Posted by: Doug Henwood | May 6, 2016

Fresh audio product

Just posted to my radio archive:

April 28, 2016 Greg Grandin on the recession of the Pink Tide in Latin America • Ashton Applewhite, author of This Chair Rockson aging and ageism

I didn’t produce a new show this week; it was a rerun of this show:

August 13, 2015 William Darity on discrimination, a job guarantee, and baby bonds • R.L. Stephens II, founding editor of Orchestrated Pulse and author of this essay, talks about Black Lives Matter and the creation of a leadership class

And for the next three weeks, KPFA is fundraising, so I’m not sure what I’ll be posting. Back to regular programming on June 2.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | May 4, 2016

Hillary quotes conservatives

Although Hillary fans discount her early enthusiasm for Barry Goldwater, she did say this in 1996 (audio here): “I feel like my political beliefs are rooted in the conservatism that I was raised with. I don’t recognize this new brand of Republicanism that is afoot now, which I consider to be very reactionary, not conservative in many respects. I am very proud that I was a Goldwater girl.” (Her distinction between “reactionary” and “conservative” is hard to parse; Goldwater voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, wanted to privatize Social Security, and once suggested that we “lob one into the men’s room at the Kremlin.”) And now that many on the right are recoiling from likely Republican nominee Donald Trump, she gets to quote contemporary conservatives approvingly. A striking name on the list: Ken Cuccinelli, the abortion-opposing homophobic former Virginia attorney general. But there are many more treasures below. That rightward-pointing red arrow is carrying more meaning than ever. This press release is just in from her media operation:


H logo

Conservatives Rebuke Trump As He Captures Republican Nomination

Last night, Donald Trump effectively captured the Republican nomination, successfully bullying his way through a crowded primary field. However, many prominent activists, journalists and elected officials in his own party have figured out what Hillary Clinton has argued all along: Donald Trump is too big a risk for America.

Take a look at the large group of prominent conservatives who are already promising that they’ll never vote for Trump:

Rep. Scott Rigell [R-VA]: “My love for our country eclipses my loyalty to our party, and to live with a clear conscience I will not support a nominee so lacking in the judgment, temperament and character needed to be our nation’s commander-in-chief. Accordingly, if left with no alternative, I will not support Trump in the general election should he become our Republican nominee.”

Former Romney staffer Garrett Jackson: “Sorry Mr. Chairman, not happening. I have to put country over party. I cannot support a dangerous phony.”

Former top Romney strategist Stuart Stevens: “I think Donald Trump has proven to be unbalanced and uniquely unqualified to be president. I won’t support him… Everyone has to make their own choice. I think Trump is despicable and will prove to be a disaster for the party. I’d urge everyone to continue to oppose him.’”

Rep. Carlos Curbelo [R-FL]: “I have already said I will not support Mr. Trump, that is not a political decision that is a moral decision.’”

Sen. Ben Sasse [R-NE]: “Mr. Trump’s relentless focus is on dividing Americans, and on tearing down rather than building back up this glorious nation. … I can’t support Donald Trump.”

Daily Caller editor Jamie Weinstein: “If it’s Trump-Hillary with no serious third party option in the fall, as hard as it is for me to believe I am actually writing these words, there is just no question: I’d take a Tums and cast my ballot for Hillary — and I suspect so would many other life-long conservatives, whether they are willing to admit it now or not.”

Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes: “This is what political division looks like. Trump’s claim to be a unifier is not just specious, it’s absurd. This casual dishonesty is a feature of his campaign. And it’s one of many reasons so many Republicans and conservatives oppose Trump and will never support his candidacy. I’m one of them.”

Former McCain adviser Mark Salter: “The GOP is going to nominate for President a guy who reads the National Enquirer and thinks it’s on the level. I’m with her.”

RedState editor Ben Howe: “#ImWithHer”

Billionaire Bush-backer Mike Fernandez: “If I have a choice — and you can put it in bold — if I have a choice between Trump and Hillary Clinton, I’m choosing Hillary.”

Lifelong Republican, foreign policy expert Max Boot: “[Hillary Clinton] would be vastly preferable to Trump.’”

Former NJ Gov., Christine Todd Whitman on a Clinton/Trump matchup: “I will probably vote for her.”

MA Gov. Charlie Baker: “I’m not going to vote for [Donald Trump] in November.”

Former RNC Chairman Mel Martinez: “I would not vote for Trump, clearly.”

Former VA Senate candidate, Ken Cuccinelli on Trump: “When you’ve got a guy favorably quoting Mussolini, I don’t care what party you’re in, I’m not voting for that guy.”

Former RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman: “Leaders don’t need to do research to reject Klan support. #NeverTrump”

Former Bush spokesman Tony Fratto: “For the thick-headed: #NeverTrump means never ever ever ever ever under any circumstances as long as I have breath never Trump.  Get it?”

