See You in September

Last summer—otherwise known, in election time, as a long time ago, in a land far away—when Hillary Clinton unveiled her campaign, she was positioning herself as the inheritor of FDR, championing the little guy and inveighing against…economic inequality. Much to the applause of her defenders in the media:

It’s not all that’s gutsy about Clinton’s latest roll-out, which she marked on Saturday with a lengthy, policy heavy speech. There’s also the fact that a mainstream Democrat is trying to become the first woman president by invoking Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her speech, billed as her Campaign Kickoff, replaced recent Democratic simpering about Ronald Reagan and “reaching across the aisle” with jabs at trickle-down economics and a chilly invitation to cooperate with “willing partners;” that was refreshing. But even more surprising was hearing decades of centrist posturing give way to a citation of Roosevelt’s call for “Equality of opportunity … jobs for those who can work … Security for those who need it … The ending of special privilege for the few … The preservation of civil liberties for all … a wider and constantly rising standard of living.”

“That still sounds good to me!” bellowed Clinton, in her sturdy way.

And while Clinton’s delivery, like Clinton herself, was more dogged than flowery, even her language on Saturday showed leftward shifts toward sanity. Banished were the anodyne residents of “Main Street”; instead, Hillary spoke of “poor people” and “the wealthiest” and “income inequality,” mentioning the “middle class” only as a dying historical possibility in need of “a better deal.”

Salon‘s Joan Walsh had this to say about Clinton’s new look:

There was plenty of economic populism, too, as she railed against an economy that’s seen most gains go to the rich.

“Prosperity can’t be just for CEOs and hedge fund managers. Democracy can’t be just for billionaires and corporations. Prosperity and democracy are part of your basic bargain too,” Clinton said. “You brought our country back. Now it’s time — your time to secure the gains and move ahead.”

Even the event’s setting, on Roosevelt Island with the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline, felt bracingly risky. New York was the laboratory of the New Deal in the years before the Depression, the birthplace of child labor laws and health and safety regulations and so much more. Then it wound up as Ground Zero for liberalism’s meltdown, synonymous with good intentions gone bad: crime, overspending, the welfare state run amok. The legendary 1975 Daily News headline, “Ford to City: Drop Dead,” summed up the country’s attitude to its profligate cultural capital, just as Clinton was coming of age politically. For years Democrats, too, ran away from, and even against the city.

Clinton reclaimed New York as part of the Democratic Party story, and FDR’s New Deal liberalism, too. FDR harnessed the power of government to transform the country; Bill Clinton told a cynical nation that “the era of big government is over.” Though Hillary herself promised “smarter, simpler, more efficient” government,inspired perhaps by Stan Greenberg’s advice about how to reach government wary white working class voters, she left no doubt that she saw government as a way to right the wrongs of the last 30 years.

But that was June. This is February. And Clinton now has a candidate to beat who takes these ideas seriously. So what does she do? She declares that it’s not the economy, stupid, that Sanders is too focused on the billionaires and wages. Now she’s channeling Goldwater, claiming that Sanders is too fixated on economics, and complaining that Sanders’s proposals will cost too much money and expand the size of government. Here’s what she said in last week’s debate in Milwaukee:

WOODRUFF: But, my question is how big would government be? Would there be any limit on the size of the role of government…

SANDERS: … Of course there will be a limit, but when today you have massive levels of income and wealth inequality, when the middle class is disappearing, you have the highest rate of child poverty of almost any major country on Earth. Yes, in my view, the government of a democratic society has a moral responsibility to play a vital role in making sure all of our people have a decent standard of living.

CLINTON: Judy, I think that the best analysis that I’ve seen based on Senator Sanders plans is that it would probably increase the size of the federal government by about 40%…

June was FDR Month, February is Goldwater Month, what will we see in the fall, I wonder?


  1. xenon2 February 15, 2016 at 10:07 pm | #

    I remember that speech, on the same island that Cornell Tech is setting up.The last time I checked, Technion made scientific equipment that was used against Palestinians.The fact that a university could get involved in
    something odious like this, just speaks to the corporatizing of universities.

    It used to be known by its partners, but Cornell Tech sounds innocent.
    Brooklyn Prep, anyone?

