12 Glaring Omissions, Contradictions and Lies Bernie Sanders Spotted in Trump’s Address

NEWS & POLITICS
The Vermont senator slammed the president’s speech in a video response.

Former Kentucky governor Steve Beshear issued a formal Democratic response to Trump’s address to Congress Tuesday. But the most blistering reply may belong to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who took to Facebook shortly thereafter. “I wanted to say a few words about what [Trump] didn’t say, because when you analyze the speech sometimes what is more important is what somebody does not say as opposed to what they actually say,” he began.

Below are 12 glaring omissions, contradictions and lies Sanders spotted in Trump’s address.

1. Social Security and Medicare

“At a time when over half of all older Americans have no retirement savings, I did not hear President Trump say one word, not one word about Social Security or Medicare,” Sanders pointed out.

“During the campaign, as we all remember, President Trump promised over and over and over again that he would not cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. But in his first address [to Congress], he didn’t even mention Social Security or Medicare once, not a single time.”

While Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted the programs would not be touched in an interview this past weekend, President Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, has defended such cuts.

“I urge President Trump, keep your promises, tell the American people, tweet to the American people that you will not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” Sanders said.

2. Income and Wealth Inequality

Trump’s speech to Congress briefly touched on poverty in America. However, Sanders “did not hear President Trump mention the words ‘income and wealth inequality’ or the fact that we now have the widest gap between the very rich and everyone else since the 1920’s.”

3. Campaign Finance

“I did not hear President Trump mention the fact that as a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, a five-to-four decision, we now have a corrupt campaign finance system that is allowing billionaires to buy elections and undermine American democracy,” Sanders said.

To the first-time politician who has repeatedly boasted about funding his own campaign, Sanders asked, “How could you give a speech to the nation and not talk about that enormously important issue?”

4. Voter Suppression

In his speech, President Trump used the phrase “guided by the well-being of American citizens.”

“[But] not only did President Trump not mention the issue of voter suppression, what Republican governors are doing all over this country to make it harder for people to participate in our democracy, but the truth of the matter is his administration is now working, working overtime, with Republican governors to make it harder for young people, low-income people, senior citizens and people of color to vote,” Sanders explained. “That is an outrage.”

5. Climate Change

Perhaps most astoundingly, at a time when the scientific community is virtually unanimous in telling us that climate change is real, that it is caused by human activity, that it is already causing devastating problems in our country and all over the world, I did not hear President Trump say one word, not one word, about the need to combat climate change, the greatest environmental threat facing our planet,” Sanders hammered.

Not only did Trump not mention climate change, “he pledged to increase our dependency on fossil fuels,” Sanders added.

6. Criminal Justice

“At a time when we have more people in jail than any other country on earth, disproportionately African American, Latino, Native American, I did not hear President Trump say one word about how he was going to fix a broken criminal justice system,” Sanders pointed out.

“Yes, we must support the hard work of men and women in the police departments, in the sheriff’s departments all over this country, but we must also end the disgrace of having more people in jail than any other country on earth,” he added.

7. Higher Education

“At a time when we need the best-educated workforce in the world to compete in a highly competitive global economy, I did not hear President Trump say one word, not one word, about the need to lower the cost of college and to do what countries all over the world are doing, and that is to make public colleges and universities tuition-free,” Sanders said.

8. ‘Drain the Swamp’

“During his campaign, President Trump told us that he was going to take on Wall Street and ‘drain the swamp,'” Sanders reminded viewers. “Well, the swamp, big-time, is now in his administration, which has more millionaires and billionaires than any presidential administration in history.”

“Amazingly enough, for somebody who was going to ‘drain the swamp,’ who’s going to take on Wall Street, his chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, is the former president of Goldman Sachs, one of the major financial institutions that pay billions of dollars in fines for their illegal activity,” Sanders added.

9. Glass-Steagall Act

“I did not hear President Trump say one word about another campaign promise that he made to the American people, and that was to reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act.”

In his speech, President Trump proposed a $1 trillion investment in American infrastructure, “but the specifics of the financing plan that he has provided us with so far are absolutely wrong,” Sanders concluded. “We cannot rebuild our infrastructure by providing billions of dollars in tax breaks to Wall Street and large corporations.”

10. Clean Water Rules

“Donald Trump said tonight that we need to ‘promote clean air and clean water.’… I had a difficult time not laughing out loud when he said that,” Sanders admitted, since, “On this very, very day, he signed an executive order rolling back President Obama’s clean water rules and has appointed the most anti-environmental EPA administrator in our nation’s history.”

11. Military Spending

“President Trump said [Tuesday night] that he wants to substantially increase funding for the Pentagon,” Sanders recalled. “What he didn’t say tonight is that he will come up with that $84 billion in increased funding for the Pentagon by slashing programs that benefit the working people of this country, that benefit the elderly, that benefit the children, the sick and the poor.”

12. Prescription Drug Costs

“As he did during his campaign, Donald Trump claimed that he would bring down the cost of prescription drugs,” Sanders told viewers. “A few weeks ago, he even said that the pharmaceutical industry was ‘getting away with murder,’ but if Donald Trump really wanted to take on the pharmaceutical industry, he would have told his Republican friends in the House and the Senate to pass legislation, which I [re]introduced today with 20 senators allowing Americans to import safe low-cost medicine from Canada.”

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In Hillary Clinton’s America, Wall Street Will Be in the Saddle

ELECTION 2016
The high probability of a Clinton win means the establishment remains intact.

Photo Credit: Trevor Collens / Shutterstock.com

As this endless election limps toward its last days, while spiraling into a bizarre duel over vote-rigging accusations, a deep sigh is undoubtedly in order. The entire process has been an emotionally draining, frustration-inducing, rage-inflaming spectacle of repellent form over shallow substance. For many, the third debate evoked fatigue. More worrying, there was again no discussion of how to prevent another financial crisis, an ominous possibility in the next presidency, whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton enters the Oval Office — given that nothing fundamental has been altered when it comes to Wall Street’s practices and predation.

At the heart of American political consciousness right now lies a soul-crushing reality for millions of distraught Americans: the choices for president couldn’t be feebler or more disappointing. On the one hand, we have a petulant, vocabulary-challenged man-boar of a billionaire, who hasn’t paid his taxes, has regularly left those supporting him holding the bag, and seems like a ludicrous composite of every bad trait in every bad date any woman has ever had. On the other hand, we’re offered a walking photo-op for and well-paid speechmaker to Wall-Street CEOs, a one-woman money-raising machine from the 1% of the 1%, who, despite a folksiness that couldn’t look more rehearsed, has methodically outplayed her opponent.

With less than two weeks to go before E-day — despite the Trumptilian upheaval of the last year — the high probability of a Clinton win means the establishment remains intact. When we awaken on November 9th, it will undoubtedly be dawn in Hillary Clinton’s America and that potentially means four years of an economic dystopia that will (as would Donald Trump’s version of the same) leave many Americans rightfully anxious about their economic futures.

None of the three presidential debates suggested that either candidate would have the ability (or desire) to confront Wall Street from the Oval Office. In the second and third debates, in case you missed them, Hillary didn’t even mention the Glass-Steagall Act, too big to fail, or Wall Street. While in the first debate, the subject of Wall Street only came up after she disparaged the tax policies of “Trumped-up, trickle down economics” (or, as I like to call it, the Trumpledown economics of giving tax and financial benefits to the rich and to corporations).

In this election, Hillary has crafted her talking points regarding the causes of the last financial crisis as weapons against Trump, but they hardly begin to tell the real story of what happened to the American economy. The meltdown of 2007-2008 was not mainly due to “tax policies that slashed taxes on the wealthy” or a “failure to invest in the middle class,” two subjects she has repeatedly highlighted to slam the Republicans and their candidate. It was a byproduct of the destruction of the regulations that opened the way for a too-big-to-fail framework to thrive. Under the presidency of Bill Clinton, Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era act that once separated people’s bank deposits and loans from any kind of risky bets or other similar actions in which banks might engage, was repealed under the Financial Modernization Act of 1999. In addition, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was passed, which allowed Wall Street to concoct devastating unregulated side bets on what became the subprime crisis.

Given that the people involved with those choices are still around and some are still advising (or in the case of one former president living with) Hillary Clinton, it’s reasonable to imagine that, in January 2017, she’ll launch the third term of Bill Clinton when it comes to financial policy, banks, and the economy. Only now, the stakes are even higher, the banks larger, and their impunity still remarkably unchallenged.

Consider President Obama’s current treasury secretary, Jack Lew. It was Hillary who hit the Clinton Rolodex to bring him back to Washington. Lew first entered Bill Clinton’s White House in 1993 as special assistant to the president.  Between his stints working for Clinton and Obama, he made his way into the private sector and eventually to Wall Street — as so many of his predecessors had done and successors would do.  He scored a leadership role with Citigroup during the time that Bill Clinton’s former Treasury Secretary(and former Goldman Sachs co-Chairman) Robert Rubin was on its board of directors.  In 2009, Hillary selected him to be her deputy secretary of state.

Lew is hardly the only example of the busy revolving door to power that led from the Clinton administration to the Obama administration via Wall Street (or activities connected to it). Bill Clinton’s Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs, Timothy Geithner worked with Robert Rubin, later championed Wall Street as president and CEO of the New York Federal Reserve while Hillary was senator from New York (representing Wall Street), and then became Obama’s first treasury secretary while Hillary was secretary of state.

