Warnings For Democrats If Clinton Is Nominee

Sanders Clinton

Bernie Sanders has an op-ed in The New York Times warning that Democrats Need to Wake Up after the Brexit vote in Great Britain:

The notion that Donald Trump could benefit from the same forces that gave the Leave proponents a majority in Britain should sound an alarm for the Democratic Party in the United States. Millions of American voters, like the Leave supporters, are understandably angry and frustrated by the economic forces that are destroying the middle class.

In this pivotal moment, the Democratic Party and a new Democratic president need to make clear that we stand with those who are struggling and who have been left behind. We must create national and global economies that work for all, and not a handful of billionaires.

As an aside, if Sanders is going to lecture the Democrats on policiy, I’d also mention the argument in Truthout that “the Sanders “Revolution” Must Take on the Permanent War State.”

Of course Sanders prefers to deal with the economic issues and, despite the importance of responding the warfare state, economics and trade will probably have more of an impact in this year’s election, possibly hurting the Democrats. As Matthew Yglasias warns, “Clinton is personally and politically tied to Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s and to Barack Obama’s administration more recently, both of which sought to advance a free trade agenda.” He points out that one problem Clinton has is that nobody believes her:

Clinton’s problem: Does anyone believe this?

The problem with Clinton’s preferred line of attack is it fails to pass the basic “does anyone actually believe this?” test.

The stated reasons for Clinton’s opposition to the TPP didn’t make any sense and were immediately panned by observers such as Vox editor in chief Ezra Klein as smacking of opportunism. Having come out against it, Clinton will in all likelihood follow through and scuttle the agreement.

There’s no question that her position is based upon opportunism. It is far from certain that she will actually scuttle the agreement if elected.

While things can change between now and November, and neither major party nominee is yet official, Clinton has a considerable advantage over Trump. Trump already is far behind Clinton in organization, fund raising and, most importantly, public support. Plus Clinton starts out with the Democratic edge in the electoral college She will probably win if scandals and legal action don’t stop her. Democrats should be concerned.

With the most recent revelations (here and here), Chris Cillizza writes that, Hillary Clinton’s email story continues to get harder and harder to believe.

The latest batch of emails suggest that Clinton’s filter to decide between the personal and the professional was far from foolproof. That these emails never saw the light of day before Monday — or before a conservative legal advocacy group petitioned for their release — opens up the possibility that there are plenty more like them that Clinton chose to delete but shouldn’t have. And it provides more fodder for the Republican argument that Clinton appointing herself as judge, jury and executioner for her emails was, at best, a very, very bad decision and, at worst, something more nefarious than just bad judgment.

…this email to Abedin — which came at the start of her four-year term in office — suggests a bit more active agency than Clinton has previously let on. “I think we need to get on this asap to be sure we know and design the system we want,” doesn’t strike me as Clinton simply wanting convenience and following the instructions of her IT people on how to make that happen. It reads to me as though Clinton is both far more aware of the email setup and far more engaged in how it should look than she generally lets on publicly…

For a candidate already struggling to convince voters she is honest and trustworthy enough to be president, stories like this one are deeply problematic.

While I generally agree with his assessment, I would also point out in response to the title that Clinton’s story was already quite obviously a bunch of lies from the time of her first response to the scandal.

Even if Clinton can sustain her rather impressive lead over Trump, this does not mean everything is fine for he Democrats.  Taegan Goddard warns that Clinton Is a Drag on Congressional Candidates:

The new NBC News/Wall Street Journal confirms what we observed earlier this month: Despite the tremendous unpopularity of Donald Trump and of congressional Republicans, there doesn’t appear to be a wave forming which would give Democrats a chance to take control of the House.

The generic congressional ballot actually shows voters deadlocked over which party they would prefer to control Congress, 46% to 46%. The RealClearPolitics average shows Democrats ahead by just one point on the generic ballot.

This indicates the problem for Democrats goes beyond gerrymandered congressional districts and poor recruitment efforts. The problem is that Hillary Clinton is nearly as unpopular as Trump. While she may be favored in the presidential race, she’s also weighing down congressional candidates…

I wonder how many voters will split their ticket this year, having qualms about whichever candidate they vote for in the presidential race. Many might want to see the other party control Congress to place checks on the president. Far more might vote against this year’s winner in two years.

Bernie Sanders has continued his campaign based upon the argument that he does better than Clinton in the head to head polls against Trump. As Clinton has an excellent chance of winning despite her narrower margin, Sanders might have a stronger argument that having him head the ticket would be better for all the down ticket candidates. Sanders can expand the Democratic Party, while Clinton could do long term damage to it.

New York Times Asks Clinton To Show Voters Those Transcripts

Clinton Transcripts

While I bet that Hillary Clinton will claim that this is just part of the vast right wing conspiracy against her, The New York Times called on her to release the transcripts of her paid speeches to Goldman Sachs, and debunked her excuses for failing to do so:

Mrs. Clinton, Show Voters Those Transcripts

“Everybody does it,” is an excuse expected from a mischievous child, not a presidential candidate. But that is Hillary Clinton’s latest defense for making closed-door, richly paid speeches to big banks, which many middle-class Americans still blame for their economic pain, and then refusing to release the transcripts.

A televised town hall on Tuesday was at least the fourth candidate forum in which Mrs. Clinton was asked about those speeches. Again, she gave a terrible answer, saying that she would release transcripts “if everybody does it, and that includes the Republicans.”

In November, she implied that her paid talks for the Wall Street firms were part of helping them rebuild after the 9/11 attacks, which “was good for the economy and it was a way to rebuke the terrorists.”

In a debate with Bernie Sanders on Feb. 4, Mrs. Clinton was asked if she would release transcripts, and she said she would “look into it.” Later in February, asked in a CNN town hall forum why she accepted $675,000 for speeches to Goldman Sachs, she got annoyed, shrugged, and said, “That’s what they offered,” adding that “every secretary of state that I know has done that.”

At another town hall, on Feb. 18, a man in the audience pleaded, “Please, just release those transcripts so that we know exactly where you stand.” Mrs. Clinton had told him, “I am happy to release anything I have when everybody else does the same, because every other candidate in this race has given speeches to private groups.”

On Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton further complained, “Why is there one standard for me, and not for everybody else?”

The only different standard here is the one Mrs. Clinton set for herself, by personally earning $11 million in 2014 and the first quarter of 2015 for 51 speeches to banks and other groups and industries.

