virtually the eve of the Convention, this nominee is still debating between the candidate who will assuage her financial-industry donors—after all, who recommended Hickenlooper to her in the first place?— and, well, probably no one who won’t, notwithstanding her token among the VP-choice finalists.

What strikes me is the odd similarity between what Trump is doing and what Clinton is doing.  Or, more accurately, the similarity between the reason for what each of these two respective nominees is doing.  Trump went uber-base in his running mate choice in order to get some mega-donors to fund his campaign.  For Clinton, the opposite is necessary in order to achieve that goal.  I shouldn’t have succumbed to wishful thinking.

But neither Clinton nor her speechwriters need wonder any longer why so many people don’t like or trust her.  Nor what she can do about it.  She’s answered the first question, just fine.  And the second question answers itself, although she still thinks banalities, constant idiotic playacting, looking for a slogan that will fly, and of course triangulation dog whistles, are the way to go.  If at first you don’t succeed, ….

The encouraging news if she chooses Hickenlooper, I guess, is that she may not have him help select her judicial nominees.  Although you never know.

Truly.

____

UPDATE:  Oh, stop.  Just stop, all of you in the comments thread who are excoriating me and think I will continue to be angry enough to actually not vote for Clinton.

Look. There really is no choice, in my opinion.  There just isn’t.

I meant it when I wrote the post, yes.  But since then I watched Clinton’s video address to the Netroots convention, and I feel about it much the same as I did her comments to us Sanders supporters on Tuesday during her joint with him.  I think it would be hard not to watch that video and not see it as sincere.

But if I’m wrong, there’s still no choice.  Not for me.

I wish Clinton would step back and ditch her standard persona and truly be the person she is in that video.  But doing that would require moving away from many of the people who have her ear and whom she relies so much on for political advice.   It also would require her to decide finally that the candidate she says in that video that really is is the candidate she truly is now.

As for Hickenlooper, I think now maybe she really didn’t know much about what transpired in his first term.  But if so, it really should be a warning to her that before she just accepts advice from someone who has the ability, the access, to give it to her, she should speak with some actual progressives who know about the person she’s considering or the issue she’s being lobbied about.

If she does pick Hickenlooper as her running mate, it will be a decision that runs contrary to her statements in that video about who she now is as a candidate, which I interpret as something beyond the two main issues she spoke about in it.  But if she does, I will vote for her anyway because I don’t think I have the option not to.

Update added 7/17 at 4:21 pm.

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ANTITRUSSSTTT! (Bernie Sanders did SO talk about antitrust during his campaign. A LOT. But thank you, Elizabeth Warren, for picking up that mantle now.)

A detailed update follows the original post.

____

Is the window closing on Bernie Sanders’s moment? A number of folks, your humble blogger included, have suggested as much. We’ve argued that with Democrats seeming to unite behind Hillary Clinton, it’s possible that the longer Sanders withholds his endorsement for her in the quest to make the party platform more progressive, the less leverage he’ll end up having.

But a new battleground state poll from Dem pollster Stan Greenberg’s Democracy Corps suggests Sanders’ endorsement could, in fact, still have a real impact, meaning he may still have some genuine leverage to try to win more concessions designed to continue pushing the party’s agenda in a more progressive direction.

A Sanders endorsement of Clinton could still make a big difference, Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, Washington Post, yesterday at 3:24 p.m.

____

Paul Glastris reports that a speech Elizabeth Warren gave that was virtually ignored by the news media could provide a template for an argument about the economy that changes the course of the presidential election. — gs

— Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, Washington Post, yesterday at 6:21 p.m.

Just about exactly a year ago—early last summer—as Clinton was picking up the pace of her campaign appearances and formulating her substantive arguments, she said something that the news media caught onto immediately as really strange.  In an attempt to woo aspiring and current small-business owners, she did her default thing: She adopted a Republican slogan and cliché, this one that government regulation and bureaucracy are the main impediments to starting and expanding small businesses, and are, well, just making the lives of small business owners miserable.

Federal regulations and bureaucracy, see.

