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“Change Requires More Than Righteous Anger”: How Sanders Can Avoid Becoming The Ted Cruz Of The Left

As it becomes increasingly clear that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic presidential nominee, a lot of people are beginning to talk about what Bernie Sanders should do now. The more interesting question is: what happens to the “movement” he has inspired once this election is over. That is what Brian Beutler attempted to address. Here is a summary of his advice:

Sanders must keep the apparatus he’s built largely intact, but refocused on lobbying for progressive policies and promoting and financing progressive candidates—and making establishment Democrats fear the price of opposing both.

That sounds like good advice to me, with one caveat: don’t become the Ted Cruz of the left.

After the election in November, Bernie Sanders will go back to being the Senator from Vermont. Unless he wants to give up that seat – he will be working from inside the system. As Beutler goes on to point out, if Democrats win control of the Senate, Sanders will be in line to be chair of the Budget Committee. Using that position to advance his progressive agenda means playing the “establishment” game. Unless he wants to become a full-time activist working from outside the system (which would be a viable option), here are some things he could do:

  1. Develop a plan for universal health care coverage that is more than simply throwing numbers at a page that don’t add up. In other words, develop a plan that would actually work.
  2. Submit the Rebuild America Act to address this country’s infrastructure needs and create jobs.
  3. Work with Senate colleague Sherrod Brown to develop a serious proposal to break up the big banks.

I could go on with other things Sanders has advocated for in this primary, but perhaps you get my drift. As a candidate, Sanders has been good at naming and describing problems. Where he has been weak is in developing serious plans to address them. Energizing his movement to maintain the pressure for more progressive policies means providing the country with actual progressive policies. Sanders could then mobilize the army of his young supporters to take up the cause and fight for them. As President Obama said at Howard University:

You have to go through life with more than just passion for change; you need a strategy. I’ll repeat that. I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy. Not just awareness, but action. Not just hashtags, but votes.

You see, change requires more than righteous anger. It requires a program, and it requires organizing.

The alternative is to become the Ted Cruz of the left – always disrupting but never offering anything constructive that could actually change things.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 10, 2016

May 11, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential Nominee, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ship Of Fools”: The Inconvenient Truth, The “Bernie Or Bust” Crowd Is Indistinguishable From Right-Wing Fundamentalists

If you’re like me, and you know a number of “Bernie or Bust”-ers on social media who still insist that under no circumstances will they vote for the “corporatist” Hillary Clinton if she defeats Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination, ask them to consider this scenario:

1) Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, and the overwhelming majority of Sanders supporters decide to abstain from voting on November 8 (presumably, there will be a not-insignificant number of Sanders supporters who will vote for presumptive Green Party nominee Jill Stein, but for purposes of this argument, let’s say almost all of the Bernie-backers back out of the general election). In an effort to pacify peeved progressives, Clinton selects as her running mate a Sanders-style star who happens to be an actual member of the Democratic Party—say, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

2) Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, and immediately announces that Ted Cruz is his running mate.

3) A significant number of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents find themselves unable to support a Trump-Cruz ticket, and decide to set their issues with Clinton aside and vote for the Clinton-Brown ticket on November 8. Their votes, combined with the votes of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, make the allegedly “corporatist” Clinton the 45th president of the United States.

Under this scenario, will the Bernie backers who sat out the election—the ones who think the Democratic Party has been contaminated by “corporatism,” the ones who believe Sanders is the only morally pure choice for President—have any clout whatsoever in American politics? Will they be able to have any real influence on the Clinton-Brown administration? Will they be able to encourage Vice President Brown to publicly break with President Clinton on policies progressives find fault with? Or will they just be dismissed as whiners who blew a chance to have a claim on the new President?

This is the problem with the “Bernie or Bust” movement. By declaring that they will refuse to vote for a non-Sanders Democratic presidential nominee, these folks are declaring, in essence, that they are not seriously interested in moving the Democratic Party in a more progressive direction.

Wouldn’t it make more sense for the “Bernie or Bust”-ers to accept a Sanders primary loss with grace, commit themselves to preventing a Republican reactionary from seizing the White House, and then declare that Clinton owes a part of her victory to those who had initially supported Sanders? Wouldn’t they be able to influence Clinton’s actions on education, energy and economics? Wouldn’t they be able to pressure Clinton to govern as an undisputed progressive?

