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“A Standard Of Absolute Purity”: His Respected Friend; But What Does Bernie Really Think Of Hillary?

What does Bernie Sanders really think of Hillary Clinton?

When they meet in debate, the Senator from Vermont usually refers to the former Secretary of State as his “friend” – not in the polite Congressional-speech sense of someone that he actually despises, but in what is presumably his authentic, Brooklyn-born candor. He speaks frequently of his “great respect” for Clinton. And he has said more than once that “on her worst day” she would be a far better president than any of the potential Republican candidates “on their best day.”

Even more often, however, Sanders suggests that Clinton has sold out to the financial industry for campaign contributions, or for donations to her SuperPAC, or perhaps for those big speaking fees she has pocketed since leaving the State Department. Certainly he has fostered that impression among his supporters, who excoriate Clinton in the most uninhibited and sometimes obscene terms on social media.

But if Sanders believes that Hillary Clinton is “bought by Wall Street” — as his legions so shrilly insist — then how can he say, “in all sincerity,” that she is his respected friend?

To date, his criticism of Clinton on this point is inferential, not specific. He hasn’t identified any particular vote or action that proves her alleged subservience to the financial titans she once represented as the junior senator from New York. As Sanders knows, Clinton’s actual record on such issues as the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ran opposite to the banksters.

Back in 2007, eight years before she could ever imagine facing the socialist senator in debate, she spoke up against the special “carried interest” tax breaks enjoyed by hedge-fund managers. Her proposals to regulate banks more strictly have won praise not only from New York Times columnist and Nobel economist Paul Krugman, but from Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the populist Pasionaria, as well.

Still, to Sanders the mere act of accepting money from the financial industry, or any corporate interest, is a marker of compromise or worse. Why do the banks spend millions on lobbying, he thunders, unless they get something in return? The answer is that they want access – and often donate even to politicians who don’t fulfill all their wishes. They invariably donate to anyone they believe will win.

Meanwhile, Sanders doesn’t apply his stringent integrity test to contributions from unions, a category of donation he accepts despite labor’s pursuit of special-interest legislation– and despite the troubling fact that the leadership of the labor movement filed an amicus brief on behalf of Citizens United, which expanded their freedom to offer big donations to politicians. (That case was rooted, not incidentally, in yet another effort by right-wing billionaires to destroy Hillary Clinton.)

By his own standard, Sanders shouldn’t take union money because the AFL-CIO opposed campaign finance reform, which he vociferously supports. Or maybe we shouldn’t believe that he truly supports campaign finance reform, because he has accepted so much money from unions.

Such assumptions would be wholly ridiculous, of course – just as ridiculous as assuming that Clinton’s acceptance of money from banking or labor interests, both of which have made substantial donations to her campaign, proves her advocacy of reform is insincere.

Political history is more complex than campaign melodrama. If critics arraign Clinton for the decision by her husband’s administration to kill regulation of derivatives trading, it is worth recalling that she was responsible for the appointment of the only official who opposed that fateful mistake. She had nothing to do with deregulation — but as First Lady, she strongly advocated on behalf of Brooksley Born, a close friend of hers named by her husband to chair the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. One of the few heroes of the financial crisis, Born presciently warned about the dangers of unregulated derivatives.

So it is fine to criticize Clinton’s big speaking fees from banks and other special interests, which create a troubling appearance that she should have anticipated. It is fine to complain that politicians are too dependent on big-money donors. And it is fine to push her hard on the issues that define the Sanders campaign, which has done a great service by highlighting the political and economic domination of the billionaire elite.

But it is wrong to accuse Clinton of “pay for play” when the available evidence doesn’t support that accusation. And if Sanders wants to hold her to a standard of absolute purity, he should apply that same measure to himself.


By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, February 13, 2016

February 15, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Financial Industry, Hillary Clinton, Wall Street | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Chill, People!”: Hey, Warren Fans; Hillary Would Be The Most Liberal Nominee In Your Lifetime

So, Hillary’s taken a few questions from the press now. But something more interesting than that has been happening over the past month: She has moved to the left or signaled her intention to do so on a pretty broad range of issues. All of you who want Elizabeth Warren in the race? Chill, people. She practically is.