Former Eric Cantor communications director, Rory Cooper: “#NeverTrump means…never. The mission of distinguishing him from Republican positions and conservative values remains critical.”

Conservative blogger Erick Erickson: “Reporters writing about the “Stop Trump” effort get it wrong. It’s ‘Never Trump’ as in come hell or high water we will never vote for Trump”

Fox News’ Steve Deace: “Apparently @secupp has a #NeverTrump list to see who keeps their word to the end. You can sign my name in blood.”

Republican strategist Patrick Ruffini: “I will never vote for @realDonaldTrump. Join me and add your name at . #NeverTrump”

America Rising co-founder and former Jeb Bush communications director Tim Miller: “Never ever ever Trump. Simple as that.”

Former Rep. J.C. Watts [R-OK] said he’d write-in someone before voting for Mr. Trump in November.

Former Director Of NV and MS GOP Cory Adair: “You’ll come around,” say supporters who just got done saying their candidate doesn’t need me. Nah. I won’t. #NeverTrump

Townhall editor Guy Benson: “Much to my deep chagrin (& astonishment ~8 months ago), for the 1st time in my life, I will not support the GOP nominee for president.”

DailyWire editor Ben Shapiro: “Really? #Nevertrump. Pretty easy.”

Wisconsin conservative radio host Charles Sykes: “I suppose I should clarify: #NeverTrump means I will nevereverunderanycircusmtances vote for @realDonaldTrump”

Editor at RedState, Dan McLaughlin: “For the first time since turning 18, I will not vote for the Republican candidate for President.”

George Mason law professor, Republican David Bernstein: “ “I’d rather Hillary Clinton win. I’d rather (and I never thought I’d say this)… If Trump wins the nomination, I will actively seek to prevent him from becoming president.”

Conservative columnist George Will: “If Trump is nominated, Republicans working to purge him and his manner from public life will reap the considerable satisfaction of preserving the identity of their 162-year-old party while working to see that they forgo only four years of the enjoyment of executive power.”

Redstate contributor Leon Wolf: “I will never vote for Donald Trump. I will not vote for him in the general election against Hillary, and I would not vote for him in a race for dogcatcher. Heck, I would not even vote for him on a reality television show.”

Former Romney adviser Kevin Madden: “I’m prepared to write somebody in so that I have a clear conscience.”

Pete Wehner, former speechwriter for George W. Bush: “I will not vote for Donald Trump if he wins the Republican nomination.”

Bill Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard: “Donald Trump should not be president of the United States. The Wall Street Journal cannot bring itself to say that. We can say it, we do say it, and we are proud to act accordingly.”

Undersecretary of State under George W. Bush, Eliot Cohen: “I will oppose Trump as nominee. Won’t support & won’t work for him for more reasons than a Tweet can bear.”

Former Jeb Bush digital director Elliott Schwartz: “In case there is confusion about #NeverTrump.”

Doug Heye, Former RNC communications director: “I cannot support Donald Trump were he to win the Republican nomination.”

Former IL GOP Chairman Pat Brady said he’d back a third-party candidate or “just stay home” if Mr. Trump is the nominee.

Washington Examiner’s Phillip Klein: “I have officially de-registered as a Republican.”

Hypeline News’ Kyle Foley: “I’m willing, if need be, to vote Hillary. That’s how strong my disdain is for Trump #NeverTrump”

Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson: “I registered Republican when I was 18 because I thought free markets and liberty were important. Not sure what “Republican” means today.”


Posted by: Doug Henwood | April 29, 2016

Katha Pollitt’s review of It Takes A Village

Katha Pollitt is now a big fan of Hillary Clinton, but she wasn’t always one, as this review of her dreadful book It Takes A Village shows (although the opening is a portent of the future). In the spirit of my earlier reposting of Katha’s polemic on the repeal of welfare, here’s her view of HRC’s pieties from twenty years ago. Clarification: the business with the ghostwriter, Barbara Feinman is serious; Hillary and the White House tried to stiff her out of her last payment, and she wasn’t acknowledged in the book. For more, see Carl Bernstein’s A Woman In Charge.

The Nation — February 5, 1996

Village Idiot
Katha Pollitt

“Saint or Sinner?” asks the cover of Newsweek about Hillary Clinton. On the New York Times Op-Ed page, Maureen Dowd calls her a hybrid of Earth Mother and Mommie Dearest. I must say, I don’t see what all the fuss is about. Don’t countless politicians (and their relatives) use their positions to make profitable contacts and advance their friends? And don’t they all talk about family, morals, responsibility, children and God? Even if the First Lady is guilty of the worst that is alleged against her—and if you can explain exactly what that is, you’ve probably been up to no good yourself—there’s nothing new or exceptional about it: See the careers of Newt Gingrich, Al D’Amato, Bob Dole et al. This is what politics is all about, especially in places like Arkansas, a k a The Heartland. “The people you read about in the papers? They all live next door to each other,” an Italian journalist told me after a visit to Little Rock. “It’s just like Italy!”