One possible contender for treasury secretary in a new Clinton administration would be Bill Clinton’s Under Secretary of Domestic Finance and Obama’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission chairman, Gary Gensler (who was — I’m sure you won’t be shocked — a Goldman Sachs partner before entering public service). These, then, are typical inhabitants of the Clinton inner circle and of the political-financial corridors of power. Their thinking, like Hillary’s, meshes well with support for the status quo in the banking system, even if, like her, they are willing on occasion to admonish it for its “mistakes.”

This thru-line of personnel in and out of Clinton World is dangerous for most of the rest of us, because behind all the “talking heads” and genuinely amusing Saturday Night Live skits about this bizarre election lie certain crucial issues that will have to be dealt with: decisions about climate change, foreign wars, student-loan unaffordability, rising income inequalitydeclining social mobility, and, yes, the threat of another financial crisis. And keep in mind that such a future economic meltdown isn’t an absurdly long-shot possibility. Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve, the nation’s main bank regulator, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the government entity that insures our bank deposits, collectively noted that seven of our biggest eight banks — Citigroup was the exception — still have inadequate emergency plans in the event of another financial crisis.

Exploring a Two-Faced World

Politicians regularly act one way publicly and another privately, as Hillary was “outed” for doing by WikiLeaks via its document dump from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s hacked email account. Such realities should be treated as neither shockers nor smoking guns. Everybody postures. Everybody lies. Everybody’s two-faced in certain aspects of their lives. Politicians just make a career out of it.

What’s problematic about Hillary’s public and private positions in the economic sphere, at least, isn’t their two-facedness but how of a piece they are. Yes, she warned the bankers to “cut it out! Quit foreclosing on homes! Quit engaging in these kinds of speculative behaviors!” — but that was no demonstration of strength in relation to the big banks. Her comments revealed no real understanding of their precise role in exacerbating a fixable subprime loan calamity and global financial crisis, nor did her finger-wagging mean anything to Wall Street.

Keep in mind that, during the build-up to that crisis, as banks took advantage of looser regulations, she collected more than $7 million from the securities and investment industry for her New York Senate runs ($18 million during her career). In her first Senate campaign,Citigroup was her top contributor.  The four Wall-Street-based banks (JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) all feature among her top 10 career contributors. As a senator, she didn’t introduce any bills aimed at reforming or regulating Wall Street. During the lead-up to the financial crisis of 2007-2008, she did introduce five (out of 140) bills relating to the housing crisis, but they all died before making it through a Senate committee. So did a bill she sponsored to curtail corporate executive compensation. Though she has publicly called for a reduction in hedge-fund tax breaks (known as “closing the carried interest loophole”), including at the second debate, she never signed on to the bill that would have done so (one that Obama co-sponsored in 2007). Perhaps her most important gesture of support for Wall Street was her vote in favor of the $700 billion 2008 bank bailout bill. (Bernie Sanders opposed it.)

After her secretary of state stint, she returned to the scene of banking crimes. Many times. As we know, she was also paid exceedingly well for it. Friendship with the Clintons doesn’t come cheap. As she said in October 2013, while speaking at a Goldman Sachs AIMS Alternative Investments’ Symposium, “running for office in our country takes a lot of money, and candidates have to go out and raise it. New York is probably the leading site for contributions for fundraising for candidates on both sides of the aisle.”

Between 2013 and 2015, she gave 12 speeches to Wall Street banks, private equity firms, and other financial corporations, reaping a whopping $2,935,000 for them. In her 2016 presidential run, the securities and investment sector (aka Wall Street) has contributed the most of any industry to PACs supporting Hillary: $56.4 million.

Yes, everybody needs to make a buck or a few million of them. This is America after all, but Hillary was a political figure paid by the same banks routinely getting slapped with criminal settlements by the Department of Justice. In addition, the Clinton Foundation counted as generous donors all four of the major Wall Street-based mega-banks. She was voracious when it came to such money and tone-deaf when it came to the irony of it all.

Glass-Steagall and Bernie Sanders

One of the more illuminating aspects of the Podesta emails was a series of communications that took place in the fall of 2015. That’s when Bernie Sanders was gaining traction for, among other things, his calls to break up the big banks and resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.  The Clinton administration’s dismantling of that act in 1999 had freed the big banks to use their depositors’ money as collateral for risky bets in the real estate market and elsewhere, and so allowed them to become ever more engorged with questionable securities.

On December 7, 2015, with her campaign well underway and worried about the Sanders challenge, the Clinton camp debuted a key Hillary op-ed, “How I’d Rein in Wall Street,” in the New York Times. This followed two months of emails and internal debate within her campaign over whether supporting the return of Glass-Steagall was politically palatable for her and whether not supporting it would antagonize Senator Elizabeth Warren. In the end, though Glass-Steagall was mentioned in passing in her op-ed, she chose not to endorse its return.

She explained her decision not to do so this way (and her advisers and media apostles have stuck with this explanation ever since):

“Some have urged the return of a Depression-era rule called Glass-Steagall, which separated traditional banking from investment banking. But many of the firms that contributed to the crash in 2008, like A.I.G. and Lehman Brothers, weren’t traditional banks, so Glass-Steagall wouldn’t have limited their reckless behavior. Nor would restoring Glass-Steagall help contain other parts of the ‘shadow banking’ sector, including certain activities of hedge funds, investment banks, and other non-bank institutions.”

Her entire characterization of how the 2007-2008 banking crisis unfolded was — well — wrong.  Here’s how traditional banks (like JPMorgan Chase) operated: they lent money to investment banks like Lehman Brothers so that they could buy more financial waste products stuffed with subprime mortgages that these traditional banks were, in turn, trying to sell. They then backed up those toxic financial products through insurance companies like AIG, which came close to collapse when what it was insuring became too toxically overwhelming to afford.  AIG then got a $182 billion government bailout that also had the effect of bailing out those traditional banks (including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, which became “traditional” during the crisis). In this way, the whole vicious cycle started with the traditional banks that hold your deposits and at the same time could produce and sell those waste products thanks to the repeal of Glass-Steagall. So yes, the loss of that act caused the crisis and, in its wake, every big traditional bank was fined for crisis-related crimes.

Hillary won’t push to bring back Glass-Steagall. Doing so would dismantle her husband’s legacy and that of the men he and she appointed to public office. Whatever cosmetic alterations may be in store, count on that act remaining an artifact of the past, since its resurrection would dismay the bankers who, over the past three decades, made the Clintons what they are.

No wonder many diehard Sanders supporters remain disillusioned and skeptical — not to speak of the fact that their candidate featured dead last (39th) on a list of recommended vice presidential candidates in the Podesta emails. That’s unfortunately how much his agenda is likely to matter to her in the Oval Office.

Go Regulate Yourselves!

Before he resigned with his nine-figure golden parachute, Wells Fargo CEO and Chairman John Stumpf addressed Congress over disclosures that 5,300 of his employees had created two million fake accounts, scamming $2.4 million from existing customers. The bank was fined $185 million for that (out of a total $10 billion in fines for a range of other crimes committed before and during the financial crisis).

In response, Hillary wrote a letter to Wells Fargo’s customers. In it, she didn’t actually mention Stumpf by name, as she has not mentioned any Wall Street CEO by name in the context of criminal activity. Instead, she simply spoke of “he.”  As she put it, “He owes all of you a clear explanation as to how this happened under his watch.” She added, “Executives should be held individually accountable when rampant illegal activity happens on their watch.”

She does have a plan to fine banks for being too big, but they’ve already been fined repeatedly for being crooked and it hasn’t made them any smaller or less threatening.  As their top officials evidently view the matter, paying up for breaking the law is just another cost of doing business.

Hillary also wrote, “If any bank can’t be managed effectively, it should be broken up.” But the question is: Why doesn’t ongoing criminal activity that threatens the rest of us correlate with ineffective management — or put another way, when was the last time you saw a major bank broken up? And don’t hold your breath for that to happen in a new Clinton administration either.

In her public letter, she added, “I’ll appoint regulators who will stand with taxpayers and consumers, not with big banks and their friends in Congress.”  On the other hand, at that same Goldman Sachs symposium, while in fundraising mode, she gave bankers a pass relative to regulators and commented: “Well, I represented all of you for eight years. I had great relations and worked so close together after 9/11 to rebuild downtown, and [I have] a lot of respect for the work you do and the people who do it.”

She has steadfastly worked to craft explanations for the financial crisis and the Great Recession that don’t endanger the banks as we presently know them. In addition, she has supported the idea of appointing insider regulators,insisting that “the people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry.” (Let’s not forget that former Goldman Sachs CEO and Chairman Hank Paulson ran the Treasury Department while the crisis brewed.)

Among the emails sent to John Podesta that were posted by WikiLeaks is an article I wrote for TomDispatch on the Clintons’ relationships with bankers.  “She will not point fingers at her friends,” I said in that piece in May 2015. She will not chastise the people who pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop to speak or the ones who have long shared the social circles in which she and her husband move.” I also suggested that she wouldn’t call out any CEO by name. To this day she hasn’t. I said that she would never be an advocate for Glass-Steagall. And she hasn’t been. What was true then will be no less true once she’s in the White House and no longer has to make gestures toward the platform on which Bernie ran and so can once again more openly embrace the bankers’ way of conducting business.

