Bernie Sanders Wins Key Concessions

The Democratic primary may be over, but Bernie Sanders has secured seats at the table where he’ll push for “the most progressive platform ever passed by the Democratic Party” – including on foreign policy.
Sanders May Have Lost the Primary, But He’s Already Won Key Concessions on Foreign Policy

Bernie Sanders has accepted he’s lost the war but, having won key battles, he’s the one negotiating the terms of his surrender.

The Vermont Independent senator turned Democratic presidential contender met with presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton for two hours behind closed doors at a Washington hotel Tuesday night as the polls closed in the last primary of the Democratic nominating contest. A truce is taking shape between the former Senate colleagues, with Sanders and Clinton vowing in recent days to work together to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in November.

Still, Sanders came to the summit with a list of demands for reforming the Democratic Party, including a vow to push for “the most progressive platform ever passed” by the party. He’s already staked out positions well to the left of Clinton’s foreign policy on issues ranging from the Israeli-Palestinian dispute to the war against the Islamic State, setting the stage for potentially bitter fights.

Clinton has a well-documented record of pushing President Barack Obama to surge more troops into Afghanistan and launch a U.S.-led military intervention in Libya. And in many respects, Sanders has not forced her to substantially alter the relatively hawkish approach she’s demonstrated in her years in public office.

Still, he has succeeded — and even exceeded observers’ expectations – in forcing the Democratic Party to re-evaluate its long-held assumptions about the use of military force abroad. Clinton embodies many of those views, and Sanders won millions of votes by coming at her from the left and arguing for a less interventionist foreign policy.

The Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign declined to comment on what contributions Sanders may have made to the foreign policy debate during the Democratic primary. Sanders spokesman Michael Briggs also did not respond to a request for comment.

Sanders’s campaign announced he will give a video address from Burlington, Vermont, on Thursday, raising expectations that he will formally abandon his quest for the nomination — and yet, the email announcing the address was titled: “The political revolution continues.”

Sanders launched his campaign with a laser-sharp focus on domestic issues like universal health care and an expanded social welfare system. By the end, though, he had succeeded in putting Clinton on the defensive on issues like Libya’s unraveling, the ongoing carnage in Iraq, and international trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which she came out against despite backing it countless times as Obama’s top diplomat.

While often deflecting questions on the specifics of his foreign policy, Sanders sought to undermine Clinton’s far deeper experience by questioning her judgment — a strategy Trump has already begun to emulate in his general election campaign.

And Sanders also forced concessions from the DNC that could have a lasting impact on the party far beyond its convention in Philadelphia in July. Due to Sanders’s undeniable success in mobilizing Democratic voters and bringing new ones — particularly young people — into the party, DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz gave him five seats on the powerful committee charged with drafting the party’s platform. Clinton, who ultimately won 3 million more votes than her rival, received just one extra seat.

Even before the picks were named, Sanders’s national security advisors saidhe should’ve focused more on foreign policy, believing him to be more closely aligned with the Democratic base on the issue than Clinton. Several promised to push for a platform with more liberal foreign policy proposals than she has espoused, particularly in calling for more “evenhandedness” toward Palestinians in language about the long-stymied peace process.

Jim Zogby, a foreign policy advisor for Sanders who was named to the drafting committee, credited the Vermont senator for pushing Clinton to talk more about Palestinian rights and whether Israel had used disproportionate force in retaliatory strikes.

“Ending the taboo about discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a measured and balanced way was historic,” Zogby told Foreign Policy on Tuesday. He has said he will push for the word “occupation” to be included in the platform to describe the nearly five-decade Israeli presence in land Palestinians claim for a future state.

Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute, has been part of the DNC’s executive body for a decade, including as co-chair of the resolutions committee and co-founder of its “Ethnic Caucus.” He’s hoping Sanders’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian issue will have a trickle-down effect on the party’s platform, leading to a “demilitarization of our foreign policy,” including avoiding nation-building and using force as a last resort.

When Foreign Policy noted that some of those critiques sound as if they could have come from Trump, Zogby pushed back: “Donald Trump may pick up a phrase here or there [from Sanders], but that is in no way, shape, or form the same thing.”

For one of her own picks on the drafting committee, Wasserman Schultz selected Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), the only member of Congress to vote against the 2001 authorization that serves as legal foundation for the “war on terror” — both Sanders and Clinton and Clinton voted yes. Lee told Foreign Policy Wednesday she’ll continue to withhold her endorsement, because neutrality will give her a better bargaining position “if we get stuck on some of the big issues.”

She’ll personally push for issues such as an updated authorization for the ISIS fight and auditing of the Pentagon, but allowed Israel-Palestine could potentially be one on which the committee gets stuck. Still, she added, “A very volatile debate is always good.”

In going after Clinton’s judgment on foreign policy, Sanders pulled from Obama’s successful 2008 playbook. Then Sen. Obama constantly hit the woman who would become his first secretary of state for her 2002 vote for the Iraq war, and won.

In the run-up to Clinton’s clinching of the nomination, Democratic leaders’ growing calls for Sanders to tone down his criticism reflected their fears that the judgment attack would hand Trump a ready-made response to questions about his own credibility.

And it has.

Rather than fade away with Sanders’s campaign, Trump has given the judgment attack a second life. In recent weeks, he has parroted Sanders’s language and even invoked his name, wielding the word “judgment” some half a dozen times in as many days in late May and early June.

Lee said of Sanders’s tactic, “I could question his judgment,” referring to his vote for the 2001 authorization. “But I’m not going to say that,” she laughed, “questioning another’s judgment is pushing it a little bit.” Still, she doesn’t think it will hurt Clinton in the general election, particularly against Trump who “has no foreign policy.”

She said Sanders did succeed in raising “an alternative vision on foreign policy: The fact that Democrats can be strong on national security and care about global peace, without continuing to use the military option as a first resort rather than the last.”

It remains too soon to tell how enthusiastically Sanders will campaign for Clinton and what else he would be willing to do to help defeat Trump. The senator continued to withhold his endorsement following Tuesday night’s meeting, though many outside observers believe he will eventually throw his support behind her.

Wasserman Schultz said in a statement timed with the meeting: “Now that our 2016 primaries are officially at their end, Democrats are ready to unify and take on both Trump and the Republican Party that he represents.”

Sanders has long accused Wasserman Schultz of being in the tank for Clinton and replacing her is one of his primary demands, though she insists she’s staying put.

Still, Briggs, the Sanders spokesman, told reporters earlier Tuesday that the senator will not drop out “today, or tomorrow, or the next day” and “plans to stay in this through the Democratic convention.”

Photo credit: MARK WILSON/Staff

BY MOLLY O’TOOLEJUNE 15, 2016, for Foreign Policy

Trump Plays the Bernie Card

Trump Plays the Bernie Card on Hillary

Hillary Clinton put to bed many ghosts that have haunted her campaign when she claimed both the Democratic presidential nomination and a primary win in California early Wednesday. But an especially stubborn one staggers on: “judgment.”

Democratic Party leaders are outright pushing Clinton rival Bernie Sanders toward the exit now that the former secretary of state has blown past the necessary number of delegates for the nomination. But even as the Vermont senator’s impassioned campaign against economic inequality that surprised pundits and inspired voters comes to an inevitable end, one of his primary attack lines against Clinton — that she’s shown poor judgment on foreign policy — lives on in an unlikely host, Donald Trump.

On Tuesday night, Clinton marked her history-making moment in an emotional speech to a raucous crowd in New York, eight years to the day after she conceded the 2008 Democratic primary to then-Sen. Barack Obama. But she didn’t miss the opportunity to hit the general election strategy she launched last week against Trump in a sharp address focused on national security.

“Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president and commander in chief,” Clinton said Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

As the presumptive GOP nominee for weeks, Trump already has honed a retort, questioning the former secretary of state’s judgment. He’s barraged her vote for the Iraq war and blamed her push for intervention in Libya with the current “mess,” as Obama himself put it last week.

In his own Tuesday night speech, reading off a teleprompter, Trump described his “America First” neo-isolationist foreign policy prescriptions as “the opposite of Hillary’s foreign policy, which invaded Libya, destabilized Iraq, unleashed ISIS, and threw Syria into chaos” — just to name a few.

Notwithstanding Trump’s spelling of the word “judgment,” his attacks sound all too familiar.

Donald J. Trump on Twitter

Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president because her judgement has been proven to be so bad! Would be four more years of stupidity!

In 2007, then-candidate Obama undermined Clinton’s far more extensive experience on foreign policy by seeking to highlight the unintended but disastrous consequences of some of her policy decisions, primarily her 2002 vote for the Iraq war as a New York senator.

“Even at the time, it was possible to make judgments that this would not work out well,” Obama said of her Iraq vote the day after he announced his candidacy.

Obama, conveniently not in Congress at the time of the overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in favor of invading Iraq, made it a linchpin of his campaign and an albatross for Clinton’s. She eventually said she regretted her “yea,” based on intelligence later proved to be false, but she struggled to shake it.

History repeated with Sanders. His constant invocation of Clinton’s vote, contrasted with his own “nay,” became his go-to response to foreign policy questions throughout the 2016 campaign, papering over his own lack of details for how his national security strategy would differ from hers, or Obama’s.

“The major foreign policy issue in the modern history of this country was the war in Iraq. I voted against the war in Iraq; she voted for the war in Iraq,” hetold Foreign Policy in January. “So I’m not going to apologize to anybody about my judgment on foreign policy.”

In April, when Sanders and Clinton exchanged fire over foreign policy in a bitter debate before the key New York primary, Sanders explicitly outlined the strategy.

“Does Secretary Clinton have the experience and the intelligence to be a president? Of course she does,” he said. “But I do question her judgment.”

Democratic leaders fretted that Sanders’s argument could do lasting damage to the party’s likely nominee in the general election, and set up an easy play for Trump.

He’s happily obliged.

Of course, after the at-times acerbic 2008 Democratic primary, Obama asked Clinton to be his first secretary of state, a point that she has repeatedly made in answer to Sanders’s foreign policy attacks in 2016.

But against Trump, the same counterstrike may not be effective, as the real-estate magnate who’s never been elected to public office seeks to tie her to a spate of foreign policy crises that have dogged the second Obama administration.

Instead, Clinton is pulling from a grab bag of controversial statements that the infamously inconsistent Trump has made on foreign policy. It’s a preview of a general election in which her best attack lines against the presumptive GOP nominee may be his own.

Photo credit: Getty Images/Foreign Policy illustration

By Molly O’Toole for Foreign Policy

Superdelegates and Bernie Sanders

The Superdelegates and Bernie Sanders
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders criticized the Democratic party’s nomination process and superdelegates during a rally in Santa Cruz, Calif., on May 31. He blasted reports that rival Hillary Clinton had clinched the nomination as “factually incorrect.” (AP)

“Literally eight months before the first ballot was cast in Iowa, she had almost all of the superdelegates on board. That is an absurd system. … Now, on Tuesday night, on the 7th, you are going to hear from media saying that Hillary Clinton has received 80 or 90 delegates from New Jersey and other states…the nominating process is over, Secretary Clinton has won. That is factually incorrect. That is just not factually correct.”

— Sen. Bernie Sanders, speech in Santa Cruz, Calif., May 31

Sanders has complained regularly about the “absurd” system used in the Democratic Party presidential nomination process — a combination of 4,051 delegates elected through primaries and caucuses and then 714 “superdelegates,” who are elected officials, former elected officials and other eminence grises of the Democratic Party who can back whomever they want.

Hillary Clinton is on track to win a majority of the pledged delegates, almost certainly by June 7. But because superdelegates make up 15 percent of the total delegate pool, neither Clinton nor Sanders can obtain the 2,383 delegates needed to clinch the nomination without the support of superdelegates.

But the irony is that without the superdelegate system in place, Sanders likely would be toast on June 7, when six states essentially complete the primary process, including California with its 475 delegates. (There is also a vote on June 14 in D.C. to award 20 delegates.) So Sanders is complaining about a system that is actually keeping hope alive for his supporters, on the theory that superdelegates can change their vote any time before the convention starts in late July. But it’s a false hope.

Let’s look at the math.

Basic delegate math

According to the Associated Press, the gold standard for counting delegates, there are 4,051 pledged delegates. So a majority would be 2,026.

Clinton has won 1,769 delegates. So she is 257 short of a majority in pledged delegates.

Sanders has won 1,501 delegates. So he needs 525 delegates to win a majority.

Counting votes in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands over the weekend, there are 761 delegates that will be selected through June 7.

So Clinton needs 34 percent of those delegates, a number she will certainly win, given the Democrats’ system of proportional allocations. Sanders needs 69 percent, an almost impossibly high bar.

So, even without the superdelegates, Clinton would have won the Democratic nomination fair and square.

But she actually has 543 superdelegates in her camp (compared with 44 for Sanders). That leaves her just 71 delegates short of 2,383 needed to clinch the nomination.

Sanders claims it would be “factually incorrect” for the media to declare Clinton the presumptive nominee once she crosses the 2,383 threshold. But he is ignoring the fact that Clinton will also win a majority of the pledged delegates. There’s not much of a case he can make to superdelegates to switch sides, especially since he has long insisted that superdelegates should follow the will of the voters.

Indeed, senior Sanders adviser Tad Devine in early May told our colleague Greg Sargent that unless Sanders “significantly” closes the pledged delegate gap with Clinton, it will be borderline “impossible” to persuade superdelegates to switch from Clinton to Sanders.

Misleading timeline

Sanders also offers a misleading timeline about Clinton’s accumulation of superdelegates.

As he put it in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” “you have a situation where over 400 superdelegates came on board Clinton’s campaign before anybody else was in the race, eight months before the first vote was cast.” In the Santa Cruz speech, Sanders claimed “literally eight months before the first ballot was cast in Iowa, she had almost all of the superdelegates on board.”

Neither statement is factually correct.

Sanders appears to have selected eight months before Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses because he announced his run for the presidency on April 30, 2015 — eight months before Iowa. It makes it sound like the deck was stacked against him even before he got into the race.

But the earliest superdelegate count we find is a Bloomberg Politics article late August — four months after Sanders got into the race — claiming that 440 superdelegates were privately backing Clinton. (At the time she had 130 public commitments.) That’s about 60 percent of the delegates, not “almost all.”

Moreover, this was not an official count. It was not until November — about three months before the first votes — that the AP surveyed superdelegates and came up with a count of 359 for Clinton, compared with eight for Sanders and two for former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley. So that was six months after Sanders got into the race.

The Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The Pinocchio Test

In complaining about superdelegates, Sanders is trying to have his cake and eat it, too. If not for the “absurd” superdelegate system, Sanders’s presidential hopes would firmly die on June 7.

Thus Sanders is misleading his supporters when he suggests it is “factually incorrect” for the media to crown Clinton the presumptive nominee on June 7. In a narrow technical sense, the nominee is not chosen until the convention. But, barring some miracle, on June 7, Sanders will have lost the race for both pledged delegates and superdelegates. That leaves him with no hope to claim the nomination–unless he wants to overturn the will of the voters. But respecting the will of the voters was the original reason he complained about the superdelegate system in the first place.

Three Pinocchios

 

By Glenn Kessler June 2 of The Washington Post.

Socialism for America?