Well, there is one new thing: the gender issue. A lot of people still expect the wives of politicians to concentrate on the Kinder-Kirche-Küche side of life, while their husbands go after the bright lights and boodle. H.R.C. has failed to observe this division of labor in her own marriage, for which tradition-minded folk like William Safire cannot forgive her. Now the First Lady has written a book, It Takes a Village—And Other Lessons Children Teach Us, only to land herself in more hot water. In yet another column criticizing H.R.C., Maureen Dowd took her to task for not acknowledging the ghostly pen of Barbara Feinman, a former researcher and editor for Ben Bradlee, Bob Woodward and Sally Quinn, all now apparently up in arms at this slight to their beloved assistant. Between Whitewater, Madison Guaranty, Travelgate and now Thankyougate, H.R.C. isn’t likely to get much time to talk about her book, and since I know how painful that can be, I sat down and read the whole thing. Who knows? I may be the only columnist in America who can make that claim.

The ostensible thesis of It Takes a Village is that the well-being of children depends on the whole society. The real message is that H.R.C. is for family values. She prays a lot, alone and en famille. She’s a good mom. She thinks young people should abstain from sex until they are 21. She opposes divorce: “My strong feelings about divorce and its effects on children have caused me to bite my tongue more than a few times during my own marriage”—I’ll bet—“and to think instead about what I could do to be a better wife and partner. My husband has done the same.”

I know I’m not supposed to take these notions seriously, any more than I’m meant to gag at the weirdly Pollyannaish tone of the prose, or wonder if Sunday school could really have been her formative intellectual experience. Like her disapproval of television talk shows—thanks to which “we are saturated with stories about priests who molest children” and have become “skeptical of organized religion”—they’re just campaign theater, nods to the cultural conservatives that are balanced by other nods, to flexible gender roles, legal abortion (a very small nod), a “modest” rise in the minimum wage. There’s no attempt to think anything through: the damage to organized religion versus the damage to children left at risk of molestation, for example, or the kinds of social pressures that would be necessary to produce that bumper crop of 21-year-old virgins. Her opposition to divorce is left characteristically vague: She’s “ambivalent” about no-fault divorce (the pet peeve of former White House aide and communitarian William Galston, who proposed abolishing it for couples with children recently on the Times Op-Ed page), but she says nothing about what it would really mean to return to the old system, in which spouses, lawyers and judges colluded in perjury, and wives who strayed could be denied custody and support. It’s easy for her to talk: Her husband has obligingly provided her with grounds that would withstand even the most Savonarolaesque reforms.

What else? The First Lady is for sex ed that has both an abstinence and, for those youths determined to ruin their lives, a birth-control component; a free market that’s also socially responsible; government that’s both smaller and more social-worky. For every problem she identifies, a study, a foundation, a church, a business or a government-funded pilot project is already on the case: teaching poor young mothers how to improve their babies’ cognitive abilities, encouraging fathers to spend time with their families, involving parents in their children’s school. Some of these programs sound terrific, but none of them are on remotely the same scale as the problems they confront. If parents are too poor to afford school uniforms, they’ve got problems much graver than the community recycling of hand-me-downs can solve. The First Lady is thus a kind of center-liberal version of Arianna Huffington, who claims that “spirituality” and volunteerism can replace the welfare state. For H:R.C. the state itself becomes a kind of pilot project, full of innovation but short on cash, and ever on the lookout for spongers.

The real irony, of course, is that at the same time H.R.C. is conceptualizing society as a “village” united in its concern for and responsibility toward children, her husband is panting to sign the original Senate welfare bill, which his own Administration’s figures say would plunge 1.2 million more children into poverty and render more desperate the condition of those already poor. How can a self-described child advocate, who goes on and on about the importance of providing children with enriched parental attention and quality care from their earliest moments of life, square herself with policies that would force low-skilled mothers of small children into full-time subminimum-wage jobs, with warehouse care for their kids? Exactly how will permitting states to deny benefits to children born on welfare further those kids’ development? And what about the kids at the end of the line when the block grants runout?

After the media figure out Whitewater and insure proper recognition of Ms. Feinman’s labors, some enterprising reporter might consider asking the First Lady about that.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | April 28, 2016

Factchecking Gail Collins

Gail Collins wrote this ludicrous paragraph in her New York Times column today:

The bottom line on Hillary Clinton is that she’s spent her life championing women and their issues. She began her career with the Children’s Defense Fund, fought for better schools in Arkansas, for children’s health care as first lady and for reproductive rights as the senator from New York. As secretary of state she spent endless — endless — days and weeks flying to obscure corners of the planet, celebrating the accomplishments of women craftsmen, championing the causes of women labor leaders, talking with and encouraging women in government and politics.