It shouldn’t take longer to start a business in America than it does to start one in France, she said, correctly.  And it shouldn’t take longer for a small-business owner to fill out the business’s federal tax forms than it takes Fortune 500 corporations to do so.  Also, correctly.  And as president she will … something.

There were, the news media quickly noted, though, a few problems with this tack.  One was that regulations that apply varyingly to other than a few types of small businesses—those that sell firearms and ammunition, for example—small-business regulations are entirely state and local ones and are not of the sort that the federal government even could address.

Another was that Clinton was relying upon a survey report that provided average times to obtain business licenses in various cities around the world, for companies that would employ a certain number of employees within a numerical, midsize range (or some such), and that cited Paris as the only French cities; showed that the differences in the time it took on average to obtain a business license there and in several American cities was a matter of two or three days, and that only Los Angeles (if I remember correctly) among the American cities had a longer average time than did Paris; and that the all the cities listed had an average of less than two weeks.

Some folks (including me, here at AB) also noted that the actual time it takes to open a small business depends mostly on the type of business, often the ease of obtaining a business loan, purchasing equipment such as that needed to open a restaurant, leasing space, obtaining insurance, and ensuring compliance with, say, local health department and fire ordinances.

And one folk (me, here at AB) pointed out that the relative times it takes to fill out a federal tax form for a business depends far more on whether your business retains Price Waterhouse Coopers to do that, or has in-house CPAs using the latest software for taxes and accounting, or relies upon the sole proprietor to perform that task.

But here’s what I also said: Far, far more important to the ease of starting a business and making a profit in it than regulatory bureaucracy—state and local, much less and federal ones—is overcoming monopolistic practices of, well, monopolies.*

I didn’t just mean Walmart and the like, I explained.  I also meant the monopolistic powers that aren’t obvious to the general public.  Such as wholesale suppliers and shippers.  And such as Visa and Mastercard, which impacts very substantially the profitability of small retailers and franchisers.

Which brought me then, and brings me again, to one of my favorite examples of how the Dems forfeit the political advantage on government regulation by never actually discussing government regulation, in this instance, what’s known as the Durbin Amendment.  It limits the amount that Visa and Mastercard—clearly critical players in commerce now—can charge businesses for processing their customers’ credit card and ATM card transactions.

Talk to any owner of a small retail business—a gas station franchise owner, an independent fast food business owner, an independent discount store, for example—about this issue, as I did back when the Durbin Amendment was being debated in Congress.  See what they say.

The Durbin Amendment was one of the (very) precious few legislative restrictions on monopolies, on anticompetitive business practices, to manage to become law despite intense lobbying of the finance industry or whatever monopolistic industry would be hurt by its enactment.  To my knowledge, though, it was never mentioned in congressional races in 2010 or 2014, or in the presidential or congressional races in 2012. Antitrust issues have been considered too complicated for discussion among the populace.

Which presumably is why the news media never focused on the fact that Bernie Sanders discussed it regularly in his campaign.  And that it resonated with millennials.

And also presumably, it’s why the news media ignored Elizabeth Warren’s speech on Wednesday entirely about the decisive, dramatic effects of the federal government’s aggressive reversal over the last four decades of antirust regulation and the concerted failures of one after another White House administration (including the current one) to enforce the regulation that remains.

Here’s what Glastris wrote in preface to his republishing of the full Warren speech:

Yesterday, straight off her high-profile campaign appearance Monday with Hillary Clinton, Sen. Elizabeth Warren gave a keynote address about industry consolidation in the American economy at a conference at the Capitol put on by New America’s Open Markets program. Though the speech has so far gotten only a modicum of attention—the press being more interested in litigating Donald Trump’s Pocahontas taunts—it has the potential to change the course of the presidential contest. Her speech begins at minute 56:45 in the video below.

Warren is, of course, famous for her attacks on too-big-to-fail banks. But in her address yesterday, entitled “Reigniting Competition in the American Economy,” she extended her critique to the entire economy, noting that, as a result of three decades of weakened federal antitrust regulation, virtually every industrial sector today—from airlines to telecom to agriculture to retail to social media—is under the control of a handful of oligopolistic corporations. This widespread consolidation is “hiding in plain sight all across the American economy,” she said, and “threatens our markets, threatens our economy, and threatens our democracy.”

