Exposing Trump’s Trade Appeal To Working-Class Voters For What It Is

Donald Trump is selling himself as the champion of working-class voters. He says Democrats and their presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, are selling them out with trade deals. But Trump is just a fraud.

Unfortunately, President Obama is pushing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and Clinton is not confronting him for doing so.

That has to change – fast. Clinton must publicly, directly and loudly challenge President Obama and demand that he withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.

Trump’s Trade Speech

Trump’s speech on trade and “globalization” issues attempted to frame Clinton and Democrats as being on the side of the “Wall Street” forces that have pushed low-wage policies on working-class Americans. He is using the upcoming and hated TPP being pushed by President Obama as an example of this, saying Clinton is only “pretending” to oppose TPP in order to get votes.

From the speech:

The legacy of Pennsylvania steelworkers lives in the bridges, railways and skyscrapers that make up our great American landscape.

But our workers’ loyalty was repaid with betrayal.

Our politicians have aggressively pursued a policy of globalization — moving our jobs, our wealth and our factories to Mexico and overseas.

Globalization has made the financial elite who donate to politicians very wealthy. But it has left millions of our workers with nothing but poverty and heartache.

[. . .] The people who rigged the system are supporting Hillary Clinton because they know as long as she is in charge nothing will ever change.

In Trump’s usage, the words “trade” and “globalization” mean one and only one thing: moving American jobs and factories to low-wage countries. This movement of jobs in recent decades, pitting American workers against exploited workers who are paid squat and can’t do anything about it, has been used as one lever to intentionally create unemployment, break the unions and force down wages. (Inflation panic leading to Federal Reserve interest rate increases, deficit scares leading to austerity — especially the refusal to spend on infrastructure – and obstruction leading to minimum wage stagnation are others.)

Trump is appealing to disaffected working class workers who used to vote Democratic, but have seen their jobs shipped out of the country and/or their wages cut or stagnate. These workers see Democrats as complicit in adopting free-trade deindustrialization policies. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), pushed and signed by President Clinton, has become a catchall symbol of this disaffection with free-trade policies, but Democrats are generally seen as having done little to fight such policies.

President Obama contributed to the problem by campaigning with a promise to renegotiate NAFTA, then reneging on this promise once elected.

Trump also went after the Chamber of Commerce for their TPP support, implying they back Clinton. The New York Times reports:

Pressing his staunch opposition to trade deals, Donald J. Trump escalated his attacks on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, saying it was “totally controlled by the special interest groups.”

“They’re a special interest that wants to have the deals that they want to have,” he told a packed arena at a rally here, to whoops and cheers. “They want to have T.P.P., the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the worst deals, and it’ll be the worst deal since NAFTA.”

[. . .] saying the Chamber was “controlled totally by various groups of people that don’t care about you whatsoever.”

Obama Pushing TPP As Election Nears

Clinton has said she is opposed to TPP, and opposed to letting TPP come up for a vote in the “lame duck” session of Congress that follows the election. But as Trump makes trade a centerpiece of his campaign, her opposition and trade focus has not been particularly vocal. She has not asked Democrats in Congress to oppose the TPP, and thanks to past Democratic betrayals many in the public just do not believe her.

Unfortunately, as the election nears, President Obama is pushing and pushing hard to get the TPP passed. Doing this directly conflicts with Clinton’s need to show that Democrats are on the side of working people and provides Trump with powerful ammunition.

Making matters worse, efforts to write TPP opposition into the Democratic Party platform were voted down – by Clinton delegates. Unlike Trump, Democrats do not appear to understand how much this matters to voters.

Brexit Warning

The recent “Brexit” vote should serve as a warning to Democrats to take issues like this more seriously. Working-class voters in the UK voted to leave the European Union (EU) for reasons similar to the appeal Trump is making to working-class voters here.

Analyzing the “Leave” vote in “A Working-Class Brexit,” University of Kent Professor Tim Strangleman writes the following. As you read it, substitute “Democrats” for “Labour”, “Bill Clinton” for “Blair”, “elites supporting free trade agreements” for “remain”, “anti-TPP” for “leave” and “Trump” for “UKIP”:

Resignation, despair, and political apathy have been present in many former industrial regions since the wholesale deindustrialisation of the … economy in the 1980s and 1990s. The election of the Blair-led Labour administration … masked the anger felt in these areas as traditional labour supporters and their needs were often ignored, while traditional Labour supporters were used as voting fodder. Over the … years of Labour power, that support ebbed away, first as a simple decline in votes, but gradually turning into active hostility to the Labour party. Many embraced the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

…for unskilled workers with only a secondary school education, three decades or more of neo-liberalism has left deep scars socially, politically, and culturally, with little hope or expectation that anything would change for the better.