These assertions bear a rather casual relation with the truth:

  • Yes, Hillary did “begin her career” at the Children’s Defense Fund, but the job lasted only about a year. She graduated from Yale Law School in 1973, and by 1974 was off working on the Nixon impeachment committee. She joined the Rose Law Firm, representing the elite of corporate Arkansas, in 1977, and became a partner in 1979. While at Rose, Wal-Mart—a company for whom sex discrimination has long been a way of life—was among her clients, and she later joined the retailer’s board of directors. Hillary gets a lot of mileage out of this brief “first job.” CDF’s founder, Marian Wright Edelman, broke with Hillary over her support of welfare reform during Bill’s administration. Though they’ve since reconciled, as recently as 2007, Edelman said this: “Well, you know, Hillary Clinton is an old friend, but they [sic] are not friends in politics. We have to build a constituency, and you don’t—and we profoundly disagreed with the forms of the welfare reform bill, and we said so.”
  • Hillary’s fight for “better schools in Arkansas” included a war on the state’s teachers’ union, making her a pioneer of neoliberal education reform, which holds teachers’ unions in deep contempt. The school reform initiative, which Hillary led, imposed competency tests on teachers. That act that was widely seen as racist because the teaching corps was disproportionately black, earning the enmity of civil rights organizations in the state. According to Carl Bernstein, this criticism “deeply pained” Bill and Hillary, but not enough to make them rethink the struggle. As for making the union the enemy, Bernstein noted that “the ASTA [Arkansas State Teachers Association] was not exactly the antichrist, and in fact had done some pretty good things in a state where the legislature had typically accorded more attention to protecting the rights of poultry farmers to saturate half of Arkansas’s topsoil with chicken feces than providing its children with a decent education.”
  • Hillary is widely seen as a staunch advocate of reproductive rights, but she’s got an immense capacity for equivocation. At a 2005 event in Albany, on the same day as the annual anti-abortion rally in Washington, Hillary described abortion as a “sad, even tragic choice to many, many women,” talked up abstinence education and “teenage celibacy,” and sought common ground with right-to-lifers. She has often said she wants to make abortion “rare,” a characterization that stigmatizes a medical procedure that should bear no stigma at all.
  • Her efforts on behalf of women while Secretary of State were mostly in the realm of symbolism, not actual policy. As I wrote in an earlier post: “[J]ust what did Hillary do to “elevat[e] women and girls as Secretary of State…”? There’s a rather sympathetic book—so sympathetic that the foreword is written by someone who declares a twenty-plus-year friendship with Hillary—on the topic by Valerie Hudson and Patricia Leidl, The Hillary Doctrine: Sex & American Foreign Policywhich is rather long on citing directives and rather short on reporting accomplishments.” There’s one preposterous anecdote about a “Bees for Widows” program in Iraq—see the link for the full quote—but little to justify the hype. Hillary did, however, help quash a minimum wage increase in Haiti, which would have benefited women garment workers in that country (so much for “championing the causes of women labor leaders”) and supported the coup against Honduran president Manuel Zelaya, who, among other things, fought to make the morning-after pill available in a socially conservative Catholic country. In a 2014 interview, Berta Cáceres, the indigenous rights and environmental activist who was murdered by forces that the coup helped promote, blamed Hillary for legitimating and institutionalizing Zelaya’s overthrow. So much for encouraging women in politics.

But when you’re writing about Hillary for the newspaper of record, you can stuff a lot of baseless nonsense into a single paragraph, and few readers will doubt you.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | April 21, 2016

Fresh audio product

Just added to my radio archive:

April 21, 2016 Bruce Dixon, managing editor of the Black Agenda Reporton black voters’ mysterious lingering romance with the Clintons • Alfredo Saad Filho on the vote to impeach Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff

Posted by: Doug Henwood | April 14, 2016

Fresh audio product

And so soon! Freshly added to my radio archive:

April 14, 2016 Ann Neumann, author of The Good Deathon how we spend our final days in the USA • Richard Florida on class and urban space


Posted by: Doug Henwood | April 13, 2016

Fresh audio product

Just posted to my radio archive:

April 7, 2016 David Howell on the increase of the minimum wage to $15 in California and New York • Vidar Thorsteinsson, author of this article, on the political crisis in Iceland unleashed by the Panama Papers

March 31, 2016 Nikil Saval, author of this article, on the hippie-inspired new architecture of the Silicon Valley • Alfredo Saad Filho on the ongoing political and economic crisis of Brazil

Posted by: Doug Henwood | March 29, 2016

Fresh audio product

Just added to my radio archive:

March 24, 2016 Rachel Price, author of Planet/Cuba, on the art scene in that country as Obama visits • Sam Stein, author of this article, on neoliberal housing programs, de Blasio style

March 17, 2016 Ben Zachariah on the activities of India’s fascist BJP government at home and abroad •  David Rieff, author of The Reproach of Hunger, on the economic development racket


Posted by: Doug Henwood | March 17, 2016

Zoë Heller on My Turn

It’s always a delight to read Zoë Heller, especially so when she says this about My Turn: “a solid and persuasive guide to what has been characterized as shady or shabby or unprincipled in Clinton’s political career.”