There’s a reason Wall Street has a crush on her and its monarchs like Goldman Sachs CEO and Chairman Lloyd Blankfein pay her such stunning sums to offer anodyne remarks to their employees and others. Blankfein has been coy about an official Clinton endorsement simply because he doesn’t want to rock her campaign boat, but make no mistake, this Wall Street kingpin’s silence is tantamount to an endorsement.

To date, $10 trillion worth of assets sits on the books of the Big Six banks. Since 2008, these same banks have copped to more than $150 billion in fines for pre-crisis behavior that ranged on the spectrum of criminality from manipulating multiple public markets to outright fraud. Hillary Clinton has arguably taken money that would not have been so available if it weren’t for the ill-gotten gains those banks secured. In her usual measured way, albeit with some light admonishments, she has told them what they want to hear: that if they behave — something that in her dictionary of definitions involves little in the way of personalized pain or punishment — so will she.

So let’s recap Hillary’s America, past, present, and future. It’s a land lacking in meaningful structural reform of the financial system, a place where the big banks have been, and will continue to be, coddled by the government. No CEO will be jailed, no matter how large the fines his bank is saddled with or how widespread the crimes it committed.  Instead, he’s likely to be invited to the inaugural ball in January. Because its practices have not been adequately controlled or curtailed, the inherent risk that Wall Street poses for Main Street will only grow as bankers continue to use our money to make their bets. (The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act was supposed to help on this score, but has yet to make the big banks any smaller.)

And here’s an obvious corollary to all this: the next bank-instigated economic catastrophe will not be dealt with until it has once again crushed the financial stability of millions of Americans.

The banks have voted with their dollars on all of this in multiple ways. Hillary won’t do anything to upset that applecart. We should have no illusions about what her presidency would mean from a Wall Street vs. Main Street perspective. Certainly, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon doesn’t. He effectively endorsed Hillary before a crowd of financial industry players, saying, “I hope the next president, she reaches across the aisle.”

For Wall Street, of course, that aisle is essentially illusory, since its players operate so easily and effectively on both sides of it. In Hillary’s America, Wall Street will still own Main Street.

 

Nomi Prins, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of six books, a speaker, and a distinguished senior fellow at the non-partisan public policy institute Demos. Her most recent book is All the Presidents’ Bankers: The Hidden Alliances That Drive American Power (Nation Books). She is a former Wall Street executive.

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Twenty years since Clinton’s welfare “reform”

NASHVILLE, :  US President Bill Clinton clinches his fist during a 27 October speech on welfare reform at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The US general election is two weeks away on 05 Novemeber.  (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO Paul J. RICHARDS (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

23 August 2016

Twenty years ago yesterday, on August 22, 1996, President Bill Clinton signed bipartisan legislation that ended the federal guarantee of welfare assistance to the poor.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 was the first repeal of a major provision of the 1935 Social Security Act, which made relief to the old, the disabled, the jobless, single mothers and poor children a federally funded and guaranteed “entitlement.” Eligibility for what would become Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was expanded in 1962.

Instead of providing a safety net of minimal benefits, the new Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF), which replaced AFDC, imposed a lifetime limit of five years, plus mandatory work and school requirements. The federal government sent a fixed amount of money, in the form of block grants, to the states, which were free to impose even harsher eligibility restrictions and cut off benefits once the money ran out, no matter how many people were left destitute.

As a result, millions of poor people lost all cash assistance and were bereft of any income. While AFDC benefits were always woefully inadequate, TANF assistance in all states currently provides less than half the income deemed necessary by the government to avoid poverty. In one-third of the states, the benefits are less than 20 percent of the official poverty level.

The 1996 law also cut food assistance to the poor. The tightening of eligibility for food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has had devastating consequences. As a result of the lowering of maximum benefits enacted at that time, a working household of three people today receives nearly $400 less a year—or $33 a month—than it would have received had the “reform” not been enacted.

So draconian were Clinton’s measures, they were denounced by Senator Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat who had been reviled for joining the Nixon administration and initiating the first efforts to cut back on social programs. Moynihan denounced both parties for “making cruelty to children an instrument of social policy.”

In announcing that he was “ending welfare as we know it,” Clinton cynically claimed that his bill would help welfare recipients find work and attain economic self-sufficiency. That was a lie. The measure freed up billions for corporate tax cuts and military programs, while forcing millions of workers into low-wage, part-time jobs. The funneling of the desperately poor into the labor market contributed to the suppression of wages that continues to this day.

The corporate-controlled media has marked the anniversary by hailing its “success” and fondly recalling the bipartisan support for the measure. Media commentators suggest that the cross-party cooperation that succeeded in destroying welfare should be a model for laying siege to even more basic entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

A series of recent reports has detailed the human impact of Clinton’s cuts:

  • The number of US children living in families with monthly incomes below $2 per person per day doubled from 1996 to 2011, according to a 2013 analysis published by the National Poverty Center.
  • While 76 families received cash assistance through AFDC for every 100 poor families with children in 1995, by 2014, only 23 percent received TANF cash assistance. Because fixed benefit levels lost value due to inflation, cash payments for a family of three in July 2015 were at least 20 percent below their 1996 level in 35 states and the District of Columbia.
  • A 2015 review of the law by the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that “declines in welfare benefits arising from leaving welfare often cancel out the earning increases, leaving income relatively unchanged.” In addition, “a significant number of single-mother families appear to have been worse off and to have higher deep poverty rates,” defined as living below half the federal poverty line.
  • During the first decade of welfare “reform,” incomes fell by 18 percent for the poorest tenth of children of single mothers, and the share of children living in deep poverty rose from 2.1 percent to 3.0 percent—from 1.5 million to 2.2 million—according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. While the percentage of children in deep poverty was reduced to 2.6 percent in the following decade, this was largely due to the temporary extension of unemployment benefits and food stamps after the Great Recession, which has largely dried up.
  • The cancellation of welfare payments to legal immigrants through the imposition of long-term residency requirements led to a fall in high school graduation rates by as much as 17 percent, according to a recent article in the Washington Post.

In destroying welfare, President Clinton had the enthusiastic backing of his wife, Hillary Clinton, who is now the Democratic candidate for US president. The ex-president emphasized her role in a 2006 op-ed piece in the New York Times titled “How We Ended Welfare, Together.” In the article, Clinton boasted that welfare rolls had been reduced from 12.2 million to 4.5 million in the first decade of his “reform.”

The destruction of the federal welfare system was part of a social counterrevolution by the American ruling class initiated in the last years of the Democratic administration of Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s and escalated during the Reagan years of the 1980s. It marked the complete abandonment of the policy of liberal reform associated with Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s and Johnson’s War on Poverty in the mid-1960s.

The Clintons were leading figures in the Democratic Leadership Council, which renounced such reforms and helped transform the Democratic Party into the leading party of Wall Street.

Following the debacle of Hillary Clinton’s pro-corporate health care “reform,” the Democrats suffered a rout in the 1994 mid-term elections, which gave the Republicans, under the leadership of arch reactionary Newt Gingrich, control of both houses of Congress. The response of the Clintons was to shift further to the right.

The tossing of millions of welfare recipients into destitution was a calculated effort to curry favor from the ruling elite and reactionary sections of the upper middle class. In the current presidential campaign, Clinton’s wife has adopted a similar strategy, except even more reactionary.

The war on the poor, with its denunciations of “generations of dependency” and demands for “personal responsibility,” coincided with a bipartisan program of unlimited government welfare for corporate America and the super-rich. These were the days of “irrational exuberance” on Wall Street, the Clinton administration’s repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and other Depression-era banking regulations, the destruction of millions of better-paying manufacturing jobs, the growth of financialization, and the rise of a new financial aristocracy to the pinnacle of the American economy.

Over the last seven-and-a-half years, the Obama administration has intensified this social counterrevolution, slashing the wages of autoworkers, shifting the burden of health care and pensions onto the backs of workers, and funneling trillions to Wall Street and trillions more to the Pentagon to wage nonstop war.

Various pseudo-left and Democratic Party advocates of identity politics characterize Clinton’s welfare “reform” as a racist measure. Typical is a recent piece in the New Republic titled “The Racist Roots of Welfare Reform.”

This only serves to conceal the class character of the Democratic Party-led attack—whose victims include all races and nationalities, the majority being poor whites. In opposition to all such reactionary attempts to divide the working class, the Socialist Equality Party and our presidential and vice presidential candidates, Jerry White and Niles Niemuth, fight for the unity of the working class in a struggle against the capitalist system, the source of war, poverty and repression.

Jerry White

WSWS

Hillary has already shown her hand.

For Fear of Finding Something Worse

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, DC, on May 14, 2014

‘Why is Hillary Clinton so unpopular?’ David Brooks, a columnist at the New York Times, asked in May. Rather than looking at her political record, he examined her psyche: ‘Can you tell me what Hillary Clinton does for fun?’ If Hillary lacks appeal, he suggested, it is because of her temperament: She is completely absorbed in her career. Her unpopularity ‘is akin to the unpopularity of a workaholic,’ and her ‘formal, career-oriented persona puts her in direct contrast with the mores of the social media age, which is intimate, personal, revealing, trusting and vulnerable.’ This goodwill is surprising in a columnist who is usually close to the Republican Party. But rejection of Donald Trump is such that strange alliances are being formed.