This opposition, so skillfully drawn on by the leave campaign, is in part a working class reaction not only to six years of austerity but also to a long and deep-seated sense of injustice and marginalisation. Most of the remain side, which was a cross party grouping, didn’t seem to understand this before the referendum and, even more depressingly, doesn’t seem to understand it fully now. A stock characterisation of working-class people who intended to vote leave was to label them as unable understanding the issues, easily manipulated, or worse, racist ‘little Englanders’.

Doesn’t this sound just like the working-class voters in places like Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania and other “deindustrialized” parts of the country? These voters used to reliably vote for Democrats, the party that watched out for working people. Donald Trump is appealing directly to these voters. Democrats should not dismiss these voters as “ignorant” or “racist.”

Trump Is A Fraud On Trade

The Economic Policy Institute’s (EPI) Robert Scott, speaking to VICE, summed up why Trump only appears to have the correct analysis on trade:

“Like a drive-by shooting, he fires enough bullets, he’s going to hit some things that might look like a policy that works,” Scott told VICE. “But it doesn’t have a coherence.”

“The problem with NAFTA is that we failed to effectively help Mexico develop as part of the agreement,” Scott continued. A good model, he said, was what wealthier European nations did for their neighbors like Greece and Spain decades ago, pumping money into their economies to create new markets for goods, thus making a Pan-European economy possible.

“We could create such a vision and implement a truly united North American economy that worked for everybody but nobody’s put that on the table,” he said. “Certainly Trump is not talking about that—he’s talking about building walls.”

EPI’s president Lawrence Mishel goes further, pointing out who got us into this mess:

It’s true that the way we have undertaken globalization has hurt the vast majority of working people in this country—a view that EPI has been articulating for years, and that we will continue to articulate well after November. However, Trump’s speech makes it seem as if globalization is solely responsible for wage suppression, and that elite Democrats are solely responsible for globalization. Missing from his tale is the role of corporations and their allies have played in pushing this agenda, and the role the party he leads has played in implementing it. After all, NAFTA never would have passed without GOP votes, as two-thirds of the House Democrats opposed it.

Republican efforts to drive wages down are the real culprit here:

Furthermore, Trump has heretofore ignored the many other intentional policies that businesses and the top 1 percent have pushed to suppress wages over the last four decades. Start with excessive unemployment due to Federal Reserve Board policies which were antagonistic to wage growth and friendly to the finance sector and bondholders. Excessive unemployment leads to less wage growth, especially for low- and middle-wage workers. Add in government austerity at the federal and state levels—which has mostly been pushed by GOP governors and legislatures—that has impeded the recovery and stunted wage growth. There’s also the decimation of collective bargaining, which is the single largest reason that middle class wages have faltered. Meanwhile, the minimum wage is now more than 25 percent below its 1968 level, even though productivity since then has more than doubled. Phasing in a $15 minimum wage would lift wages for at least a third of the workforce. The most recent example is the effort to overturn the recent raising of the overtime threshold that would help more than 12 million middle-wage salaried workers obtain overtime protections.

Trump in his “trade” speech also called for getting rid of corporate taxes and getting rid of regulations on corporations. He also opposes having any minimum wage at all. Trump and the Republicans are hardly friends of working people.

Opposing TPP Must Be In The Democratic Platform

British elites were surprised when working-class voters decided to “Brexit” and “Leave” the EU. They had been more-or-less complacent about the anger that working people are feeling out there as jobs leave the country, wages are stagnant or falling, work hours get longer for those who have jobs, and the rich just get richer.

Voting against opposition to TPP in the Democratic platform shows that Democrats appear to have the same complacency on trade.

Democrats must get this right. They have to stand up for working people and demand that our trade policies start helping people instead of hurting them. That starts with Clinton demanding that the president withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress.

Clinton must pledge to renegotiate all of our trade agreements, this time with labor, environmental, consumer, human rights and other “stakeholder” groups at the table. This is the best way to show the public that she is on their side.