Now, for all I know it might make the Clinton people cringe to see me write that, because it surely provides some degree of ammo for the right. But I reckon the right would have noticed this without my intervention, so my conscience is clear. But this is the emerging reality: If you are a 40-something Democrat who has voted over the years for Bill Clinton and Al Gore and John Kerry and Barack Obama, it’s looking like you are about to cast a vote next year for the most liberal Democratic nominee of your voting lifetime.

Start with the two positions she’s taken since the announcement video that have probably gotten the most attention. Her immigration position is considerably more aggressive than Obama’s, expanding his executive actions to allow more people to obtain work permits. Then, on prisons, she famously called for the end of the era of mass incarceration. The speech was filled with pleas to get low-level and nonviolent offenders out of prison and with sentences like “there is something wrong when a third of all black men face the prospect of prison during their lifetimes.”

There’s a lot more where that came from, usually announced, or mentioned, in those meetings with voters that the press following her so loathe. Here are the four most notable ones. These aren’t fully fleshed-out policy proposals, but presumably those will come:

• She told an audience in Keene, New Hampshire, that the country needs a free and universal pre-kindergarten program.

• At Tina Brown’s Women in the World summit in New York, she called for greatly expanded after-school and child-care programs.

• Also in Keene, she came out for closing the carried-interest loophole for hedge-fund managers, and the rhetoric was pretty populist, as she told furniture workers: “You are in the production of goods, and I want to do everything I can to support goods and real services and take a hard look at what is now being done in the trading world, which is just trading for the sake of trading. And it’s just wrong that a hedge fund manager pays a lower tax rate than a nurse or a trucker or an assembly worker here at Whitney Brothers.”

• And most important from my personal point of view, she’s been speaking out strongly in favor of paid family and medical leave, saying to a questioner at a Norwalk, Iowa, roundtable: “Well, boy, you are right on my wavelength because, look, we are the last developed country in the world that has no national paid leave for parenting, for illness.  And what we know from the few states that have done it—California being most notable here—is it builds loyalty.  If you really analyzed turnover in a lot of businesses where you have to retrain somebody—well, first you have to find them and then you have to retrain them—making your employees feel that you care about these milestones in their lives and you give them the chance to have a child, adopt a child, recover from a serious illness, take care of a really sick parent and get a period of time that’s paid just cements that relationship.”

These six positions—along with her support for a much higher minimum wage that’s indexed to inflation—almost by themselves make Clinton the most on-paper progressive candidate (and putative nominee) since who knows when. She is saying things that one never thought the Hillary Clinton of 10 or 20 years ago would have said.

It may be true that it’s less that she’s changed than that the times have, and she’s adapting. But hey, give her credit for adapting. Last summer, during her book tour, she said she didn’t think paid family leave was possible. Now, she’s talking like someone who isn’t merely describing a crappy reality but someone who sees that the point is to change it.

There are some important positions she hasn’t taken yet. On the TPP trade agreement, most obviously, which is one on which I think she might go against the left, although I’m just guessing. I want to see what she has to say down the road about entitlements. Something tells me, the way she’s been talking so far, that there won’t be much emphasis on grand bargains and being responsible and raising the retirement age. I’ll be curious to see, for example, whether she endorses raising the payroll tax cap. I went to see West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin speak at Brookings the other day, and he said he’d gladly support raising the cap to help fix the entitlements’ insolvency problems. If Joe can say it, can Hillary?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column urging liberals to suck it up and accept the fact that Hillary Clinton was the choice and there’s too much at stake and there’s nothing else to do so just get over it and support her. That column didn’t say much about her positions. It was just about the Supreme Court and what a nightmare Republican rule would be.

But at the rate she’s going, very little sucking it up will be required. She’s turning into a bona fide progressive. She may not go for the class-warfare rhetorical jugular with quite Warren’s gusto. But “the top 25 hedge-fund managers together make more money than all the kindergarten teachers in America,” which she said this week in Iowa, is close enough for me, and a lot closer than I thought she was going to be at this stage.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, May 20, 2015

May 21, 2015 Posted by | Hillary Clinton, Liberals, Progressives | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“An Incongruous Spectacle”: Dave Brat’s Win Over Eric Cantor Exposed The Unholy Tea Party-Wall Street Alliance

The Tea Party wave that built around the country in 2009 and 2010 was fueled by many thingsresentment over foolhardy homeowners getting mortgage relief, backlash against the Affordable Care Act, and anxiety over federal spending. But if its rhetoric was to be believed, the movement was also driven by a healthy dose of old-fashioned anti-Wall Street populismanger over the TARP bailouts, the AIG bonuses, the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute any of the bankers who’d brought us close to ruin.