Harsh as this might be to say, it’s clear that the “Bernie or Bust” movement has officially replaced the Tea Party movement as the most illogical and incoherent force in modern American politics. By proclaiming that Clinton is too dishonest and dirty to deserve support, these folks are saying that the right wing was right all along about Hillary (and Bill). That’s a sensible message?

It’s also clear that the “Bernie or Bust” crowd—which regards Bill Clinton as having sold out the Democratic Party to economic elites in the 1990s—must also loathe former Vice President Al Gore as much as the right wing does, but for different reasons. After all, Gore was at Clinton’s side when the 42nd President supposedly abandoned the middle class. Gore supported the much-maligned North American Free Trade Agreement. Gore was associated with that progressive bogeyman known as the Democratic Leadership Council. Presumably, the older members of the “Bernie or Bust” bunch were the same ones who regarded Gore as insufficiently progressive in 2000, and defected to Ralph Nader.

The inconvenient truth is that the “Bernie or Bust” crowd is indistinguishable from right-wing fundamentalists in their loathing of compromise and their refusal to recognize that sometimes people can make bad decisions in good faith. Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Al Gore are neither evil nor corrupt. Neither is Bernie Sanders, for that matter…but what does it say about those who only recognize morality in the latter, and malevolence in the former?

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 16, 2016

April 18, 2016 Posted by | Bernie or Bust, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“We’re Going Home For Christmas”: GOP-Led Senate Failing At Its Most Basic Tasks

In light of the recent focus on counter-terrorism and national security, common sense suggests the Senate would want to quickly confirm Adam Szubin to serve as the Treasury Department’s under secretary for terrorism and financial crimes.

As the Huffington Post recently reported, we’re talking about a job that “involves tracking terrorists to prevent them from raising money on the black market and elsewhere.” Szubin is extremely well qualified; he’s worked on blocking terrorist financing in previous administrations; and he enjoys broad, bipartisan support in the Senate.

And yet, the Senate isn’t voting on his nomination. Politico reported overnight that Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) has grown impatient with mindless Republican obstructionism and tried to end this farce yesterday.

A frustrated Brown took to the Senate floor Wednesday to force a confirmation vote on Szubin and a host of other nominees stuck in his committee. The panel’s chairman, Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama, swiftly objected to each of Brown’s attempts.

“That’s a policy decision,” Shelby said Wednesday of the nomination of Szubin, whom Shelby called “eminently qualified” during his confirmation hearing in September. “You know, he’s probably a nice guy in all this. But there is a lot of dissent in our caucus on that.”

Asked whether Szubin could move through his committee soon, Shelby responded: “We’re not going to vote now. We’re going home for Christmas.”

It’s not altogether clear what in the world Shelby was talking about. When he says Szubin is “probably a nice guy in all this,” it’s unclear what “this” refers to. When the senator added there’s “dissent in our caucus on that,” he didn’t say what “that” meant.

But even if we look past the ambiguity, the end result is the same: an uncontroversial, perfectly qualified counter-terrorism nominee is being delayed – without explanation – apparently because Republicans don’t like President Obama.

And while that may seem ridiculous – because it is – it’s important to understand that Szubin is hardly the only one.

The same Politico report explained, “Nineteen potential judges, a half-dozen ambassadors, a terrorism financing specialist and two high-ranking State Department nominees are awaiting confirmation votes on the Senate floor, a backlog that has this GOP-led Senate on track for the lowest number of confirmations in 30 years. The Senate Banking Committee hasn’t moved on a single nominee all year.”

The Banking Committee, by the way, is led by Alabama’s Richard Shelby – the one who’s praised Adam Szubin, but who also refuses to let the Senate confirm Adam Szubin.

The story on judicial nominees is every bit as exasperating. The Huffington Post reported this week on Luis Felipe Restrepo, who, for reasons no one can defend, has “endured nearly every type of Senate delay a judicial nominee could endure.”

The Senate should be voting Monday to confirm Restrepo to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Senators typically vote on nominees in the order in which they were nominated, and Restrepo is first in line of any district or circuit court nominee. Instead, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) passed him over and teed up a vote on the next person in line, Travis McDonough, a Tennessee district court nominee.

Restrepo has been waiting his turn for a vote since he was nominated in November 2014. His nomination didn’t go anywhere last year, so President Barack Obama renominated him in January. Restrepo waited five months before he even got a hearing in the Judiciary Committee, thanks to his own state’s senator, Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), holding him up.