Here are ways to help Democrats get to the right place on this, and put TPP opposition in the platform:

● Campaign for America’s Future: Sign our petitions to Leader Nancy Pelosi. Tell her she and other democrats to send Obama a message: Don’t undermine our nominee. No vote lame duck vote on TPP.

● CREDO Action: Sign the petition: The Democratic Party platform must include unequivocal opposition to the TPP

● Keith Ellison via Democracy for America: Will you sign my petition to the DNC’s Platform Committee and join me and DFA in asking them to adopt an anti-TPP amendment when the full committee meets in Orlando on July 8-9?

Also see Bill Scher, “Trump is a William McKinley Protectionist, Not a Bernie Sanders Populist.”

——-

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progressive Breakfast.

Is This The Return Of US ‘Gunboat Diplomacy’ Serving Corporations?

Colombia is allowing local production of a generic form of a cancer drug that is ultraexpensive because of a government-granted monopoly handed to a giant, multinational pharmaceutical corporation. The U.S. government is stepping in on the corporation’s side with a modern form of “gunboat diplomacy” — even though the giant corporation isn’t even “American.”

In November 2014, a group of public health advocacy organizations called on the Colombian government to declare that the public interest warrants that the country can produce a generic version of the ultraexpensive cancer drug Gleevec, produced by the “Swiss” giant Novartis. According to a March, 2015 report in Intellectual Property Watch, “Colombia Asked To Declare Excessive Price For Cancer Drug Contrary To Public Interest, Grounds For Compulsory License“:

Continue reading

New Rules On Corporate Secrecy Have Glaring Loopholes

Last week the Treasury Department released a new rule and several proposals they said are intended to address the problem of corruption and dirty money in secret U.S. shell companies. A White House press release claimed, “Today, the Administration announced several important steps to combat money laundering, corruption, and tax evasion, and called upon Congress to take additional action to address these critical issues.” (A White House fact sheet is available here.)

The new rules initially appeared to be strong. But after examining the details several watchdog groups are warning that the new regulations and proposals leave open several glaring loopholes, and even practically provide instructions for how to get around the regulations.

Continue reading

Clinton Commits: No TPP, Fundamentally Rethink Trade Policies

Going into the West Virginia primary, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has come out in opposition to a “lame duck” vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This takes her beyond her previous statements mildly opposing TPP. Clinton also made a strong statement criticizing our country’s trade agreements in general.

As reported in The Hill, in “Clinton opposes TPP vote in the lame-duck session,” Clinton replied to a questionnaire from the Oregon Fair Trade Campaign, which consists of more than 25 labor, environmental and human rights organizations. When asked, “If elected President, would you oppose holding a vote on the TPP during the ‘lame duck’ session before you take office?” she replied, “I have said I oppose the TPP agreement — and that means before and after the election.”

There has been concern that TPP will come up for a vote in the lame-duck session of Congress after the election, and before the next Congress is sworn in. This special session enables votes with little accountability to the public. Members who have been voted out can vote in ways that help them get lobbying jobs and members who were re-elected with corporate money can reward their donors.

Continue reading

Are Fair Trade Policies “Extreme?” Is Clinton Ready For Trump On Trade?

Is it really “extreme” to think we should have fair trade policies?

The New York Times on Tuesday published a story by Nelson D. Schwartz and Quoctrung Bui, “Where Jobs Are Squeezed by Chinese Trade, Voters Seek Extremes,” reporting that, “research to be unveiled this week by four leading academic economists suggests that the damage to manufacturing jobs from a sharp acceleration in globalization since the turn of the century has contributed heavily to the nation’s bitter political divide.”

By “sharp acceleration in globalization since the turn of the century” they mean millions and millions of manufacturing jobs, and more than 60,000 factories, all moved to China since 2000 to take advantage of China’s non-democracy that allows exploitation of workers and the environment. (But China doesn’t really “trade” with us by buying things, resulting in a record $365.7 billion trade deficit with China just last year.)

Continue reading

Hillary Must Toughen Up On Trade In Case She Is Nominee Against Trump

Yes, much of Donald Trump’s message has a white nationalist and anti-woman character to it. But here is a warning: If Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee she had better get tough on trade – and mean it.

One of Donald Trump’ main elements of appeal to his voters – if not the main appeal – is his stance on trade and bringing jobs back to America. It is a winning message and Clinton is waaaayyyy behind the curve on this.