America's future under Socialism

Socialism for America?And we have reams of evidence that free-market economies dramatically out-perform statist economies.

Yet the siren song of socialism still appeals to a subsection of the population, either because of naiveté or an unseemly lust to exercise power over others.

So let’s once again wade into this debate that shouldn’t be happening.

Writing for the Dallas Morning News, former Texas A&M economics professor Svetozar Pejovich explains that adding “democratic” to “socialism” doesn’t change anything. What really matters is that Sanders and his supporters want bigger government. And that never ends well.

Sanders’ policies…are…incompatible with the American tradition of self-responsibility, self-determination and limited government under a rule of law. …putting those premises into practice requires the acceptance of two institutions: the redistribution of income initiated and monitored by federal government, and the attenuation of private property rights.

And these policies don’t lead to good results, something that Professor Pejovich understands very well given that he was born in the former Yugoslavia.

Of course, the lunch is not free. The short-run consequence of redistributive policies is erosion of the link between performance and reward, which, in turn, reduces economic efficiency and the pie available for redistribution. The long-run cost is the transformation of the American culture of self-responsibility and self-determination into the culture of dependence on the state. …Sanders’ democratic socialism bribes people to voluntarily accept the erosion of private property rights…via laws and regulations. Those law and regulations (such as reducing the right of employers to fire workers at will, giving tenants rights at the expense of apartment owners, granting special privileges to some rent seeking groups, etc.) transfer some decision-making rights from owners to public decision makers, or non-owners. …In the end, the attenuation of private property rights impedes the flow of resources to higher-valued uses and reduces economic efficiency of the economy.

Allow me to augment Professor Pejovich’s analysis by elaborating on how these policies hurt the economy. The redistributionism doesn’t lead to immediate disaster, but it inevitably lures a larger share of the population into dependency over timeand the higher taxes required to finance the growing welfare burden gradually erode incentives for work, saving, investment, and entrepreneurship. Socialism for America?The combination of those factors slowly but surely dampens the economy’s growth. And as I’ve repeatedly explained, even small difference in growth have enormous long-run implications for a nation’s prosperity.

And there comes a point, particularlygiven modern demographics, that the system breaks down.

The erosion of property rights has a similar effect, largely by causing a reduction in both the level of investment and the quality of investment. And since every economic theory agrees that capital formation is a key to long-run growth, the net effect of “democratic socialism” it to further weaken potential growth.

What’s especially frustrating is that leftists then point to reduced growth rates as an argument for even bigger government.

I’m not joking. Robert Kuttner of the American Prospect argues that young people are attracted to Sanders because their economic outlook is so grim.

Bernie Sanders has…broad and enthusiastic support, especially among the young…voters who say they are attracted rather than repelled by Sanders’s embrace of socialism. …this is the stunted generation—young adults venturing into a world of work, loaded with student debt, unable to find stable jobs or decent careers.

I basically agree that the economic situation for young people is tepid, but I’m baffled that this is an argument for bigger government since the statist policies of both Bush and Obama deserve much of the blame for today’s sub-par economy.

In other words, we’re seeing Mitchell’s Law in action. Politicians have adopted bad policies that have led to stagnation and now they’re using the resulting economic malaise as an argument for even bigger government. And young people, who are among the biggest victims, are getting seduced.

I’m tempted to simply say young people are too stupid to be allowed to vote, but instead let’s take a serious look at why so many of them are misguided.

Christine Emba of the Washington Post has a column pointing out young people openly embrace socialism.

…it seems that socialism is cool. …socialism does seem to have become the political orientation du jour among voters of a certain (read: young) age. …A January YouGov poll asked respondents whether they had a “favorable or unfavorable” view of socialism and capitalism. While capitalism rated significantly higher overall, those younger than 30 gave socialism higher marks: Forty-three percent viewed it very or somewhat favorably, compared with only 32 percent for capitalism.

The problem is that both Ms. Emba and a lot of young people apparently believe the nonsense spouted by people like Robert Kuttner. They actually blame capitalism for the economic weakness caused by government intervention.

…simple economics have pushed a younger generation of voters to embrace what used to be a dirty word. The past 10 years – for many millennials, the formative years of adulthood – have eroded the credibility of economic [classical] liberalism. The financial crisis and recession weakened youths’ faith in markets… Yet they were also told that the solution to the these problems was more [classical] liberal capitalism. But those solutions haven’t delivered… Underemployment, excessive debt, out-of-reach health care and delayed life goals are young peoples’ defining concerns, and the traditional assumption – that free markets and limited state intervention lead to good outcomes – just doesn’t ring true to them.

Wow, it’s bad enough that people blame free markets for a government-caused financial crisis, but Ms. Emba (and perhaps others) think that we’ve tried capitalist “solutions” after the crisis.

What planet is she on? Can she identify one thing that Obama has done that would count as a free-market response to the financial crisis? The fake stimulus?Obamacare? Dodd-Frank?

By the way, she points out that young people presumably have no idea what socialism actually entails. They just want traditional welfare-state redistributionism.

…for many millennials, “socialism” is simply shorthand for “vaguely Scandinavian in the best way” – free health care, free education and subsidized child care, a state that supports its citizens rather than leaving them at the mercy of impersonal corporations bent on profit. …the socialism that most millennials want is simply a return to a more muscular form of traditional liberalism, one that would have felt right at home in the administration of FDR.

Given that President Roosevelt was either malicious or ignorant, and given that his policies lengthened and deepened the Great Depression, I’m not exactly encouraged that millennials merely want traditional liberal (as opposed to classical liberal) policies.

Though it’s worth noting (in a very depressing sense) that a lot of young people are embracing more totalitarian versions of socialism.Socialism for America? Here are some brief excerpts froma longer article in Vox.

Jacobin has in the past five years become the leading intellectual voice of the American left, the most vibrant and relevant socialist publication in a very long time. …That’s an opportunity that Jacobin is seizing to great effect, even if Sanders isn’t far enough left for their taste. The Sanders campaign “could begin to legitimate the word ‘socialist,’ and spark a conversation around it, even if Sanders’s welfare-state socialism doesn’t go far enough,” Sunkara wrote earlier this year. …Jacobin…now boasts a print circulation of about 20,000 and has gained about 400 more subscribers a week since Bernie started his ascent in November. …even if Bernie fades, there’s still a constituency for socialist ideas — a fact that could turn out to be much more important than the Sanders campaign itself.

And they really, really mean socialism. With all its warts.

“It is unapologetic about its interests in political economy and Marxism…,” Brooklyn College professor Corey Robin, a longtime leftist writer who signed on early and is now a contributing editor at Jacobin, says. …any Jacobin editor would be the first to tell you, Sanders is a normal labor liberal, or at most a social democrat. He doesn’t go far enough. …What we really need, Sunkara insists, is democratic worker control of the means of production. …A number of Jacobin’s contributors are members of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), the largest Trotskyist group in North America. …Sunkara’s allegiances…lie with Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). …Frase recalls working with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization, a post-Maoist group, while in high school.

I’m not sure to be more amazed that some people really believe this evil nonsense or more worried that Jacobin may actually represent the future of the left in America.

Time for some good news.

My Cato colleague Emily Ekins writes that young people are not hopeless idiots, at least not all of them. Though she phrases her argument in a much nicer fashion in a column she wrote for the Washington Post.

She starts with grim polling data.

A national Reason-Rupe survey found that 53 percent of Americans under 30 have a favorable view of socialism compared with less than a third of those over 30. Moreover, Gallup has found that an astounding 69 percent of millennials say they’d be willing to vote for a “socialist” candidate for president — among their parents’ generation, only a third would do so.

But she notes that for the most part they don’t actually believe in real socialism.

