I listened to this on a walk, and it is a must, must, must listen podcast.
Robert Reich, speaking Tuesday at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco: “The Oddest Presidential Election in Living Memory”
From the website:
Tue, Sep 27 2016 – 6:30pm
Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley; Former Secretary of Labor; Author, Saving Capitalism
Holly Kernan, Executive Editor for News, KQED—Moderator
In the midst of an unpredictable presidential election, get insight from a veteran political figure who knows Washington inside and out. Time magazine named Reich one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He is a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine and chairman of Common Cause. Come hear his provocative thoughts on the presidential election and the future of America.
Everyone has an opinion on what Hillary Clinton should do in the Monday’s debate, and this is mine. Hopefully I will be wrong enough to earn a regular column on the New York Times op-ed page.
This election season so far has been about Donald Trump, and not about the real problems facing the country and We the People. The national discussion certainly has not been about things that can be done to make people’s lives better.
Donald Trump talks about Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton talks about Donald Trump. The news media talks about Donald Trump, even breaking into news shows to cover live anything Donald Trump might be saying. As a result everyone talks about Donald Trump. Clinton and issues and ideas are almost invisible.
In Monday’s debate, Hillary Clinton should be a model of how the country should be treating Trump and his deplorable campaign. She should just ignore him as the irrelevant distraction he really is.
She should talk from the beginning of the debate to the end of the debate about her policies and proposals to make people’s lives better. She should ignore Trump’s inevitable insults, provocations and everything else he says or does. She should turn him into background noise and not allow herself to be distracted from discussing how she proposes to address the needs of the country.
It’s not like she doesn’t have great policies and proposals to talk about. It’s her strength. Trump just doesn’t, which unfortunately is considered a strength by too many people. Bill Scher’s post, “On Policy, It’s No Contest. Clinton: 112,735 Words, Trump: 9,000,” explained the difference between the two when it comes to actual substance and policy.
Clinton should ignore Trump and talk about the issues that are important to the public and the country. He is trying to bait her with his provocative language and get her off message. Her message is good, but he has succeeded so far. It’s time to change that. Don’t even acknowledge his presence on the stage. Draw the contrast between bluster and substance.
Exclusive: Zach Galifianakis Wants You to Know How Bad Gerrymandering Has Gotten
I just caught up with Angie Coiro’s interview with Geoffrey Nunberg and I recommend it. They discuss the language of this presidential campaign.
It’s at In Deep With Angie Coiro: Linguist Geoff Numberg: the Language of Campaign 2016
Note the picture at the link. Angie does her interviews with a live audience in a book store, and you’ll hear the audience reaction on occasion during the discussion. It’s well worth attending one of these if you are in the Menlo Park/Palo Alto, California area on a Wednesday.
Also, listening will show you just what an excellent interviewer and radio professional Angie is. (Can listening ‘show’ you things? What’s the right word?)
One day after presidential candidate Hillary Clinton strongly underscored her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership in a speech in Detroit, President Obama officially started the clock on a lame-duck congressional vote on that agreement.
Politico has the story, headlined “Obama puts Congress on notice: TPP is coming“:
The White House put Congress on notice Friday morning that it will be sending lawmakers a bill to implement President Barack Obama’s landmark Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement — a move intended to infuse new energy into efforts to ratify the flatlining trade pact.
The submission of the draft Statement of Administration Action establishes a 30-day minimum before the administration can present the legislation, but it is unlikely to do so amid the heated rhetoric of a presidential campaign that has depicted free trade deals as major job killers.
One of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s stronger economic appeals to working-class voters is his position on trade. Trump understands that people are upset that “trade” deals have moved so many jobs out of the country and he offers solutions that sound like he is saying he will bring the jobs back so wages can start going up again.
But a deeper look at what he is really saying might not be so appealing to voters.
Trump says the U.S. is not “competitive” with other countries. He has said repeatedly we need to lower American wages, taxes and regulations to the point where we can be “competitive” with Mexico and China. In other words, he is saying that business won’t send jobs out of the country if we can make wages low enough here.
Trump even has a plan to accomplish this. He has said the way to make U.S. wages “competitive” is to pit states against each other instead of using China and Mexico to do that. He has said, for example, that auto companies should close factories in Michigan and move the jobs to low-wage, anti-union states. After enough people are laid off in one state, he has said, “those guys are going to want their jobs back even if it is less.” Then companies will be able to “make good deals” to cut wages. He says that companies should continue this in a “rotation” of wage cuts, state to state, until you go “full-circle,” getting wages low enough across the entire country. Then the U.S. will be “competitive” with China and Mexico.