Much Of Trump Appeal Based On Trade

Much of Trump’s campaign message is about how our country’s trade deals have wiped out jobs. On Day 1 much of his speech announcing that he was running was about trade. From the transcript, here is some of the trade talk:

Continue reading

Clinton Should Ask Obama To Withdraw The TPP

Hillary Clinton has a credibility problem when it comes to our country’s trade policies and the resulting enormous, humongous trade deficits that measure job loss – especially with regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But Clinton has a chance to shore up her credibility with Democratic voters on this issue. It comes as President Obama, Wall Street and the multinational corporations are preparing to grease the skids for pushing the TPP through Congress in the post-election “lame duck” session.

Clinton, Credibility And Free Trade

Following months of demands that she take a position on the trade agreement, Clinton stated during an October PBS Newshour interview (just before the first debate with candidate Bernie Sanders) that TPP could, “… end up doing more harm than good for hard-working American families whose paychecks have barely budged in years.”

Unfortunately for Clinton, few believe she means it. The business community, for example, sees Clinton’s position as simple posturing to voters for the election, believing she will switch back to supporting the agreement immediately after the election, as Obama did on NAFTA after promising throughout the 2008 campaign to renegotiate the agreement.

For example, Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue went so far as to say in a recent Bloomberg TV interview that he believes Clinton will switch to supporting TPP after the election.

Tory Newmyer, in a Fortune story after the Ohio primary, “Hillary Clinton and John Kasich Win Ohio, and So Does Free Trade,“ described Clinton as pro-free trade, writing she really won the Ohio primary because she favors TPP, not because she opposes it,

Buckeye State voters in both parties delivered wins to trade-friendly candidates on Tuesday—and denied them to a pair who staked their claims on pledges to oppose new deals, starting with the Trans Pacific Partnership. That outcome was in doubt after Ohio’s neighbors to the north in Michigan last week voted for reality-show billionaire Donald Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the most aggressive trade foes in the field.

But in Ohio, Hillary Clinton and home-state Gov. John Kasich prevailed.

The business community doesn’t believe for a minute that Clinton really opposes TPP.

Working-class voters have a similar problem, solidly identifying Clinton with free-trade positions. Candidate Bernie Sanders has used this perception against her, winning Michigan and Wisconsin and gaining on her in Ohio and other states. These wins were a result of campaigning as a candidate who will restore balance to our country’s trade policies, as opposed to Clinton as a candidate favoring agreements that send jobs out of the country and who has even said such offshoring “is probably a plus for the economy in the long run.”

President Obama Presents Clinton With An Opportunity To Restore Credibility

President Obama is presenting Clinton with an opportunity to restore her credibility on TPP. Politico’s Morning Trade reported on Monday that the Obama administration is ramping up “a process” for “pushing for TPP approval in Congress.”

The escalating anti-trade rhetoric emerging from the presidential election isn’t striking any fear in the heart of President Barack Obama or decreasing his willingness to send the TPP to Congress for approval, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in an interview with Pro Trade’s Doug Palmer.

“This president is not intimidated and he’s not afraid to act here,” she said. “We have a process we have to go through first. We reviewed the process this week, so we could understand all the steps. This president is fully committed to TPP, as is our administration and, frankly, as is the business community.”

Pritzker said she met with the CEOs and former CEOs of Caterpillar, Boeing and the Campbell Soup Company in recent days to talk about “the efforts their companies are going to make” as well as the efforts of the Business Roundtable, which Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman chairs. She added that businesses are “raring to go” when it comes to pushing for TPP approval in Congress.

Also in Monday’s Morning Trade, another Obama official says “there will be an opportunity to get TPP done this year,” likely meaning after the election:

National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients argued forcefully on Friday for Congress to approve TPP. … “So I am very confident that there will be an opportunity to get TPP done this year, and we’ve got to do everything we can to get it done because, if we don’t, there’s no guarantee when we’ll have our next shot,” he said, arguing the trade deal matters to U.S. workers and businesses. “I can assure you it matters to this president, which is why he will be doing everything he can to get TPP done.”

Clinton Should Ask Obama To Withdraw TPP

Reports like this only serve to further undermine Clinton’s credibility on TPP. Clinton is seen as the “establishment” candidate, and is described in the media as “hugging the Obama agenda,” “bear-hugging Obama,” “embracing Obama ‘as close as she can’” and other similar descriptions.