Other, less personally relevant, highlights from the piece:

…[her memoir Hard Choices] fairly brims with “aren’t women amazing?” sentiments of the sort one finds cross-stitched on decorative cushions.

…her much-vaunted “women’s rights are human rights” declaration in Beijing in 1995 (a speech that her supporters characterize somewhat implausibly as a watershed moment in feminist history)…

Just as in 2008, Clinton has found herself rejected by her “natural constituency” as a less inspirational candidate, a less plausible agent of change than her male opponent—and this time, it’s rather more galling, because the opponent in question is not an elegant, younger black man who can sing Al Green songs, but a seventy-four-year-old white man with the oratory style of a staff sergeant.

Notwithstanding these rather cynical appeals to feminist sympathy, her trials as a female public figure have always inspired considerable fellow feeling in American women, particularly college-educated, white women.

It would be a fine thing to have a woman in the White House. But, really—let’s not put her there because someone once said she had “cankles.”

But she does get one thing wrong. She quotes me saying “If by some miracle Sanders were to be elected, the establishment would crush him,” and concludes from that that I’m “not a Sanders fan.” But I am! I love the way Bernie has made it clear that there is an excitable constituency for social democracy; I love the way Bernie has exposed the class fissures within the Democratic party, forcing Hillary and her surrogates to run against social democracy. Even though Hillary will almost certainly get her damned nomination, Bernie has opened up American politics and given us a lot to work with beyond July.


Posted by: Doug Henwood | March 14, 2016

Varieties of Krugmanesque experience

Paul Krugman’s talking shit about Bernie Sanders again:

Indeed, what the Sanders movement, with its demands for purity and contempt for compromise and half-measures, most nearly resembles is not the Trump insurgency but the ideologues who took over the G.O.P., becoming the establishment Mr. Trump is challenging. And yes, we’re starting to see hints from that movement of the ugliness that has long been standard operating procedure on the right: bitter personal attacks on anyone who questions the campaign’s premises, an increasing amount of demagogy from the campaign itself. Compare the Sanders and Clinton Twitter feeds to see what I mean.

This is funny, since it’s a bitter personal attack coming from a centrist ideologue on a political movement that challenges his view of the world and that of his candidate, Hillary Clinton. Anyone who believes in popular mobilization and not rule by technocrats is a demagogue to someone like Krugman.

But speaking of purity and demagogy and contempt for half-measures, let’s do a little time travel and recall what Paul Krugman wrote about the massive fraud that used to be Enron, which collapsed in 2001 causing scores of billions of dollars in losses and putting 20,000 employees out of work. Pointing out that the company paid him $50,000 to join this advisory board to introduce this quote would no doubt be regarded by Krugman as yet another bitter personal attack. Pure coincidence for sure! Anyway, here’s Krugman writing in Fortune in 1999:

The retreat of business bureaucracy in the face of the market was brought home to me recently when I joined the advisory board at Enron—a company formed in the ’80s by the merger of two pipeline operators. In the old days energy companies tried to be as vertically integrated as possible: to own the hydrocarbons in the ground, the gas pump, and everything in between. And Enron does own gas fields, pipelines, and utilities. But it is not, and does not try to be, vertically integrated: It buys and sells gas both at the wellhead and the destination, leases pipeline (and electrical-transmission) capacity both to and from other companies, buys and sells electricity, and in general acts more like a broker and market maker than a traditional corporation. It’s sort of like the difference between your father’s bank, which took money from its regular depositors and lent it out to its regular customers, and Goldman Sachs. Sure enough, the company’s pride and joy is a room filled with hundreds of casually dressed men and women staring at computer screens and barking into telephones, where cubic feet and megawatts are traded and packaged as if they were financial derivatives. (Instead of CNBC, though, the television screens on the floor show the Weather Channel.) The whole scene looks as if it had been constructed to illustrate the end of the corporation as we knew it.

It’s all there—the born-again 1990s neoliberal love of The Market, the embrace of business as revolutionary, the genuflection before Goldman Sachs, and the excruciating cliché “not your father’s X.”