Voters have every right to know what Mrs. Clinton told these groups. In July, her spokesman Nick Merrill said that though most speeches were private, the Clinton operation “always opened speeches when asked to.” Transcripts of speeches that have been leaked have been pretty innocuous. By refusing to release them all, especially the bank speeches, Mrs. Clinton fuels speculation about why she’s stonewalling.

Her conditioning her releases on what the Republicans might or might not do is mystifying. Republicans make no bones about their commitment to Wall Street deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. Mrs. Clinton is laboring to convince struggling Americans that she will rein in big banks, despite taking their money.

Besides, Mrs. Clinton is not running against a Republican in the Democratic primaries. She is running against Bernie Sanders, a decades-long critic of Wall Street excess who is hardly a hot ticket on the industry speaking circuit. The Sanders campaign, asked if Mr. Sanders also received fees for closed-door speeches, came up with two from two decades ago that were not transcribed: one to a hospital trade association, and one to a college, each for less than $1,000. Royalties from a book called “The Speech,” Mr. Sanders’s eight-hour Senate floor diatribe against President Obama’s continuation of Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy, were donated to the nonprofit Addison County Parent/Child Center in Vermont.

The hazards of Mrs. Clinton, a presidential hopeful, earning more than $200,000 each for dozens of speeches to industry groups were clear from the start. Mrs. Clinton was making paid speeches when she hired consultants to vet her own background in preparation for a run. If they didn’t flag this, they weren’t doing their jobs.

Public interest in these speeches is legitimate, and it is the public — not the candidate — who decides how much disclosure is enough. By stonewalling on these transcripts Mrs. Clinton plays into the hands of those who say she’s not trustworthy and makes her own rules. Most important, she is damaging her credibility among Democrats who are begging her to show them that she’d run an accountable and transparent White House.

It is a repeat of Clinton’s refusal to release her email as Secretary of State until she had no choice (minus the over fifty percent which she destroyed).

Anecdotal reports from those who have been at her speeches in various news reports suggest that she did express a level of support for the big banks which would be very embarrassing if they came out during her primary battle with Bernie Sanders, amplifying the differences between the two. We an only imagine the specifics. Counterpunch has posted the transcript of  a “leaked” speech (actually satire). Here are some excerpts:

Previous generations of Americans built this economy and a middle class on a collective illusion: that they do productive work, this creates wealth, and that this builds the economy. We all know how misguided that is. We know that it’s really due to your investing, credit, and economic stewardship, that they have been able to work at all, that they are able to put food on their tables. It’s due to you and other banking, trading, investment houses that we have an economy that works at all. You are why we are a truly 21st century economic power.

… I—contrary to populist, hysterical demonizing–firmly believe that what you do is essential and critical: you help allocate our investment, direct our economic development, hedge risks, and create power, policies, and alliances in ways that make our country stronger, richer, more powerful, more innovative, competitive, and yes, more “democratic”. You underwrite our elections and our political process—taking on the huge cost of enabling democratic dialogue at its biggest, broadest capacity. Your tireless work adds true value, and without you, we would still be struggling helplessly against industrial powerhouses in Asia and across the world trying to compete with them on the level of industry, technology, innovation, and hard work, at which they would beat us hands down. It’s your financial innovation, your speculative tools, which allow us new ways of creating value without sweat or struggle, that gives us the competitive advantage. It’s this vision, this technological innovation, this financial wizardry, this is what makes America great and powerful.

We must lower incomes for low-value working schmucks, so they give up on any notions of a middle-class life. But more than that, we must reduce the slick, unsustainable bigotry of expectation: the profit-sucking cage of entitlement, expectation, and imagination. We must drive income down steadily and siphon that surplus wealth to you, the captains of finance, so that we can build a strong economy that is innovative, powerful, that acknowledges and rewards your acumen…

And that will be my mission, from the first day I am president to the last. I…

I will get up every day thinking about you, the hard-working Wizards of Finance, Lords of Capital, Economic Giants of Innovation, Noble Titans that make us strong and powerful!

..Government has to be smarter, smaller, more focused on supporting speculative investments than the convenient politics of justice, and be a better servant of the private sector. Washington has to be a better steward—servant–of your power!  The media has to respect you! Please, let’s get back to making decisions that pay due deference to power and money!

That’s what I’ll do as president. I will seek out and welcome any good idea that is accompanied by a large check!

We can be certain that Clinton did not use these exact words in her actual speeches, but it might capture what she was thinking. We will not know what she actually said unless she releases the transcripts.

Dana Milbank Is Wrong–Nominating Sanders Is The Rational Choice For Democrats

Bernie Sanders Large Crowd

Dana Milbank repeated the establishment line in a column fallaciously entitled, Democrats would be insane to nominate Bernie Sanders.

I adore Bernie Sanders.

I agree with his message of fairness and I share his outrage over inequality and corporate abuses. I think his righteous populism has captured the moment perfectly. I respect the uplifting campaign he has run. I admire his authenticity.

And I am convinced Democrats would be insane to nominate him.

Hillary Clinton, by contrast, is a dreary candidate. She has, again, failed to connect with voters. Her policy positions are cautious and uninspiring. Her reflexive secrecy causes a whiff of scandal to follow her everywhere. She seems calculating and phony.

And yet if Democrats hope to hold the presidency in November, they’ll need to hold their noses and nominate Clinton.

Milbank dismissed the evidence that Sander would do better against the Republicans than Clinton:

Sanders and his supporters boast of polls showing him, on average, matching up slightly better against Trump than Clinton does. But those matchups are misleading: Opponents have been attacking and defining Clinton for a quarter- century, but nobody has really gone to work yet on demonizing Sanders.

Milbank ignores how Clinton and her surrogates have already been launching right-wing sounding attacks against Sanders. Despite this, Sanders does better than Clinton against Republicans in national polls. More significantly in terms of winning the general election, Clinton does poorly with independents and in the battle ground states.

Right wing attacks on Sanders won’t be any different from right wing attacks on Obama, who they already claim is a Marxist Socialist, and a foreign-born Muslim, who will be sending the black helicopters out any minute now to take away their guns and put them in FEMA concentration camps.

Milbank also ignores the importance of turn out. Republican attacks on Sanders will primarily appeal to Republican voters–not people who would ever vote for Sanders. However both Sanders own campaigning and Republican attacks will motivate Democratic leaning voters to turn out. It is Sanders, not Clinton, who has been exciting voters for the past several months, and inspiring many new voters to get involved.