Obama’s push for TPP therefore harms Clinton as she tries to be seen by voters as the Obama successor. Voters hate the TPP. Having that threat of its passage after the election hanging out there only harms Clinton in the eyes of the electorate. Candidate Clinton has an opportunity to address her TPP credibility problem by asking Obama to withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress, and calling on her supporters and endorsers in Congress to join her in demanding that the agreement be withdrawn.

——-

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

What’s The Problem With “Free Trade”?

Our country’s “free trade” agreements have followed a framework of trading away our democracy and middle-class prosperity in exchange for letting the biggest corporations dominate.

There are those who say any increase in trade is good. But if you close a factory here and lay off the workers, open the factory “there” to make the same things the factory here used to make, bring those things into the country to sell in the same outlets, you have just “increased trade” because now those goods cross a border. Supporters of free trade are having a harder and harder time convincing American workers this is good for them.

“Free Trade”

Free trade is when goods and services are bought and sold between countries without tariffs, duties and quotas. The idea is that some countries “do things better” than other countries, which these days basically means they offer lower labor and environmental-protection costs. Allowing other countries to do things in ways that cost less “frees up resources” which can theoretically be used for investment at home.

Continue reading

Auto-Bailout Backfire: Does Sanders Have Antidote To Negative Politics?

Politicians and campaign consultants, listen up. There is a lesson to learn from Michigan’s Democratic primary upset: Voters are tired of having their intelligence insulted by cynical politicians using 90’s-style “gotcha’ politics.”

“Gotcha politics” is a tactic where a politician attempts to lure or entrap an opponent by use of a supposed fact, gaffe, mistake or statement that makes it appear the opponent is a hypocrite or untrustworthy. Then the politician “pounces,” hence the term “gotcha.”

Just two days before the Michigan primary, Hillary Clinton tried to use this cynical tactic on Bernie Sanders. During the Flint debate she said, “I’ll tell you something else that Senator Sanders was against. He was against the auto bailout.”

Tuesday’s post, “Auto Bailout Controversy: ‘Gotcha’ Politics vs. Building Trust” wondered if the long-term costs of cynical politics outweighs potential short-term gains:

This kind of “90’s-style” politics is a “scorched earth” tactic, leaving little goodwill in its wake. In the short term it might gain votes, even win a primary, but those votes bring with them longer-term costs.

Over time, as the fact-checking of Clinton’s “gotcha” accusation unfolds, Clinton risks increasing voters’ perception that she has a “trust” problem. Winning a primary with a tactic that risks increasing voter perception that she can’t be trusted could cost her.

… The stakes are very high in this election, and if Clinton is the nominee she is going to need goodwill – and all the votes she can get. Isn’t there a higher road with lower risks that Clinton can follow in this campaign?

Gotcha Politics Backfired On Clinton

It seems there are short-term costs to this kind of negative politics now as well. Clinton’s attempt to mislead voters not only didn’t work, it looks like it may have backfired and cost her votes in the primary itself. The voters Clinton was attempting to win over – auto workers – knew darn well that Bernie Sanders was on the side of auto workers and had been for a very long time. Michigan voters appear to have resented the attempt to mislead them.

A quick trip around Google shows that Sanders has been there for the auto workers for years, decades even, and auto workers knew that:

In August 2015 at the United Auto Workers Community Action Conference, “Bernie Sanders addressed the annual conference about the importance of workers’ rights and the important issues that, as he said, many of his colleagues do not address.”

Sanders’ relationship with the UAW goes back much further than that. Here are his ratings at Vote Smart: Bernard ‘Bernie’ Sanders’s Ratings and Endorsements on Issue: Labor Unions:

1996 United Auto Workers – Positions on Workplace Rights 100%
1997 United Auto Workers – Positions 100%
1998 United Auto Workers – Positions 92%
1999 United Auto Workers – Positions 100%
2000 United Auto Workers – Positions 100%
2001 United Auto Workers – Positions 92%
2002 United Auto Workers – Positions 100%
2003 United Auto Workers – Positions on Workplace Rights 93%
2004 United Auto Workers – Positions 93%
2005 United Auto Workers – Positions 93%
2006 United Auto Workers – Positions 100%
2007 United Auto Workers – Positions 100%
2009 United Auto Workers – Positions 100%

There is also anecdotal evidence that the tactic backfired. For example, Noam Scheiber, a New York Times labor reporter with a finger on the pulse of the UAW, tweeted “Have heard from plugged-in labor source that UAW worked v. hard for Bernie in MI. Thought Hillary totally misrep’d his auto bailout vote.” He also tweeted, “UAW liked Bernie on trade to begin with, then was backlash to Hillary portraying him as anti auto-bailout. Got UAW folks very revved up.”