As our readers know, economic consolidation is a subject the Washington Monthly has long been obsessed with—see hereherehereherehereherehereherehere, and here. In our current cover story, Barry Lynn (impresario of yesterday’s event) and Phil Longman argue that antitrust was the true legacy of the original American Populists and a vital, under-appreciated reason for the mass prosperity of mid-20th Century America. But this legacy, and the new Gilded Age economy that has resulted from its abandonment, is not a narrative most Americans have been told (one reason why even the “populist” candidates running president have shied away from it).

What amazed me yesterday was how Warren synthesized the main points of virtually everything we’ve published into a single speech that, while long and wonky, was Bill Clintonesque in its vernacular exposition. You can imagine average Americans all over the country listening, nodding, understanding.

Though many in the press didn’t notice the speech, you can best believe Hillary Clinton’s campaign operatives were paying attention (Trump’s too, I’ll bet). That’s why I think the speech has the possibility of changing the course of the campaign. The candidate who can successfully incorporate the consolidation message into their campaign rhetoric will an huge, perhaps decisive advantage. Hillary has already signaled, in an op-ed she published last fall, that she gets the larger argument. Yesterday, Elizabeth Warren showed her how to run on it. You can read the full prepared text below.

I’m thrilled.  Except for that parenthetical that says “even the “populist” candidates running president have shied away from it, which is inaccurate regarding Bernie Sanders. The link is to an article by Glastris in the November/December 2015 edition of Washington Monthly titled “America’s Forgotten Formula for Economic Equality,” which regarding Sanders concludes based upon an answer to a question by Anderson Cooper at a then-recent televised debate in which Sanders asked the question about how he expected to win the presidency as a democratic socialist failed to mention the issue of antitrust, that Sanders did not campaign on the issue of the demise of antitrust law and enforcement.

But as it happens, I knew that was incorrect.  One of my fondest memories of the Sanders campaign dates back to a detailed first-person report by a journalist covering the Sanders campaign in Iowa last summer, who attended a rally not as journalist but instead from the cheap seats in the midst of the attendees.  I can’t remember the journalist or the publication, and was unable to find it just now in a search.  But I remember this: He sat next to a young woman, blond, cheerleadery-looking, who whenever Sanders said a word or phrase referencing one of his favorite topics, would stand up, thrust her arm up in a punch-the-air motion, and shout the word or phrase.  Cheerleader-like, the reporter said.

One of the words?  Antitrust.  Or, as the young woman said it, “ANTITRUSSSTTT!”

In searching for that article, which as I said I couldn’t find, I did find a slew of references by Sanders to antitrust—the economic and political power of unchecked and ever-growing monopolies—in reports about his rallies.  One, about a rally in Iowa, for example, quoted Sanders as saying that Agribusiness monopoly has reduced the prices human farmers receive for their products well below their market value in a competitive economy.

Other statements made clear the critical reason that Sanders has so focused on the call to break up the big banks: their huge economic and political power.  Including the resultant demise of community banks of the sort that made America great when America was great—for obtaining small-business loans and mortgages, anyway.

So here’s my point: If you click on the link to that Democracy Corps poll, you’ll see what so many people whose heads are buried in the sands of the pre-2015 political era (including the ones who constantly trash me in the comments threads to my posts like my last one) don’t recognize.  All that the Democrats need do in order to win a White House and down-ballot landslide is to campaign on genuinely progressive issues, and genuinely explain them.

Which is why Warren is so valuable to the Dems up and down the ballot.  And why Sanders is, too.

Warren endorsed Clinton last week, and on Tuesday campaigned with her in a speech introducing her, singing her praises, and trashing Donald Trump.  Headline-making stuff.  But not the stuff that will matter most.  When she goes on the road and repeats her Wednesday speech, not her Tuesday one, and then asks that people vote Democratic for the White House on down, it will matter far more.