There are traditionally two ways to win an election–motivate your base to turn out in high numbers or win over independents. Sanders can do better than Clinton at both. Plus he can get votes from people who have not voted for the major political parties in the past.

Plus as a general rule of thumb, it is best not to nominate the candidate whose practices are the subject of an active FBI investigation. A Clinton candidacy, assuming she is not indicted, will be dominated by talk of scandal, most likely suppressing the Democratic vote and energizing the Republicans.

Milbanks admits that voters must be willing to hold their nose to vote for Clinton, but what makes him so sure that they will do so as opposed to staying home? Running on the argument that “my candidate is bad, but yours is even worse” is not how to win an election. Voters want to vote for something, not just vote for the lesser of two evils.

With all their faults, at least Republicans are willing to stand for something, even if the wrong things. Republicans don’t worry if their candidates are too extreme, and they reject those who they consider to be Republicans In Name Only.

Many Sanders supporters back him primarily because of the economic issues which have dominated the campaign. Many of us became active in the blogosphere in response to the abuses of the Bush administration. We are not going to be excited by a Democrat who advocates the same neoconservative foreign policy, has supported the same types of restrictions on civil liberties and expanded power for the Executive Branch, and who as actively worked to increase the role of religion on public policy. She has been a hawk on the drug war. While better than the Republicans in agreeing with the scientific consensus on climate change, she is so indebted to the petroleum industry that her environmental policies have not been much better.

This is hardly a record to get people who vote based upon principle, as opposed to party affiliation, to get out to vote for Hillary Clinton. No wonder Milbank realizes we would have to hold our noses.

Democrats, and some of their supporters in the media, think Democrats need to hide from principles and run candidates who are Republican-lite. They never get the lesson, no matter how often that results in the Democrats losing.

Fortunately not everyone agrees. The Nation gave one of their rare endorsements to Sanders and The Washington Post also ran a recent op-ed by arguing that Bernie Sanders is the realist we should elect.

Many of the pundits agree — this is a choice between head and heart. If Democrats think with their heads, they will go with Hillary; with their hearts, with Bernie.

But this conventional wisdom clashes with the reality that this country has suffered serial devastations from choices supported by the establishment’s “responsible” candidates. On fundamental issue after issue, it is the candidate “of the heart” who is in fact grounded in common sense. It wasn’t Sanders’s emotional appeal, but his clearsightedness that led the Nation magazine, which I edit, to make only its third presidential endorsement in a primary in its 150-year history.

For example, foreign policy is considered Clinton’s strength. When terrorism hits the headlines, she gains in the polls. Yet the worst calamity in U.S. foreign policy since Vietnam surely was George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Clinton voted for that war; Sanders got it right and voted against. Clinton has since admitted her vote was a “mistake” but seems to have learned little from that grievous misjudgment. As secretary of state, she championed regime change in Libya that left behind another failed state rapidly becoming a backup base for the Islamic State. She pushed for toppling Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war and lobbied for arming the Syrian opposition, a program that ended up supplying more weapons to the Islamic State than to anyone else. Now she touts a “no fly zone” in Syria, an idea that has been dismissed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as requiring some 70,000 troops to enforce, and by President Obama as well. People thinking with their heads rather than their hearts might well prefer Sanders’s skepticism about regime change to Clinton’s hawkishness.

The worst economic calamity since the Great Depression came when the excesses of Wall Street created the housing bubble and financial crisis that blew up the economy. Clinton touts her husband economic record, but he championed the deregulation that helped unleash the Wall Street wilding. The banks, bailed out by taxpayers, are bigger and more concentrated than they were before the crash. Someone using their head — not their heart — would want to make certain that the next president is independent of Wall Street and committed to breaking up the big banks and shutting down the casino. But Clinton opposes key elements of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) rational reform agenda for the banks, and her money ties to Wall Street lead any rational observer to conclude she’s an uncertain trumpet for reform.

Americans continue to suffer from a broken heath-care system that costs nearly twice per capita as those in the rest of the industrialized world — with worse results. Obama’s health reforms have helped millions get health care — particularly through the expansion of Medicaid and by forcing coverage of pre-existing conditions. But millions continue to go without care, millions more are underinsured and unable to afford decent coverage, and even more are gouged by drug companies and insurance companies that game the system’s complexities. Eventually the United States will join every other industrial nation with some form of simplified universal care. Sanders champions moving to “Medicare for all.” Clinton has mischaracterized his proposal, erroneously claiming it would “basically end all kinds of health care we know, Medicare, Medicaid, the Chip Program. It would take all that and hand it over to the states.” She says she would build on Obamacare but has yet to detail significant reforms that would take us closer to a rational health-care system. Sanders supported Obamacare but understands we can’t get to a rational health-care plan without leaders willing to take on the entrenched interests that stand in the way. It isn’t romantic to think that it is long past time for the United States to join every other industrial country and guarantee affordable health care for all…

In the face of the Sanders surge, Clinton supporters have resorted to the “electability argument”: that Sanders can’t be elected because he’s too far left. Put aside the irony of Clinton dismissing the electoral viability of someone she might lose to. Clinton has inevitable baggage of her own that raises doubts about her electoral prospects. And Clinton’s decision to present herself as the candidate of continuity in a time of change is problematic.

Clinton’s closing ad before Iowa makes her central argument clear: Trust her. She’s experienced and committed. She’ll keep Republicans from taking away the progress we’ve made. Sanders’s ad makes his argument clear: Trust yourself. Come together, take back the country and make this nation better. The first appeals to the head; the latter to the heart. But even the most hard-headed pragmatist might think the latter has as good a chance at getting elected and a better chance of forcing change than the former.

Update: Washington Post Editorial Board Spreading Fictions About Bernie Sanders

Donald Trump Is A Wimp And A Loser

Trump Iowa Screen Grab

Donald Trump once again leads the Republican polls (although I discussed the poor predictive value of polls in primary battles yesterday). Some pundits, such as David Brooks, say he will not win. Nobody seems sure exactly what to make of Donald Trump. For a change, I will evaluate him as he has been evaluating his opponents. Based upon his behavior this week, this means that Donald Trump is a wimp and a loser.

Donald Trump told CNN that he would not do their next debate unless the paid him $5 million, to be contributed to charity. CNN refused to pay. Trump then backed down–a sign of a loser.

Trump refused to release his medical records, as the other candidates are doing. Three hours after an article came out criticizing him for this, Trump backed down. Again, the sign of a loser.