Robert Borosage, writing in “March Madness: Sanders Takes Michigan in Huge Upset“:

Clinton may well have paid a price for her cynical attack on Sanders in the Sunday Michigan debate, when she distorted his vote on the auto bailout. (Sanders supported the bailout, but voted against Bush’s bank bailout even when some of the auto money was folded into it). The Clinton low blow angered UAW leaders and activists, and was challenged by a Sanders ad and in the press and social media. It reminded many of the cynical tactics that sour people on politics, and may well have reminded many of Clinton’s unconvincing campaign conversion from supporting corporate deals to opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership that was negotiated while she was Secretary of State. The punditry praised Clinton’s ploy. But at a time when voters are disgusted by political games and posturing, it added to their doubts about Clinton – and of course infuriated Sanders’ supporters.

D.C. Insiders Getting The Lesson

It appears that the Washington insider crowd might be learning the lesson. For example, Politico, in 5 takeaways from Bernie’s Michigan miracle, writes:

Brooklyn’s [Clinton campaign HQ] silver bullet counter-argument was to roll out a half-true, politician’s attack on the ’09 auto bailout (Sanders voted against it because it contained provisions bailing out the automakers’ insolvent, Wall Street-controlled finance arms). In any event voters didn’t buy that the wife of President NAFTA had more credibility on free trade than a guy who walks, talks and barks like a UAW organizer.

The Larger Lesson

Bernie Sanders’ campaign may be the antidote to the old-style, negative politics that became so common in past elections. Old-style, negative politics attacked the politician, because the politicians’ campaigns were void of actual ideas and solid proposals. But Sanders is running a campaign of ideas and solid proposals, not personality. His “We Not Us” campaign is not about him becoming president, and he says so. It is about his ideas and proposals being enacted. Opponents can try to attack Sanders’ character, but that does not diminish the power of the ideas and proposals he campaigns for.

The larger lesson to learn is that voters are ready for actual ideas and proposals that address the needs of the country. Voters are tired of the old, negative politics based on distortions and want ideas and proposals discussed on their merits.

——-

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Auto Bailout Controversy: ‘Gotcha’ Politics vs Building Trust

In Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate, just two days before Michigan’s primary takes place, Hillary Clinton dropped a ‘gotcha’ bomb on Bernie Sanders, saying Sanders “was against the auto bailout.” (Clinton is also running ads on Michigan radio making the same accusation.) From the transcript of the debate:

CLINTON: Well — well, I’ll tell you something else that Senator Sanders was against. He was against the auto bailout. In January of 2009, President-Elect Obama asked everybody in the Congress to vote for the bailout.

The money was there, and had to be released in order to save the American auto industry and four million jobs, and to begin the restructuring. We had the best year that the auto industry has had in a long time. I voted to save the auto industry.

(APPLAUSE)

He voted against the money that ended up saving the auto industry. I think that is a pretty big difference.

Sanders’ reply was cut off:

SANDERS: Well, I — If you are talking about the Wall Street bailout, where some of your friends destroyed this economy…

CLINTON: You know…

SANDERS: … through — excuse me, I’m talking.

Sanders recovered from the interruption and tried again:

Your story is for — voting for every disastrous trade agreement, and voting for corporate America. Did I vote against the Wall Street bailout?

When billionaires on Wall Street destroyed this economy, they went to Congress and they said, “please, we’ll be good boys, bail us out.” You know what I said? I said, “let the billionaires themselves bail out Wall Street.” It shouldn’t be the middle class of this country.

(APPLAUSE)

CLINTON: OK, so…

There was another interruption as Sanders tried to respond, then:

SANDERS: Wait a minute. Wait. Could I finish? You’ll have your turn, all right?

But ultimately, if you look at our records, I stood up to corporate America time and time again. I went to Mexico. I saw the lives of people who were working in American factories and making $0.25 an hour.

I understood that these trade agreements were going to destroy the middle class of this country. I led the fight against us (sic). That is one of the major differences that we have.

Clinton dropped a ‘gotcha’ bomb, saying two days before the Michigan primary that Sanders is against auto companies and workers, and then as Sanders tried to respond he was strategically interrupted, preventing him from effectively correcting the record.

