The Democrats’ Davos ideology won’t win back the midwest

The party has harmed millions of their own former constituents. If they change course, they can reverse their losses

‘The wreckage that you see every day as you tour this part of the country is the utterly predictable fruit of the Democratic party’s neoliberal turn.’ Photograph: Barry Lewis/Corbis via Getty Images

By Thomas Frank

The tragedy of the 2016 election is connected closely, at least for me, to the larger tragedy of the industrial midwest. It was in the ruined industrial city of Cleveland that the Republican Party came together in convention last July, and it was the deindustrialized, addiction-harrowed precincts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin that switched sides in November and delivered Donald Trump to the Oval Office.

I am a midwesterner too, and I like to think I share the values and outlook of that part of the country. I have spent many of the last 15 years trying to understand my region’s gradual drift to the political right. And I have spent the last three weeks driving around the deindustrialized midwest, visiting 13 different cities to talk about the appeal of Donald Trump and what ails the Democratic Party. I met labor leaders and progressive politicians; average people and rank-and-file union members; senior citizens and Millennials; sages and cranks.

And what I am here to say is that the midwest is not an exotic place. It isn’t a benighted region of unknowable people and mysterious urges. It isn’t backward or hopelessly superstitious or hostile to learning. It is solid, familiar, ordinary America, and Democrats can have no excuse for not seeing the wave of heartland rage that swamped them last November.

The wreckage that you see every day as you tour this part of the country is the utterly predictable fruit of the Democratic party’s neoliberal turn. Every time our liberal leaders signed off on some lousy trade deal, figuring that working-class people had “nowhere else to go,” they were making what happened last November a little more likely.

What we need is for the Democratic party and its media enablers to alter course. It’s not enough to hear people’s voices and feel their pain; the party actually needs to change. They need to understand that the enlightened Davos ideology they have embraced over the years has done material harm to millions of their own former constituents. The Democrats need to offer something different next time. And then they need to deliver.

The Guardian

By 4 To 1 Margin, Business Economists Say Clinton Would Manage Economy Better Than Trump

(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

By Maggie McGrath

Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald J. Trump has pledged to put “America first,” suggesting that the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants should be deported and flatly rejecting the concept of globalism. But because of the potential economic consequences of these stances, a group of business economists is now flatly rejecting him.

A policy survey of National Association for Business Economics (NABE) members released Monday shows that 55% of business economists feel that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would do the best job as president of managing the U.S. economy. The candidate with the next-largest percentage of the vote was Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson: 15% of NABE members said he’d do the best job managing the economy. Another 15% or respondents said they didn’t know who would be best or that they didn’t have an opinion.

Just 14% chose Donald Trump.

The survey results are remarkable because NABE members aren’t your average ivory tower-dwelling, left-leaning egg heads. They work for businesses, trade associations and government agencies across the country. As NABE director and survey chair LaVaughn Henry put it, these are people who have skin in the game.

Forbes

Pieces of Silver

 Donald Trump at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., on Tuesday. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times
Donald Trump at a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., on Tuesday. Credit Travis Dove for The New York Times

By Paul Krugman

By now, it’s obvious to everyone with open eyes that Donald Trump is an ignorant, wildly dishonest, erratic, immature, bullying egomaniac. On the other hand, he’s a terrible person. But despite some high-profile defections, most senior figures in the Republican Party — very much including Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, and Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader — are still supporting him, threats of violence and all. Why?

One answer is that these were never men and women of principle. I know that many in the news media are still determined to portray Mr. Ryan, in particular, as an honest man serious about policy, but his actual policy proposals have always been transparent con jobs.

Another answer is that in an era of intense partisanship, the greatest risk facing many Republican politicians isn’t that of losing in the general election, it’s that of losing to an extremist primary challenger. This makes them afraid to cross Mr. Trump, whose ugliness channels the true feelings of the party’s base.

The New York Times

The interesting thing that happened when Kansas cut taxes and California hiked them

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Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders poses for a photograph with workers… (Photo by Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

In 2012, voters in California approved a measure to raise taxes on millionaires, bringing their top state income tax rate to 13.3 percent, the highest in the nation. Conservative economists predicted calamity, or at least a big slowdown in growth. Also that year, the governor of Kansas signed a series of changes to the state’s tax code, including reducing income and sales tax rates. Conservative economists predicted a boom.

Neither of those predictions came true. Not right away — California grew just fine in the year the tax hikes took effect — and especially not in the medium term, as new economic data showed this week.

Now, correlation does not, as they say, equal causation, and two examples are but a small sample. But the divergent experiences of California and Kansas run counter to a popular view, particularly among conservative economists, that tax cuts tend to supercharge growth and tax increases chill it.

California’s economy grew by 4.1 percent in 2015, according to new numbers from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, tying it with Oregon for the fastest state growth of the year. That was up from 3.1 percent growth for the Golden State in 2014, which was near the top of the national pack.

The Kansas economy, on the other hand, grew 0.2 percent in 2015. That’s down from 1.2 percent in 2014, and below neighboring states such as Nebraska (2.1 percent) and Missouri (1.2 percent). Kansas ended the year with two consecutive quarters of negative growth — a shrinking economy. By a common definition of the term, the state entered 2016 in recession.