As I’m looking at this from the perspective Donald Trump might take, I won’t get into the hubris of thinking that a network would pay him to be in a presidential debate, or that he does not have to release his medical records like the other candidates. Such behavior is to be expected when you are an egomaniac.

Jimmy Kimmel has looked into what to expect from Donald Trump’s medical records, including a very revealing endoscopic trip through the body of Donald Trump:

USA Today Editorial Board Condemns Clinton As Joe Biden Meets With Elizabeth Warren

Biden Warren meeting

Hillary Clinton’s email scandal is not going to go away, even if Clinton tries to make jokes about it. As an example of the response her actions have received from the media, last weekend the editorial board of USA Today had an editorial entitled, Clinton email controversy is no joke: Our view. The subtitle: Presidential candidate can laugh all she wants, but FBI investigations can’t be dismissed.

 Now that top secret information, intelligence agency inspectors general, the FBI and federal judges are involved, the matter is far from amusing.

Clinton, though, seems to think she can dismiss the controversy by making light of it. Earlier this month in Iowa, the presidential candidate joked to a crowd of Democratic Party faithful about sending future communications over the app Snapchat, which famously makes text and photos disappear soon after they are viewed. At a testy press availability on Tuesday, Clinton went for the laugh line again after being asked whether her email server had been wiped clean. “Like with a cloth?” she replied, adding that nobody talks to her about the email controversy except reporters.

Maybe she doesn’t get asked about it at tightly controlled town meetings, but the episode raises serious questions about the Democratic front-runner’s decision-making and commitment to openness in government.  One of the many reasons that it was a bad idea to mix personal and business messages is well known to anyone with an email account: As hard as you might try, you can’t control what comes into your inbox. And if you’re the secretary of State, that’s inevitably going to include some sensitive information.

Last week, a Justice Department national security investigation kicked into higher gear after intelligence agency officials determined that top secret information had indeed passed through the private email account. The FBI has taken control of the server and thumb drives storing backup data. The number of potentially classified emails involved jumped from a handful to more than 300, according to a State Department count filed in federal court. A federal judge overseeing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit said, “We wouldn’t be here today if this employee” — Clinton — “had followed government policy.”

…Scandals surrounding Clinton and her husband have a habit of being stoked by both the Clintons’ penchant for secrecy and their political enemies’ overzealousness. Amid all the investigations and lawsuits, a resolution of the email affair will be long in coming. A couple of things, however, are already clear.

One is that Clinton and her team should have turned the server over to the State Department’s inspector general, or perhaps the National Archives, for an independent, confidential sorting of the 62,000 messages. Instead, they took it on themselves to delete about half the messages as personal and scrub the server, raising inevitable suspicions about a coverup.

Another is that, contrary to the Clinton camp’s assertion that the controversy is a lot of “nonsense,” federal computer security is no joke. Regardless of whether Clinton broke any laws, her decisions about the server represented bad judgment bordering on recklessness.

This is hardly the first time that USA Today has been critical of Clinton’s actions and of the falsehoods she has told since the scandal broke.  Last week a Fact-check article showed that pretty much everything Clinton has said in her defense is false, stating “Clinton convicted herself with a multitude of misleading and error-riddled email apologies.”

They are not the only ones to find this. Multiple fact-check articles have exposed false statements made by Clinton regarding the scandal, including Factcheck.org which found multiple untrue statements in Clinton’s CNN interview. The Washington Post Fact Checker has awarded Clinton Three Pinoccios on more than one occasion, including for Hillary Clinton’s claim that ‘everything I did [on e-mails] was permitted’. The top Freedom of Information Act official at the Justice Department has stated that Clinton was in violation of the rules and the State Department’s top Freedom of Information Act officer has called her use of a private server unacceptable.

While the email has received most of the coverage since the Justice Department took possession of the server and classified documents were found, the Clinton Foundation scandals are closely related. In May, the editorial board of USA Today had an editorial entitled Only the Clintons seem blind to foundation’s conflicts: Our view.

These scandals call into question whether Democrats can take the risk of nominating Hillary Clinton, and hopefully some are also questioning the ethics of allowing her to be their candidate.  Talk of Joe Biden running has replaced most of the non-Trump campaign news. Bidens meeting with Elizabeth Warren over the weekend further fueled all sorts of speculation, as did the  The Wall Street Journal headline:  Joe Biden Is Leaning Toward a 2016 Run.

The Washington Post directly ties this to Clinton’s scandals:

His consideration of another campaign comes as front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton has fielded mounting questions about her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.

The news that the FBI is investigating whether the system put any classified information at risk has rattled some top party financiers, particularly donors who were major players in Obama’s fundraising network who have little personal history with the Clintons. In the last few weeks, e-mails and calls have been flying back and forth between top bundlers as they try to assess how serious Biden is and whether Clinton is on shaky ground.

“The network is starting to reach out,” said one major Obama fundraiser, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations. “I’m getting calls from people saying, ‘We’re waiting for him to announce.’ People are nervous and weary of the Hillary side show, of the emails.”

Update: Sanders Leads Clinton In Another New Hampshire Poll, Drawing Support From Both Moderates And Liberals

Clinton Criticized For Remaining Silent On Major Issues & Giving False Illusion Of A Move To The Left

Clinton wink

“at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America.” –Bernie Sanders on Hillary Clinton’s listening tour

While Clinton’s opponents such as Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders meeting with the press and are willing to answer questions as to what they believe (including Bernie Sanders in his interview on NPR this week), Hillary Clinton is receiving increased skepticism and criticism from some liberals for evading questions and avoiding the press. She has made a show of speaking out on selected topics, but often leaves out key details and refuses to answer questions on other key subjects. At Vox, Jonathan Allen makes some of the same points I made in this recent post in an article entitled The selective liberalism of Hillary Clinton:

There’s a term for the way Hillary Clinton has handled policy in the early stages of her campaign: Clintonian. That is, on the issues that most divide the Democratic base from its centrist wing, she refuses to box herself into a position. She’d rather wait to see how things play out — a tendency that reinforces the often asserted (but sometimes unfair) criticism that she doesn’t have core convictions. She’s thrilled that fast-food workers are fighting for a $15 minimum wage, but she won’t say whether she’ll fight for it — or even whether she thinks that’s the right level.

She’s decidedly undecided on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, even though she called it “the gold standard in trade agreements” when she was secretary of state.