According to Brooks, Hillary seems like a new arrival on the political scene, though she has been first lady, a US senator and secretary of state. Have people forgotten her support for the invasion of Iraq in 2003, her three speeches to bankers at Goldman Sachs (for each of which she was paid $225,000), her backing of free trade agreements, and her support for the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi? What of her conflict of interest with the Clinton Foundation — a family-owned philanthropic multinational — when she was part of the Obama administration? According to the New York Times, Foundation directors managed, after lobbying secretary of state Clinton, to have money earmarked for a US federal programme to combat AIDS in Rwanda transferred to a training programme set up by the Foundation.

Then there are Hillary’s links to Wall Street, which finances both her campaign and the Foundation. Even Trump has donated to the Foundation: more than $100,000 in 2009. Trump was friendly with Bill and Hillary for many years, and invited them to his third wedding, in 2005. They sat in the front row, and their broad smiles suggested they were enjoying the evening. That’s what Hillary does for fun.

Voting for Hillary in November in fact means voting for a couple, each the other’s closest adviser. Hillary has already shown her hand. If she wins, Bill will be ‘in charge of revitalizing the economy, because, you know, he knows how to do it.’

According to the image she promotes, Hillary has been a keen defender of children’s interests for more than 30 years; when Bill was governor of Arkansas, she allied herself with charitable organisations such as the Children’s Defense Fund, with a view to establishing a reputation as a caring person. But most of her time in the South was devoted to the Rose Law Firm, where she worked from 1977 to 1992, specialising in patent law and intellectual property. Rose, which embodies the collusion between politics and business in Arkansas, had among its clients Walmart, known for its hatred of trade unions and love of low-cost goods made in countries where the labour force can be exploited.

Hillary’s track record as a lawyer gained her a place on Walmart’s board, where she served from 1986 to 1992, receiving a salary of $18,000 a year ($31,000 today, allowing for inflation). She has always avoided mentioning in public anything that might upset Walmart, especially its policy of wage compression. (It’s hard to raise children on $19,427 a year, today’s average pay for a Walmart sales associate.) After travelling through the Deep South in 2013-4, Paul Theroux wrote that he had ‘found towns in South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas that looked like towns in Zimbabwe, just as overlooked and beleaguered’. He mocked the Clinton Foundation for running a ‘Partnership to Save Africa’s Elephants’ — a flagship programme — while ignoring poor black families in Arkansas.

From the start of his first term as president, Bill was keen to improve the financing of Democratic election campaigns, which had depended too much on major industrial trade unions, and set about shifting his party to the right. He promoted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), as popular with multinationals as it was unpopular with Democrat voters. Hillary never opposed the agreement. In September 1992 she attended a crucial meeting in Arlington, Virginia, when Bill decided to support the agreement, which had been negotiated by President George H W Bush. She then helped define the strategy for getting recalcitrant Democratic Representatives on board. According to Tom Nides, a former member of the Clinton team, ‘this was member by member — figuring out what was in their district, figuring out who we could influence, how we could work it’. In November 1993 NAFTA was ratified with the help of Newt Gingrich, then Republican number two in the House of Representatives. In March 1996, she said: ‘I think NAFTA is proving its worth.’

Emboldened by his free-trade success, Bill began to go back on some principles of the US welfare state, created in the 1930s with Roosevelt’s New Deal. With the help of Gingrich, who had become speaker of the House of Representatives after the Democrats’ defeat in the 1994 midterm elections, he imposed a ‘reform’ of the US welfare system, depriving more than 11 million poor families of aid. In protest, Peter Edelman — husband of the founder of the Children’s Defense Fund — resigned as assistant secretary for planning. He wrote: ‘[The new law] does not promote work effectively, and it will hurt millions of poor children by the time it is fully implemented.’ Hillary was silent about the fact that children (notably black and Latino) were being penalised by Bill’s policies.

Bill later deregulated Wall Street with the help of his Republican ‘rivals’: In November 1999 he signed the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which since 1933 had separated commercial and investment banking, to discourage banks from speculating with small depositors’ money. Republican John McCain, and others, are now proposing a new Glass-Steagall Act. Not Hillary: her economic adviser Alan Blinder said last year: ‘You’re not going to see Glass-Steagall.’

Hillary’s political career really started in 2000, when she stood in the election for US senator for New York, parachuted into a state where she had never resided by her husband and his powerful allies in the Democratic Party. Once elected, she got on well with the Bush administration. In a speech to the Senate in October 2002, she confirmed her support for the invasion of Iraq, repeating the White House’s lies about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. She defended a ‘preventive’ war, drawing a parallel with the bombing of Yugoslavia, which Bill had decided in 1999, to ‘stop the dislocation and ethnic cleansing of more than a million Kosovar Albanians … And perhaps my decision is influenced by my eight years of experience on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, in the White House, watching my husband deal with serious challenges to our nation’. Not the words of a feminist, but unsurprising from a candidate whose Twitter profile begins ‘wife, mom, grandma’.

Hillary’s 2002 speech was remarkable for its banality of language, but it would be unfair to suggest that she wrote it herself. She frequently uses ghostwriters, who are rarely credited; Professor Barbara Feinman Todd complained that she was not mentioned in It Takes a Village(1996), Hillary’s bestseller about ‘lessons children teach us’. It is not even certain Hillary wrote her own memoirs: to tell the story of her time as secretary of state, she used a ‘book team’, whom she barely mentions.

The record of Hillary’s four years in charge of US foreign policy does not inspire confidence. In 2011, when the Libyan rebellion was growing, she was cautious: ‘I’m one of those who believes that absent international authorisation, the United States acting alone, would be stepping into a situation whose consequences are unforeseeable.’ Then she changed her mind: ‘I got an earful about military intervention from Sarkozy. He is a dynamic figure, always full of ebullient energy, who loves being at the center of the action … Sarkozy was also influenced by the French public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy … They were both genuinely moved by the plight of the Libyan people, suffering at the hands of a brutal dictator.’ Seduced by the Frenchmen, and to avoid a ‘humanitarian disaster’, she joined the interventionist camp and, with President Obama, led the US into a new war without seeking congressional approval, though the constitution requires it. Fortunately, it all ended well: ‘Over the next 72 hours, Libya’s air defences were successfully destroyed and the people of Benghazi were saved from imminent devastation.’ The rest of the book is in the same vein.

Hillary knows that her rightwing image is the final obstacle to winning over the supporters of Bernie Sanders. Drawn to the left by her ‘socialist’ rival’s success in the primaries, she has recently put forward progressive measures: taxing banks that have too much debt, increasing the minimum wage to $12 an hour, regulating university tuition fees according to family income. Her U-turn on free trade has been spectacular. In November 2012 she praised the Trans-Pacific Partnership: ‘This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade.’ But the criticism by Trump and Sanders of free trade seem to be convincing voters, and in October 2015 Hillary said: ‘As of today, I am not in favor of what I have learned about it. I don’t believe it’s going to meet the high bar I have set.’ On 7 July her allies blocked an effort by the Sanders campaign to have the Democratic Party officially oppose a congressional vote on TTP.

Hillary seems more predictable than Trump, who has increased his verbal attacks on ‘radical Islamists’ and ‘immigrants’. Her calm and sense of proportion have even won over some Republicans. Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard, who was finance co-chair of presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s exploratory committee, has openly declared her support, as has neoconservative Robert Kagan, a former Romney adviser. The Bush family have said they will abstain in the election.

Hillary also has the unfailing support of the media establishment, which presents her as the last line of defence against barbarism. David Remnick, editor of theNew Yorker, asked: ‘Has a presidential election ever suggested more vividly divergent candidates than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump? … Clinton will have to campaign with unwavering poise against the most dangerous and unpredictable variety of opponent — a demagogue who is willing to trespass every boundary of decency to win power.’

This recalls the confrontation between President Jacques Chirac and Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002, when the French left was obliged to support a rightwing candidate to protect the country from the ‘fascist danger’. But Chirac was more progressive than Hillary, especially on foreign policy. The US presidential campaign is more like a contest between Angela Merkel and Silvio Berlusconi, in which the US left has decided to support Merkel.

John R. MacArthur is an American journalist and author of books about US politics. He is the president of Harper’s Magazine. Translated by Charles Goulden.

http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/fear-finding-something-worse?akid=14495.265072.f3Qn8Z&rd=1&src=newsletter1061155&t=10

Bill Clinton’s Five Major Achievements Were Longstanding GOP Objectives

Sunday, 15 May 2016 00:00

Truthout | Interview with Thomas Frank: 

Bill Clinton, standing between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, taking the oath of office of President of the United States on January 20, 1993. Clinton ran for president as a champion of the working class, but largely abandoned their economic interests while in office – preferring Wall Street to Main Street -- beginning with his signing of NAFTA.

Bill Clinton, standing between Hillary Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, taking the oath of office of president of the United States on January 20, 1993. Clinton ran for president as a champion of the working class, but largely abandoned their economic interests while in office – preferring Wall Street to Main Street — beginning with his signing of NAFTA. (Photo: White House)

What is the core philosophy of today’s Democratic Party and does it serve anyone’s interests other than a wealthy elite? Thomas Frank lays bare Democrats’ abandonment of their purported values — and the role this has played in entrenching economic inequality — in his sardonic new book, Listen, Liberal. Order your copy by making a donation to Truthout today!

Thomas Frank, author of Listen, Liberal, discusses the Hillary Doctrine’s basis in neoliberalism, how the Democratic Party stopped governing on behalf of the working class and how President Bill Clinton’s major achievements actually enacted conservative goals, and ultimately hurt working people.