After his June hearing, Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) delayed the vote for another month, for no real reason. The committee finally voted to move Restrepo forward in July, unanimously, and he’s been waiting in line for a confirmation vote by the full Senate ever since.

The court seat Restrepo is supposed to fill has been vacant for nearly 900 days. No, that’s not a typo, and yes, it’s contributed to a “judicial emergency” on the 3rd Circuit, with a case backlog getting worse.

Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein recently explained, “It’s a Senate engaged in pure partisan harassment of Obama, and indifferent to the smooth functioning of government.”

When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was promoted to his current post, he promised Americans we’d see a new, different kind of chamber. Nearly a year later, I suppose he was correct – because the Senate is now far worse.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 10, 2015

December 11, 2015 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Mitch Mc Connell, Senate | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Taking On Too Big To Fail”: Financial Reform Is About To Catch A Second Wind And Elizabeth Warren Is Ready To Ride It

Financial reformers seeking new rules beyond the range of the Dodd-Frank law haven’t had much to cheer about this year. The chances of Congress passing new regulations—OK, passing anything—look bleak, and the Obama Administration wants to simply finish implementing the last set of reforms. But reformers are playing a longer game, biding their time until the conditions are ripe for a dam burst. That could happen sooner than you think. High-profile champions for reform are gradually bending regulators to their will, and a pile-up of big bank abuses have eroded Wall Street’s reputation in Washington. Most importantly, a new report detailing the extraordinary largesse granted banks during the financial crisis, and questioning whether Dodd-Frank would prevent a rerun, could set off a fresh spark.

An unlikely bipartisan duo, Senators Sherrod Brown and David Vitter, have tried all year to focus attention in Congress on ending “too big to fail,” the perception that large financial institutions will inevitably receive government bailouts if they run into trouble. This allows banks to take on outsized risks with implicit government support, and receive a de facto subsidy, with lower borrowing costs than their smaller competitors, because investors believe a backstopped institution will always pay them back. Brown and Vitter introduced legislation earlier this year to significantly raise capital requirements, which they say will reduce reliance on bailouts by forcing banks to pay for their own losses.

Brown and Vitter commissioned a study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to quantify the public subsidy bestowed on banks, which could give them powerful evidence to rally support for their legislation. GAO released the first part of the study last week. It mostly looks backward at the “extraordinary support” given to banks from 2007-2009 to weather the financial crisis, and whether the Dodd-Frank financial reform law ended this tendency toward bailouts. The more controversial part of the study, on how much the government subsidizes big banks considered too big to fail, isn’t due until next year.

But the report still contains some explosive material. It details how banks received trillions of dollars in capital injections, emergency lending and debt guarantees during the financial crisis, offered with more favorable terms than they could have found in the private market, and secured by junk collateral that non-government lenders would never accept. Some debt guarantees given by government agencies to banks were up to 10 percent cheaper than private alternatives, saving the banks billions of dollars. Banks with over $50 billion in assets used the crisis-era programs nearly twice as much as their smaller counterparts. Outside of the broadly available emergency programs, JPMorgan Chase received a $30 billion loan from the New York Federal Reserve (then run by Timothy Geithner) for its purchase of Bear Stearns, and both Citigroup and Bank of America received special direct assistance of $20 billion each. According to a summary released by Brown and Vitter, those three banks, the U.S.’s largest, would have been insolvent without the government support provided during the crisis. Since the biggest banks are even bigger today (the report states that the nation’s four largest banks are $2 trillion larger than they were in 2007), it’s hard to believe that similar support wouldn’t be granted if needed.

Dodd-Frank’s architects claim the law would prevent future bailouts. At least some of the market is convinced it would; the rating agency Moody’s downgraded the debt of major U.S. banks last week, after determining they would not have the advantage of future government support in a crisis (it’s worth noting that rating agencies receive the majority of their funding through the structured finance deals of these same big banks). But the GAO report concludes that Dodd-Frank “implementation is incomplete and the effectiveness of some provisions remains uncertain.”

The best example of this is the Federal Reserve’s Section 13(3) authority, a primary vehicle for emergency lending during the crisis. Dodd-Frank prevents the Federal Reserve from using section 13(3) to assist an individual institution, restricts even broad-based 13(3) programs from lending to insolvent firms, and adds other requirements and limitations. But the Fed has not written any 13(3) regulations yet, nor has it set any time frames for doing so. GAO recommended that the Fed establish a timeline for drafting 13(3) procedures, and the board accepted that recommendation.