Something funny happened, though, as the pitchforks made their way to confront the money changers at the temple: Wall Street and big business co-opted them. It turned out that some elements of the Tea Party movement were much more opposed to Obama than they were to self-dealing CEOs and bankers, and perfectly willing to join with the latter to fight the former. This quickly produced the confounding spectacle of a purportedly populist uprising that was working hand in hand, and in many cases funded by, the business elite. And the nexus for this alliance was the Republican leadership in Congress. When Republicans were trying to block the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, they took Frank Luntz’s devious advice to label the bill a “bailout” for the banksdeploying Tea Party rhetoric to attack a bill that was in fact bitterly opposed by the bailed-out banks. In recognition of this effort, Wall Street in 2010 swung its campaign spending sharply toward GOP candidates, including many running under the Tea Party banner.

And when the Tea Party wave reached Washington, after the Republican rout in the midterm elections, who put himself forward as the new arrivals’ standard bearer within the House leadership? None other than Eric Cantorthe top recipient of financial industry money in Congress, the longtime protector of one of the most notorious Wall Street favors of all, the tax loophole for the carried-interest income of private-equity and hedge-fund managers. It was an incongruous spectacle, but so muddled had the right’s populism become by that point that the opportunistic Cantor was able to brazen his way through it. It was he who goaded the insurgent congressmen to make the raising of the debt-ceiling limit in June of 2011 their big stand against Obama: “I’m asking you to look at a potential increase in the debt limit as a leverage moment when the White House and President Obama will have to deal with us,” Cantor told the rank-and-file in a closed-door meeting in Baltimore in January 2011. It was he who undermined Speaker John Boehner’s effort to reach a grand bargain with Obama to pull the nation back from the brink, by riling up rank-and-file conservatives against the deal. It was a brilliant display: in one fell swoop, Cantor was able to protect the financiers’ carried-interest loophole (which Obama sought to close as part of the deal) at the same very time as he was serving as the champion of the Tea Party insurgents.

Now, Cantor’s game is up. Many, such as my colleague John Judis and the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, have already noted the right-wing populism in the rhetoric of Dave Brat, the economics professor who upset Cantor in Tuesday’s primary. But what is particularly significant about Brat’s victory is that he deployed this populism against the very man who had perfected the art of faking it. “All the investment banks in New York and D.C.those guys should have gone to jail,” Brat said at one Tea Party rally last month. “Instead of going to jail, they went on Eric’s Rolodex, and they are sending him big checks.” Liberals have for some time now been decrying Cantor’s hypocrisy in posing as the tribune of the common man, but here was a fellow Republican calling it out (without, it should be noted, the assistance of any of the self-appointed Tea Party organizations that have been so willing to make common cause with their anti-Obama allies on Wall Street). Yes, some conservatives have for the past few years been making noise about “crony capitalism,” but somehow their examples of this scourge most often tended to be Democratic-inflected rackets, such as the failed solar energy company Solyndra, rather than Republican-tinted ones such as, say, the private lenders who were making a killing acting as taxpayer-subsidized middle-men in the student loan market.

This is why we should be grateful for Dave Brat, beyond the schadenfreude of seeing a widely disliked congressional leader brought low. Yes, Brat’s win will add new kindling to the Tea Party cause just as some were declaring it burned out, thus further reducing the odds of legislative progress in areas such as immigration reform. But his win has, at least momentarily, also brought some clarity and integrity to the insurgency. Here was anti-Wall Street populism in its pure form: aimed, for once, at the right target.


By: Alec MacGinnis, The New Republic, June 12, 2014

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Eric Cantor, Tea Party, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let Them Eat Dignity”: Conservatives Assure The Poor That The Health Of Their Souls Demands They Go Hungry

A few days ago, Paul Ryan got caught repeating a little fib in his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. It was of a not-uncommon type, in which a vivid anecdote somebody hears from somewhere gets told and retold in a game of political telephone in which the facts get mangled and the story from elsewhere becomes something the speaker claims happened to her. We can forgive Ryan for repeating it, since the falsehood didn’t originate with him. But the real power of the story lies in its revelation of the cruelty that underlies the way contemporary American conservatives look at the poor, and the wispy veil they try to pull over that cruelty in the hopes we won’t see it for what it is.

