Hillary Clinton: The Blame Game Revisited

What HappenedHillary Clinton’s new book, entitled “What Happened,” is due out later this month.  Based on excerpts circulating on the web, Clinton blames her loss in part on Bernie Sanders for repeatedly attacking her and setting up Trump’s refrain “Crooked Hillary.”  She also questions Sanders’ Democratic credentials and asserts that she, not Bernie Sanders, is the real Democrat.

Here’s another view:  the problem with Hillary Clinton was (and continues to be) that she is totally out-of-touch with reality and with ordinary Americans, having spent far too much time raising money from big donors rather than listening to, and addressing, the concerns of ordinary Americans.

And, by most accounts, Clinton ran a terrible campaign, one that was overly differential to her as an individual, to her ego, and not the important issues of our day, such as inequality and wage stagnation.

To make matters worse, all she really had to do to win the election was to embrace the Progressive movement and send a message of unity.  Instead, her campaign worked overtime to discredit and undermine Bernie Sanders, alienating his supporters, the very people whose energy and enthusiasm she needed to get elected.

And she continues to insult the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party by declaring that she’s the real Democrat and Bernie Sanders is some sort of interloper.  Well, the policies advocated by Hilary Clinton make it seem as if she is actually a Republican, or at best, a moderate Democrat stuck in a 1990’s time warp.

I have a message for Hillary – democratic politics is changing.   There is a new Progressive movement afoot in the land.   Maybe you, and other icons of the establishment, should get on board.  In the meantime, enjoy those book royalties from people naive enough to pay good money to hear the same failed message – over and over and over again.

Has the Party of the People Become the Party of the Elite?

2016 Presidential Election Map

Once upon a time, the Democratic Party was the “Party of the People” and Republicans represented the well-to-do. Over time, that seems to have changed, probably starting with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 with the help of so-called “Reagan Democrats.”

2016electiontableToday, the shift in party alignments is evident in the polling numbers. As shown in the accompanying table, in states where Clinton is leading, the median household income is $64,634; in states where Trump is leading, median household incomes are significantly lower – $52,382.

Just as troubling for Democrats, perhaps, is that in “Toss Up” states, the demographics appear to favor Trump. Household incomes, the percentage of minority voters and educational attainment levels in Toss Up states more closely track to those states in which Trump, rather than Clinton, is ahead in the polls.

This is going to be a close election. The numbers suggest that to win Democrats are going to have to broaden their appeal to the very “People” the Party has left behind over decades of rightward drift.

A good place to start would be in the presidential debates beginning tonight. It would be nice to see Hillary Clinton step up to the podium and, instead of playing Trump’s game of negativity and fear mongering, reach out to people of all income levels and project of vision of how she is going to revive the economy so it works for everyone, not just a privileged elite.

An Appeal to Hillary Clinton – Lift Us Up; Don’t Tear Us Down

Hillary Clinton Deplorables

Dear Hillary:

As the debates approach, I am asking, no begging really, that you not attack ordinary people, group them into broad categories and call them names such as “deplorables”.

And yes, some of the so-called “deplorables” hold racist, misogynistic views.  But do we really need to go there? Must we attack our fellow Americans, many of whom, like the veteran pumping gas on the NJ Turnpike, are struggling to make ends meet in a faltering economy?

Instead, at the debates, please focus on telling people what you are going to do to stimulate the economy, generate jobs, and increase income for poor and working class Americans.

Tell us how you are going to constrain out-of-control military spending.

Tell us how you are going to end the tragedy of pervasive poverty across America.

Tell us how you are going to reign in Wall Street and limit the influence of big money in politics.

If “Stronger Together” is more than just a fancy campaign catch phrase, then please send a positive message of inclusiveness.

This is one of the most important elections in American history.  The outcome could profoundly alter the direction of this country for decades to come.

The real question is: Are we a country that pulls together to bring about positive change, or one that is divided into a million little subgroups each fighting for an smaller and smaller slice of an ever dwindling pie?