The Washington Post

Bernie Sanders Will Make the Economy Great Again

Liberal critics like Paul Krugman argue that Sanders’s economic platform is unrealistic. They are dead wrong.

 Bernie Sanders attends a rally in Upper Senate Park with striking workers to call for a minimum wage of $15 per hour, November 10, 2015. (Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP Images)
 Bernie Sanders attends a rally in Upper Senate Park with striking workers to call for a minimum wage of $15 per hour, November 10, 2015. (Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

By Robert Pollin

Does Bernie Sanders’s economic program amount to pie-in-the-sky nonsense? The short answer is no. All of his major proposals are grounded in solid economic reasoning and evidence.

But that hasn’t stopped a major swath of leading liberal economists and commentators to insist otherwise. Paul Krugman has led these attacks from his New York Times perch, charging repeatedly that Sanders makes “outlandish economic claims,” embraces “deep voodoo” economics, is “not ready for prime time,” and so forth. A recent Washington Post article by columnist Steven Pearlstein cites several other liberal economists criticizing Sanders’s support for Scandinavian-style social democratic policies, concluding that his program “promises all the good parts of the Scandinavian model without any of the bad parts.”

Sanders’s economic agenda certainly represents a dramatic departure from what has come out of mainstream Democratic Party circles for a generation, to say nothing, of course, of the Republicans. The key elements of Sanders’s program include a “Medicare-for-all” single-payer healthcare system; an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour; free tuition at public colleges and universities, to be financed by taxing Wall Street transactions; opposition to trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that have weakened the wage-bargaining power of US workers; large-scale public investments to build a clean-energy economy and rebuild the crumbling US infrastructure; and strong Wall Street regulations to promote productive investments and job creation over casino capitalism.

By contrast, the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton embraced an only moderately less aggressive pro-business agenda than the Republicans. Clintonomics featured Wall Street deregulation, NAFTA, and only tepid support for policies benefitting working people and the poor. This is how, over the full eight years of the Clinton presidency, average wages ended up being 2 percent lower than the average under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush and nearly 10 percent less than under Jimmy Carter’s “years of malaise.”

The Nation

U.S. Companies, Try This: Raise Your Minimum Pay

And protests like this might disappear.  Photographer: Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
And protests like this might disappear. Photographer: Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

By Noah Smith

Recently, McDonald’s decided to raise wages for many of its hourly restaurant workers. The rise is modest, from about $9 to about $10, but already the company’s executives claim that they are seeing improvements in service quality:

“It has done what we expected it to — 90 day turnover rates are down, our survey scores are up—we have more staff in restaurants,” McDonald’s U.S. president Mike Andres told analysts at a UBS conference… “So far we’re pleased with it.”

So far the company’s financial results haven’t suffered — just the opposite; sales are rising.

With stagnant wages one of the hottest topics these days, and calls to raise minimum wages resounding across the country, stories like this one are obviously eye-catching. If raising wages improves worker performance enough to help the bottom line, then there’s no tradeoff between how much companies can afford to pay workers — at least within reason — and how many workers they can afford to employ. Obviously if you raise wages high enough — imagine mandating $1,000 an hour! — a lot of people will be put out of work. But it could be that most American companies are in a safe zone where hiking wages modestly makes economic sense.

Bloomberg View

Signs of a Dying Society

FBI statistics confirm a dramatic decline in violent crimes since 1991, yet the number of prisoners has doubled over approximately the same period. It's but one sign of a deeply troubling decline. (Photo: PRCJ/file)
FBI statistics confirm a dramatic decline in violent crimes since 1991, yet the number of prisoners has doubled over approximately the same period. It’s but one sign of a deeply troubling decline. (Photo: PRCJ/file)

While Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou are vilified for revealing vital information about spying and bombing and torture, a man who conspired with Goldman Sachs to make billions of dollars on the planned failure of subprime mortgages was honored by New York University for his “Outstanding Contributions to Society.”

This is one example of the distorted thinking leading to the demise of a once-vibrant American society. There are other signs of decay:

Wealthy conservatives are pushing a bill that would excuse corporate leaders from financial fraud, environmental pollution, and other crimes that America’s greatest criminals deem simply reckless or negligent. The Heritage Foundation attempts to rationalize, saying “someone who simply has an accident by being slightly careless can hardly be said to have acted with a ‘guilty mind.'”

One must wonder, then, what extremes of evil, in the minds of conservatives, led to criminal charges against people apparently aware of their actions: the Ohio woman who took coins from a fountain to buy food; the California man who broke into a church kitchen to find something to eat; and the 90-year-old Florida activist who boldly tried to feed the homeless.

Citizens for Tax Justice reports that Fortune 500 companies are holding over $2 trillion in profits offshore to avoid taxes that would amount to over $600 billion. Our society desperately needs infrastructure repair, but 8 million potential jobs are being held hostage beyond our borders.