And that is true also for Sanders. But I don’t expect many politicos over the age of 40 to recognize that.

Glastris’s piece yesterday in titled “Elizabeth Warren’s Consolidation speech Could Change the Election.” Yes.  Exactly. Consolidation.  As in, monopolies. And monopolistic economic practices and political power.

Antitrusssttt!

Surprisingly, apparently in response to the release of the Democracy Corp poll yesterday, hours after suggesting that Clinton was about to begin campaigning as a triangulator because Sanders was refusing to endorse her, and anyway that’s what some Clinton partisans have been urging, someone in the Clinton campaign rescinded that, indirectly.  Presumably, it was someone under the age of 40.

Or someone who reads Angry Bear.  Probably someone who’s under 40 and reads Angry Bear.

Rah-rah! Sis-boom-bah!

*Sentence edited slightly for clarity. 7/2 at 10:43 a.m.

____

UPDATE: Greg Sargent is reporting now:

The latest draft of the Democratic Party platform, which is set to be released as early as this afternoon, will show that Bernie Sanders won far more victories on his signature issues than has been previously thought, according to details provided by a senior Sanders adviser.

The latest version of the platform, which was signed off on recently by a committee made up of representatives for the Sanders and Clinton campaigns and the DNC, has been generally summarized by the DNC and characterized in news reports. Sanders has hailed some of the compromises reached in it, but he has vowed to continue to fight for more of what he wants when the current draft goes to a larger Democratic convention platform committee in Orlando coming weeks, and when it goes to the floor of the convention in Philadelphia in late July.

But the actual language of the latest draft has not yet been released, and it will be released as early as today. It will show a number of new provisions on Wall Street reform, infrastructure spending, and job creation that go beyond the victories that Sanders has already talked about. They suggest Sanders did far better out of this process thus far than has been previously thought. Many of these new provisions are things that Sanders has been fighting for for years.

We already know from the DNC’s public description of the latest draft of the platform that it includes things such as a general commitment to the idea of a $15-per-hour minimum wage; to expanding Social Security; to making universal health care available as a right through expanding Medicare or a public option; and to breaking up too-big-to-fail institutions.

Warren Gunnels, the chief policy adviser to the Sanders campaign, is Sargent’s source.  Gunnels listed six additions to the platform draft:

1) Eliminating conflict of interest at the Federal Reserve by making sure that executives at financial institutions cannot serve on the board of regional Federal Reserve banks or handpick their members.

2) Banning golden parachutes for taking government jobs and cracking down on the revolving door between Wall Street and Washington.

3) Prohibiting Wall Street from picking and choosing which credit agency will rate their product.

4) Empowering the Postal Service to offer basic banking services, which makes such services available to more people throughout the country, including low-income people who lack access to checking accounts.

5) Ending the loophole that allows large profitable corporations to defer taxes on income stashed in offshore tax havens to avoid paying less taxes.

6) Using the revenue from ending that deferral loophole to rebuild infrastructure and create jobs.

Okay, folks.  While being credited to Sanders, this far more likely is a blunt-force impact of Warren, since every one of these points concerns Warren’s particular area of interest: financial industry regulation.

But there are, I believe, clear Sanders hallmarks in there, too: particularly item 4, empowering the Postal Service to offer basic banking services, which makes such services available to more people throughout the country, including low-income people who lack access to checking accounts.

In other words, Warren is the intermediary between the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.  And in exchange for her unbridled campaigning for and with Clinton has combined her own top priorities—precise legislative ones that Warren has the deep expertise to demand and to draft, e.g., items 1 and 3—with one very specific one of Sanders and with more generic ones of his as well, e.g., items 2 and 5.

This will be an unbeatable platform and team.  During the campaign, and in the four years that follow.

Game on.

Update added 7/1 at 3:34 p.m

 

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Clinton’s figured out how to ensure her victory: Threaten Sanders that if he doesn’t endorse her, pronto, she’ll begin campaigning as a triangulator.