To start, here’s the story Ryan told, about Eloise Anderson, who directs the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families:

She once met a young boy from a very poor family, and every day at school, he would get a free lunch from a government program. He told Eloise he didn’t want a free lunch. He wanted his own lunch, one in a brown-paper bag just like the other kids. He wanted one, he said, because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him. This is what the left does not understand.

As the Washington Post‘s Glenn Kessler explained, though Anderson indeed told this story at a congressional hearing, it actually didn’t happen to her, but came from a book (which she later admitted). More important, she changed the story to make it more closely fit conservative ideology; in real life, the child in question wasn’t getting a lunch from the government, but from a rich lady he met; and more important, it wasn’t that he didn’t want a free lunch, he just wanted his free lunch in a paper bag so the other kids wouldn’t know he was getting help. That’s an old story about poverty and shame—a relationship, by the way, that conservatives work hard to maintain.

But here’s the part of Ryan’s speech that really matters: “The left is making a mistake here,” he said. “What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul.” And later: “People don’t just want a life of comfort. They want a life of dignity.” Ah yes, the “life of comfort” you get when you are able to eat not one, not two, but as many as three meals a day! Talk about easy street.

Whenever conservatives start throwing around ideas like “dignity” and talking about the contents of people’s souls, watch out. Because it almost always means that what they’re proposing is to make the lives of the vulnerable a little tougher and a little more deprived. This’ll hurt you more than it hurts them.

And that is indeed what Ryan proposes. The last budget plan he released, like those before it, sought to cut hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid, food stamps, and other programs that provide assistance to the poor—because as Ryan once said, “we don’t want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives.”

I suspect conservatives talk this way as much for their own benefit—for the maintenance of their souls, if you will—as for the poor people they’re ostensibly addressing. Almost all of us, with the exception of a few true-believing Ayn Rand cultists, believe that we have obligations to one another, no matter how selfish we might be on most days. If you’re literally taking food from the mouths of hungry children, you have to justify it somehow, to assure yourself that you’re still a moral person. So you tell yourself that you’re doing it to help them. You’re giving them something more valuable than food, because you care so deeply about them. When that six-year-old gets that grumble in her stomach, you can tell her what she’s feeling is the growing pains of her soul, as it swells with its newfound dignity.

The souls of the wealthy, on the other hand, are apparently so healthy and strong they can withstand the indignity of government help. Special tax treatment for investment income? The mortgage interest deduction? Cuts to upper-income tax rates? The rich are truly blessed with souls so resilient that they remain intact even in the face of such injuries of government largesse.

But that’s the way it is with everything. Conservatives are not worried that hedge-fund managers will be slowly sapped of their will to work when their income is taxed at an absurd 15 percent rate because of the carried interest loophole, leaving the rest of us to pick up their slack. When they address that question, there is no talk of dignity. Only when it comes time to cut food stamps or kick people off of the first health insurance they’ve ever had (as Ryan also wants to do, by eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid) do conservatives turn so philosophical, casting their gaze beyond the trivialities of daily existence, like food, and toward such higher considerations.

If you were being unkind, you might say that when it comes to poor people’s dignity, the right has mostly been concerned of late in seeing that they have as little as possible, by advocating things like forcing people to take drug tests before getting welfare benefits. Perhaps they believe that a combination of hunger and humiliation will be just the encouragement those lazy poor need to take a firm hold of their bootstraps and pull. True, that expression originally meant doing something that is physically impossible—you can tug on your bootstraps all you like, but it won’t pull you out of a hole. You will be carried aloft by your soul, though, so long as it isn’t sullied by safety net programs.

This, in the end, is the essence of conservative thought on these issues. Better a child should go hungry than get a free lunch. Better a poor person should have no health insurance at all than get insurance from the government. Their suffering may multiply, but they’ll still have their dignity. If only you could eat it.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, March 10, 2014

March 11, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Paul Ryan, Poverty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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