And her campaign has completely dodged the question of whether she thinks her husband’s welfare reform law was the right policy.It’s true that Clinton has rolled out a string of positions that please constituencies on the left, from support for LGBT rights and voting rights to repudiating the results of her husband’s 1994 anti-crime law and vowing to enhance President Obama’s executive action on immigration. These are important issues, perhaps more important than the exact level of a wage increase that surely won’t be $15 an hour as long as Republicans control either the House or 41 seats in the Senate. But Clinton has been very selective about how she’s courted her party’s progressive base, speaking as much to identity politics as to actual policy. On some of the more controversial policy questions, she’s taking a pass. As Ruth Marcus put it in the Washington Post Wednesday morning, “The left-leaning positions she isn’t taking are as significant as the ones she has endorsed.”

The full post discussed Clinton’s honesty problem and contrasted her with Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley. It concluded:

It’s tempting to think that Clinton has plenty of time because it’s early in the presidential election cycle or because her Democratic rivals probably don’t have what it takes to beat her in a primary. But by sidestepping important policy questions, she’s giving oxygen to doubts about her sincerity. That’s a character question that should be familiar to Clinton fans who watched Barack Obama turn honesty into a weapon against her in 2008, and it’s one that crosses party lines. Ultimately, Clinton is going to have to choose a side on these issues. The longer she takes, the more it looks like she’s afraid of commitment.

In the op-ed mentioned above, Ruth Marcus described Clinton’s leftward illusion. A.B. Stoddard has similar comments at The Hill, noting that on multiple current issues, “Clinton has been silent.”

This week in particular, the president Clinton hopes to replace — if she can break the historical trend that has allowed a party to win a third consecutive term in the White House only once since 1948 — is on edge. President Obama is simultaneously awaiting the outcome of a House vote on trade promotion authority, negotiations on a nuclear deal and a Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act that could potentially dismantle the country’s healthcare system. On all of these issues Clinton has been silent.

On Wednesday Obama announced a shift in his strategy for fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), sending 450 additional U.S. troops to Iraq to bolster the training of defense forces there. Since announcing her plans to run for president, Clinton has said little of the burgeoning wars in Iraq and Syria, except that she was wrong to support the 2003 war in Iraq and that, in the face of ISIS gaining strength and territory, it will be up to the Iraqis to protect their own country.

On trade, Democrats supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal are being slammed by the AFL-CIO and other labor groups for backing Obama on the measure. Meanwhile Clinton, who helped negotiate the agreement and promoted it during her tenure as secretary of State as “the gold standard” of trade deals, has taken little heat from Big Labor. Though it is clear she has access to every detail and Obama could use her help to pass the TPP, she continues to insist she can’t pass judgment until she sees the final product.

Clinton has worked hard to avoid the press since announcing her candidacy. And because of this, her ramp-up has been mostly defined by critical news stories about: the Clinton Foundation and the connection between its donors, both Clintons’ speaking gigs and lack of disclosure of donations; her violation of an agreement limiting those donations while she worked as secretary of State; who lobbied the department during her tenure after giving to the foundation; how Bill Clinton hid some money to avoid disclosure; and how Hillary Clinton placed most of her government work at the State Department on a private email server she has now destroyed. Her favorability ratings are now below 50 percent, 57 percent of voters don’t believe she is trustworthy, and the huge leads she held over potential GOP presidential candidates have shrunk to just a few points.

Clinton doesn’t like answering questions, so she likes to say the campaign isn’t about her, it’s all about the voters. That might be fine this year because she believes no one can defeat her for the Democratic nomination, but next year in the general election it will actually be about her. Support for same-sex marriage, debt-free college, campaign finance reform and more access to early voting may be appealing to her base, but they aren’t the most urgent issues. She should find the guts to confront them soon if she really wants to be president.

As Bernie Sanders said about Clinton this week, “at the end of the day, you have to have an opinion on the basic issues facing America.” Besides these policy matters (and many others I’ve brought up from time to time which are not in the headlines), there remain many unanswered questions about the recent scandals, including those involving the Clinton Foundation. Chris Cillizia looked at Bill Clinton’s latest comments defending his actions and points out that Clinton still does not get it:

This is the latest in a string of statements by the former president that suggest he still doesn’t grasp why the Clinton Foundation questions continue to swirl and, because of that lack of understanding, remains unable to effectively parry them. Let’s go through the problems with Clinton’s answer.

First, there’s little doubt that some of the donations accepted by the Clinton Foundation have been viewed as objectionable by lots and lots of people. To cite one example: Allowing the Qatar Supreme 2022 Committee, organized to lure the World Cup to the nation, to serve as the main sponsor for a 2013 Clinton Global Initiative event. Qatar has been tied to not only allegations of wide-scale bribery of FIFA to acquire the games but is also the subject of widespread humanitarian concerns regarding the number of deaths related to the construction of the soccer stadiums to host the World Cup in 2022.

So, on its face, the claim that no one has come forward to object to certain donations/donors is just not right.

Then there is the fact that Clinton’s answer on the foundation seems to be based on the idea that he and his wife are operating in a legal sphere for the next two years. They’re not. They’re living in the world of politics — and the rules of that world are far different than those of a court of law.

Clinton’s argument boils down to the idea of a burden of proof. As in, if there’s something truly objectionable in what the foundation has done, then someone should prove it.  Legally speaking, Clinton’s right.  If you think he or the foundation broke some sort of law, then you should need to provide conclusive evidence of when, where, why, what and how.

But  of course, what we are mostly talking about when it comes to the Clinton Foundation is the gray area between contributions made by donors and decisions made by the foundation that benefited those people.  Proving that sort of quid pro quo in a legal setting is virtually impossible barring a smoking gun — like an e-mail that says: “Mr. X gave $300,000.  Let’s fund his project now.”

In politics, however, gray areas can be exploited to great advantage by your political opponents. Raising questions about the timing between donations to the Clinton Foundation and decisions made that lined the pockets of those donors is totally within the bounds of acceptable — and effective — negative messaging.  Republicans don’t need to prove that the Clinton Foundation did anything untoward. The burden of proof that there was no wrongdoing lies with the Clinton Foundation.

That reality clearly annoys Bill Clinton, and somewhat understandably. After all, the Clinton Foundation is a massive operation and, as Bill likes to point out, does lots and lots of work that has nothing to do with politics. “Do I have the most comprehensive disclosure of any presidential foundation? Yes,” Clinton said in that same Bloomberg interview. “Is our — our disclosures more extensive than most private foundations? Yes, they are, having nothing to do with politics.” (Sidebar: It’s not clear that Clinton’s claim about the foundation’s disclosure policies is totally accurate.)