Yes, Trump Actually Said These Things
Trump discussed this in an August 2015 interview with The Detroit News headlined, “Trump suggests moving some car production from Michigan.“ In the interview, the subject of moving jobs out of the country because other places offer lower wages, “free or nearly free land on which to build, and fewer regulatory hurdles” came up. “Trump suggested one way to stop automakers’ expansion to Mexico is by moving some production out of Michigan to lower-wage states.”
He said U.S. automakers could shift production away from Michigan to communities where autoworkers would make less. “You can go to different parts of the United States and then ultimately you’d do full-circle — you’ll come back to Michigan because those guys are going to want their jobs back even if it is less,” Trump said. “We can do the rotation in the United States — it doesn’t have to be in Mexico.”
He said that after Michigan “loses a couple of plants — all of sudden you’ll make good deals in your own area.”
Trump has made similar arguments on other occasions. That same month The Washington Times reported, in Donald Trump: ‘Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country’, that Trump said the following, using the same state vs. state argument (emphasis added).
Saying the United States needs to be able to compete in a global economy, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said Thursday having a low minimum wage isn’t a bad thing for the country.
“… I think having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country.”
… “It’s such a nasty question because the answer has to be nasty,” Mr. Trump said. “You know, we’re in a global economy now. It used to be people would leave New York state and companies would leave New York state or leave another state and go to Florida, go to Texas, go to wherever they go because the wages … you know, all sorts of different things.”
“Well now, it’s not leaving New York or New Jersey or wherever they may be leaving — now they’re leaving the United States, and they’re going to other countries because they’re competing for low taxes and they’re competing for low wages and they’re competing for all sorts of things …”
“So what’s happening now is people are shopping, companies are shopping. … They’re shopping their companies to [other] places, and we can’t have a situation where our labor is so much more expensive than other countries that we can no longer compete.”
Mr. Trump said if he wins the White House, he would “make us so competitive as a country.”
Again, in November 2015, The New York Times reported, in “Donald Trump Insists That Wages Are ‘Too High’“:
“We are a country that’s being beaten on every front, economically, militarily. There is nothing we do now to win,” said Mr. Trump, adding at another point that “our wages are too high.”
… “Our taxes are too high. Our wages are too high. We have to compete with other countries.”
Again and again, Trump says U.S. taxes, regulations and wages are too high for American companies to “compete.”
Trump repeated the same argument in his “Economic Speech” Monday at the Detroit Economic Club, saying that high taxes and regulations make America uncompetitive so businesses move away. He left out his – and every other Republican’s – position on wages.
Run The Country Like A Business?
Trump talks about how he is a “businessman” who is a great “negotiator.” He wants to run the country like a business.
But people who run businesses always push for lower taxes, fewer regulations and lower wages. Trump used to talk openly about his desire to cut all three, in order to make America more “competitive” with Mexico and China. Lately he only promises to radically cut taxes and regulations on businesses. Of course, he has learned to keep quiet about his desire to cut the third leg of that argument, wages.
But Trump is, after all, the Republican candidate. He is, after all, a businessman. He has, after all, openly expressed his wish to bring American wages down in the past and even voiced his plan to pit states against each other to accomplish that.
So we should, after all, understand that a Republican businessman who has made it clear that he thinks wages need to go down does not suddenly have the best interests of American workers at heart. He is also a politician, and in this one instance he has learned to keep his mouth shut, at least when it comes to his argument that wages are too high. That doesn’t mean his argument has changed.
Another presidential campaign means it’s time to bring back the “Latest Lie” series.
And here’s the latest lie. Campaigning in Nebraska Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton said, “Well, we’re not going there, my friends. I’m telling you right now we’re going to write fairer rules for the middle class. And we aren’t going to raise taxes on the middle class.”
Now Donald Trump is running an ad with a doctored transcript that says Clinton said, “And we are going to raise taxes on the middle class.”
Caitlan MacNeal explains at TPM, in “Trump Campaign Video Misrepresents Clinton’s Position On Taxes“:
The Clinton campaign told PolitiFact that Clinton said “aren’t,” not “are.” And a transcript of Clinton’s prepared remarks uses the line, “We aren’t going to raise taxes on the middle class.”
CBS News reported that when the video is slowed down, it becomes more clear that Clinton said “aren’t.” And several reporters agreed with that.
Here is the Trump ad, you can clearly hear her say “aren’t” – but even so everyone knows what she meant:
Nice. Changing a word in a speech to make it sound like Clinton said the opposite of what she actually said. Will people fall for that?