…millennials tend to reject the actual definition of socialism — government ownership of the means of production, or government running businesses. Only 32 percent of millennials favor “an economy managed by the government,” while, similar to older generations, 64 percent prefer a free-market economy. …what does socialism actually mean to millennials? Scandinavia. …In contrast with the 1960s and ’70s, college students today are not debating whether we should adopt the Soviet or Maoist command-and-control regimes that devastated economies and killed millions.

In other words, the nutjobs at Jacobin are still a minority on the left.

Best of all, young people are capable of learning lessons from the real world.

…as millennials age and begin to earn more, their socialistic ideals seem to slip away. …millennials become averse to social welfare spending if they foot the bill. As they reach the threshold of earning $40,000 to $60,000 a year, the majority of millennials come to oppose income redistribution, including raising taxes to increase financial assistance to the poor. …When tax rates are not explicit, millennials say they’d prefer larger government offering more services (54 percent) to smaller government offering fewer services (43 percent). However when larger government offering more services is described as requiring high taxes, support flips and 57 percent of millennials opt for smaller government with fewer services and low taxes, while 41 percent prefer large government.

And she explains that previous generations also have shifted away from big government.

In the 1980s, the same share (52 percent) of baby boomers also supported bigger government, and so did Generation Xers (53 percent) in the 1990s. Yet, both baby boomers and Gen Xers grew more skeptical of government over time and by about the same magnitude. Today, only 25 percent of boomers and 37 percent of Gen Xers continue to favor larger government.

My two cents, for what it’s worth, is that the infatuation with socialism (however defined) among the young underscores why it is so important to “win the narrative” about the causes of the financial crisis and the resulting weak economy.

To the extent that voters actually think capitalism caused the mess in 2008, they will be susceptible to statist ideologies.

In some sense, this is history repeating itself. The Great Depression largely wascaused by misguided policies from Hoover and Roosevelt. Yet the left very cleverly peddled the story that capitalism had failed. As a result, generations of voters were more sympathetic to big government.

Thank goodness there are places such as the Cato Institute that are working to correct the narrative, not only about the Great Depression, but also with regards to the financial crisis.

Let’s close with a clever description of the difference between various strains of statism.

Socialism for America?

I put forth a similar analysis back in 2014, but I confess it wasn’t as clever as the above image. Or as clever as the sign I recently shared.

And let’s not forget the famous two-cow explanation of various ideologies.

March 31, 2016 by Dan Mitchell of The Cato Institute.

The Foreign Policy of 2017

The Foreign Policy of 2017

Opinion writer March 31 at 8:17 PM

After dozens of contests featuring cliffhangers, buzzer-beaters and a ton of flagrant fouls, we’re down to the Final Four: Sanders, Clinton, Cruz and Trump. (If Kasich pulls off a miracle, he’ll get his own column.) The world wants to know: What are their foreign policies?

Herewith, four candidates and four schools: pacifist, internationalist, unilateralist and mercantilist.

(1) Bernie Sanders, pacifist.

His pacifism is part swords-into-plowshares utopianism, part get-thee-gone isolationism. Emblematic was the Nov. 14 Democratic debate , which was supposed to focus on the economy but occurred the day after the Paris massacre. Sanders objected to starting the debate with a question about Paris. He did not prevail, however, and answered the first question with some anti-terror pablum that immediately gave way to an impassioned attack on his usual “handful of billionaires.”

Sanders boasts of voting against the Iraq War. But he also voted against the 1991 Gulf War. His reaction to all such dilemmas is the same anti-imperialist/pacifist reflex: Stay away, but if we must get involved, let others lead.

That’s for means. As for ends, Sanders’ foreign policy objectives are invariably global and universal, beginning above all with climate change. The rest is foreign-policy-as-social-work do-goodism, most especially undoing the work of U.S. imperialism.

Don’t be surprised if President Sanders hands Guantanamo Bay over to the Castros, although Alaska looks relatively safe for now.

Closest historical analog: George McGovern.

(2) Hillary Clinton, internationalist.

The “Clinton/Obama” foreign policy from Ukraine to Iran to the South China Sea has been a demonstrable failure. But in trying to figure out what President Clinton would do in the future, we need to note that she often gave contrary advice, generally more assertive and aggressive than President Obama’s, that was overruled, most notably keeping troops in Iraq beyond 2011 and early arming of the Syrian rebels.

The Libya adventure was her grand attempt at humanitarian interventionism. She’s been chastened by the disaster that followed.

Her worldview is traditional, post-Vietnam liberal internationalism — America as the indispensable nation, but consciously restraining its exercise of power through multilateralism and near-obsessive legalism.

Closest historical analog: the Bill Clinton foreign policy of the 1990s.

(3) Ted Cruz, unilateralist.

The most aggressive of the three contenders thus far. Wants post-Cold War U.S. leadership restored. Is prepared to take risks and act alone when necessary. Pledges to tear up the Iran deal, cement the U.S.-Israel alliance and carpet bomb the Islamic State.

Overdoes it with “carpet” — it implies Dresden — although it was likely just an attempt at rhetorical emphasis. He’s of the school that will not delay action while waiting on feckless allies or farcical entities like the U.N.

Closest analog: Ronald Reagan.

(4) Donald Trump, mercantilist.

He promises to make America strong, for which, he explains, he must first make America rich. Treating countries like companies, he therefore promises to play turnaround artist for a foreign policy that is currently a hopeless money-losing operation in which our allies take us for fools and suck us dry.

You could put the Sanders, Clinton and Cruz foreign policies on a recognizable ideological spectrum, left to right. But not Trump’s. It inhabits a different space because it lacks any geopolitical coherence. It’s all about money. He sees no particular purpose for allies or foreign bases. They are simply a financial drain.

Imperial Spain roamed and ravaged the world in search of gold. Trump advocates a kinder, gentler form of wealth transfer from abroad, though equally gold-oriented.

Thus, if Japan and South Korea don’t pony up more money for our troops stationed there, we go home. The possible effects on the balance of power in the Pacific Rim or on Chinese hegemonic designs don’t enter into the equation.

Same for NATO. If those free-riding European leeches don’t give us more money too, why stick around? Concerns about tempting Russian ambitions and/or aggression are nowhere in sight.

The one exception to this singular focus on foreign policy as a form of national enrichment is the Islamic State. Trump’s goal is simple — “bomb the s­­­­­­­­— out of them.” Yet even here he can’t quite stifle his mercantilist impulses, insisting that after crushing the Islamic State, he’ll keep their oil. Whatever that means.

Closest historical analog: King Philip II of Spain (1556-1598).

On Jan. 20, one of these four contenders will be sworn in as president. And one of these four approaches to the world will become the foreign policy of the United States.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Bernie Sanders’ Theory of Change

 Bernie Sanders' Theory of Change
                                                                                                                          AKRON BEACON JOURNAL VIA GETTY IMAGES

Understanding Bernie Sanders’ Theory of Change and Preparing for What Comes Next.

Whether Senator Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination for President or not, the work of building an economic and racial justice movement to transform the U.S. is the same. The movement being built right now has the potential to do something previous campaigns have never accomplished—continue to grow in power and numbers even after the election.

“We need a political revolution of millions of people in this country who are prepared to stand up and say, ‘enough is enough’,” said Sanders. “I want to help lead that effort.” We need a mass movement of people electrified by this campaign.

At the heart of Bernie Sanders’ theory of change is this idea—that the movement is more important than any one person and that the movement goes on, win or lose. Unlike other candidates, Bernie’s candidacy is not about him. He wants to “help lead.” That means other people will also have to “help lead,” presumably many, many people. So, what does that leadership look like?