So What Are The Facts?

In December of 2008 there was a bill to specifically help the auto industry. H.R. 7321 (110th): Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act was a $14 billion plan that passed the House but was filibustered by Senate Republicans.

Sanders supported that bill and voted to break the filibuster. From Vermont Public Radio:

Senator Bernie Sanders voted against the $700 billion bail out of the financial services industry but he says this package is different:

(Sanders) “The problem is if you don’t act in the midst of a growing recession what does it mean to create a situation where millions of more people become unemployed and that could spread and I have serious concerns about that I think it would be a terrible idea to add millions more to the unemployment rolls.”

Then, in January 2009 the auto rescue funds were folded into part of the huge, $700 billion “Wall Street bailout” bill. The Washington Post writes in, “The Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders clash over the auto bailout, explained“:

Clinton and Sanders were both in the Senate at the time, and contrary to what Clinton implied Sunday, both supported the idea of an auto bailout.

… Sanders argued that letting the auto industry go under was too big of a risk for middle-class workers — it could lower wages across all sectors of the economy and have a ripple effect on states like Vermont that were fairly far removed from the auto industry.

… But Sanders was vehemently against the larger $700 billion bailout to prop up the banks. (As evidenced by his presidential campaign, Sanders is no fan of Wall Street.) So he voted against the bank bailout.

The bank bailout was so big it had to be doled out in portions. In January 2009, Senate Republicans tried to block the Treasury Department from releasing the second half of the money, some of which was designated for the auto industry. Sanders, based on his opposition to the Wall Street bailout, voted against releasing that money as well.

At the time of this January Wall Street bailout vote the public had been learning about Wall Street’s huge bonuses even as bailouts were required. Headlines were informing the public that “Banks That Got $188 Billion in Bailout Money This Year Paid Out $1.6 Billion to Top Execs Last Year” and “75% Of Latest Bank Of America Bailout Used To Pay Merrill Lynch Bonuses.”

This second Wall Street bailout vote, which contained auto bailout money, occurred in the context of a public upset (to say the least) about huge bonuses for the banksters who had crashed the economy, and Sanders opposed it. The Detroit Free Press, in “Explaining Hillary Clinton’s, Bernie Sanders’ votes on the auto bailout,” explains this complicated second vote further:

The $82 billion that helped finance the bankruptcy of General Motors, Chrysler, their finance subsidiaries — GMAC and Chrysler Financial — and a handful of large suppliers were part of a much larger Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) that covered more than $700 billion that went to bail out the largest banks, and AIG, the insurance giant that has issued credit default swaps that came due when the banks could not cover their losses on mortgage-backed securities.

In short, a Senator or congressman could not vote to rescue GM and Chrysler without voting to provide the money to keep the nation’s largest investment banks from failing.

Sen. Clinton voted yes. Sen. Sanders voted no.

Politico summarized: “Sanders was supportive of the bill that would have bailed out the auto companies. So while Sanders might not have voted for the bill that ultimately provided funds to the auto industry, he did support bailing out the automakers.”

But two days before the Michigan primary Clinton turned Sanders’ opposition to the Wall Street bailout into a Sanders vote “against the auto bailout.”

Gotcha!

Some in the media mistakenly reported that Sanders replied talking about Wall Street instead of responding about the auto bailout, thinking these were separate bills. For example, Richard Wolffe at The Guardian, “Sanders, standing in Flint, had no answer for the vote – other than to retreat into his corner opposing Wall Street’s bailout.”

But overall the media has tried to correct the record. Media reactions to Clinton’s gambit range from calling it a “gamble” to “somewhat disingenuous” to “twisted” to “quite a stretch.”

Michigan’s Michael Moore, known for the 1989 “Roger and Me” documentary about General Motors and Flint, even tweeted that “Hillary lied.

Sanders’ Reaction

Initially the Sanders campaign tweeted, “From the @WashingtonPost: “Sanders is actually on the record as supporting the auto bailout. He even voted for it.”https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/03/07/the-hillary-clinton-bernie-sanders-debate-over-the-auto-bailout-explained/

Later the campaign issued a statement, “Clinton’s Claims on Auto Industry ‘Not True’”

One day before Michigan Democrats go to the polls, Bernie Sanders on Monday campaigned for president in Michigan and set the record straight on Hillary Clinton’s dishonest distortion of his record on an automobile industry rescue package.

