Bernie Sanders won a handful of concessions in the Democratic National Committee’s platform, with the party lining up behind his vision on the minimum wage, financial regulation and other issues.
A draft version of the platform was released Friday, amid an ongoing battle to get Sanders to end his presidential campaign and endorse presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The platform explicitly calls for a $15 minimum wage, a position long espoused by Sanders.
“Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage,” the text reads.
“We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union. We applaud the approaches taken by states like New York and California. We should raise and index the minimum wage, give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy.”
Quo Vadis, Senator Bernie Sanders? For months Sanders has scored higher in the national polls against Donald Trump, than Hillary Clinton, highlighting some of her drawbacks for the November showdown. Yet, with one primary to go next Tuesday in the colony known as the District of Columbia, the cries for him to drop out or be called a “spoiler,” are intensifying. Don’t you understand that you have been vanquished by Hillary? You must endorse her to unify the party.
No, Bernie has other understandings beyond his principled declaration in speech after speech that his campaign is going all the way to the Democratic Party Convention. Between the June 14th D.C. Primary and the July nominating convention, lots can happen. As Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” (The run-up to the primary is a perfect time for Sanders and Clinton to forcefully advocate for DC Statehood.)
Maintaining the solidarity of Bernie’s voters increases the seriousness with which his drive to change the rules, rigged against insurgents, in the Democratic Party, led by the unelected cronyism of the Superdelegates, comprising nearly 20% of the total delegates. Sanders’s triad of protections for workers, students and patients, coupled with squeezing the unearned profits of Wall Street for a wide public works program, needs more visibility. Political Parties should be about serious subjects. Voters want to replace some of the tedious convention hoopla with some authenticity. Perhaps Senator Sanders could also urge Hillary Clinton to choose a running mate who would be more substantive and not just a tactical choice or an obeisant person. The pundits marvel at his ability to reject PAC money and raise millions from a large pool of small donors, with contributions averaging around $27—self-imposed campaign finance reform. The Chattering Class should also be impressed with how strongly Sanders’s message has resonated with the electorate.
There are still lessons that Sanders can teach the decadent corporate Democrats for whom this 2016 campaign may be their last hurrah. It is called political energy. It is the lack of political energy that explains why the Democratic Party, year after year, cannot defend the country from the worst Republican Party, on its own record, in Congressional history. It is political sectarianism that explains why the Democratic Party, with majoritarian issues at hand, has not landslided the Republican Party that votes for many bills which often register support under 30% in the polls. It is this absence of political energy, seduced by big money in politics, that the Sanders youth movement is aiming to topple. The Sanders people understand that breaking the momentum breaks the movement. That is why the longer range rebound of Bernie Sanders, right after Labor Day, must be mass non-partisan civic mobilization rallies driven by reforms and redirections that are for the people at large. That such class-levelling, peace-waging, freedom to participate in power for a more just society may benefit the Party’s electoral prospects is a collateral benefit from a galvanizing civil society.
Liberal critics like Paul Krugman argue that Sanders’s economic platform is unrealistic. They are dead wrong.
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.”
MASON CITY, Iowa—They say this Democratic candidate for president—the one running against Hillary Clinton—can’t possibly win a national election. But Susan Sarandon, the Oscar-winning liberal actress, was here to remind the people of this small Iowa town that they’d heard that line before.
“Last time, the people of Iowa didn’t listen to the machine,” Sarandon said, russet-colored hair framing her famous face as she looked out on the Music Man Square, an indoor fake streetscape commemorating the birthplace of the famous musical’s author. “They said he was unelectable—a black man with a funny last name. Well, here we are again, facing the machine.”
In Sarandon’s telling, the unkempt socialist senator from Vermont is the Barack Obama of 2016. To many Sanders supporters, Obama’s successes—from the Iowa caucuses to tough [sic] two national elections—render moot the argument Clinton is once again making that she’s the only one who can win.
“I think he’s more radical than the other people we’ve had, and I like that about him,” Taylor Raska, a 28-year-old bartender with a nose ring, mismatched earrings, and lines of cursive writing tattooed on her arms, told me. An ardent environmentalist who’s tired of politicians, Raska believes the old system must be smashed for a new order to take its place. “Everything’s going to change!” she said, savoring the beautiful thought. “We are in this amazing period—it’s awesome to be a part of. Everything is changing!”