Mark Karlin: The innovation class, the creative class, the wealthy class, the professional class with Ivy League degrees: How did President Obama become the avatar for believing these groups should be the decision makers in government?

Thomas Frank: Obama thinks such people should be in charge because they came up through the same system as him. “Because he himself was a product of the great American postwar meritocracy,” his biographer Jonathan Alter writes, “he could never fully escape seeing the world from the status ladder he had ascended.”

Most of our other Democratic leaders (the Clintons, for example) came up the same way and believe the same thing. Indeed, what Alter describes is standard-issue stuff for Democrats these days. The Democrats are a class party in the fullest sense of the phrase, and the class whose perspective they reflect and whose interests they serve is the highly educated, white-collar professional class. Theirs is a liberalism of the rich.

Can you describe a little about what you call “The Hillary Doctrine,” including how microlending is a good example of her belief in opening doors of entrepreneurship to solve the world’s economic problems?

The Hillary Doctrine was Clinton’s understanding of American national interest when she served as Obama’s secretary of state. The idea was that the US would henceforth be the world’s defender of women and girls. Hillary didn’t mean this in a general sense, however. The kind of women we were committing ourselves to specifically were female entrepreneurs.

The source of this notion of liberation through female entrepreneurship is the microlending movement, in which Hillary has been an enthusiastic participant for many decades. It arose as part of neoliberalism in the 1990s: The IMF [International Monetary Fund] and World Bank would “structurally reform” a country’s economy, and to help out with the human dislocation that resulted, they would give microloans to small entrepreneurs, who were encouraged to start tiny businesses like gardening or handicrafts. Over the years, the microlending movement accreted all these details: The entrepreneurs had to be women. They had to be hooked up to a bank. They had to have a Western mentor. They had to have smartphones. And so on.

You can see the appeal of this movement: It’s telling you that the solution to poverty is not unions or government or anything like that, but for everyone to work hard and start their own businesses — and, incidentally, to extend the reach of Western financial institutions to every village on the planet. A pure win-win. Everyone feels good. Everyone feels virtuous.

Except for the people who live in those countries, of course, because they know it doesn’t work. You don’t build a country’s economy by having everyone buy a goat and sell milk to one another. All these people have to show for this strategy is debt. Some empowerment.

I was captivated by your description of Hillary Clinton being surrounded by a “microclimate of virtue.” Can you describe what you mean by that and how it was represented in your section, “No Ceilings,” that included Melinda Gates and a panel to show how much women in power “cared” for poor women? I love your sardonic description, “the presenters called out to one another in tones of gracious supportiveness and flattery so sweet it bordered on idolatry.”

Every biography of Hillary Clinton talks about her goodness, her high-mindedness, her rock-solid dedication to principle. Reading those books, I couldn’t imagine what they meant, since Hillary is as much of a shape-shifter and a compromiser as any other politician.

When I saw her in person, however, it all made sense. It was at a Clinton Foundation event, as you mention. Everyone took their turn on the stage, praising everyone else, in the highest and most gracious forms you can imagine. There was an almost intoxicating sense in the room of the goodness and virtue of everyone present, with Hillary herself anchoring the swirl. It must be hard for someone who wasn’t there to believe, but these people seemed to regard her with an idealism that was almost cult-like.

The exaggeration of it all showed me that this sense of virtue is not only central to Hillary Clinton’s appeal, but to liberalism generally. This is a movement that has done tremendous harm to minorities and working people over the last few decades, and yet liberals have such an elevated sense of what fine people they are. It is a precious self-image.

You trace the modern abandonment of working men and women by the Democrats to a book by Fred Dutton in 1971. Can you explain the tome and its implications?

Dutton was a high-ranking Democratic Party official who later became a prominent Washington lobbyist. Among other things, he served on the McGovern Commission, which worked to reorient the Democratic Party away from labor and working people. Dutton’s book was called Changing Sources of Power, and it was sort of an explanation of why the McGovern Commission did what it did. Basically, Dutton was one of those establishment people who were simply bowled over by the sheer righteousness of the youth movements of the 1960s — something I also found a lot of in the advertising industry in my first book, The Conquest of Cool. The kids were so wise and so profound, Dutton thought. They had brought politics to a whole new philosophical level. And, meanwhile, as everyone could see, working people were so backward and so ugly, supporting the Vietnam War and all that stuff. Of course you wanted to ditch one group and embrace the other.

Given what was going on back then, it’s easy to understand why Dutton felt as he did. He wasn’t totally wrong about blue-collar workers and the Vietnam War, for instance. But turning your back on the concerns of working-class organizations for whatever reason meant turning your back on their issues, with consequences that are all too clear today.

You argue the abandonment of labor by the Democrats came to full fruition in the two administrations of Bill Clinton? How did Clinton who came from a working-class upbringing eventually betray the workers of the United States?

First of all, I’m not so sure about his background. It is true that he came from a very poor state, and that his family struggled, but Clinton’s biographers always emphasize that he wasn’t really of the working class: He always drove a new Buick, etc.

Clinton never had a really great relationship with workers’ organizations, but the worst thing Clinton he did to them was NAFTA. There were many trade agreements, of course, but NAFTA was the one that mattered, both because it was the first one and because labor put everything into stopping it. Indeed labor had stopped it when George H. W. Bush tried to get it through Congress. Clinton got it done, however, with a little muscle and a vast fog of preposterous claims about how NAFTA would increase exports and manufacturing employment.

His admirers saw NAFTA as his “finest hour,” because he had stood up to a traditional Democratic constituency. What an achievement. NAFTA handed employers all over America the ultimate weapon against workers: They could now credibly threaten to pick up and leave at the slightest show of worker backbone — and they make such threats all the time now.

How did the Clinton administration become a surrogate of Wall Street, resulting in the far-reaching repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act?

In 1992, Clinton ran as a populist, deploring income inequality, but that was just an act. As president he seems immediately to have decided to cast his fortunes — and those of his party — with Wall Street. Bank deregulation was a persistent policy of his from the very beginning — he signed the Riegle-Neal Act in 1994, for example, and the Mexican bailout (a big favor to Wall Street) came shortly thereafter. Along the way, he helped bail out a too-big-to-fail hedge fund, he twice appointed Alan Greenspan to run the Federal Reserve and he ensured that certain derivative securities would not have any kind of federal supervision at all.

At the time, Clinton’s admirers thought this record was something to boast about. He had brought his party out of the Rooseveltian dark ages and had embraced modernity, etc.

Why did he do it? My explanation is simple class identification. Clinton’s real class story has to do with his career in college and graduate school, where he became a star of the rising professional cohort. People with this kind of background saw (and still see) Wall Street as a part of the enlightened world, a part of the world inhabited by people just like them. They’re so smart! Plucking wealth from thin air!

This is a little off message regarding the book, but can you speculate why the Republicans were so obsessed with removing Clinton from office when he was fulfilling so much of the GOP agenda, including negotiating with Newt Gingrich about cutting Medicare and Social Security?

“Fulfilling so much of the GOP agenda”: That is a point worth reiterating. Clinton had five major achievements as president: NAFTA, the Crime Bill of 1994, welfare reform, the deregulation of banks and telecoms, and the balanced budget. All of them — every single one — were longstanding Republican objectives. His smaller achievements were more traditionally Democratic (he raised the earned-income tax credit and the minimum wage), but his big accomplishments all enacted conservative wishes, and then all of them ended in disaster.

So why did the right try so hard to get rid of him? For one thing, because they always do that. They never suspend the war or stop pushing rightward. There is no point at which they say, “OK, we’ve won enough.” For another, because Gingrich couldn’t control the rank and file, a problem that persists to this day.

The final conservative consequence of the impeachment, although this one was surely not intended: impeaching Clinton made him a martyr and hence a hero to Democrats. It secured his family’s and his faction’s grip on the Democratic Party apparently forever.

You write in your last chapter: “And every two years, they [the Democrats] simply assume that being non-Republican is sufficient to rally the voters of the nation to their standard.” That sure sounds to me a bit like Hillary Clinton’s basic pitch (paraphrased): “I’m not going to get a lot done because that’s reality, but I’ll be sitting in the Oval Office instead of that demagogue Trump. So vote for me.” Any resonance there?

That is exactly how I meant it, although of course I couldn’t see that Trump was going to be the GOP nominee when I was writing the book.

Is the Acela Express the main transportation route between lawmakers, regulators, lobbyists and financiers?

The Acela runs between Washington and New York just a little bit faster than the ordinary Amtrak train. It costs much, much more, however. Because once you’re on that Acela train, you’re instantly in the secured precincts of the tidy and prosperous professional class. All these nicely dressed people typing away on their keyboards. People looking over spreadsheets. People reading management books and talking management talk. People flattering each other. People shushing each other in the quiet car. Shushing each other so vehemently I once saw a quiet car dispute almost turn into a fistfight. It is literally the express train of the class war. Every sort of narcissism and upper-class social pathology is on full display.

A few weeks ago on the Acela train, I sat near a man who seemed to be some sort of Hillary Clinton adviser. He was talking very loudly on his cellphone about her latest TV commercial, about how she was finding her own voice, which sounds banal but which I guess is a good thing to do if you want to be president of the United States.

When you end with a rather pessimistic notion that the betrayal of the Democrats in power will not easily change, you state “that the problem is us.” Who are you referring to as “us”? Liberals? How does the Bernie Sanders movement that came near to toppling Clinton Inc. fit into your answer?