  2. RNB February 15, 2016 at 10:38 pm | #

    Didn’t the NYT report today that Sanders himself admits to depending on a growth rate of 5%+ to finance his expenditures? That’s Jeb! crazy even putting Robert Gordon aside.

    • Bill Michtom February 15, 2016 at 11:04 pm | #

      Unless the Times had the 5% growth rate as a direct quote from Sanders or from his website, I wouldn’t trust it. The Times’ coverage of the Sanders campaign has been overwhelmingly dishonest.

      • RNB February 17, 2016 at 1:10 pm | #

        Well it seems that since I pointed out the absurdity of this growth estimate, a lot of other people have such as Romer, Goolsbee, Tyson, Kruger and Krugman. Sanders really has to stop pulling things out of his behind.

        • fosforos17 February 17, 2016 at 1:25 pm | #

          A list of orthodox econ types all of ’em in the bag for Clinton. Krugman for sh.t’s sake! Why ever shouldn’t a real jobs program produce a real growth rate of five percent p.a., which would merely return the national income to its trend line by the end of the new president’s first term? And that’s by the deeply defective orthodox conception of real income. If the infrastructure deterioration and environmental degradation that need to be the first targets of a Sandersish presidency were correctly accounted for as *negative* real national income the real rate of economic growth could far exceed five percent for that first term.

        • Bill Michtom February 28, 2016 at 1:03 pm | #

          Romer, Goolsbee, Tyson, Kruger and Krugman

          All Hillary acolytes.

  3. RNB February 15, 2016 at 11:17 pm | #
    Sanders is over-promising. Just not about what a Wall would do and 35% import duties on goods from Mexico and China would do.

    • Bill Michtom February 16, 2016 at 12:05 am | #

      Couple of problems in the article. First, the 5.3% per year growth is NOT what Sanders said, but what a Sanders-favoring economist said. The critics quoted are, at best, centrist. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget is a right wing organization, proved by its hosting of the Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform. The Peterson of Peterson-Pew is right-wing money man Peter Peterson. Budget reform means austerity for us and plenty for the 1%.

      From the article linked at ‘Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’: “The group notes that even [unnamed] liberal economists– who favor taxing the wealthy more — think a total income tax rate over 73% could end up reducing income tax receipts because they would discourage working, among other things.”

      This is the same bogus argument that has been made by the 1% for decades, while ignoring the 90+% tax rate during the post-WWII boom.

      The CRFB also claims the Joint Committee on Taxation is “an official scorekeeper for Congress on tax measures” when the Congressional Budget Office is.

      As to the cost of his health care plan, the average cost for the single payer countries is about 50% of what the US pays. Since the cost at the moment is about $3 trillion per year, instituting single payer would save about $1.5 trillion a year or $15 trillion over ten years, which seems to be the favored timeline for scaring people with how expensive something will be.

      • RNB February 16, 2016 at 12:44 am | #

        Friedman seems to be doing the most important economic work for Sanders, and the projected 5.3% growth rate is absurd if you just stick to Piketty’s and Robert J. Gordon’s historical work. But if incomes are not growing as such, then post-tax incomes will be hit harder than Sanders is letting on. You do know that it was the Piketty-collobarator Saez, not a right-wing and supply-side economist, who said that Sanders’ tax regime may well reduce total tax revenue.

  4. Roqeuntin February 15, 2016 at 11:41 pm | #

    Sanders is violating the unsaid rule of the modern Democratic party. You’re supposed to give lip service to FDR as a kind of father figure alongside well populist economics, but not act on any of it. Behind the scenes, your job is to make sure neoliberalism continues to function smoothly, and they all know it.

    Whether Sanders wins or loses, he’s exposed the flimsy foundation of establishment politics. Not unlike the Russian Monarchy in 1905, they may have put down the protests through violent repression, but the writing was on the wall. It only took another 12 years of rampant incompetence for the dynasty of the Romanovs, which had run the country for three centuries, to implode. You saw plenty of ridiculously contradictory political stances then too, such as an attempt at a constitutional monarchy which tried to both uphold the absolute power of the Tsar and simultaneously have representation in the Duma.