People who feel like they’re struggling against long odds are fed up with the solutions that have been tried. There was a plant in Mason City that made filters, but it went to Mexico some years ago, a 62-year-old named Sue McKee told me. She teaches the GED class that the laid-off men in their 40s, 50s, and 60s come to, desperate to work again and needing a high-school diploma for the first time in their lives. “We shouldn’t make it so hard for people,” she said. On Monday, she planned to register with the Democratic Party and caucus for the first time in her life.
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.
When Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders told The Nation last year that he was “prepared to run for president,” he said he would do so only if it was clear that progressives were enthusiastic about a movement campaign seeking nothing less than “a political revolution.” It was an audacious proposal—but after traveling the country for a year, Sanders decided that the enthusiasm was there and announced in late April as a candidate for the Democratic nomination. There were plenty of doubters then. Two months into the campaign, however, everything about this candidacy—the crowds, the poll numbers, the buzz—is bigger than expected. That says something about Sanders. But it also says something about the prospects for progressive politics. In late June, The Nation sat down with Sanders for several conversations that asked the longtime Nation reader (“started when I was a University of Chicago student in the early 1960s”) to put not just his campaign but the moment in historical perspective for our 150th-anniversary issue:
The Nation: Your campaign for the presidency has surprised people. The crowds are big; the poll numbers are stronger than the pundits predicted. You’re a student of political history. Put what’s happening now in perspective. Are we at one of those pivot points—as we saw in the 1930s—where our politics could open up and take the country in a much more progressive direction?
Sanders: Obviously, we’re not in the midst of a massive depression, as we were in the 1930s. But I think the discontent of the American people is far, far greater than the pundits understand. Do you know what real African-American youth unemployment is? It’s over 50 percent. Families with a member 55 or older have literally nothing saved for retirement. Workers are worried about their jobs ending up in China. They’re worried about being fired when they’re age 50 and being replaced at half-wages by somebody who is 25. They’re disgusted with the degree that billionaires are able to buy elections. They are frightened by the fact that we have a Republican Party that refuses to even recognize the reality of climate change, let alone address this huge issue.
In 1936, when Roosevelt ran for reelection, he welcomed the hatred of what he called “the economic royalists”—today, they’re the billionaire class—and I’m prepared to do that as well. That’s the kind of language the American people are ready to hear.
The Nation: As long as we’re talking about the evolution of public policy, let’s talk about the evolution of a word: socialism. You appeared on ABC’s This Week and, when you were asked whether a socialist can be elected president, you did not blink; you talked about socialism in positive, detailed terms. I don’t believe a presidential candidate has ever done that on a Sunday-morning show.
Sanders: Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, often criticizes President Obama, incorrectly, for trying to push “European-style socialism,” and McConnell says the American people don’t want it. First of all, of course, Obama is not trying to push European-style socialism. Second of all, I happen to believe that, if the American people understood the significant accomplishments that have taken place under social-democratic governments, democratic-socialist governments, labor governments throughout Europe, they would be shocked to know about those accomplishments. One of the goals of this campaign is to advance that understanding…. How many Americans know that in virtually every European country, when you have a baby, you get guaranteed time off and, depending on the country, significant financial benefits as well. Do the American people know that? I doubt it. Do the American people even know that we’re the only major Western industrialized country that doesn’t guarantee healthcare for all? Most people don’t know that. Do the American people know that in many countries throughout Europe, public colleges and universities are either tuition-free or very inexpensive?
I have always believed that the countries in Scandinavia have not gotten the kind of honest recognition they deserve for the extraordinary achievements they have made…. The Danish ambassador, whom I talked to a couple of years ago, said to me that in Denmark it is very, very hard to be poor; you really have to literally want to be outside of the system. Well, that’s pretty good. In Denmark, all of their kids can go to college; not only do they go for free, they actually get stipends. Healthcare is, of course, a right for all people. They have a very strong childcare system, which to me is very important. Their retirement system is very strong. They are very active in trying to protect their environment…. And, by the way, the voter turnout in those countries is much higher; in Denmark, in the last election, it was over 80 percent. Political consciousness is much higher than it is in the United States. It’s a more vibrant democracy in many respects. So why would I not defend that? Do they think I’m afraid of the word? I’m not afraid of the word.