“The problem is us” in the sense that liberalism is dominated by a certain class outlook and that I am part of that class. I am calling on other members of that class to look in the mirror and understand who they are — that they are just as much products of their economic position as are the blue-collar workers they so hate. In particular, I am calling on them to understand that they aren’t the fine and virtuous people they believe they are. That it is because of them that inequality is out of control, that Wall Street is wrecking the world, that middle-class America is falling apart. And that they have an obligation to do something about it.

I like to think that Bernie is saying the same thing, in his own way.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Mark Karlin is the editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout. He served as editor and publisher of BuzzFlash for 10 years before joining Truthout in 2010. BuzzFlash has won four Project Censored Awards. Karlin writes a commentary five days a week for BuzzFlash, as well as articles (ranging from the failed “war on drugs” to reviews relating to political art) for Truthout. He also interviews authors and filmmakers whose works are featured in Truthout’s Progressive Picks of the Week. Before linking with Truthout, Karlin conducted interviews with cultural figures, political progressives and innovative advocates on a weekly basis for 10 years. He authored many columns about the lies propagated to launch the Iraq War.

 

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/36035-thomas-frank-bill-clinton-s-five-major-achievements-were-longstanding-gop-objectives

Thinking and Voting Outside the Two-Party Box: An Interview With Jill Stein

Wednesday, 11 May 2016 00:00

Dr. Jill Stein speaks at the Green Party Presidential Candidate Town Hall hosted by the Green Party of Arizona at the Mesa Public Library in Mesa, Arizona, on March 12, 2016. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)Dr. Jill Stein speaks at the Green Party Presidential Candidate Town Hall hosted by the Green Party of Arizona at the Mesa Public Library in Mesa, Arizona, on March 12, 2016. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Dr. Jill Stein is a leading member of the Green Party and its likely presidential candidate in 2016. A longtime activist, including around issues of health care reform and ecological justice, Stein ran for several offices as a Green in Massachusetts, before becoming the party’s presidential nomination in 2012, where she won 456,169 votes. She talked to Todd Chretien about why she’s running again and the importance of an independent alternative to the two-party system.

A lot of progressive energy in the election up until now has flowed to Bernie Sanders. It’s incredible that a socialist candidate has attracted such support, especially among young people. What do you think has happened in the last 25 years to lead to this phenomena?

It’s no secret. The economy has been throwing everyday people under the bus because it puts profit over people — It’s rigged in favor of the wealthy.

This has been going on for decades. Look back to Bill Clinton’s presidency, including the repeal of Glass-Steagall Act and the signing of NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement]. The groundwork was laid for the Wall Street-engineered crash that destroyed 5 million people’s homes, 9 million workers’ jobs and $13 trillion in household wealth.

Add to that the bipartisan attacks on unions and working people that robbed people of health care and pensions. Even now, when the jobs are coming back, they are low-wage, temporary and part-time, and they’re barely above the poverty level. Forty percent of workers are earning less than $20,000 per year!

There’s really been a bipartisan collusion with the 1 Percent. In the words of Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, “We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

Unfortunately, our country has been concentrating wealth and losing democracy. And now it’s reaching its logical conclusions — it’s the inevitable final stages of predatory capitalism that’s creating an unlivable world. Not only is our economy increasingly unfair, but now we’re putting the very future of the planet at stake.

All these crises really converge on the backs of the younger generation — especially the crisis of police brutality and mass incarceration. This generation is suffering, up close and personal, the ravages of unbridled capitalism. So it’s absolutely logical that millions of people are rejecting that system and moving toward a more just system that many people see in the promise of economic democracy — in other words, a more socialist type of economic system.

Let’s talk about some of the specific issues, starting with climate change. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton claim that the COP 21 conference in Paris last December ended with a landmark agreement. You were in Paris — could you give us your opinion?

It was, perhaps, a symbolic victory to have all these countries signing on, but the time for symbolism is long gone. We have a world that is going up in flames right now, and we need real emergency action.

COP 21 is voluntary and, even if completely fulfilled, would still lead to a temperature rise of well over 2 degrees Celsius [the point at which irreversible climate change will take place, say scientists], perhaps somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.5 to 4 degrees.

Worse, there’s no enforcement mechanism, and it’s completely hobbled by hypocrisy. As it was being finalized, President Obama was actually signing a bill that would lift the ban on exporting oil out of the United States, which will massively increase fossil-fuel production.

We need to go far beyond COP 21, but we see our government’s actions as just another example of how it has been hijacked in the interest of the fossil-fuel industry. So while the Democrats pay lip service to the climate crisis, what they actually do is something entirely different.

For example, Obama’s “all of the above” energy plan pretends to be friendly to the climate. Yet while it doubled the nation’s production of renewable energy, this still represents only a fraction of our output. Meanwhile, by promoting fracking and other forms of extraction, it blew the lid off fossil-fuel production.

Young people today are saddled with incredible college debt. You’ve proposed abolishing this debt. How would you pay for that, and do you think it’s really possible?

It’s not only possible, it’s essential. If we found a way to bail out the crooks on Wall Street who crashed the economy through waste, fraud and abuse, we can certainly find a way to help students who are some of the chief victims of that crash. We bailed out Wall Street to the tune of $17 trillion when you include the no-interest loans and the straight-up bailouts they received. The good news is that student debt is tiny by comparison: only $1.3 trillion.

And we have the people power to make this happen. There are 43 million young and not-so-young people burdened with predatory student loan debt. That turns out to be a winning plurality of a presidential vote, especially if all those students bring out a family member or two! Students aren’t only the victims of the student loan debacle. They are leading the charge to fix this crisis.

Black Lives Matter has brought the epidemic of racist police murders to the fore. But racism extends beyond the police. Why should people fighting racism and anti-immigrant bigotry consider supporting your campaign?

Martin Luther King Jr. said it best: We are facing the triple monsters of racism, militarism and extreme materialism — a.k.a. capitalism. We need to build coalitions to link racial justice to climate justice to immigrant justice and to peace and democracy.

This is very much what we’re trying to do in the world of independent politics, in the Green Party and our growing red-green alliance. We’re working together to build a broad coalition for people, planet and peace over profit, in which racial justice is a central goal.

Our campaign has been there on the frontlines of many of these struggles, including supporting the communities standing up against police violence in Ferguson, in Staten Island, in Washington, D.C., in Chicago, in Benton Harbor — you name it, we’ve been there supporting the families and the communities.

We are calling for police review boards so that communities are controlling their police and not the other way around. We demand full-time investigators readily available for communities to examine all cases of death and serious injury in police custody. It shouldn’t require an act of God to get the Department of Justice to investigate a murder at the hands of the police.

We’ve been there in the border towns where people have not only been fighting for immigrant rights, but just for plain old civil liberties. Along the border, the cops can just violate your civil liberties at will. Civil rights don’t really exist.

We’ve been at the detention centers, and we are calling for all of them to be shut down. Instead, we support a welcoming path to citizenship as well as an immediate end to detentions, deportations and night raids. Immigrants are learning that the Republicans are the party of hate and fearmongering, while the Democrats are the party of deportations and night raids.

And we call for the end of the racist war on drugs. Substance abuse should be treated as a health issue, not as a crime. We demand the freeing of nonviolent drug offenders, who never should have been incarcerated in the first place. They not only deserve rehabilitation and education, they deserve jobs.

There are 39,000 Verizon workers on strike as we speak. Over the last 40 years, unions and working-class living standards have been devastated by neoliberalism, supported by Democrats and Republicans alike. You’ve proposed what you call a Green New Deal to address many of these problems.

To start with, even before we get to the big systemic solution, we should immediately raise the minimum wage nationally to $15 an hour, so that it’s a living wage, not a poverty wage. We can repeal the Taft-Hartley Act that prohibits unions from conducting sympathy strikes and really exerting their power in solidarity with other groups of workers. We must stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership and renegotiate NAFTA, which play a role in sending our jobs overseas. These are just the first steps to start putting people over profit.

But let me talk about the big solution: the Green New Deal. We need to declare a state of emergency with respect to poverty, racism and the climate. We need to take dramatic action now.

We call for creating 20 million jobs, living wage and above, that can transition us on an emergency basis to a 100 percent clean, a renewable energy economy, a healthy and sustainable local food system, public and energy-efficient transportation, and restoration of our ecosystems. These jobs would go first to the communities affected most directly by the economic and climate crises, which are, overwhelmingly, communities of color.

Not only do we propose achieving 100 percent renewable energy by 2030, but we also support an immediate ban on new fossil-fuel infrastructure and exploration, so that we stop making the problem worse.

Some will say this is impossible, but at the outset of the Second World War, almost none of our gross domestic product was dedicated to military production. Yet just six months after the declaration of war, fully 25 percent of the GDP was dedicated to war production.

If we could do 25 percent in six months, you can be sure we can reach 100 percent renewable by 2030. This must be a national, all-out effort that will essentially create the right to a job.

This would not only turn the tide on climate change. It would guarantee good jobs and economic security, a critical need in communities of color. And it makes wars for oil obsolete, so we can pay for this by cutting the bloated military budget. This in turn makes us more safe, not less safe, by removing the Pentagon’s trigger finger on foreign policy.