The Krugman archives are full of interesting material. For example, he wNow he’s busily denouncing Sanders for his attempts to bring something like a Scandinavian welfare state to the U.S., citing the worries of his tepid liberal colleagues that it would just be too expensive. In 1998, just before he wrote that Enron informercial, he disclosed that his ideal regime would be “Sweden of 1980…very generous and high social expenses, a flat income distribution and no unemployment.” Seven years later, in 2005, he told Pepe Escobar that “We should be getting 28% of GDP in revenue. We are only collecting 17%.” (Update: now it’s 19%.)

It’s funny—now that there’s a candidate advocating something like that agenda, he’s against it, standing instead with the finger-wagging, “No, you can’t have that!” contingent. But a guy who’s getting paid $225,000 a year to teach one graduate course and study income inequality is familiar with embracing contradictions.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | March 10, 2016

Fresh audio product

Just added to my radio archive:

March 10, 2016 Anne Balay, co-author of this article, on the tough but romantic life of the truck driver • Lester Spence, author of Knocking the Hustleon neoliberalism and black politics

[Back after KPFA fundraising break. If you like these shows and want to keep them coming, please support KPFA. If you do, be sure to mention Behind the News.]

Posted by: Doug Henwood | March 1, 2016

The New Republicans

In a remarkable New York Times story, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell has revealed the strategy of the Hillary Democrats as they face the challenge of Donald Trump:

“For every one of those blue-collar Democrats he picks up, he will lose to Hillary two socially moderate Republicans and independents in suburban Cleveland, suburban Columbus, suburban Cincinnati, suburban Philadelphia, suburban Pittsburgh, places like that,” he said.

In other words, they’re hoping to terrify the moderately conservative into voting for their candidate. Forget having any positive message that might attract disaffected “blue-collar Democrats,” meaning the white working class. The appeal is going to be to the center–right. Forget too the enthusiasm for Sanders among the young, an appeal based on hope for a better future. As former Obama advisor turned Uber advisor David Plouffe put it in the same article:

“Hope and change, not so much. More like hate and castrate.”

Marco Rubio coyly suggested the other day that Donald Trump has a tiny todger (as Keith Richards said of Mick Jagger). Plouffe is jonseing to cut it off.

So it’s come to this: as I wrote last week, the Dem leadership hasn’t merely abandoned hope, it’s running against it. Policies that could materially benefit those disaffected blue-collar sorts would displease the party’s funders and must be ruled out. The Dems’ desperate hope is that fear of Trump will close the deal.

Maybe it’ll work—though everyone has underestimated Trump’s appeal all along (me included, I should say). But this strategy of writing off the white working class is precisely what has fueled his rise. As Ed Luce, the Financial Times’ very sharp columnist, wrote in yesterday’s paper:

It is the white vote—and particularly white males—that ought to worry Mrs Clinton. Blue collar whites are America’s angriest people. They feel belittled, trod upon and discarded. The future belongs neither to them nor their children. Mrs Clinton personifies an establishment that has taken everything for itself while talking down to those it has left behind. Mr Trump is their revenge.

Rendell & Co.’s strategy feeds into this unfortunate dynamic.

Dems will, of course, dismiss those angry white voters as hopelessly racist and sexist. Some no doubt are, and that’s the source of Trump’s appeal to them. But that’s not all that could appeal to them. The Sanders campaign has shown that policies that could benefit them materially have great electoral potential. But the Dem leadership would rather court suburban independents and Republicans than cross their funders.

So far that potential hasn’t shown up much in the Democratic primaries, because the disaffected don’t normally vote in them. But the longer-term potential shows up repeatedly in the popularity contests and hypothetical general election matchups. There’s one out just this morning from CNN and ORC International that should cause worry at Hillary Central. Some highlights:

  • 42% of those polled offered a “favorable” rating for Hillary, and 55% unfavorable, for a net of –13. In November 2014 she had a net favorable rating of +21. That’s a shift of 34 percentage points in 15 months. As recently as October 2015, her net negative rating was just 4 points; she’s lost 17 in four months. This confirms a law of Hillary’s popularity: the more people see her the less they like her.
  • That -13 net puts Hillary’s net positives towards the bottom of the broad presidential field. Ben Carson earns a net of +9; Rubio, + 6; Kasich, +19. Hillary does do better than Trump, at -23. But the highest net positive in the field is Bernie Sanders, +23.
  • In hypothetical general election races, Hillary beats Trump by 8 points. That margin looks comfy now, but given the trajectory of Trump’s support, far from armor-plated. But she would lose to Rubio by 3 and Cruz by 1.
  • Sanders would beat Trump by 12, Rubio also by 12, and Cruz by 17.
  • Hillary’s negatives are surprisingly broad, as are Sanders’ positives, as the graph below shows.


Polls at this stage of the election are more suggestive than definitive, but the “electability” argument for the HRC candidacy is based mostly on the wishes of her fans.