Here’s the problem for Bill: No other foundation in the world is run by a former president and a former secretary of state who also happens to be the de facto Democratic presidential nominee in 2016. That fact means that the Clinton Foundation isn’t like any other foundation in the world — and  therefore, how all of those other foundations treat disclosure is sort of immaterial.

It also remains significant that Hillary Clinton had agreed to disclose donors to the Foundation when she was Secretary of State, and then failed to do so.

More Responses To Hillary Clinton’s Candidacy

Clinton Announcement Video Screen Grab

Here is more commentary on Hillary Clinton’s entry into the race for the Democratic nomination since my post on this yesterday. First a couple of opinions in American publications:

Ruth Marcus called the video announcing her campaign insultingly vapid, but is otherwise kinder to the idea of a Clinton candidacy:

For one, the video was relentlessly, insultingly vapid — a Verizon commercial without the substance. “Americans have fought their way back from tough economic times, but the deck is still stacked in favor of those at the top,” Clinton said in what passed for a meaty message. “Everyday Americans need a champion, and I want to be that champion.”

Seriously, this makes Ronald Reagan’s gauzy “It’s Morning Again in America” commercial look like a Brookings Institution seminar on economic policy. Understood — an announcement video isn’t the moment for a detailed policy platform, but it is, or should be, a venue for at least nodding to specific goals…

Adding insult to vacuousness was the demographic box-checking nature of the video, however beautifully filmed. Working mom, check. Hispanic entrepreneur, check. Retiring grandma, check. Gay couple, check. African-American family, check. Hardworking small-businessman, check. South Asian, inter-racial, lesbian, check, check, check. If your demographic was not featured, you should write the campaign and it will probably splice you in.

Conor Friedersdorf was even harder on her at The Atlantic:

Adding insult to vacuousness was the demographic box-checking nature of the video, however beautifully filmed. Working mom, check. Hispanic entrepreneur, check. Retiring grandma, check. Gay couple, check. African-American family, check. Hardworking small-businessman, check. South Asian, inter-racial, lesbian, check, check, check. If your demographic was not featured, you should write the campaign and it will probably splice you in…

As I’ve noted with regard to other candidates, an official campaign announcement is only a beginning. Hillary will likely give voters a lot more substance. At the same time, her cozy ties to Wall Street firms like Goldman Sachs, the enormous wealth of her family, the donors on whom she will rely to fund her campaign, and the Clinton Foundation’s ties to the global moneyed elite make it unlikely that she’ll ever reshuffle a deck stacked to favor those at the top. Absent specific, credible proposals, the rational voter should ignore that pledge. Thus the launch video’s most glaring flaw: When the candidate finally addressed a single matter of substance, she did so in a way that wasn’t yet believable.

Here is an interesting commentary on the race from a Polish author Mariusz Zawadzki  (found via The Moderate Voice):

“The presidency is not some crown to be passed between two families!,” former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley said recently. He meant, of course, the Bushes and the Clintons who, as seems a really possibility, have governed and will govern the United States from the year 1989 until 2025, excluding an eight-year interruption by Barack Obama.

On Sunday that dark scenario moved a bit closer when Hillary Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, officially announced her candidacy in 2016 presidential election. In her steps will soon follow Jeb Bush, brother and son of two former Republican presidents.

O’Malley, though far from objective as he himself is considering becoming a candidate, is undoubtedly correct for many reasons. In recent years much has been said about the growing inequality of the American economy, and how a child from a poor family has less of a chance at social advancement. America increasingly belongs to the millionaires and billionaires. A quasi-feudal system has formed in which the fate of a man and his future position in life are determined at birth. A Bush-Clinton relay would confirm that this unhealthy process is occurring not only in finance but politics as well.

To my surprise, Americans, at least those supporting the Democrats, don’t seem to mind. It would be quite a sensation if someone else won the party nomination (things look completely different on the Republican side, where Bush will have a much harder path, with his most dangerous rival apparently Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker)…

She claims to be a spokesperson for women’s rights, but, as investigated by the right-wing portal Washington Free Beacon, during her tenure as a senator the women in her office were paid 72 percent of men in equivalent positions! That’s far worse than the Washington average (in the U.S. capitol, women earn approximately 90 percent of men in the same positions)…

Her biggest drawback, and again this is my personal opinion – is not even the fact that she is privileged, but that she considers herself to be. Certain rules that apply to “ordinary people” do not apply because her name is Hillary Clinton.

A perfect example is the so called e-mail scandal that broke a few weeks ago. It turned out that when Hillary was secretary of state she used her personal e-mail account. All correspondence was saved on a server that the Clintons had installed in their home in New York. Last year she forwarded to governmental archives thousands of “business” e-mails, but she deleted 30,000 “private” ones – and she was the one who decided which were which.

Republicans raised a fuss, suggesting Hillary was hiding something. Jeb Bush brags that he had a business e-mail account and that its contents were revealed on his Web site. Yet that isn’t the root of the matter! After all, Bush had a private account in addition to a business account, and if he wanted to conceal his business matters he could have kept such correspondence in his private account – and he probably did as all politicians do.

The point is that internal State Department procedures prohibit the use of private e-mail accounts for business matters. In 2011, when Mrs. Clinton was head of the Department, all employees were given a reminder of that ban. Apparently because she feels privileged, Hillary Clinton concluded that the ban didn’t apply to her…

This all plays into the Republican strategy to portray Clinton as an out-of-touch plutocrat like Mitt Romney. It will be strange to see the Republicans running against the top one percent.

The problem is not so much that candidates are members of a family with previous presidents but the two particular families involved. The family business for each has become seeking power and influence peddling. Both the activities of the Bush family and Clinton Foundation create similar concerns.

On the one hand this could raise the question of whether keeping the presidency in a single family invites such abuses, but on the other hand it is also possible to have political families who do not engage in the practices of the Bush and Clinton families.

Conservative Argues That It Is Not A Bad Thing If People Die Due To Repealing Obamacare

If the Affordable Care Act were to be repealed, as most Republicans are calling for, we would see millions of Americans lose their insurance. We would return to past problems, including people being denied insurance when they have medical problems, people once again being forced to declare bankruptcy due to medical costs, and we would see many more deaths than we will otherwise see.  Michael R. Strain of the American Enterprise Institute has an op-ed in The Washington Post under the headline, End Obamacare, and people could die. That’s okay.