You decided to run a campaign independent of the two mainstream parties. Given all the excitement that Sanders has generated, many people who are very critical of Clinton are hoping it might be possible to reform the Democrats and turn them into a truly left-wing party. Even those who don’t hold out much hope to reforming the Democrats will be pressured to vote for Clinton as the lesser evil in order to stop Trump. And you will, no doubt, be called a “spoiler.” How do you respond to these arguments?

There has been a long and valiant effort for many decades to reform the Democratic Party. But the party has a built-in kill switch that it created in 1972 after George McGovern won the primaries as a peace candidate.

They changed the internal party system to insure that grassroots candidates would never be elected again. This included creating the superdelegates in order to empower the party insiders to call the shots. The superdelegates are about 30 percent of the total needed to win the nomination, so it’s a very powerful firewall. Likewise with the Super Tuesday primaries. So it’s a doomed struggle, right from the outset, to try to reform the party.

You only have to look back to the era of the civil rights movement to learn this lesson. That movement was as powerful a movement as we have seen in modern history and, together with the labor movement, which was much more powerful than it is today, there was an attempt to organize what was called “realignment” inside the Democratic Party.

It did succeed in getting the conservative Southern Dixiecrats out of the Democratic Party, but that’s as far as it got. It completely floundered on the effort to create a social-democratic party out of the Democrats. Why was that?

Specifically, it was the war in Vietnam that made it essential to be an imperialist or pro-war if you wanted to have the “credibility” to critique the Democratic Party. This basically shot that reform movement — in the foot, you could say! Because at the end of the day, the Democratic Party is funded by war profiteers, predatory banks and fossil-fuel giants. So this is not where we are going to create that party of revolution. It is fundamentally a counterrevolutionary party.

About the spoiler effect, I’ll say a few things. First of all, just to put it to rest. It’s a myth that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the presidential election in Florida in 2000. It was the U.S. Supreme Court that stopped the vote re-count, which Gore would have won had it continued.

But beyond that, the problem is that millions of Florida Democrats didn’t come out to vote for Gore. Nader’s votes in Florida were a tiny fraction of the Democrats who either voted for Bush or stayed home. Blaming Nader is a self-serving fear campaign that the Democrats use to silence their opposition.

Blaming … third-party candidates is a strategy to intimidate people into a politics of fear that tells you to vote against what you fear instead of voting for what you believe.

Blaming Nader or other third-party candidates is a strategy to intimidate people into a politics of fear that tells you to vote against what you fear instead of voting for what you believe. But in fact, the politics of fear has delivered everything we were afraid of.

We can list all the reasons people are told to silence themselves and vote for a lesser evil candidate: we were afraid of jobs going overseas, the climate meltdown, expanding wars, the attack on our civil liberties and on immigrant rights, expansion of the prison state, etc. Look around. This is exactly what we’ve gotten — much of it under a Democratic White House with two Democratic houses of Congress.

Take the Wall Street bailout. Obama did that with a majority of Democrats in both houses of Congress in 2009. That’s when that all occurred. So the politics of fear delivers what we’re afraid of. The lesser evil is not the solution. It merely paves the way to the greater evil. It ensures that the Democratic Party base gets demoralized and doesn’t come out to vote. So the greater evil wins. We’ve seen this time and again.

Given that Clinton is likely going to win the nomination, you’ve said that Sanders supporters should consider your campaign a Plan B, and you’ve even publicly offered to discuss the potential third-party run with Sanders. Do you think Sanders will really consider leaving the Democratic Party? And if he doesn’t, why should his supporters consider supporting you?

Bernie has been very consistent over many years. In fact, the Green Party has been reaching out to him since 2011 to explore collaboration, especially around a presidential campaign. We have yet to have a phone call returned or an e-mail responded to.

But who knows — after the beating that he’s getting, the very unfair treatment he’s getting from the Democratic Party, perhaps he’ll change his mind. We’ll see! It can’t hurt to extend an olive branch.

After all, we’re in a pretty desperate situation as a society. It’s time to think outside the box. So we’re attempting to engage that conversation with Senator Sanders.

His base has been very responsive. In fact, it was his base that really suggested we specifically reach out. We’ve said we’re open to collaboration, and many of Sanders’ supporters are flocking to us on social media. Especially since he announced he was laying off hundreds of his campaign workers after the Northeast Super Tuesday election results.

His base, especially young people, see what they’re up against. They don’t see reality through the filters that we tend to develop over the decades.

That’s why the vision of young people is very important here. They can’t be easily tricked into supporting a predatory, corporate party. They understand how much of their future is at risk: the climate, the lack of jobs, student debt, racist police, etc. They get that this is a desperate situation. And we see the beginnings of a voter revolt.

While there is some common ground between your platform and some of Sanders’ proposals, there are also some sharp disagreements. For instance, you are a vocal supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. You also propose cutting the military budget by at least 50 percent, ending arms sales to governments who violate human rights, and closing all 700 U.S. military bases around the world. These stand in sharp contrast to Sanders’ views. In fact, Sanders seems to agree much more with Clinton than he does with you on these policies.

Absolutely, although I’ll just say that I think these are more disagreements between my campaign and Senator Sanders than with his base, who agrees with us more than him on these issues.

In fact, his base has been pushing him, and he has been getting more, shall we say, fuzzy about his foreign-policy planks, and perhaps even a little more open to a principled antiwar policy, though he’s still not taken the sort of hard stand he has to. For instance, he’ll talk about the human rights of the Palestinians, but he won’t talk about the U.S. enabling Israeli war crimes by delivering more than $8 million a day in military aid to a country massively violating human rights.

I think my positions resonate with Sanders’ base, and if he were liberated from the Democratic Party, then perhaps he would do the right thing. But that’s not going to happen inside the Democratic Party, that’s for sure.

We are calling for a foreign policy that goes back to the drawing board because our current policy is based on economic and military domination. We need a foreign policy based on international law, human rights and diplomacy.

The current foreign policy isn’t working out so well for us. We’ve spend $6 trillion since September 11, 2001, on these wars for oil or wars on terror, whatever you call them. That comes out to $75,000 per household in the United States by the time we get done paying everything, including the chronic health problems suffered by wounded U.S. veterans. It’s a devastating burden.

A million people have been killed in Iraq alone, and that isn’t winning the hearts and minds of people in the Middle East, to say the least. And we have killed or wounded tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers. What do we have to show for it? Failed states and a mass refugee crisis.

And with each new front in this war in the Middle East, we are creating worse terrorist threats. ISIS grew out of the devastation in Iraq, which was largely our doing, just as al-Qaeda grew out of our policies in Afghanistan. In fact, the origins of Jihadist terrorism goes right back to the CIA and the Saudi monarchy, which created this religious, extremist force in order to fight the USSR in Afghanistan.

But it came back to bite us in a very big way. We created a Frankenstein’s monster. And it unleashed the Saudis, who have been enabled by us as a terrorist monarchy in their own right.

We need to put a halt to these catastrophic wars for oil with a peace offensive. That’s not where the Sanders campaign is. They look to the Saudis as being part of the solution. The reality is that the Saudis, along with the U.S., share culpability in being the major promoters of war, instability and poverty in the Middle East.

Speaking of international politics, in both Europe and Latin America — where there are more democratic electoral laws and even parties that claim to be leftist or socialist in power — making radical political change hasn’t been as easy as electing, for instance, the SYRIZA government in Greece. How do you see the relation between left-wing election campaigns and building up social movement and union power?

That’s a very important question. Transformative social change is always led by movements. The role of electoral politics, in my view, and in the view of the Green Party, is to amplify those movements and give them greater power.

If social movements don’t challenge power, then they are in real trouble. That’s how SYRIZA originated as a political party. They saw that after a series of demonstrations, it’s all over and done. This has been happening over and over again in the U.S. and beyond. We can bring out millions of people to stop a war, but the press won’t cover it. So we have to go beyond demonstrations, and we have to challenge power, including in the voting booth.

I can’t say enough about the young people who are leading in the streets in the fights for a living wage, to stop police brutality, or to win immigrant rights. They are risking everything.

Look at the workers at Verizon now who are putting everything on the line. They are standing up for workers’ rights, for job security and for decent wages. Look at the young people who’ve been arrested fighting for racial justice and, I must say, have even lost their lives standing up to police brutality. I just returned from meeting with young people standing up against discrimination at Yale and fighting for divestment from fossil fuels at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. These are courageous actions.

We say that not only do we have to bring the revolution to our workplaces, our schools and our streets, but we have to amplify that power in the context of the elections. The elections should not be allowed to silence what’s really happening in the struggles that our frontline communities are leading.

Elections need to be used as a megaphone for the struggles for social, climate and racial justice.

Elections need to be used as a megaphone for the struggles for social, climate and racial justice. That’s how we’ve defined the purpose of our campaign from the very start.

At the end of the day, the real engines of change are the social movements, but it’s critical that they fight for power in the electoral arena, because that’s where you can concretize change.

Just look at the labor movement in the first half of the 20th century. Not only was it alive and well in the streets and in workplaces, but it expressed itself in the voting booth with the Socialist and Communist Parties, and with the Farmer-Labor Parties and the Progressives and Populists. It really fought the battle on all fronts.

In fact, one can argue that the day the labor movement gave up its own political voice — by joining the Democratic Party as part of a New Deal coalition — was the day real progress ended. The third parties lost their agenda and identity inside the Democratic Party, and social and economic justice has been backsliding ever since.