Not mentioned here: race. Hillary clearly has a huge base of support among black voters, and it would be ugly and unproductive of me to type out a lecture on how they’re mistaken in that preference. I don’t understand it, but it’s not my business to second-guess it. What I will say, though, is that the Democratic establishment is playing a cynical game, relying on that “firewall” of support while they court moderate Republicans in the Columbus suburbs by running against social democracy and amping up the fear factor. Because as the man from Uber says, “Hope and change, not so much. More like hate and castrate.”

Posted by: Doug Henwood | February 24, 2016

Liberal redbaiting

The Sanders campaign has certainly sharpened the contradictions, hasn’t it? It’s been very clarifying to see Hillary Clinton and her surrogates running against single-payer and free college, with intellectual cover coming from Paul Krugman and Vox. Expectations, having been systematically beaten down for 35 years, must be beaten down further, whether it’s Hillary saying that to go to college one needs some “skin in the game,” or Rep. John Lewis reminding us that nothing is free in America. A challenge from the left has forced centrist Democrats to reveal themselves as proud capitalist tools.

Latest to step up is Paul Starr, co-founder of The American Prospect. Normally the dull embodiment of tepid liberalism, Starr has unleashed a redbaiting philippic— a frothing one, even, by his usual standards—aimed at Bernie Sanders. Sanders is no liberal, Starr reveals—he’s a socialist. He may call himself a democratic socialist to assure us that he’s no Bolshevik—Starr actually says this—but that doesn’t stop Starr from stoking fears of state ownership and central planning. Thankfully the word “gulag” doesn’t appear, but that was probably an oversight.

Starr does have one substantial point—Sanders’ tax proposals wouldn’t be up to financing a Scandinavian-style welfare state. Taxing the rich more could raise substantial revenue, but nowhere near enough. And part of the point of steepening the progressivity of the tax system is hindering great fortunes from developing and being passed on. A good part of the reason that CEO incomes have gone up so much since the early 1980s is that taxes on them have gone down; stiffen the tax on them, and there’s far less incentive to pay überbosses so much in the first place. It’s like taxing tobacco or carbon—you can raise revenue by doing it, but you’re also trying to make the toxic things go away.

But, really, you don’t need a Swedish or Danish tax structure to pay for free college tuition and single-payer health care, which are highly achievable first steps of a Sanderista political revolution. As I wrote back in 2010:

It would not be hard at all to make higher education completely free in the USA. It accounts for not quite 2% of GDP. The personal share, about 1% of GDP, is a third of the income of the richest 10,000 households in the U.S., or three months of Pentagon spending. It’s less than four months of what we waste on administrative costs by not having a single-payer health care finance system. But introduce such a proposal into an election campaign and you would be regarded as suicidally insane.

That last sentence turned out to be not a bad prophecy.

Starr really loses contact with earth when he writes about single-payer.* In one sense, this is surprising, since he wrote a fat book on the history of medicine in America, and, although it was 34 years ago, is presumably still familiar with the territory. But the pressures of a political campaign often dislodge an apologist’s higher cerebral functions. That’s the only plausible explanation for why he wrote this:

Sanders’ single-payer health plan shows the same indifference to real-world consequences. The plan calls for eliminating all patient cost sharing and promises to cover the full range of services, including long-term care. With health care running at 17.5 percent of gross domestic product, Sanders’ plan would sweep a huge share of economic activity into the federal government and invite that share to grow. Another way of looking at single payer is that it would make Washington the sole checkpoint, removing the incentive for anyone else—patients, providers, employers or state governments—even to monitor, much less hold back, excessive costs. It would leave no alternative except federal management of the health sector.

Where to start with this? Why, as a matter of principle, should patients “share costs”? They’re already paying for the services with their tax dollars. According to Hillary’s “skin-in-the-game” theory, forcing patients to pay up will reduce demand, thereby keeping spending down, but this is a brutal form of cost-control. Co-pays often force people to forego needed care, resulting in higher costs down the road, and more importantly, needless suffering. (See this Gallup poll, and references 6, 7, and 8 here.)

A far more effective form of cost control is having the government use its buying power to demand lower prices from hospitals and drug companies. That’s the way it works in civilized countries, though that fact looks to have passed Starr by, probably because he was too busy trying to make precisely the opposite, and wrong, argument: single-payer would “invite that share to grow” by “removing the incentive for anyone else…even to monitor, much less hold back, excessive costs.” Just what is wrong with “federal management of the health sector”? Medicare does it for the 0ver-65 portion of the population; it works very well and is enormously popular.

Starr cites the 17.5% of GDP we devote to health care without putting that figure into any reasonable context—the sort of move that is supposed to provoke a “gee-whiz” moment of surrender. Here’s an interesting graph based on data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a Paris-based quasi-official think tank for the world’s rich countries. It shows the share of GDP devoted to health care for a subset of the OECD’s 34 members, divided into public and private. (Put them together and you get the total.)