Our task—whether Bernie is the candidate or not—is to organize at the local level, engage our neighbors, push for a progressive agenda, donate time and money, and run candidates for local, state and federal office. The political revolution will also require creative nonviolent direct action—protests, vigils, boycotts, civil disobedience, marches—to address issues of climate change, mass incarceration, wage theft, and wealth inequality. This is what will bring about real change.

After Barak Obama was elected President in November 2008, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) demobilized the movement that elected Obama. Since their theory of change is an elite strategy of “Elect Us and We’ll Take Care of Things” — the extraordinary volunteer infrastructure that elected Obama was dismantled. As a result, progressives were ill-equipped to respond to the right-wing attacks on Obama’s agenda, from health care to climate change. So instead of a public jobs program, a public option in health care, and a cap and trade bill, we got Tea Party politics and tax cuts for corporations.

As we know from Jane Mayer’s extraordinary reporting in Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, as the DNC unplugged the right-wing stepped up. While the Democratic Party operatives demobilized the tens of thousands of volunteers sparked by Obama’s candidacy, the Koch brothers and other right-wing funders were investing hundreds of millions in a permanent campaign of resistance, including mobs at town hall meetings. As Mayer writes, the billionaire opposition, with strong roots in the fossil fuel industry, converted “thirty years worth of ideological institution building into a machine that would resemble, and rival, those of the two major political parties.”

In contrast, the Obama campaign took their activist list and created “Obama for America” (now Organizing for America) for fundraising purposes. But they asked little more of their base. For many of us involved with campaigning for Obama, it felt like a slap in the face. More importantly, it did nothing to advance the cause.

So how can we change the future? If Bernie is the Democratic Party nominee, we need to continue the full press until Election Day and beyond. A Sanders administration will require significant outside pressure to have any impact. Bernie knows this as well as anyone after many years in the increasingly unproductive Congress.

In the unfortunate scenario that Bernie isn’t the nominee, we have to continue the full press to both ensure that young voters stay engaged and that the “Political Revolution” continues.

A tiny percent of this energy will be about ensuring that Hillary Clinton is elected rather than the GOP nominee. This may be repulsive to some Bernie loyalists, but we shouldn’t burn a lot of calories venting our wrath at Clinton and the corporatist Democrats. Voting in elections is one percent of our political work. We can’t go back to sleep and demobilize. Don’t mourn, organize.

Whether Hillary is President or it is (gulp) Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Kasich or the ghost of Mitt Romney -our mindset should remain the same. In some respects, our job is even more important if Clinton is President. She, perhaps more than anyone, needs to be reminded what a strong progressive movement looks like.


Bernie Sanders' Theory of Change

The good news is we have a selfless leader in Bernie, a campaign structure second to none, and millions of volunteers already engaged. Bernie will have to decide what he wants to do with the campaign infrastructure that he has built. But all signals point to his awareness that we have to be permanently mobilized into an independent political organization.

Bernie is not beholden to the Democratic Party establishment. In fact, it’s obvious that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has attempted to derail him from the start. Come November, when the DNC demobilizes, the Political Revolution has an opportunity to continue.

It probably won’t get the same lift from television or the mainstream media that the Tea Party did in 2009. But we have all the tools including online networks like the Other 98 Percent and independent media to cover the Political Revolution and remind us that social movements make history, not candidates—though thoughtful leaders can make a huge difference.

We must maintain and expand this powerful independently funded base to advance a post election agenda. Like the Koch-funded Tea Party movement, this formation will be a movement formation in its own right, not a traditional “third party.” But it will be funded by the people, not billionaires.

What’s the agenda? It’s the issues that Bernie has galvanized people around: Eliminating student debt. Taxing the wealthy. Reining in Wall Street. Combating climate change and opposing new fossil fuel infrastructure. Racial justice and reversing mass incarceration. Youth jobs. Immigration Reform. Protecting Social Security and expanding Medicare for all. All these issues will require tremendous pressure outside of Washington, DC to advance.

So what might “Political Revolution Part II” look like? Imagine, this fall, Senator Sanders barnstorms college campuses, pulling together “Student Debt Town Meetings” -registering voters, inspiring and training leaders, and plugging people into an issue campaign.

Imagine the Bernie donors continue donating to “Political Revolution” to fund a paid organizer on every college campus and in every Congressional District to engage and mobilize voters. These organizers exist solely to support volunteers — organize actions, accountability meetings with elected officials -and mobilize street heat around the agenda. New leaders of the Political Revolution will emerge -from young people, communities of color, from progressives who share Bernie’s agenda but bring additional skills and talents and perspectives. And downballot candidates will be empowered to run on a much bolder progressive agenda, after having just seen a socialist rake in contributions from more than five million people.

The next step is to talk with all the Bernie fans we know that are caught up in the horserace of the President primaries. Remind them: Our work ahead is the same, no matter what happens.

Don’t plan on taking August off -or the next two years for that matter. The Political Revolution needs you.

Chuck Collins-Senior scholar, Institute for Policy Studies (*for identification purposes on political columns) and author of ‘99 to 1’. Follow Chuck Collins on Twitter:

Snake-Oil Economics of Protectionism

John Cowperthwaite deserves a lot of credit for Hong Kong’s prosperity. As a British appointee, he took a hands-off policy and allowed the colony’s economy to thrive. He didn’t even want the government to collect statistics since that would give interventionists data that might be used to argue for interventionism.

I have mixed feelings about that approach. I constantly use statistics because they so often show that free markets and small government produce the best outcomes. I even use data to show that Hong Kong’s economy should be emulated.

On the other hand, there are some statistics that cause a lot of mischief.

I’ve argued, for instance, that we should focus on how national prosperity is generated (gross domestic income) rather than how it is allocated (gross domestic product). Snake-Oil Economics of ProtectionismIf we changed the focus to GDI, the debate would more naturally focus on pro-growth policies to boost wages, small business income, and corporate profits rather than the misguided policies (such as Keynesian economics) that are enabled by a focus on GDP.

That being said, there’s a good argument that the worst government statistic is the “trade deficit.”

This is a very destructive piece of data because people instinctively assume a “deficit” is bad. Yet I have a trade deficit every year with my local grocery store. I’m always buying things from them and they never buy anything from me. Does that mean I’m a “loser”? Of course not. Voluntary exchange, by definition, means that both parties gain from any transaction. And this principle applies when voluntary exchange occurs across national borders.

Moreover, people oftentimes don’t realize that the necessary and automatic flip side of a “trade deficit” is a “capital surplus.” In other words, when foreign companies acquire dollars by selling to American consumers, they frequently decide that investing in the American economy is the best use of that money. And the huge amount of investment from overseas is a sign of comparative prosperity and vitality, not a sign of weakness.

And for any readers who nonetheless think protectionism might be a good idea, I challenge them to answer these eight questions.

I’m confident that both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders wouldn’t be able to successfully answer any of them. Yet it appears they’ve gained some traction with voters by calling for protectionism.

That’s quite unfortunate. If the pro-trade policy consensus in America breaks down, that would create dangerous opportunities for politicians and bureaucrats to rig the game in favor of special interests while also imposing higher costs of taxpayers and consumers.

Let’s dig into the issue.

In a column for the Wall Street Journal, Mort Kondracke and Matthew Slaughter combine to produce a strong defense of trade.

…the four leading presidential candidates…oppose the U.S. ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership. All four demonize trade the same way. …Where is the leader with the courage to tell the truth? To say that trade made this nation great, and that trade barriers will destroy far more jobs than they can ever “save.” …America’s exporters and importers are among the country’s most dynamic companies, paying their workers about 15%-20% more than workers earn elsewhere in the economy. The overall gains are large. Trade and related activities—spurred by accords such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, or Nafta, have boosted annual U.S. income today by about 10 percentage points of GDP relative to what it would have been otherwise. This translates into an aggregate gain of about $1.8 trillion in 2015—thousands of dollars per U.S. household every year. …creative destruction—the movement of people and capital from weaker businesses to stronger ones and new opportunities—is how many of the gains from trade arise. …For generations, American presidents of both parties have spoken about the benefits of trade. “Economic isolation and political leadership are wholly incompatible,” warned John Kennedy. “A creative, competitive America is the answer to a changing world,” said Ronald Reagan. “We should always remember: protectionism is destructionism.”