At the debates, please do not descend to Donald Trump’s level.  Please, no more talk of “deplorables”; no more pitting one group against another.

We can and must rise above petty name calling to lift people up, not tear them down.


John Conlow, web facilitator


To Fix Economy, U.S. May Need a Second Keynesian Revolution

The U.S economy is hurting.  Despite massive stimulus programs and historically low interest rates, the economy remains mired in a slow growth cycle characterized by low labor force participation, wage stagnation and a lack of adequate investment.  To get the economy moving again, we may need to draw on lessons learned from past generations.

PictureOfKeynesJohn Maynard Keynes was a British economist who departed from neoclassical theory to argue that government held the power through monetary and fiscal policies to mitigate boom and bust cycles and stimulate economic growth.  In the U.S., Keynes theories were embraced by Franklin Roosevelt as a cornerstone of the “New Deal” that helped lead the U.S. out of the Great Depression and through World War II.

In the Post-War Period of the 1950’s to the 1970’s, the “Keynesian Revolution”, as it came to be known,  underpinned one of the most robust periods of economic growth in the Nation’s history.

In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, however, double digit inflation helped give rise to “supply-side” economics which argued that excessive government taxation, spending and regulation were at the root of the problem.  Supply-siders maintained that, contrary to Keynesian doctrine, lowering taxes and reducing government spending would help tame inflation, lead to an increased supply of good and services and stimulate a sustainable level of demand.

Meanwhile, wealthy individuals and corporate interests in the U.S enthusiastically embraced supply-side economics because it argued for lowering high marginal tax rates.  To generate public support, supply-side economics was sold as a pro-small business, anti-government initiative to unleash the creative energy of the private sector to generate economic prosperity.

For a while it actually seemed to work.  Inflation was brought under control when the Federal Reserve under Paul Volcker aggressively raised interest rates in the 1980’s.  Republican and Democratic administrations lowered marginal tax rates. And the economy boomed during much of the 1990’s.

If anything, supply-side economics worked too well – until it didn’t.  Not only were taxes lowered, but government regulation of the financial services industry, for example, was weakened to the point that credit become much too easy.  An asset bubble ensued in the late 1990’s and 2000’s, led by the housing market.  Bad loans were re-packaged into complex financial instruments, known as “Credit Default Swaps,” that few people, including rating agencies and government regulators, understood.  And it all came crashing down in a wave of defaults leading to the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009.

The U.S. responded with a combination of monetary and fiscal stimului.  It was labelled by some as a “Keynesian Resurgence.”  On the monetary side, the Federal Reserve aggressively bought bonds under a “quantitative easing” program that pumped billions into the banking sector to help keep interest rates low and increase lending and investment.  And the Administration and Congress did their part by adding about a trillion dollars to government spending programs over a several year period starting in 2009.

However, the stimulus programs were offset by cuts at other levels of government; by consumers ratcheting back their spending as housing values plummeted and unemployment increased, and by banks and businesses reluctant to take on additional financial risk in a slow growth environment.

Graph_GovtSpendingAsPctOfGDPAs illustrated in the graph at left, government spending at all levels as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (17.7% in 2015) is now at the lowest level since 1950.

In hindsight, the so-called stimulus after the Great Recession seems a minor blip up on an otherwise persistent downward trend line.

A similar trend is evident when looking at economic growth rates (see graph below).  Today the economy is struggling to maintain 2% growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – the lowest average rate in generations.

AnnualGDPGrowthSo, as you listen to the Presidential candidates debate economic issues, bear in mind that, if you cut through the populist rhetoric, much of what you are hearing is a debate on how to fix the U.S. economy.

Bernie Sanders is effectively arguing for a Keynesian approach, similar to the New Deal, with relatively high marginal tax rates and government sponsored investment in people and infrastructure to stimulate growth.

Hillary Clinton may not identify as a “supply sider,” per se, but her approach to economics is much more traditional and conservative, looking to constrain government, keep marginal tax rate low, and rely more heavily on the private sector to stimulate growth.