    For another historical analogy, I find our current era to have much in common with July Monarchy France. Made weary by all the killing during the revolution and the Napoleonic wars which soon followed, the French decided it was best to revert to the old system. It wouldn’t last of course, but they tried for a while. The optimistic side of me thinks it’s the same with socialism. The Reign of Terror didn’t negate the fact that representative democracy was the wave of the future. Violence doesn’t necessarily invalidate a political idea, no one claims monarchy is superior in 2010 (well, almost no one). I really want to believe that a system which gives the overwhelming share of what is produced to .01% of the population will one day be seen like Monarchy is today.

  5. Ra February 16, 2016 at 12:00 am | #

    From insinuating that Hillary Clinton is secretly an anti-Semite ( with neocolonialist tendencies ( to mistaking tactic for strategy (, your conduct is really redolent of what Khaled Abou El Fadl of UCLA once wrote about the opponents of the great medieval Muslim philosopher and Chief Justice of Cordoba, Ibn “Averroes” Rushd: “Several of the mediocre jurists, unable to match wit with wit and proof with proof, got together and combed through Ibn Rushd’s numerous writings. From Ibn Rushd’s works, they collected various excerpts which they considered heretical, compiled them in a single volume, and went to meet the Caliph, Abu Yusuf Ya’qub al-Mansur (r. 580-595/1184-1199), toward the end of 591/1194. “There is the proof of his heresy!” they declared, hoping for Ibn Rushd’s end. But, in an open debate held in Cordova, Ibn Rushd held his own and, for the moment, the conspiracy failed. But the venom of jealousy and arrogance is unrelenting. The preacher, Ibn Hajjaj, aided by an entourage of envious jurists, maintained the pressure.” That they did indeed, basically interpreting everything in the worst possible way, just like you and your entourage do, which, of course, raises the question: with thinkers like you, who needs lawyers (

  6. RNB February 16, 2016 at 12:16 am | #

    Sanders is a social democrat, not a socialist. So he has to work with capitalism to make it generate broad-based prosperity in a globalized world. Capitalism depends on private capital investment, though it is the most volatile element of aggregate demand. The social democratic argument is that its public policies will strengthen private investment due to 1. a redistribution of income that will increase the marginal propensity to consume and thus final demand and thus net investment (presently putatively held back by weak final demand); and 2. infrastructure and R&D spending that will stimulate private investment spending.

    I’ll leave aside the social democratic argument that due to the special features of health care the market here underperforms compared to a singler payer government system. I agree with this but I don’t think the American people through the people they have put in office are ready for this and Sanders will lose political capital promising and trying for it, and set back the health care progress that has been made. The reduction in costs come after the implementation of single payer which in the short-term will increase health care costs and create a right-wing revolt in this country. This is my fear.

    Here I’ll just say that I don’t think private capital will respond the way Sanders thinks it will to his taxation regime. They will respond by investing more abroad or going on a capital strike until labor has no power at all in the labor market. Sanders is leaving almost all capital investment to the private sector. He is not a socialist, he is a social democrat. And he won’t be able to counter the adverse way they’ll react to him.

    What the populist radicals don’t like is that Clinton’s pragmatism is all that capitalism today allows. It sucks, but Sanders can’t do more. Voting for him will probably leave us worse off 1. because he can’t win and we’ll have a Republican who will cut Obama’s expanded safety net, cut alternative energy, start war with Iran and 2. even if he won, he won’t be able to do what he promises, which will leave people sour on socialism tout court.

    • Herri February 16, 2016 at 2:51 am | #

      Even the ACA, after its full implementation, has not produced immediate reduction in costs:(ex: Data from other countries of reasonable population sizes (not Vermont, where even a private insurance will not work if it has to stay isolated from the rest..) clearly shows that single-payer costs less.
      The only real issue is political reality: it’ll be hard even with a Dem majority. If Sanders wins he will try, but if he can’t, how is that going to affect ACA, which is the law of the land? i don’t think Americans will be without health insurance.

      The reasons told for a Sanders’ unelectablity (in relation to Clinton) in the general election do not hold much water: calling someone socialist/communist has been tried (for ex. in 2008) before. Recent research shows (and results from NH primary) that low-income people, especially white folks could in fact vote for him. I think he has better chances with independents and a fraction of the Repubs. He certainly carries less baggage (whatever that means) than Clinton.

  7. fosforos17 February 16, 2016 at 12:37 am | #

    “June was FDR Month, February is Goldwater Month, what will we see in the fall, I wonder?” Theodore Roosevelt month. Third-party “Progressive” imperialist warmonger.

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