Will We Ever Get Change if We Keep Electing People Who Represent Special Interests?
We can see the positioning and the messaging on the Democratic side beginning to take shape for the 2016 elections. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren with nods to Thomas Piketty and various economists have stepped forward to offer the themes of salvation for the middle class, moderating the extremes of inequality in American society, and doing something real about jobs and wages.
Clinton World seems to be responding, not yet with forthright statements from Hillary Clinton, but recently with articles by stalwarts of neoliberal Clintonism (and veterans of the Obama Administration) such as Larry Summers and Peter Orszag, expressing concerns about inequality and proposing measures to alleviate it, even including increased taxation on the wealthy.
It is likely that such statements are harbingers of what Hillary Clinton will run on when she begins to talk more broadly about issues that concern those with both economic insecurities and pronounced economic need, and to make promises about how she and the Democrats will bring change and blunt the power of Wall Street to continue to increase inequality and concentrate more and more wealth in the hands of a decreasing number of people. Clinton world it seems, will try to sell the idea that Hillary’s the one we can trust to do the job of restoring democracy in the United States and it will reinforce that claim with statements from “advisers” Summers, Orszag, Gene Sperling, John Podesta, and I’m sure eventually Jack Lew, designed to show that they are in the forefront of the battle for greater economic equality, and that since they will likely be part of Hillary Clinton’s economic team, she will be getting the right advice to do something about the inequality problem during the eight years (they hope) of her coming two terms as president.
How are we to feel about this obvious attempt to create a narrative associated with Clinton World that will counter the concerns about extreme inequality expressed by Sanders and Warren? Well, forgive me if I view these recent conversions to concern about inequality as less than authentic. First, all the people mentioned are professional and very long-term participants in the maelstrom of the system of political influence in Washington, DC. They thrive in that maelstrom by sensing the rise and fall of popular issues and adapting themselves to what seems to be the politically correct positioning on these issues and by trying to frame their messaging to benefit the people they serve and hope to serve.
It would perhaps be too much for me to say that they believe in nothing but access to power, since I know none of them and cannot read their minds. But it does seem to me that since all have been a part of the Clinton/Wall Street/Obama axis, have supported many of the important policies and Administrative measures that have exacerbated inequality, been hugely responsible for the increasing inequality characteristic of the past two decades, and increased their own personal wealth as a result, that a healthy dose of skepticism about their willingness to really do anything about inequality is in order.
When we add to this, that President Obama promised change to the voters too, appointed these very people to help to implement it, and then received advice from them that produced continued whippings, but this time with scorpions, one’s mind just screams: “do not trust these people and do not for a moment believe a thing that say.” Let us ask instead:
— Do they state concrete and explicit goals such as full employment, at least enhanced Medicare for All, at least a federally-funded job guarantee at a living wage, at least enforcement of the laws against banksters and fraudsters who brought the economy to its knees and who still commit frauds daily, and at least the ending of the carbon-based economy that is fueling climate change?
— Do they tell us how they will do the things they advocate for while they still call for the increasingly small deficits, or even surpluses, they have advocated for in the past?
— Are they ready now to advocate for the very large deficits that will be necessary to deliver full employment, a robust economy, and real prosperity to the American people?
— Do they understand and tell us that creating and maintaining full employment will require running deficits the size of both the trade deficit, and the private sector surplus consistent with the savings desires of people and non-government organizations combined?
And, if the answer is that they don’t say things like this, then why should we even begin to trust what they say? And, if we consider that when we vote for a presidential candidate we are voting to elect not only she or he, but also the team of people she or he wants by their side who they intend to rely on during their presidency, then why should should we trust she or he to implement a concerted and successful program to reduce inequality?
To put this another way, do we really think that people who have always represented the interests of the few, the 1%, will suddenly start to implement policies favoring the 99% if they get into power once again? Do we really think that advisers such as those I’ve named, working for a candidate like Hillary Clinton who never seems to have met a Wall Street contributor she didn’t like, will produce change in the form of reduced inequality or even economic gains for the 99%? Do we really think that she and her advisers will cease to represent special interests and the 1%? Tell me another one, please!
It is time to end this cycle of failure of the American political system, and we will never end it if we keep electing people who, along with their top advisers represent special interests. So, what we need to do now is to consider it a disqualification for candidate/adviser teams to have served in previous Administrations that have failed the 99% by passing measures that have increased inequality and failed to create full employment. Since that includes every Administration for a very long time, in effect, I am proposing a clean sweep of Washington, DC of those who have served in previous administrations or are closely identified with either Clinton World or Bush World.
Let us look for and find entirely new people to govern our country. Let us demand that all political parties recruit competent candidates for office who have not made the mistakes of the past. Let us not above all, continue to reward failure and poor performance by investing our trust in people who are responsible for the sorry state in which we find ourselves and our, increasingly, failed democracy.
(Cross-posted from New Economic Perspectives.)