FBI statistics confirm a dramatic decline in violent crimes since 1991, yet the number of prisoners has doubled over approximately the same period.

Meanwhile, white-collar prosecutions have been reduced by over a third, and, as noted above, corporate leaders are steadily working toward 100% tolerance for their crimes.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 25 percent of adults experience mental illness in a given year, with almost half of the homeless population so inflicted. Yet from 1970 to 2002, the per capita number of public mental health hospital beds plummeted from over 200 per 100,000 to 20 per 100,000, and after the recession state cutbacks continued.

Read more at Common Dreams

Bernie Sanders Is About as Radical as Harry Truman

"Bernie Sanders" by United States Congress - http://sanders.senate.gov/. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.Harry_S._Truman

By Robert Kuttner

The mainstream media continues to be shocked that Bernie Sanders keeps gaining traction against frontrunner Hillary Clinton. However, if you look at what Sanders actually stands for, it is well within the mainstream of what used to be the Democratic Party.

Ever since Jimmy Carter, it has been evident that much of the Democratic electorate, and for that matter much of the country, is more progressive in its core values than what Democratic presidents have been offering. As big money has crowded out grass-roots democracy, the policies that people crave are simply not on offer.

So there is a pent-up demand for a candidate who can articulate popular frustrations. The fact that a 74-year-old, self-described socialist transplant from Brooklyn to Burlington, Jewish no less, is the surging vessel of these demands only tells you how deeply felt they must be.

But Bernie is no more radical than, say, Harry Truman, FDR or LBJ (when he was thinking about domestic policies). My friend Peter Dreier, a few months ago, performed a real service when he compared key Sanders positions with public opinion generally.

As Dreier reported, overwhelming majorities of Americans support a higher minimum wage: 74 percent think corporations have too much influence; 73 percent favor tougher regulation of Wall Street; 58 percent support breaking up big banks; 79 percent think the wealthy don’t pay their fair share of taxes; 85 percent favor paid family leave; 80 percent of Democrats and half the public generally support single-payer Medicare for all; well over 70 percent of Americans support workers’ right to unionize; and on and on.

No wonder Sanders is gaining ground.

Republicans have been disparaging Democrats as socialists — even centrist ones like Barack Obama — ever since FDR. So if this be socialism, let’s make the most of it.

Read more at The Huffington Post

How an obscure drug’s 4,000% price increase might finally spur action on soaring health-care costs

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By Carolyn Johnson

Spectacularly high drug prices have become a political punching bag, especially since Turing Pharmaceuticals struck a nerve by increasing the price of a 62-year-old drug by more than 4,000 percent — a mind-boggling increase similar to waking up one day and finding out a gallon of gas costs nearly $100.

Hillary Rodham Clinton announced on Twitter that she’d lay out a plan to help control the “price gouging” in the pharmaceutical industry, which she called “outrageous.” Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) this summer launched an investigation into exorbitant drug prices and began sending letters to drug companies requesting information about their prices.

The details do indeed turn out to be as insane as they sound. But behind them lurks a real lesson about the way drugs are priced in the United States and what role they actually play in the trillion-dollar fight over controlling health-care costs.

New York-based Turing bought the drug called Daraprim for $55 million this summer. It is used to treat toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that can be severe in patients with compromised immune systems, such as HIV, and for pregnant women. Earlier this month, the head of the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association condemned the price increase from $13.50 a pill to $750, noting that the average cost per year for a patient weighing more than 132 pounds would be $634,500

Read more at The Washington Post

Bernie Sanders Declares War On America’s Corrupt For Profit Prison System With New Bill

bernie-sanders-announces-2016

Bernie Sanders is striking back at corporate America’s prison industrial complex with a new bill that abolishes for profit prisons.

In a statement, Sanders discussed his new legislation:

It is clear to most Americans that we need major reforms in our broken criminal justice system. We need to end the tragic reality that the United States has more people in jail than any other country on earth, and that the people being incarcerated are disproportionately black and Hispanic. We need to take a hard look at why the rate of recidivism in this country is so high and why we are not developing successful paths back to civil society for those who serve prison time. Further we need to end, once and for all, the disgraceful practice of corporations profiting from the incarceration of Americans.

As a nation, our goal must be to do everything we can to create the conditions that prevent mass incarceration. At a time when we are spending $50 billion a year on our correctional system, it makes a lot more sense to me to be investing in jobs and education for our young people than in more and more jails. Not only can we prevent thousands of lives from being destroyed, we can save billions of taxpayer dollars. Locking people up is a lot more expensive than schools.

My legislation will eliminate federal, state and local contracts for privately run prisons within 2 years. It will reinstate the federal parole system. It will increase oversight and eliminate the overcharging of prisoners by private companies for banking and other services. It will end the mandatory quota of immigrants detained. It will require ICE to improve the monitoring of detention facilities and eliminate private detention centers within 2 years.

The private prison industry makes money by keeping individuals incarcerated. The motivation in a for-profit prison system has nothing to do with the common good or the benefit of society. Private prisons make money for their corporate owners by keeping as many people locked up as cheaply as possible.

Read more at PoliticusUSA