By the way, I think Kondracke and Slaughter paint with too broad a brush. Both Cruz and Clinton are far less protectionist than Trump and Sanders. Though the authors are correct in noting that they’ve been reluctant (especially in the case of Clinton) to vigorously defend free trade.

The great legal scholar Richard Epstein (also my former debating partner) writesabout the dangers of protectionism.

There are of course major difference between the insidious Trump and buffoonish Sanders. …Still, the real selling point of each boils down to one issue: In the indecorous language of the pollster, Pat Caddell, Americans feel “they have been screwed” by free trade. …free trade is in retreat as protectionism becomes the common thread across the both political parties. It is as though the economic unwisdom of the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act is back.

Richard makes a very important point that politicians often support protectionism in an attempt to hide the damage they do with other misguided policies.

Free trade offers an uncompromising indictment of, and a powerful corrective for, America’s unsound economic policies. …the reason that local businesses outsource from the United States is the same reason why foreign businesses are reluctant to expand operations here. Our regulatory and labor environment is hostile to economic growth and there are no signs of that abating anytime soon. …the steady decline in freedom and productivity inside the United States has continued apace. Ironically, the strong likelihood that the next American president will expand protectionist practices will only make matters worse: firms, both foreign and domestic, are more reluctant to invest in the United States…free trade gives the federal government and the individual states strong incentives to clean up their act so that they can once again be attractive to foreign investment.

My buddy Ross Kaminsky explains in the American Spectator that free trade is good because it is part of the competitive process that boosts living standards, particularly for the poor.

…in trade, as in any economic endeavor, there are losers in the short run. Capitalism is, after all, fundamentally a system of creative destruction. But if there is any area of agreement among economists of all political stripes…it is that free trade provides large net benefits to the societies that engage in it, even if other nations do not lower trade barriers to the same degree. Furthermore, the benefits of trade accrue in large measure to the lower economic echelons of society in an extension of Schumpeter’s profound observation that “the capitalist achievement does not typically consist in providing more silk stockings for queens but in bringing them within the reach of factory girls in return for steadily decreasing amounts of effort.”

And Ross echoes Richard Epstein’s point about the real problem being anti-growth policies that make America less competitive.

Trade is complex and like all complex things politicians will dumb it down in a way that benefits them, generally by lying to the public and creating a frothy anger against those “damn furiners” instead of pointing fingers at the true culprits: unions, regulators, and politicians of all stripes.

Ross and Richard are right. If politicians really want more jobs in America, they should be adopting policies to boost U.S. competitiveness.

And we don’t need giant steps. Yes, a flat tax would be great, but even incremental reforms such as a lower corporate tax rate or the right tax treatment of business investment would yield big dividends.

Let’s add a few more voices to the discussion.

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal debunks Donald Trump’s protectionist tirade against China.

The real-estate developer recently added Japan to his most-wanted list of job killers… “They’re killing us. You know what we sell to Japan? Practically nothing.” Is $116 billion worth of annual goods and services exports to Japan practically nothing? Japan is the fourth largest U.S. export market in goods after Canada, Mexico and China. …The best way to boost American exports is to remove trade barriers with new trade agreements. U.S. farm producers would particularly benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership with Japan and 10 other countries. Japanese tariffs on beef would fall to 9% in the 16th year of the deal from 38.5% while the 20% tariff on ground pork would be eliminated in six years. Japan’s 21.3% levy on poultry and eggs would be abolished in six to 13 years.

Writing for the Washington Post, David Ignatius defends trade in general and trade agreements in particular.

…the revolt against free trade that has captured both parties could do the most long-term damage. …there’s strong evidence that trade has benefited the U.S. economy and created whole new industries in which the United States is dominant. That’s the essence of the “creative destruction” that makes a market economy so potent: It relentlessly pushes innovation and change. …The bipartisan protectionism of Trump and Sanders has focused its attacks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership… Robert Z. Lawrence and Tyler Moran estimate that between 2017 and 2026, when TPP would have its major impact, the costs to displaced workers would be 6 percent of the benefits to the economy — or an 18-to-1 benefit-to-cost ratio. …David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson…noted that the pact would promote trade in knowledge industries where the United States has a big advantage and that “killing the TPP would do little to bring factory work back to America.”

Ignatius also makes a very important observation that protectionists want us to be scared of nations that have much bigger problems than the United States.

Trump, the businessman, seems weirdly out of touch with real economic trends. He speaks of Japan as though it were an economic powerhouse, when it has actually suffered a two-decades-long slump; he describes a surging China, when the numbers show its growth is sagging.

Amen. Japan has huge problems and China still has quite a way to go before it becomes a developed nation.

Let’s close with some good news. Politicians may be engaging in anti-trade demagoguery, and there may be some voters that are motivated by hostility to voluntary exchange, but that doesn’t mean the protectionists have won.

Indeed, pro-trade sentiment has never been higher by some measures. Here’s some amazingly positive polling data from Gallup.

Snake-Oil Economics of Protectionism

P.S. One final point. The growing burden of government spending and taxation since World War II have been very unfortunate, but the good news is that we have strong evidence that the economic damage of worsening fiscal policy has been offset by the economic gains from trade liberalization. It would be tragic to see that reversed.

P.P.S. Fans of Richard Epstein may enjoy this video of him reminiscing about Barack Obama’s undistinguished tenure at the University of Chicago Law School, as well asthis video of him dismantling George Soros in a debate that took place at Cato.

March 19, 2016 by Dan Mitchell of The Cato Institute.

The Anti-Establishment Year: 2016

2016 Trump and Sanders: The Anti-Establishment Candidates

No doubt 2016 is the anti-establishment year for U.S. politics.

Nationally, both Sanders and Trump are polling at about 40% in their respective primaries. In both parties, experienced candidates have gone out with whimpers.

Clinton has been able to hold Sanders off thanks to being in a two-person race; in the scattered GOP field, Trump’s 40% means establishment candidates like Rubio and Bush have been shellacked. At this point, Trump appears unstoppable despite prediction after prediction of his demise coming any day now.

All this is true despite every imaginable establishment advantage: donors have poured hundreds of millions into establishment campaigns to try to hold off the rising insurgent tides. Trump and Sanders have nary a political endorsement to their names (Christie’s cynical realpolitikbid for VP aside). Experienced economists and lawyers denounce their plans as unrealistic. Every respectable media outlet—and even highly partisan right-wing ones—have a singular message: stop Trump at all costs. (It probably won’t happen.)

The establishment’s days seem numbered; party leaders and pundits alike are left dumbfounded and speechless to explain it. Erik Fogg, IVN Independent Author

And yet… here we are. A specter hangs over the establishments. Their most fervent bases—long relied on as pillars of support against the enemy party—are rebelling en masse. The establishment’s days seem numbered; party leaders and pundits alike are left dumbfounded and speechless to explain it.

What on earth happened? As the reality of Sanders’s and Trump’s staying power set in, pundits are scrambling to bring theories to bear in order to look like they’re the ones that have figured it out. Most of these theories attempt to explain the rise of one or the other from an ideological perspective, but these theories can’t explain the simultaneous rise of both at once. And given how many voters are divided between Sanders and Trump, any plausible theory must explain them both. So where do we start?