Third parties are not only legitimate, they are absolutely necessary, because they, along with social movements on the ground, create the conditions for real change. So now is the time to gather our courage and stand up — just like the workers at Verizon, the students on the campuses, and the young people in Black Lives Matter.

Now is the time to bring that kind of courage into the voting booth — to forget the lesser evil and fight for the greater good.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

 

TODD CHRETIEN

Todd Chretien lives in the San Francisco Bay area and is a frequent contributor to Socialist Worker and the International Socialist Review.

Paul Krugman smears Bernie Sanders

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By Barry Grey
9 April 2016

New York Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman has penned another in a series of unprincipled and dishonest attacks on Bernie Sanders on behalf of the Democratic Party establishment and the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Krugman has made a name for himself as the academic mascot of what remains of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. For this he has been amply rewarded, including with a tenured professorship at Princeton University, a regular column in the New York Times, a Nobel Prize and frequent visits to the White House. For all his left pretensions, however, Krugman is and has always been bitterly hostile to Marxist economics, not to mention the socialist politics that go with it.

In the wake of a wave of primary victories by the “democratic socialist” senator from Vermont, culminating in last Tuesday’s landslide victory in Wisconsin, and ahead of a critical contest in New York, Krugman is seeking to discredit Sanders among sections of liberal Democrats who have been attracted to his campaign.

His Friday column, entitled “Sanders Over the Edge,” follows a blog he posted on the Times web site last Sunday accusing Sanders of being a fifth columnist for the Republicans. Krugman wrote: “Engaging in innuendo suggesting,without evidence, that Clinton is corrupt is, at this point, basically campaigning on behalf of the RNC (Republican National Committee).” [Emphasis added]

Without evidence?! The entire political history of Bill and Hillary Clinton has been steeped in hypocrisy and corruption. Extending back to their days in Arkansas, the Clintons perfected the art of combining “I feel your pain” rhetoric with deal-making with various business interests to advance their political careers. This included Bill Clinton’s connections with Frank Perdue of the poultry empire and Hillary Clinton’s six-year stint on the board of directors of Wal-Mart during her husband’s term as Arkansas governor.

During their years in the White House, the Clintons shifted the Democratic Party further to the right, repudiating any program of social reform or redistribution of wealth from the top to the bottom in favor of traditional Republican nostrums. Their strategy of “triangulation” included new draconian prison sentencing laws and the termination of the sixty-year-old federal welfare program called Aid to Families with Dependent Children, driving millions of the poorest Americans into destitution.

At the same time, the Clintons oversaw the final dismantling of any serious banking regulation, marked by the repeal of the 1930s Glass-Steagall Act and its separation of commercial and investment banking.

Since the end of the Clinton presidency, Hillary and Bill have parlayed their White House tenure into a personal fortune in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The two have collected over $140 million in the 15 years since the end of the Clinton administration, while workers were losing their jobs, retirement savings and homes. A major part of this windfall has come in the form of speaking fees from big corporations and banks. In the first 15 months after she left her post as Obama’s secretary of state in 2012, Hillary Clinton took in $5 million in such rewards for services rendered.

In an earlier period, Krugman staked out a position by criticizing the Clinton administration for its adoption of right-wing positions previously associated with the Republican Party. In August 2006, to cite one example, he complained that “in practice Mr. Clinton governed well to the right of both Eisenhower and Nixon.”

Krugman also adopted a somewhat critical attitude toward Obama during the early years of his tenure as president, and was shunned by the administration as a result. But after his invitations to White House dinners declined, Krugman got the message, took his spanking like a man, and worked hard to lick his way back into the favor of the Democratic Party establishment.

The Times columnist has become a principal promoter of Obamacare, which he has sought to sell as a progressive social reform. Earlier this month, he published a column, “Learning From Obama,” which hailed the administration’s economic and social policies as “what progressive success looks like”—ignoring the fact that Obama’s right-wing policies have led to a record growth of social inequality.

Krugman’s blog on the Times is produced under the overall headline, “Conscience of a Liberal.” As it turns out, this conscience does not amount to much. As an intellectual bagman for Wall Street and its favored candidate, he now has a new job to perform—attacking Sanders from the right.

In his latest piece, Krugman hones in on Sanders’ call for breaking up the big banks—something that has become a focus of pro-Clinton propaganda following the publication of a New York Daily News interview in which Sanders had difficulty explaining precisely how his proposal would be carried out.

Krugman’s first line of attack is to dismiss the call for downsizing the mega-banks as a preference for “easy slogans over hard thinking.” He elaborates, attacking Sanders’ “political theory of change, his waving away of limits” as “utterly unrealistic.”

Here you have in a nutshell the intellectual narrowness, complacency and cowardice of American liberalism in its period of putrefaction and reaction. Krugman and the “liberal policy wonks” he cites as authorities on Sanders’ bank policy are incapable of imagining anything that seems to challenge the capitalist status quo.

This leads Krugman to construct the most shabby alibis for the financial aristocracy. He writes: “The easy slogan here is ‘Break up the big banks’… But were the banks really at the heart of the financial crisis, and would breaking them up protect us from future crises?

“Many analysts concluded years ago that the answers to both questions were no. Predatory lending was largely carried out by smaller, non-Wall Street institutions like Countrywide Financial; the crisis itself was centered not on big banks but on ‘shadow banks’ like Lehman Brothers that weren’t necessarily that big. And the financial reform that President Obama signed in 2010 made a real effort to address these problems. It could and should be made stronger, but pounding the table about big banks misses the point.”

This is a pack of lies. To start with the most obvious falsehood: Lehman Brothers, with assets of $690 billion, was the fourth largest investment bank in the US when it collapsed on September 15, 2008. It had been in existence for 158 years. To call it a “shadow bank” is absurd.

As for the culpability of the biggest US banks, the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a voluminous and detailed report on the 2008 financial meltdown in April of 2011, which concluded: “The investigation found that the crisis was not a natural disaster, but the result of high risk, complex financial products; undisclosed conflicts of interest; and the failure of regulators, the credit rating agencies, and the market itself to rein in the excesses of Wall Street.”

On the specific role of the big Wall Street banks, the Senate committee pulled no punches, writing: “Investment banks were a major driving force behind the structured finance products that provided a steady stream of funding for lenders to originate high risk, poor quality loans that magnified the risk throughout the US financial system. The investment banks that engineered, sold, traded and profited from mortgage related structured finance products were a major cause of the financial crisis.”

Just to underscore the point, the 640-page Senate report devoted over 110 pages to the corrupt practices of Washington Mutual, the sixth largest US bank at the time of its collapse, 46 pages to Deutsche Bank, and 250 pages to Goldman Sachs. It also documented the complicity and corruption of the bank regulatory agencies and the credit rating firms.

On issuing the report, the committee chairman, Democratic Senator Carl Levin, said the investigation had found “a financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest and wrongdoing.”

As for Krugman’s assurances about the effectiveness of the 2010 Dodd-Frank banking act in staving off another financial meltdown and government bailout of Wall Street, none other than the president of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, Neel Kashkari, who actually administered the $700 billion TARP bank bailout in 2008-2009, is holding forums to warn that the so-called banking “reform” will not prevent another crash and tax-payer bailout and championing the demand to break up the biggest banks.

The real problem with Sanders is not that he calls for breaking up the mega-banks, but that his anti-bank and anti-billionaire rhetoric is entirely unserious. As a defender of the capitalist system and the Democratic Party, Sanders has no intention of going after the giant financial institutions, let alone calling for actual socialist measures such as the nationalization of the banks and corporations under the democratic control of the working class.

What concerns Krugman and other figures in the Democratic Party is that Sanders’ rhetorical sallies might be taken seriously by the public, presaging the development of a genuinely anti-capitalist movement among working people and youth.

In his column, Krugman goes on to attack the Sanders campaign for suggesting that Clinton’s “Wall Street connections, which are real,” have “distorted her position.” How dare they imply, Krugman protests, that bribes in any way impact the actions of the bribe-taker!

From there he proceeds to denounce Sanders for pointing to Clinton’s campaign contributions from the fossil fuel industry, calling such statements “just plain dishonest” and reflective of a “campaign that has lost its ethical moorings.” There are disputes as to how much cash Clinton has taken from the oil and gas industry, but nobody denies that it adds up to a minimum of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and perhaps millions.

At this point in his column, Krugman becomes truly indignant. “And then there was Wednesday’s rant about how Mrs. Clinton is not ‘qualified’ to be president.”

What was Sanders’ crime? The fact that he raised “what he considers Mrs. Clinton’s past sins, including her support for trade agreements and her vote to authorize the Iraq war—for which she has apologized…”

In Krugman’s book, voting to authorize an unprovoked and illegal war based on lies that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, injured millions more, killed and wounded thousands of Americans, turned millions into refugees and destroyed an entire society is a mere peccadillo. But he is correct when he implies that, far from disqualifying a presidential aspirant, mastering the arts of deceit, political skullduggery and mass murder are a prerequisite for holding the office.

Sanders’ own response to the attacks by Clinton and the likes of Krugman is defensive and bankrupt. In as much as he himself is a supporter of capitalism dedicated to reviving the Democratic Party, he does not and cannot answer her effectively.

In the end, that his program of mild social reform comes under vicious attack from the mainstream Democratic Party only demonstrates how far to the right this party has moved and how bankrupt are all claims that it can be turned into an instrument of progressive change.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/04/09/krug-a09.html