Remember when President Obama said that businesspeople didn’t get there on their own, they had help, that they didn’t build the roads, bridges and other public facilities that they used for their success? Then Republicans took the quote out of context, claimed he said businesspeople “didn’t build that,” meaning they didn’t build their businesses. They actually built an entire campaign around that lie. Well, here they go again.
How many more days until this is over?
Tuesday was “Make America Work Again” day at the Republican National Convention. But this day wasn’t about making America work again for working people. This was, as always with conservatives, all about tax cuts for the rich and corporations, deregulation of oil and coal companies (and other paying corporate clients) and austerity cuts in the things government does to make people’s lives better.
There was nothing about how to actually make America “work again.”
Truth is, the economy has added 14.8 million private-sector jobs since the big Bush/Republican downturn of 2008.
Nonetheless, “Make America Work Again” day is described this way in the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) convention schedule announcement:
The Obama years have delivered anemic economic growth, the lowest labor-force participation rate in 38 years, and job-killing regulations and legislation like Obamacare. These policies are crushing middle-class families, and a Hillary Clinton presidency would merely be an Obama third term that would deliver the same poor results. Donald Trump is a successful businessman with a solid record of creating jobs and the experience we need to get America’s economy up and running … and get Americans working again.
Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White, describing himself as a “fight promoter” (which is an appropriate description for the speakers at this Republican convention) began with an endorsement of Trump, saying, “He’s that guy, he shows up,” because Trump helped him promote fights as a business. “I’ve been in the fight business my whole life and Donald Trump is a fighter.” Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson gave a negative speech about Hillary Clinton and “Benghazi,” not about how to make America “work again.”
Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey also gave a negative speech about Clinton’s email server and “Benghazi.” Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Businessman Andy Wist from Brooklyn, who has a waterproofing company, said that after eight years of President Obama he doesn’t see the American Dream. Donald Trump “is a leader … He will make America work again.” He didn’t say how.
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson said, “Benghazi.” Also, “ISIS.” And “We shouldn’t have to live in fear” while stoking the fear… Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Chris Cox of the National Rifle Association (NRA) spoke about how “you have to be able to protect yourself and your family.” Fear. “Imagine a young mother at home with her baby when a violent predator kicks the door in.” Fear. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Golfer Natalie Gulbis said that Trump helped her open a Boy’s and Girl’s club and told her to be fearless. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, known as the master of obstruction, said the cost of living has been rising out of people’s reach. “Emails.” “Benghazi.” “Hillary lies.” “Repeal Obamacare.” “Keystone pipeline.” “Defund Planned Parenthood.” He also pledged to continue to obstruct by not allowing a vote on Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is best known for his austerity budgets, the practice of literally taking money out of the economy to kill jobs and growth. His budgets demand cuts in Social Security, even privatizing Medicare. Ryan’s budgets make it impossible to invest in America. Ryan and Republican worldview, government spending bad, austerity.
Ryan said that Democrats are offering “a third Obama term brought to you by another Clinton.” He said the Democratic Party convention will be a “four-day infomercial of politically correct moralizing,” and then “from now to November we will hear how many ways progressive elitists can find to talk down to the rest of America.” He offered “a reformed tax code that rewards entrepreneurs.” He offered the poor “the dignity of having a job” but not how to accomplish that. Ryan said very little else about how to make America “work again.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said “enough of feeling less safe and less secure.” “Iran.” “ISIS.” “Chaos spreading across America and across the globe.” He said that “in a Republican agenda our enemies will fear us.” He called up the ghost of Ronald Reagan. Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, known for blocking bridges and killing badly-needed infrastructure projects like the Hudson rail tunnel, launched into a harsh, negative attack of Clinton’s record and character. “Emails.” “Dismal record as Secretary of State.” “Violence and danger in every region that has been infected by her flawed judgement.” “ISIS.” “She never fights for us.” Christie said nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Tiffany Trump said her father’s “desire for excellence is contagious” and that he has always helped her be the best version of herself. Her father takes pride in all that she has done. He wrote “sweet notes” on her report cards. “Small loving acts help an enormous amount in times of grief.” Her father “is someone who will never tell you to lower your sights or give up your dreams.” “A man I am so proud to call my father.” Nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Dr. Ben Carson said we are one nation under God. He said Hillary Clinton has as a role model someone who acknowledges Lucifer. “Think about that.” He also said nothing about how to make America “work again.”
Sajid Tarar of American Muslims for Trump? What? No, he didn’t say anything about how to make America “work again.”