The report comes at an interesting moment. Readers of this magazine may have heard of a certain Massachusetts senator named Elizabeth Warren. She has also taken on too big to fail, as an antecedent to her agenda of building an economy that works for ordinary Americans, rather than using them as giant wealth-extraction machines. And Warren has something Brown and Vitter don’t—a national platform, with the ability to shape and transform the national debate. She has already used this power to provoke incremental changes, mostly because regulators would rather be on her side than in her crosshairs. Nobody is better positioned to put this new set of facts from the GAO to use than the Warren wing of the Democratic Party.

To see this attitude change in real time, simply review the Senate Banking Committee confirmation hearings for Janet Yellen, nominated to take over the chair of the Federal Reserve. In 2009, Ben Bernanke sought confirmation for the same position, and when he was questioned about the Fed’s failures in financial regulation before the crisis, he vociferously defended the institution’s actions. Yellen, right in her opening statement, added financial regulation to the Fed’s core responsibilities, along with full employment and price stability—a huge shift. During questioning from Warren, Yellen agreed that the Board of Governors should reinstate regular principals meetings on financial supervision for the first time in 20 years, instead of relegating the decision-making to the staff level.

 

By: David Dayen, The New Republic, November 21, 2013

November 25, 2013 Posted by | Big Banks, Financial Reform | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Quaking In Their Boots”: Watch Out Wall Street, Sherrod Brown Is Coming

With Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., officially headed for retirement, speculation regarding who will replace him as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee is well underway. And one option reportedly has Wall Street quaking in its boots: Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

As the Huffington Post’s Ryan Grim reported, Brown is fourth in line to head the Banking Committee – which oversees most financial regulatory matters for the upper chamber – but the three senators ahead of him all have reasons to take a pass. And if Brown were to become chairman, he would have a powerful new platform from which to continue his efforts to bust up the nation’s biggest banks. “I think everything from too-big-to-fail banks all the way down to issues impacting the unbanked and underbanked would suddenly see a new energy behind them,” one analyst told Politico.

Since the financial crisis of 2008, Brown has been one of the foremost critics of Wall Street’s mega-financial institutions. During the debate over the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, Brown tried unsuccessfully to secure passage of the SAFE Banking Act, which would have capped bank size as a percentage of the economy and reduced the amount of non-deposit liabilities that a firm could hold.

Brown’s plan would have gone much further than anything that ultimately wound up in Dodd-Frank, and would have been far preferable to the Volcker Rule, the unwieldy regulation meant to deter banks from threatening the financial system via risky trading.

Recently, Brown has joined with Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to once again call for breaking up big banks.

“How many more scandals will it take before we acknowledge that we can’t rely on regulators to prevent subprime lending, dangerous derivatives, risky proprietary trading, and even fraud and manipulation?” he asked. “We simply cannot wait any longer for regulators to act. These institutions are too big to manage, they are too big to regulate, and they are surely still too big to fail.”

It is certainly true that the last few years have seen the banking sector commit a slew of misdeeds: rampant foreclosure fraud; fixing of global interest rates; and the so-called “Whale Trade” that cost JP Morgan Chase billions of dollars (and yet still won the firm an award). And the root of the problem is that the largest banks aren’t only too-big-to-fail, they’re too-big-to-jail.

The Justice Department, in fact, explicitly said earlier this month that it is not prosecuting some of the biggest banks for fear of causing them to fail, which would endanger the rest of the financial system. Instead, banks have gotten off with slaps on the wrist and penalties that barely dent their bottom lines.

“Declining to prosecute either the banks themselves or individuals at the banks for financial fraud sends the message that crime pays,” said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, another Brown ally. Indeed, if a bank is so big that prosecuting it is deemed too risky to the economy, that bank is too big, period!

As Brown joining with Vitter and Grassley shows, a coalition of left and right can be cobbled together when it comes to reining in banks for the good of the financial system. (The Senate even voted 99-0 recently to end federal advantages for too-big-to-fail banks, though the measure is non-binding.) Having Brown at the helm of the Senate Banking Committee certainly wouldn’t hurt that cause, and the economy would be better off for it.

 

By: Pat Garofalo, U. S. News and World Report, March 27, 2013

March 28, 2013 Posted by | Banks, Wall Street | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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