Note again that the author is from the American Enterprise Institute and this is published in The Washington Post. This is not just some isolated blogger or conservative shouting out their personal opinion.

Strain’s logic is that “We make such trade-offs all the time.” For example, “Consider, for example, speed limits. By allowing people to drive their cars at speeds at which collisions result in death, our government has decided that the socially optimal number of traffic fatalities is not zero.”

He has other such examples, but they do not apply to the type of trade-off he is advocating. There are good reasons for having a society in which people can drive, and it is an unavoidable fact that this will lead to a certain number of traffic fatalities. The types of trade offs he discussed are not analogous to taking away health care coverage.

While there are reasons for having a society in which people can drive, despite traffic fatalities,  there is no good reason for either having people uninsured or for a system in which insurance companies are allowed to profit by denying coverage to those who become sick.

Strain argues that, “In a world of scarce resources, a slightly higher mortality rate is an acceptable price to pay for certain goals.” This falsely assumes that health care coverage is something which we cannot afford to provide. However every other industrialized nation on the planet, existing in the same “world of scarce resources,” is able to provide health care coverage to its citizens. The Affordable Care Act is a valuable step in the right direction, but it is an incremental step which still falls short of what is provided in the rest of the industrialized world.

There is no good reason why the United States cannot provide the same level of health care coverage as is seen in the rest of the industrialized world. One reason why we have been unable to do this is the unnecessary middleman–private insurance companies making huge profits while making health care more expensive than elsewhere. Perhaps the answer is that in a world of scarce resources, a system of private insurance is an unacceptable price to pay, and we should be thinking in terms of conversion to a far more cost-effective single payer system.

Republicans Losing The Culture War, Helping Democratic Candidates

In past elections, Republicans have turned to social issues to get their supporters out to vote. This year some Democratic candidates are doing the reverse–using social issues in the hopes of getting more women to turn out to vote. The New York Times discussed this in an editorial:

The decision to go on the offensive is in part designed to incite the anger of women and draw support in the November elections, particularly that of single women, who tend to vote in small numbers in midterms. But it is also a reflection of the growing obsolescence of traditional Republican wedge issues in state after state. For a younger generation of voters, the old right-wing nostrums about the “sanctity of life” and the “sanctity of marriage” have lost their power, revealed as intrusions on human freedom. Democrats “did win the culture war,” Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist, admitted to The New York Times recently.

That’s not necessarily true in the most conservative states. In Louisiana and Arkansas this year, two endangered Democratic senators, Mary Landrieu and Mark Pryor, have not been as outspoken in attacking their opponents’ anti-abortion positions. But even there, Republicans have not campaigned against same-sex marriage.

One of the most telling signs of the cultural change is the number of Republicans who are bucking conservative activists and trying to soft-pedal or even retreat from their ideology. Mr. Gardner now says he opposes a similar bill on the ballot this year in Colorado. It apparently came as a surprise to him that the bill would effectively ban certain kinds of birth control, which he says is the reason for his switch. Several other Republican candidates are trumpeting their support for over-the-counter birth control pills, though they remain opposed to the insurance coverage of contraception required by the Affordable Care Act.

Of course it must be kept in mind that the Republicans who support making birth control pills available over-the-counter might not be doing this out of an increased sense of tolerance. As I recently discussed, making them over-the-counter could mean that they wouldn’t be covered by insurance, and wind up reducing access.

The editorial concludes, “The shift in public opinion might not be enough for Democrats to keep the Senate this year. But over time, it may help spell an end to the politics of cultural division.”

Yes, due to fundamentals involving this year’s election, the Republicans should do better than the Democrats. Polling does show that the Republicans have an excellent chance for taking control of the Senate this year unless Democrats manage to win in some of the races which are currently leaning Republican, but it could be a dead cat bounce for the Republicans. Voters are now far more likely to oppose Republican attempts to increase government intrusion in the private lives of individuals, and less likely to fall for phoney Republican claims of supporting smaller government and greater freedom. This should result in either the Republicans making major changes in their agenda or, more likely, significant Republican loses in 2016 when the fundamentals will again favor the Democrats.

In addition, as more voters support liberal attitudes on social issues, they are more likely to have a favorable view of other liberal ideas. If they already realize that the Republicans are selling a false line about limited government when it comes to social issues, they are more likely to be open to facts about how Republicans, rather than supporting economic freedom as they claim, are actually pursuing an agenda of using government to transfer wealth from the middle class to the wealthy. Once voters figure this out, there might be little support left for the authoritarian right.

Why Many People In The Middle Now Identify With The Left

While the country has become more liberal in some ways, the Republican Party has moved to the extreme right, and the Democratic Party has filled in the vacuum in the middle by also moving to the right on many issues. As a consequence, many people who previously considered themselves in the middle are finding that the current views of the left are closer to their views. Thomas Ricks, who wrote Fiasco, and excellent look at the Iraq War, described why he moved to the left at Politico:

Disappointment in the American government over the last 10 years. Our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the first big shocks. I thought that invading Afghanistan was the right response to the 9/11 attacks, but I never expected the U.S. military leadership would be so inept in fighting there and in Iraq, running the wars in ways that made more enemies than were stopped. I believe that the invasion of Iraq was wrong, not only launched on false premises but also strategically foolish in that ultimately it has increased Iran’s power in the Middle East.

Torture. I never expected my country to endorse torture. I know that torture has existed in all wars, but to my knowledge, its use, under the chilling term “enhanced interrogation,” was never official U.S. policy until this century. In fact, until our recent wars, the American military had a proud heritage of handling its prisoners better than most. During the Revolutionary War, Gen. George Washington reminded his men of the need to “Treat [captives] with humanity, and Let them have no reason to complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British army.”

How we fought. I never thought that an American government would employ mercenaries in a war. And yet we did this in Iraq by hiring thousands of armed “security contractors” who in practice were subject neither to local law nor to the American military justice system, and so could and often did treat Iraqis badly. In September 2007, I remember, American officers, who by then understood the need to treat Iraqi civilians well, were outraged when Blackwater employees shot 37 Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square—the rough equivalent of opening up on the lunch crowd in Dupont Circle. Yet to my knowledge, the U.S. government has not studied how the use of mercenaries poisoned the conduct of the war. Indeed, it gives every indication of planning to operate the same way in the future.