How We Got Here: Obstruction And Sabotage
When President Obama took office the country was losing 850,000 jobs a month. Democrats controlled the House and Senate at the beginning of 2009 and with three Republicans votes — Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania — broke a Republican filibuster to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, known as the “stimulus.” This chart shows what the stimulus accomplished:
But after the stimulus passed the Republican strategy since 2009 has been to vote as a unified block to obstruct and sabotage anything that might make the economy better, and then campaign for office on themes of government not working, and the economy not getting better. And here they are, using “Make America work again” as a theme at the convention. Calculated. Cynical.
May, 2014: Obama: GOP has filibustered 500 bills.
Here are just a few of the things they obstructed: (Note that the corporate media likes to say “the Senate” when Republicans filibuster bills.)
September, 2010: Bill on outsourced jobs fails Senate test, (“a Senate bill designed to end tax breaks for U.S. companies that move jobs and manufacturing plants overseas.”)
October, 2011: Republicans Vote to Keep Teachers, First Responders Off the Job (rehire 400,000 teachers, firefighters, paramedics and police officers.)
August, 2013: Bipartisan Transportation and Housing Bill Filibustered
October, 2013: Government shutdown over funding ObamaCare. This had a direct cost of $24 billion, reduced fourth-quarter GDP growth from 3 percent to 2.4 percent.
April, 2014: GOP Filibusters Minimum Wage Hike
July, 2014: Republicans Again Filibuster Bring Jobs Home Act (stop tax breaks for moving jobs and production facilities out of the country.)
January, 2015: Sanders’ Solar Bill Blocked by Senate Republicans, (10 million solar home power systems.)
March, 2015: $478B Infrastructure Bill Blocked by Senate GOP
July, 2015: Senate blocks progress on highway bill
And for a finishing touch, just this month the Congress left for the summer, having done nothing to fight the Zika Virus or help with mosquito control.
Republican Platform Blames Obama For Results Of Obstruction
With the economy right where Republicans wanted it, their 2016 (draft) platform proposes “solutions.” The section “Rebuilding the Economy and Creating Jobs” begins with an anti-government screed: “Government cannot create prosperity, though government can limit or destroy it.”
It calls for a “pro-growth tax code.” This is codespeak for “tax cuts for the rich,” also known as “trickle-down economics.” The idea is that you redistribute society’s money to a few at the top, and they will use the money to give jobs to the peasants. But after Bill Clinton raised taxes the economy boomed, and after ‘W’ Bush cut taxes the economy tanked. Really tanked. Now Republicans want to do more of that. Go figure.
A 2012 study by the Congressional Research Service, titled “Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945,” looked at the history of tax cuts and economic growth and concluded, “Analysis of such data suggests the reduction in the top tax rates have had little association with saving, investment, or productivity growth. However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.”
Repeat: Cutting top tax rates does not increase growth, but does increase inequality. Also known as “look around you at what has happened since Reagan.”
Then the platform calls for “A Competitive America.” By “competitive” they do not mean reducing the power of monopolies or breaking up the big banks. No, it calls for reducing high corporate tax rates and “regulatory burdens and uncertainty.” On top of that, it calls for a territorial” corporate tax system so corporations that move jobs, production and profit centers out of the country won’t have to pay any taxes at all. On top of that, Trump has called for letting corporations off the hook with an extremely low tax rate on “deferred” taxes on profits held in offshore subsidiaries. Corporations owe more than $620 billion in taxes on these profits, but would get to keep most of that. What about honest corporations that didn’t dodge their taxes using offshore subsidiary schemes? Too bad for them. And the government? It might be owed $620 billion-plus. But too bad, the Wall Street shareholders get to keep it.
Next up, “A Winning Trade Policy.” It’s hard to argue with this entire section that begins, “International trade is crucial for all sectors of America’s economy. Massive trade deficits are not.” The platform calls for trade agreements that protect U.S. interests and U.S. sovereignty and tough enforcement of violations of existing agreements, saying, “we cannot allow foreign governments to limit American access to their markets while stealing our designs, patents, brands, know-how, and technology. We cannot allow China to continue its currency manipulation, exclusion of U.S. products from government purchases, and subsidization of Chinese companies to thwart American imports.” It calls for transparently negotiated agreements in the interests of American workers.
Then a section sponsored by Wall Street, “Freeing Financial Markets.” It blames the 2008 crash on “the government’s own housing policies.” It demands repeal of the Dodd-Frank law regulating Wall Street, and abolishing the “dictatorial” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which protects consumers from financial fraud. (Trump has said he would “absolutely” repeal Dodd-Frank. Of course, he said that last year at the same time he said the economy was going to “burst”… which didn’t happen.)