The risk is that [Sanders] will lose his moment because some Clinton partisans already see a more centrist campaign as the best way to win over millions of middle-of-the-road voters who find Trump abhorrent. Sanders has to decide if accelerating his plans to endorse Clinton is now the best way to maximize progressive influence.

Sanders is making his long goodbye count, E.J. Dionne, Washington Post, today

So there it is.  The moment that Sanders endorses Clinton, Clinton will conclude that a more centrist campaign is the best way to win over millions of middle-of-the-road voters who find Trump abhorrent.  Because there are just so very many middle-of-the-road voters who find Trump abhorrent but find the idea of a Medicare-for-all-type healthcare system, a $15/hr. minimum wage, tuition-free public colleges and universities, and compelled reduction in the size and consequent economic and political power of a few mega-banks even more abhorrent.

Throw in sizable tax increases on the wealthy, and the abhorrence of this platform as compared with a Trump presidency shoots off the charts.  At least if you’re a Clinton partisan—Bill Daley, for example, who’s a Democrat only by convenience—and your Wall Street career depended initially upon your family contacts and later upon your Clinton ones.  Or you’ve made your Wall Street fortune the new-fashioned way: private equity.

The very definition of middle-of-the-road, in other words.  Just not the definition of middle-class.  Or working-class.  Unless your work is parlaying your money into ever greater political power in order to ensure a continued inflow of huge amounts of money.

Working-classless, maybe.

In any event we have it now from the horse’s mouth—someone in Clinton’s inner circle.  The risk is that Sanders will lose his moment because some Clinton partisans already see a more centrist campaign as the best way to win over middle-of-the-road voters with millions of dollars who find Trump abhorrent.

Too late, Bernie.  You missed your moment.  You can now withhold not only your endorsement but also your mailing list of three million donors, none of them middle-of-the-road ones.

And some of those three million donors and the many millions more who voted for you, being deemed not as important as the middle-of-the-road voters who hate the idea of a Medicare-for-all-type healthcare system, a $15/hr. minimum wage, tuition-free public colleges and universities, and compelled reduction in the size and consequent economic and political power of a few mega-banks, even more than they hate Trump, may find themselves hating Clinton even more than they hate Trump.  And every bit as much as those millions of middle-of-the-road voters hate a progressive policy platform.  Which is even more than they hate Trump.

What prompted this threat, presumably, was Sanders’ response in an interview with Jake Tapper on Tuesday, when asked what he thought it would take for Clinton to win over his supporters.  “We are trying to say to Secretary Clinton and the Clinton campaign, ‘Make it clear which side you are on,’” he said.  The punditry is up in arms about that.

I myself thought it was a bit harsh, when I read about it on Tuesday.  But Sanders’ instincts were right, apparently.

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The REALLY ANNOYING Don’t-Wanna-Subsidize-Wealthy-Kids’-College-Tuition Canard [With fun update!]

Hillary Clinton’s performance wasn’t as clean or as crisp as her last one. Among other things, she invoked 9/11 in order to dodge a question about her campaign donors. But she effectively made the case that, though Sanders speaks about important questions, his solutions are ultimately simplistic and hers are better. Instead of railing about breaking up the big banks, focus on identifying and moderating the biggest risks to the financial system. Instead of making college free for everyone, increase access to those who need it and decline to subsidize wealthy kids’ tuition.

Can anyone really imagine Bernie Sanders in the White House?, Stephen Stromberg, Washington Post, Nov. 15

Stromberg, a Washington Post editorial writer who also blogs there, is an all-but-official Clinton campaign mouthpiece who last month, in a blog post and (unforgivably) a Post editorial (i.e., commentary with no byline, published on behalf of the Post’s editorial board) baldly misrepresented what Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon on Tuesday misrepresented about Sanders’ single-payer healthcare insurance plan, but from a different angle: Stromberg said that the cost of the single-payer plan would be in addition to the cost of healthcare now.  Actual healthcare, not just insurance premiums.