It is a debate worth having, but at the end of the day the U.S economy is hurting badly, more so than many of our political leaders are willing to admit.

Realistically, it may take a “Second Keynesian Revolution” to restore the economy to sustained pre-Great Recession rates of growth.

Hillary’s Infrastructure Plan Comes Up Short

HillaryClintonCroppedHillary Clinton has proposed investing $275 billion over five years in American infrastructure – roads, bridges and transit systems. There is just one problem: $275 billion is just a fraction of what is actually needed to restore and repair American infrastructure. The amount that should be invested, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers in their 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, is $3.6 trillion through 2020, an average of about $450 billion a year.  That’s about 8x the annual average amount ($55 billion) that Hillary has proposed.

Now, Hillary says all the right things. Here’s and excerpt from the briefing materials on her website, Hillary Clinton’s Infrastructure Plan: Building Tomorrow’s Economy Today:

“According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, every $1 billion in infrastructure investment creates 13,000 jobs. Moreover, the vast majority of the jobs created by infrastructure investment are good-paying, middle-class jobs — paying above the national median. And beyond creating good-paying jobs today, infrastructure investments promise to enhance the productivity of the American economy tomorrow — helping to boost the incomes of working Americans in the future. Every dollar of infrastructure investment leads to an estimated $1.60 increase in GDP the following year and twice that over the subsequent 20 years.”

The problem is if the need is so great, and the benefits so compelling, why invest so little? Is it because those on the Republican right will attack her for proposing higher spending levels? Probably. And therein lies the problem. Democrats, Hillary included, continue to be intimidated by tax cutting zealots of the Republican right and their big business allies.

Spending on infrastructure is not spending in the traditional sense that the term is used – done right, it is “investment” in the future of our country, in our children and grandchildren, in the creation of good, solid, middle class jobs, increased productivity, and future economic growth.

Democrats need to tell that story. Hillary’s plan is a step in the right direction, but it comes up way short on proposed spending levels.

Hillary on Campaign Finance Reform: A Step in the Right Direction

Excerpted  from the New York Times, Sept. 8, Hillary Clinton Announces Campaign Finance Overhaul Plan:

“Mrs. Clinton’s embrace of campaign finance reform might not only help her shore up support among liberals who are increasingly captivated by Mr. Sanders, but also help her and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, shed their image as overly cozy with the donor class. In recent years, the Clintons have come under criticism for their paid speeches to Wall Street banks and foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation. Under Mr. Clinton’s administration, donors were wooed with rounds of golf and nights in the Lincoln Bedroom.”

With Hillary, Saying “Sorry” is Hard to Do

Many liberal Democrats are fed up; tired of the parsing and the double speak.

They want candidates who tell it like it is, and stand up for what they believe in.

In this environment, Bernie Sanders has picked up a lot of support, accounting for his recent rise in the polls. Sanders is direct and plan spoken – a breath of fresh air in toxic political environment where bigotry and racism reign among leading Republicans.

Hilary Clinton – a centrist – is wooing the liberal wing of the party.  She needs their support to win in the early primaries and give her campaign momentum.

But she and her advisors apparently don’t get it. Everything seems overly parsed, overly scripted, leaving you to wonder where she really stands on the important issues of the day.

The Email server issue is a case in point: in the beginning, she says she did absolutely nothing wrong when she conducted official business on private email servers; then, last week in Iowa, well, maybe, it “wasn’t the best choice,” she finally admitted.

This issue has been dragging on for months. It seems manifestly obvious to a lot of people that you shouldn’t conduct public business on private servers, outside any governmental scrutiny, when dealing with potentially classified information.

Hillary says the issue is “complicated.” TDV thinks it is Hillary’s reaction to the issue that is overly complicated and highly problematic.

How can you trust someone to be President of the United States, to stand up for liberal values, if that person can’t admit an obvious mistake?

With Hillary, saying “Sorry” is hard to do.