Many years ago I pitched a magazine editor on a story about Bernie Sanders, then a congressman from Vermont, who’d agreed to something extraordinary – he agreed to let me, a reporter, stick next to him without restrictions over the course of a month in congress.
“People need to know how this place works. It’s absurd,” he’d said. (Bernie often uses the word absurd, his Brooklyn roots coming through in his pronunciation – ob-zert.)
Bernie wasn’t quite so famous at the time and the editor scratched his head. “Bernie Sanders,” he said. “That’s the one who cares, right?”
“Right, that’s the guy,” I said.
I got the go-ahead and the resulting story was a wild journey through the tortuous bureaucratic maze of our national legislature. I didn’t write this at the time, but I was struck every day by what a strange and interesting figure Sanders was.
Many of the battles he brought me along to witness, he lost. And no normal politician would be comfortable with the optics of bringing a Rolling Stone reporter to a Rules Committee hearing.
But Sanders genuinely, sincerely, does not care about optics. He is the rarest of Washington animals, a completely honest person. If he’s motivated by anything other than a desire to use his influence to protect people who can’t protect themselves, I’ve never seen it. Bernie Sanders is the kind of person who goes to bed at night thinking about how to increase the heating-oil aid program for the poor.
This is why his entrance into the 2016 presidential race is a great thing and not a mere footnote to the inevitable coronation of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. If the press is smart enough to grasp it, his entrance into the race makes for a profound storyline that could force all of us to ask some very uncomfortable questions.
Here’s the thing: Sanders is a politician whose power base is derived almost entirely from the people of the state of Vermont, where he is personally known to a surprisingly enormous percentage of voters.
David Brooks’ rendition of poverty is as “representative” of people with low-incomes as corrupt corporate titans are of small entrepreneurs.
By Greg Kaufmann in The Nation
“The idea that poverty is a problem of persons—that it results from personal moral, cultural, or biological inadequacies—has dominated discussions of poverty for well over two hundred years and given us the enduring idea of the underserving poor.”
—Michael Katz, The Undeserving Poor
In a recent op-ed, New York Times columnist David Brooks called for a “moral revival,” one which requires “holding people responsible” so that we have “social repair.”
To illustrate the need for said revival—which he frames as a reassertion of social norms—Brooks offers what he describes as three “representative figures” of “high school-educated America”: a man whose mother was absent, Dad is in prison, attended seven elementary schools, and “ended up under house arrest”; a girl who was “one of five half-siblings from three relationships,” whose mom lost custody of the kids to an abuser, and whose dad left a woman because another guy had fathered their child; and, finally, a kid who “burned down a lady’s house when he was 13” and says, “I just love beating up somebody and making they nose bleed…and beating them to the ground.”
So goes the latest iteration of the “undeserving poor,” an age-old concept brilliantly excavated by the late historian Michael Katz in his book of the same title. Like the long lineage it stems from, Brooks’ rendition is as “representative” of people with low-incomes as corrupt corporate titans are of small entrepreneurs. Anecdotally, in my years working for Boys and Girls Clubs, reporting as a poverty correspondent for The Nation, and now editing TalkPoverty.org which regularly features posts from people living in poverty—Brooks’ “representative figures” remind me of exactly zero people I have met during this time. I’m not saying that these individuals don’t exist, but they have little to do with the policies or the morality we need to dramatically reduce poverty in America.
State and federal public assistance programs pay $153 billion to low-wage workers who can’t make ends meet
The majority of American families on public assistance or Medicaid are headed by at least one full-time worker, according to a report released Monday by the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education.
Researchers who analyzed annual state and federal spending on public assistance programs — including food stamps, Medicaid, Temporary Aid to Needy Families and the earned income tax credit — found that more than 56 percent of that spending goes to working families.
In other words, employers, such fast-food restaurants, are paying their employees so little that they must rely on government assistance to make ends meet. In total, these employees seek an estimated $153 billion in public assistance each year, according to the report.
“When companies pay too little for workers to provide for their families, workers rely on public assistance programs to meet their basic needs,” Ken Jacobs, chair of the Center for Labor Research and Education and co-author of the report, said in a release. “This creates significant cost to the states.”