Intelligence officials run amok. I think that American intelligence officials have shown a contempt for the way our democracy is supposed to work in turning a vast and unaccountable apparatus on the citizens it is supposed to be protecting. I remain wary of Edward Snowden’s motivations and connections, yet still am worried by the intrusive surveillance by the National Security Agency he has unveiled. At the very least, in a democracy, we should be able to be informed about the actions that have eroded our privacy but supposedly were taken in our name.

Growing income inequality. I also have been dismayed by the transfer of massive amounts of wealth to the richest people in the country, a policy supported over the last 35 years by successive administrations of both parties. Apparently income redistribution downward is dangerously radical, but redistribution upward is just business as usual. The middle class used at least to get lip service from the rich—“backbone of the country” and such. Now it is often treated like a bunch of saps not aware enough to evade their taxes.

This led to a lengthy discussion at The Moderate Voice, where I also blog. Many of the bloggers and regular commentators there are in a similar position, thinking of themselves as moderates but finding their views are now more in line with the left, especially on social issues. While Ricks didn’t mention social issues, the desire to keep government out of the private lives of individuals has led many people to abandon the Republicans and the conservative movement.

Opposition to the Iraq War and related issues has generally been the defining issue for the formation of the liberal “netroots” and this dominates Ricks’ reasons. Republicans typically use fear and distort Democratic views, such as with the misquotation of Obama as the theme of the last Republican convention, to falsely paint liberals as being for socialism. There are no such economic views listed by Ricks, and the same is typical of many liberals. There is a far greater variation in views on the left than on the right, but the center of gravity has moved rightwards on economic issues. Liberals tend to be  more pragmatists and closer to Eisenhower Republicans than anything close to socialist (by its classic meaning).

If the word conservative really meant anything, in many ways today’s liberals are the conservatives who want to preserve our market economy, while eliminating its abuses, while Republicans are the radicals who want to destroy the system and make our economy more like a banana republic. It is the Republicans who are irresponsible fiscally, financing their policies on credit (while Democrats are more likely to include financing for their policies), caring more about tax cuts for the rich as opposed to cutting the deficit, and rigging the system to redistribute wealth from the middle class to the rich. Besides the ethical problems with this, destroying the middle class is horrible for the economy, and in the long run doesn’t even benefit the rich either, unless you want to live in a banana republic. On top of this we have the Republicans engaging in irresponsible action such as shutting down the government and making an issue out of increasing the debt ceiling, resulting in a lowering of the country’s credit rating.

The Affordable Care Act is a good example of how both parties have moved to the right on health care. Obamacare is quite close to Richard Nixon’s health care plan, the GOP counter-proposal to HillaryCare in the 90′s, and Mitt Romney’s plan. Republicans used to push for mandates, exchanges, and recommended high deductible plans tied to medical savings accounts. Once Obama pushed for all of this, as opposed to previous more liberal health care proposals, the Republicans suddenly claimed that everything they supported in the past is socialism and amounts to a government takeover of health care. (Of course part of the Republican opposition is because Obamacare does differ from the old Republican proposals in including regulations to keep insurance companies from ripping off consumers while pushing to increase use of private insurance companies.)

Conservatives are likely to misinterpret the inclusion of concerns about income inequality by Ricks, as well as myself  in this post, as indicating support for socialism. Concern about the deleterious effects of  the concentration of wealth to our economy is not an exclusively liberal viewpoint–see the works of Kevin Phillips on this. Nor does this mean that socialism is being advocated as the solution.

Nicholas Kristof has an op-ed on income inequality which is worth reviewing:

First, economic inequality has worsened significantly in the United States and some other countries. The richest 1 percent in the United States now own more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. Oxfam estimates that the richest 85 people in the world own half of all wealth.

The situation might be tolerable if a rising tide were lifting all boats. But it’s lifting mostly the yachts. In 2010, 93 percent of the additional income created in America went to the top 1 percent.

Second, inequality in America is destabilizing. Some inequality is essential to create incentives, but we seem to have reached the point where inequality actually becomes an impediment to economic growth.

Certainly, the nation grew more quickly in periods when we were more equal, including in the golden decades after World War II when growth was strong and inequality actually diminished. Likewise, a major research paper from the International Monetary Fund in April found that more equitable societies tend to enjoy more rapid economic growth.

Indeed, even Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, warns that “too much … has gone to too few” and that inequality in America is now “very destabilizing.”

Inequality causes problems by creating fissures in societies, leaving those at the bottom feeling marginalized or disenfranchised. That has been a classic problem in “banana republic” countries in Latin America, and the United States now has a Gini coefficient (a standard measure of inequality) approaching some traditionally poor and dysfunctional Latin countries.

Third, disparities reflect not just the invisible hand of the market but also manipulation of markets. Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize-winning economist, wrote a terrific book two years ago, “The Price of Inequality,” which is a shorter and easier read than Piketty’s book. In it, he notes: “Much of America’s inequality is the result of market distortions, with incentives directed not at creating new wealth but at taking it from others.”

For example, financiers are wealthy partly because they’re highly educated and hardworking — and also because they’ve successfully lobbied for the carried interest tax loophole that lets their pay be taxed at much lower rates than other people’s.

Likewise, if you’re a pharmaceutical executive, one way to create profits is to generate new products. Another is to lobby Congress to bar the government’s Medicare program from bargaining for drug prices. That

Fourth, inequality doesn’t necessarily even benefit the rich as much as we think. At some point, extra incomes don’t go to sate desires but to attempt to buy status through “positional goods” — like the hottest car on the block.

The problem is that there can only be one hottest car on the block. So the lawyer who buys a Porsche is foiled by the C.E.O. who buys a Ferrari, who in turn is foiled by the hedge fund manager who buys a Lamborghini. This arms race leaves these desires unsated; there’s still only one at the top of the heap.

Fifth, progressives probably talk too much about “inequality” and not enough about “opportunity.” Some voters are turned off by tirades about inequality because they say it connotes envy of the rich; there is more consensus on bringing everyone to the same starting line.

Unfortunately, equal opportunity is now a mirage. Indeed, researchers find that there is less economic mobility in America than in class-conscious Europe.

We know some of the tools, including job incentives and better schools, that can reduce this opportunity gap. But the United States is one of the few advanced countries that spends less educating the average poor child than the average rich one. As an escalator of mobility, the American education system is broken.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

Update: Norm Ornstein On The Republican Battle Between The Conservatives And Lunatic Radicals