According to Stomberg and the Post’s editorial board then, hospitals, physicians and other healthcare provides would receive full payment from private insurers and also full payment from the government.  And employers, employees and individual-market policyholders would continue to pay premiums to private insurers while they also paid taxes to the federal government for single-payer—double-payer?—insurance.

A nice deal for some but not, let’s say, for others.  Also, a preposterous misrepresentation of Sanders’ plan.

Fast-forward a month and Stromberg, this time speaking only for himself (as far as I know; I don’t read all the Post’s editorials) and for the Clinton campaign, picks up on Clinton’s invocation of the horror of the public paying college tuition for Donald Trump’s kids.  But since he probably knows that Trump’s kids no more went to public colleges than did Clinton’s kid, he broadens it.

Instead of making college free for everyone, increase access to those who need it and decline to subsidize wealthy kids’ tuition.  Good line!  At least for the ears of voters who are unaware that public universities, like private ones, quietly skew their admissions processes to favor the kids of parents who likely can pay full tuition simply by switching the funds from a CD or other savings account into a checking account at the beginning of each semester, thus removing the need for the school to dig into its endowment fund to provide financial assistance.  Or to worry about whether the student will have that loan money ready at the beginning of each semester.

Which is why Jennifer Gratz, salutatorian at her working-class Detroit suburb’s high school, whose extracurriculars included cheerleading but probably not a summer in Honduras assisting the poor, was denied admission to the University of Michigan back in 1995.  And why she sued the University in what eventually became a landmark Supreme Court case challenging the constitutionality under the equal protection clause of UM’s affirmative action program.

She did not challenge the constitutionality of the U’s almost-certain, but unstated, admissions policy that would ensure that the freshman class had a substantial percentage of students from families wealthy enough to pay the full tuition.

Y’know, the ones wealthy enough to pay for SAT tutoring, SAT practice course and if necessary more than one SAT exam.

What especially angers me about this let’s-not-subsidize-wealthy-kids’-college-canard is that it uses disparities in ability to pay the tuition as a clever way to ensure the admissions status quo.  Or something close to the status quo.

In her and her campaign spokesman’s statements in the last several days—most notably her “Read My Lips; No New Taxes on the Middle Class, Even $1.35/wk to Pay for Family and Medical Leave” declaration, but other statements too—she’s overtly declaring herself a triangulator.  And some progressive political pundits are noticing it.  Yes!*  They!**  Are!***  And Sanders needs to start quoting these articles, in speaking and in web and television ads.

I said here yesterday that Clinton is running a Republican-style campaign.  But it’s not only its style–its tactics–that are Republican. Watch her edge ever closer on substance as well.  Which is the way she began her campaign last spring and early summer, until it became clear that Sanders’ campaign was catching on.

——

*Hillary Clinton Attacks Bernie Sanders’ Progressive Agenda: Why is she talking like a Republican?, Jonathan Cohn, Senior National Correspondent, Huffington Post, Nov. 17

**Hillary Clinton Hits Bernie Sanders on Taxes, Paul Waldman, Washington Post, Nov. 17

***Under attack at the Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton plays EVERY POSSIBLE CARD, Alexandra Petri, The Washington Post, Nov. 14

——

Edited for clarity, typo-correction–and the addition of the last sentence.  11/19 at 8:23 pm.  [Oh, dear.  That’s addition, not edition. Can’t seem to avoid the typos.  I need an editor!]  Corrected 11/20 at 9:52 a.m, after Naked Capitalism linked to the post.  Damn!  

Oh, well.

FUN UPDATE: Yves Smith was kind enough to republish this post on Naked Capital this morning, and there are a few terrific comments to it there.  But I can’t resist reprinting this one, from rusti, as an update the post here at AB:

rusti November 20, 2015 at 5:07 am

We can’t, in good conscience, continue to pay for public works projects knowing that The Donald’s kids are driving on these roads, getting their electrical power from these lines, sourcing water from the same pipes and so forth. A few (moderate) tax rebates to impoverished families to allow them to build out their own infrastructure ought to do the trick.

Perfect.  Question to self, though: Why didn’t YOU think of that, Beverly??

Added 11/20 at 10:18 a.m. 

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