… used a Sunday night debate in Flint, Michigan, to disingenuously mischaracterize Sanders record on the auto industry. In fact, Sanders voted for the carmaker bailout.

… “It is absolutely untrue to say I voted against helping the automobile industry and workers,” Sanders told the Grand Rapids, Michigan, television station.

… Sanders said, Clinton “went out of her way to mischaracterize” his record of support for auto workers. “There was one vote in the United States Senate to support the automobile industry and, of course, I voted for it. To say otherwise is simply not telling the truth,” he said.

… To read more on Sanders’ record of supporting the auto bailout, click here.

Gotcha Politics

Clinton’s last-minute, misleading accusation is a tactic known as “Gotcha politics.” This is a tactic where a politician attempts to lure or entrap an opponent by use of a supposed fact, gaffe, mistake or statement that makes it appear the opponent is a hypocrite or untrustworthy. Then the politician “pounces,” hence the term “gotcha.” It is often used just before an election so the opponent has little time to respond with the correct facts. The tactic depends on voters not receiving accurate information in time.

The debate was Sunday. Tuesday is the Michigan primary. This leaves little time for Sanders to explain the reality of Clinton’s “Sanders is against autos and auto workers” implication. This likely means it will cause votes that might have gone to Sanders in the primary to instead go to Clinton, or to just stay home. As the Washington Post explanation puts it, “[I]t seems like she’s willing to take the gamble that fact checkers may call her out for her tactic Sunday — but that voters won’t.”

Is There A Cost?

This kind of “90’s-style” politics is a “scorched earth” tactic, leaving little goodwill in its wake. In the short term it might gain votes, even win a primary, but those votes bring with them longer-term costs.

Over time, as the fact-checking of Clinton’s “gotcha” accusation unfolds, Clinton risks increasing voters’ perception that she has a “trust” problem. Winning a primary with a tactic that risks increasing voter perception that she can’t be trusted could cost her.

Worse, many voters are tired of this “old-style” politics of misleading voters in order to gain votes at any cost. They prefer to hear accurate information and real policy discussion that addresses the country’s real problems. This is part of the reason Sanders’ campaign is drawing such enthusiasm. Gaining votes by accusing Sanders of something being “against” auto companies and workers could cause many Sanders voters to decide not to support Clinton if she becomes the party’s nominee for president.

‘Gotcha’ politics doesn’t just harm the candidate using it in the longer term, it also breeds public cynicism about the political system in general. Clinton supporter Lanny Davis wrote a 2006 book, “Scandal: How ‘Gotcha’ Politics Is Destroying America.” The book’s Amazon description explains, “Davis tells us how this poisonous atmosphere is damaging not just politics but American society as a whole.”

The stakes are very high in this election, and if Clinton is the nominee she is going to need goodwill – and all the votes she can get. Isn’t there a higher road with lower risks that Clinton can follow in this campaign?

——-

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Is Clinton Bought By Wall Street? There Is A Test For That

Secretary Hillary Clinton has accepted millions in “speaking fees” and campaign contributions from interest groups – most notably Wall Street firms – that she will be in a position to help or hurt as president. She promises that the money will not influence her if she takes office, but voters are understandably skeptical.

Voters have been betrayed again and again by people who have become known as “corporate Democrats.” These politicians made promises to help regular working people, then turned on them after elections and enacted policies that boost the monied interests – especially Wall Street and giant corporations – at the expense of the rest of the country.

What can Clinton do to overcome the resulting voter skepticism? Are there concrete things she can do and commitments she can make now that can reassure voters that she will be able to represent the other 99 percent of us once in office? Are there ways she can show the public that she means what she says when she claims to be as “progressive” as her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Bernie Sanders?

Continue reading

Privatization Causes Poverty, Senate Cafeteria Workers’ Story Continues

Our government has been on a privatization binge for some time. Things that We the People used to just do federally or through state and local governments were closed down and private corporations were hired to do those things instead. This “saved money” because the well-paid public workers were laid off, losing their benefits and seniority, and new workers were hired at the lowest possible wages with few or no benefits.

Of course, this “cost savings” meant that the tax base eroded, the old and replacement workers often had to go on public assistance, property values plunged as the homes of the old workers were foreclosed and the new workers couldn’t afford to buy, schools were strapped as more low-income kids came in, and all the other ways that the transition to a low-wage economy has ended up costing all of us.

But who’s counting?

Continue reading