What passes for housing policy calls for “a comprehensive review of federal regulations, especially those dealing with the environment, that make it harder and more costly for Americans to rent, buy, or sell homes.”
In “America on the Move” the platform calls for an end to mass transit programs and “repeal of the Davis-Bacon law, which limits employment and drives up construction and maintenance costs for the benefit of unions.” It calls for public-private partnerships (privatization) as a means to fix roads and bridges. It calls for privatization of Amtrak and ending federal support for high-speed rail. It calls for getting rid of unions in the Transportation Security Administration.
The platform calls for a return to “a metallic basis for U.S. currency.”
It calls for getting rid of laws that protect workers’ right to join unions, saying unions “limit workers’ freedom and lock them into the workplace rules of their great grandfathers.” It calls on states to enact Right-to-Work laws. It calls for eliminating the federal minimum wage.
Finally the platform elsewhere calls for just abolishing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Note – the only mention of manufacturing in the entire Republican platform is part of its complaint that unions are “designed to fit a manufacturing workplace” which is representative of a “1930s economy” of the past. (Unless you count an NRA-sponsored line condemning lawsuits against gun manufacturers.)
If You Want To Really Make America Work Again
Americans for Tax Fairness says:
“Congress should make U.S. corporations pay the $700 billion they owe in taxes on their $2.4 trillion in profits stashed offshore.
That kind of revenue would help us invest in our country’s future – creating economic opportunity for all of us and millions of good-paying jobs by improving schools, making college affordable, rebuilding crumbling roads and bridges, building a green energy economy, researching new medical cures and so much more!”
Some people say that the Democratic Party doesn’t really stand for anything. Sen. Bernie Sanders pushed and pushed as a Democratic presidential candidate, and has achieved results that could change that.
The 2016 Democratic Party platform is a very progressive policy outline. It isn’t everything a Sanders supporter would want, but it does have a lot, and it offers an outline for a lot more progress than the country has seen in a very long time.
But a lot of critics are saying things like “So what?” “It’s just a piece of paper.” “No one reads it after the convention.” Meanwhile, much of the public believes that politicians only say what they need to say just to get elected and will betray them as soon as they take office.
There is a path to fixing this.
A Strong Progressive Platform
The draft of the 2016 Democratic Party Platform is surprisingly progressive. Robert Borosage wrote Monday, in “The Democratic Party Platform: Progress and Resistance“:
The platform incorporates Sanders’ language and push on a range of issues – electoral reform (where Clinton’s platform was also strong); criminal justice reform, including prohibition of the death penalty and an end to private prisons; shackling Wall Street, including a financial transaction tax and a pledge to break up too-big-to-fail banks and pass a 21st-century Glass-Steagall Act.
This weekend, the platform committee adopted a commitment to a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage. Clinton’s new pledge to make in-state public colleges and universities tuition-free for those earning less than $125,000 and her concessions on health care – doubling spending on community health centers, allowing those over 55 to buy into Medicare, an expanded public option in Obamacare – will be written into the platform. The platform also endorsed expanding Social Security, even though it voted down a pledge to lift the cap on Social Security taxes.
These and other pledges led Clinton and Democratic National Committee spokespeople to spin the platform as the most progressive document in the party’s history.
Katrina vanden Heuvel lists the progressive accomplishments in the platform at The Washington Post:
Candidates are not bound to the party platform. Yet the platform is important as a measure of where the party assembled stands. For citizen movements in motion, the platform can provide an important measure to challenge Democratic Party candidates and state and local officials.
Concluding, she writes, “The ‘political revolution’ hasn’t been won yet, but there has been real progress.”
But you hear people say the platform is meaningless.
Enforce The Platform
Look at what we have here:
● A political party that people say doesn’t “stand for” anything.
● A cynical public that believes candidates make promises to get elected and then go back on those promises.
● A progressive movement that has organized and activated millions of people, building some real clout.
● A party platform that attacks many of the problems of the country in ways that will make all of us and the economy and the country and the political system better off if it is implemented.
What if … what if our progressive movement ties those elements together? What if progressives keep this platform from being just another meaningless piece of paper? What if progressives work to make the platform actually mean something after the election?
Make Them Do It
What if progressives work to enforce the platform after the election? What if progressive organizations and activists organize and rally people to support Democrats who honor the platform and to make political life unpleasant and untenable for those who go against the platform?
Progressives should make politicians actually stick to the platform. This would make the platform actually stand for something that the party could present the public and say “this is what we stand for and what we will do if you elect us.” This would fight public cynicism about politicians and parties. This would turn this platform into an organizing tool that merges our outside movement with elections and policy.