As we dig into the political history of the past 20 years, we find the groundwork being laid. The terrible irony here is that the planting was done by the very establishment elements that are now scrambling to contain the effects. Each party establishment has sown the seeds of its own demise. The work was not intentional, but it was deliberate, and the parties have nobody to blame but themselves for the dilemma they now face.

In the 1990s, each party began adopting two key new election strategies. The first was apocalyptic demonization of the other party. The second was focusing on maximizing the turnout of its most partisan bases.

Demonization and its Consequences

Voting on election day is an emotional choice as much as it is a rational one. As Jonathan Haidt eloquently explains in The Righteous Mind,the emotions that govern our political behavior are most closely linked to a sense of tribal identity. This tribalism explains why each party can maintain cohesion despite holding to peculiar—and often contradictory—combinations of policy ideas.

To illustrate: in 2014, Nancy Pelosi declared that “civilization as we know it would be in jeopardy if Republicans win the senate.” In 2012, the American Enterprise Institute boldly predicted “10 disasters America will face if Obama gets a second term,” including the end of religious freedom, economic prosperity, and U.S. military superpower status. 2004 election ads compared Bush to Hitler.

The endless bashing of each party has had the intended effect: Americans’ opinions of each party have indeed dropped. But because the effect is bilateral, both parties suffer.

As of 2015, both parties had reached new favorability lows of under 40%. Congress’ favorability, which hovered between 30 and 40% in the decades before 2000, tanked to a cataclysmic 9% (famously lower than North Korea and cockroaches) before rebounding to a meager 14%.

The result? Americans no longer want anything to do with either party. Since 2004, American voters have fled both parties in droves: the number of self-identifying independents has skyrocketed from 32% to a record high of 43%, leaving Republicans (with 26%) and Democrats (with 30%) at record lows.

Is it any surprise that primary voters are scorning the party establishment? We should instead be puzzling why it hadn’t happened already.

A Partisan Focus and Its Consequences

The 1990s also saw a sharp increase in the use of consultants and high frequency, detailed polling in political campaigns. They quickly learned that the most hard-line partisans in each party voted and donated money far more frequently than other voters, and this meant messaging changed.

Rather than championing policy positions that reflected about half of the electorate, candidates learned that the way to win elections was to win this hard-line base by pandering to them. This grew increasingly important in primaries, where turnout is traditionally comparatively low (especially for Congress).

As much as each party tries to also grab for the center in the general election, the damage is often done by the time candidates emerge from the primary as winners—Mitt Romney’s infamous 2012 “etch-a-sketch” flap illustrates this problem.

The unintended consequence of this highly partisan focus is that the tail of the party now wags the dog: the candidates that don’t effectively run to the extremes during the primary struggle to make it to the general.

Hillary Clinton–who was expected to be a shoo-in–had to scramble for months to solidify her role as front-runner. Establishment Republicans like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Lindsay Graham, George Pataki, and John Kasich have either fallen by the wayside or have found they have few weapons at hand to oppose Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

If we look briefly at the issues challenging the establishment, we can see this at play:

The rebellions of the party bases are likely to grow stronger in 2020, not weaker.

Democrats have spent the past 8 years blasting Wall Street as criminals and “the 1%” as moustache-twisting robber-barons. They hopped on board with the Occupy Wall Street message when it was politically convenient in congressional elections, and told their base that the financial sector is to blame for their woes. How silly are we to be surprised that the message of “economic revolution” has so much appeal?

Republicans have steadfastly opposed amnesty for undocumented migrants in the country since President Obama took office, calling the plan dangerous, economically disastrous, and even morally wrong for rewarding illegal behavior. Who can wonder why Trump’s plan to “build a wall” and (somehow) deport ten million people has gained traction?

Democrats have rallied their own base by attacking “big oil” and fighting fracking. Given the party’s years of fervor against fossil fuels, is it any question that Clinton’s oil connections are weighing her down like an albatross?

Republicans won the House in 2010 on a message that Washington is broken and its bulk a threat to American interests. The Tea Party Caucus swept in through opposition to the old, “out-of-touch” establishment interests in Congress. After 6 years of conservative campaigning against Washington as a whole, there was every reason to expect voters to see experience as a liability and prefer the guy who has no political resume at all.

The roots of the rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have been digging into the soil of American politics for decades: this year, they are bearing fruit.

This insurgency can be explained far more clearly by understanding how the parties groomed the electorate, rather than by a sudden and inexplicable shift of a bulk of the electorate toward preferring authoritarianism and socialism.

If the establishment is able to cling to power in 2016, will they be able to pivot their messaging toward more moderate policy proposals? It’ll require a discipline that the parties may not be able to muster. The rebellions of the party bases are likely to grow stronger in 2020, not weaker. Prospects for the establishment are likely to get a lot worse before they get better.

About the Author: Erik Fogg is the CEO of MidTide Media and leads the Something to Consider Movement, which aims to re-build the lost middle ground in US politics. In 2015 he co-authored Wedged: How You Became a Tool of the Partisan Political Establishment, and How to Start Thinking for Yourself Again.

The Fixed-Pie Fallacy

The Fixed-Pie Fallacy

I don’t know whether it’s because I’m dedicated or masochistic, but I woke up at 3:00 AM in Serbia to live-tweet the Democratic presidential debate.

In retrospect, staying in bed would have been a better choice. This debate was basically the same as the others, with both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders competing on who could turn America into Greece at the fastest rate.

Both candidates argued for higher tax rates on evil rich people, as well as sinister corporations, ostensibly because bigger government will make America more equal.

For those who care about the real world, however, this isn’t such a good idea.

Larry Lindsey, a former Governor at the Federal Reserve, writes in the Wall Street Journal that leftist policies actually cause inequality.

…when you look at performance and not rhetoric, the administrations of political progressives have made the distribution of income more unequal than their adversaries, who supposedly favor the wealthy. …inequality rose more under Bill Clinton than under Ronald Reagan. And it wasn’t even close. While the inequality increase as measured by the Gini index was only slightly more during Clinton’s two terms, the Theil index and mean log deviation increased two and three times as much, respectively. Barack Obama’s administration follows this pattern… The Gini index rose more than three times as much under Mr. Obama than under Mr. Bush. The Theil index increased sharply during the Obama administration, while it fell slightly under Bush 43.

Larry explains what drove these results.

And two big factors are easy-money monetary policies that artificially push up the value of financial assets (thus helping the rich) and redistribution policies that make dependency more attractive than work (thus hurting the poor).

Democratic presidents presided over bubble economies fueled by easy monetary policy. There is no better way to make the rich richer than to run policies that push up the price of financial assets. Cheap money is a boon to those who have access to it. …Transfer payments under Mr. Obama increased by $560 billion. By contrast private-sector wages and salaries grew by $1.1 trillion. So for every $2 in extra wages, about $1 was paid out in extra transfer payments—lowering the relative reward to work. …the effective tax rate on the extra earnings—including lost government benefits such as food stamps, the earned-income tax credit, and medical support payments—is between 50% and 80%. This phaseout of the ever increasing array of benefits has created a “working-class trap” instead of a “poverty trap” that is increasing inequality and keeping the income of these households lower than they might otherwise be.

I especially like Larry’s conclusion.

He points out that statist policies have a long history of failure. The only real beneficiaries are members of the parasite class in Washington.

None of this should really be surprising. If the socialist ideal of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” worked in practice, the Berlin Wall might still be standing. …Redistribution through the political process is not costless—even in a perfect world there would be a large bureaucracy to feed. Special-interest elites also emerge when so much money is being moved around. They take their cut, introducing even more inefficiency into the system. …voters who think the progressives running today are going to reduce inequality are falling into the same trap as people entering fifth or sixth marriages—the triumph of hope over experience.