There are several striking features in this graph:

  • Most striking of all is how far ahead of the pack the U.S. is: we spend 16.4% of GDP on health care, compared to a 10.1% average for all the other countries shown. (That’s the dotted vertical line on the right.) And recall that all those other countries cover almost their entire populations, unlike the U.S., where a tenth of the population is uninsured (and many of the insured have terrible coverage), with little change since the drop when Obamacare first took effect. (Gallup has 12% of the population uninsured, slightly higher than the Census Bureau, though with a similar trajectory of initial decline followed by flatlining.)
  • Another striking, though less obvious, thing is that U.S. public spending alone, 7.9% of GDP, is just 0.1 point below the average of 8.0%. In other words, the government already spends as much as many other countries do while accomplishing far less. That 7.9% is also not much less than the entire health bill for Italy, Australia, and Britain, public and private combined.
  • Yet another striking thing is the outlandishly large share of private spending on health care: 8.5% of GDP, more than four times the average of the other countries and almost three times Canada’s private share.
  • Does all that spending produce better outcomes? Seems not: our life expectancy, 78.8 years, is three years shorter than the average of all the other countries.

So just about everything in Starr’s quoted mini-lecture about the real world is at odds with the real world.

There’s a perverse form of American exceptionalism circulating around the Clinton camp: just because things work in other countries doesn’t mean they can work here. As Hillary herself put it, “We are not Denmark. I love Denmark, but we are the United States of America.” True enough, but that has no bearing on why single-payer couldn’t work here. The only obstacles are political—elites, which include Hillary and Starr, don’t want it.

The rest of Starr’s piece is a highly unsubtle rant about socialism and how bad it is, even though Sanders isn’t really a socialist. That sort of thing may resonate with people who grew up during the Cold War—though not with all of us!—but it seems not to move the younger portion of the population, many of whom seem charmed by socialism. It’s not like capitalism has been treating them all that well. But Starr doesn’t want to hear about that.

Starr also finds the style of Sanders’ politics in bad taste:

Sanders is also doing what populists on both sides of the political spectrum do so well: the mobilization of resentment. The attacks on billionaires and Wall Street are a way of eliciting a roar of approval from angry audiences without necessarily having good solutions for the problems that caused that anger in the first place.

But people have a lot to resent—why shouldn’t it be mobilized politically? And free tuition and single-payer are pretty good solutions for some of those problems. Starr just doesn’t like them. Best leave the tuition issue to some vague, incomprehensible scheme (that apparently involves lots of work–study and online learning) and health care to a lightly regulated and generously subsidized insurance industry. Establishment Democrats haven’t merely gone post-hope—they’ve declared war on it.


*Single-payer is just one way of organizing a public health insurance system. Under such a model, providers remain private and the government pays the bills. That is, only the insurance function is socialized. This is how it works in Canada. Under Britain’s National Health Service, everything is socialized: doctors are public employees and hospitals are government-owned. Sanders is proposing the former, even though the British system is cheaper to run than the Canadian, as the graph shows.



Posted by: Doug Henwood | February 21, 2016

Complacency of the Dems

According to the Iowa Electronic Market (IEM), Hillary has an almost-90% chance of winning the Democratic nomination. Anything can happen of course, but I wouldn’t put much money on the other side of that bet.

So what about November? As I write this, the IEM has Trump ahead of Rubio by 45–37. That may underestimate Trump’s chances, as people have been doing all along. Leaving that aside for now, I think that Dems are way too overconfident that Hillary can beat Trump in November. People are pissed and don’t want another president from Goldman Sachs.

Trump is a master taunter. It was amazing to watch him destroy Jeb (who was none too mighty to start with). Trump knows how to get under people’s skin, and could break Hillary psychologically. She’s brittle and has many potential lines of cleavage, personal and political. She’s a nervous, error-prone campaigner who prefers sticking to a script (which is why she hasn’t had a press conference or an informal chat with reporters in over two months). Trump could go after her emails and the shady business of the Clinton Foundation in ways that Sanders never has, for fear of starring in a GOP ad in the fall.

Trump is relentlessly vicious. As he said in his South Carolina victory speech, “There’s nothing easy about running for president, I can tell you. It’s tough, it’s nasty, it’s mean, it’s vicious, it’s beautiful.” A debate between the two of them could be a remarkable spectacle, though it would hold glum prospects for humanity.

Posted by: Doug Henwood | February 12, 2016

Fresh audio product

Just uploaded to my radio archive:

February 11, 2016 Tim Shorrock on panic over North Korea (Nation author page) • Robert Fatton on the mess in Haiti on the departure of Sweet Micky from the presidency

February 4, 2016 Matt Karp on the demographics of Sanders’ support (Jacobin author page) • Jasson Perez on the Black Youth Project 100 (full agenda here)

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