So why do our friends on the left have such an anti-empirical approach to the issue of inequality?

Instead of fixating on inequality, why don’t they focus on policies that will actually help poor people?

Some of them probably don’t care. They simply view class warfare as a way of creating resentment and getting votes.

But many leftists are doubtlessly sincere and genuinely want to help the less fortunate.

The Fixed-Pie FallacyThe problem is that they suffer from the fixed-pie fallacy.

My Cato Institute colleague Chelsea German explains this fundamentally flawed understanding of the world.

“The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.” Senator Bernie Sanders first said those words in 1974 and has been repeating them ever since. …A simple logical error underlies Sanders’ belief. If we assume that wealth is a fixed pie, then the more slices the rich get, the fewer are left over for the poor. In other words, people can only better themselves at the expense of others. In the world of the fixed pie, if we observe the rich becoming richer, then it must be because other people are becoming poorer. Fortunately, in the real world, the pie is not fixed. US GDP is growing, and it’s growing faster than the population.

Amen.

And it’s not just the U.S. data on how all income classes are climbing over time. Check out the “hockey stick” showing how the entire world is becoming richer.

Last but not least, Kyle Smith also addresses the topic of inequality in his New York Post column. He starts by explaining there isn’t a problem.

…there is no inequality crisis. …The US is only 42nd (out of 117 countries measured) in income inequality, according to the World Bank. We’re only 16th when it comes to the wealth held by the top 1%.

He then makes a far more important point, which is that it’s good to have an economy and a society where people can become rich by providing goods and services that the rest of us value.

Inequality is to some extent a residual effect of success: If there weren’t any billionaires or millionaires, inequality would be vastly diminished. America attracts and breeds success so brilliantly that we nearly beat the rest of the world combined in some respects: 42% of the world’s millionaires are Americans, and 49% of those with $50 million or more in assets. The American tendency to respect, and expect, success runs counter to the progressive plan to tax it away.

He basically reaches the same conclusion as Larry Lindsey.

In other words the left’s favorite policies help Washington insiders and hurt poor people.

A cap on incomes above, say, $100,000 would massively increase both equality and poverty as millions of middle-class people whose jobs depend on the rich in one way or another found themselves unemployed. …People tend to suspect, rightly, that government intervention in the name of fighting inequality will lead to exactly what’s happened in the Obama era: more inequality, with bureaucrats and their cronies standing to gain.

By the way, here’s a satirical Jonathan Swift version of what happens when you get rid of “rich” people.

P.S. Here’s my video on class warfare, featuring the clip of then-candidate Obama saying he favored a tax hike even if it imposed so much economic damage that the government collected no tax revenue.

P.P.S. The President isn’t the only leftist to have this spite-driven mentality.

Written by Dan Mitchell of The Cato Institute.

Sanders has money and a plan, Will it matter?

Bernie Sanders, his momentum slowed by a loss to Hillary Clinton in Nevada, faces two tests in the weeks ahead: parceling out his formidable resources to the states that offer his best targets, and boosting turnout in what has been a mediocre year for it.His path to the Democratic nomination, already steep, has narrowed considerably now that Clinton has re-established herself as the all-but-prohibitive front-runner. To win the nomination, Sanders acknowledged Sunday that he will have to begin winning again, as he did when he trounced Clinton in New Hampshire.

“We’re studying that issue very closely, obviously, as to where we allocate our resources and allocate my time,” Sanders said.

Although Sanders campaigned in South Carolina on Sunday, his prospects there are dim — as evidenced by the fact that he neglected to mention the Palmetto State’s contest as he ticked off a handful of upcoming states where he can win.

Nonetheless, the race will probably continue for a long time, as it did in 2008 — with one factor reversed. This time, the African American vote is expected to be a big advantage for Clinton.

Sanders confident heading into Super Tuesday

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said he is confident of continuing his campaign into Super Tuesday in March, when most of the states elect their party nominee for the White House. (Reuters)

Clinton is a heavy favorite in South Carolina, the state where her defeat by Barack Obama marked a turning point in the Democratic primary eight years ago. Her support among African Americans, who make up more than half of the Democratic electorate there, gives her what appears in polls to be an insurmountable advantage.

Then the campaign moves into a trove of diverse, delegate-rich Southern states that are also considered favorable terrain for Clinton.

Sanders has the ability to remain in the race for the distance, thanks to his fundraising abilities — and to the Democrats’ system of allocating delegates proportionally rather than in a winner-take-all fashion.

In Nevada, for instance, Sanders lost to the former secretary of state by more than five percentage points but still came away with almost as many delegates as she did, taking 15 to her 19.

“We are in this race to the convention,” Sanders said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I think we’ve got some states coming down the pike that we’re going to do very, very well in. I think, you know, if you look at national polling, our support is growing.”

He listed five Super Tuesday states in which he said he has “a good shot” March 1: Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and his home state of Vermont.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate, gives a victory speech after winning the Democratic Nevada Caucus on Saturday. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

Colorado and Minnesota both choose their delegates in caucuses. The caucus system, which generally brings out only the most motivated activists, presumably makes them friendlier to a candidate such as Sanders, who has inspired a movement of liberal Democrats. But caucuses require a bigger investment of time, making it harder to draw out less committed voters, which could give Sanders a disadvantage. One line of thinking within the campaign, for instance, is that he would have won Nevada had it been a primary instead of a caucus. And turnout was not down in New Hampshire, the only Democratic primary to be held so far.

In 2008, Obama caught Clinton’s presidential campaign off balance by running up its delegate totals in caucus states — a mistake that Clinton’s team has vowed it will not repeat. She has won the first two caucus states, Iowa and Nevada. And her Colorado and Minnesota operations have been up and running since last fall.

Sanders strategist Tad Devine, however, noted that his candidate received more votes than any of either party in the history of the New Hampshire primary — which he said proved that the senator could do well in an electoral setting like that state, where independents are allowed to cast ballots in the Democratic primary.

New England is friendly turf for Sanders, given its liberal leanings.

But ruby-red Oklahoma might seem a counterintuitive choice for Sanders. His campaign often notes that the state has become so heavily Republican that anyone who remains a Democrat is probably pretty liberal.

Devine said that Sanders will probably mount a strong primary challenge to Clinton in Kansas and Nebraska, both of them likely to go into the Republican column in November.

More recently, Sanders and his strategists have begun talking up their chances in Michigan, which holds its primary March 8. Both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns last week began airing their first television ads.

“We can have a big showdown in Michigan,” Devine said. “If we can beat her in Michigan, I think we can go into March 15 with a lot of momentum.” On that date, five states vote.

One area where Sanders acknowledged he must do better is in voter turnout. The constituencies where he does best — especially young people — are notoriously difficult to draw to the polls.

And in the caucuses so far, overall numbers of Democratic voters showing up have been nowhere near the levels they were in 2008, the last time there was a contested nomination.

“What I’ve said over and over again, we will do well when young people, when working-class people come out,” Sanders said in his NBC interview. “We do not do well when the voter turnout is not large. We did not do as good a job as I had wanted to bring out a large turnout.”

Another built-in advantage for Clinton as the establishment favorite are “superdelegates” — people who are given votes at the convention by virtue of their elected offices or positions in the party. There are more than 700 of them, and they account for nearly one-third of the number it takes to get the nomination.

The Clinton campaign has declined to say how many superdelegates it counts in its column. But the Associated Press reported last week that Clinton leads Sanders in superdelegates, 449 to 19.

“We’re sort of up against everybody,” Devine acknowledged, but he added that it is a problem that can be cured only by beating Clinton in the primaries.

“Until we prove he’s the strongest candidate, that’s not an argument we’re going to win,” Devine said.

Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.