Sunday, February 28, 2016

Why Did Black Southerners in South Carolina Support Hillary Clinton for President?

I remember…

Back in the 1990s, the Clintons ran against black people. Sister Souljah, the welfare "reforms" which killed. (Another, extended, discussion is here, in Salon.) Hillary Clinton has repudiated none of this; back when she wrote how proud she was of the "reforms."  Yet here we are, with blacks overwhelmingly having voted for Clinton in South Carolina.

My usual roost is the Pacific Northwest, and I don't know any southern blacks. Most online questions are answered with "How dare you ask?" and slams at a white person (which assumes that I am white) who dares to question the motivations of black people. I am a big black bird, and am not all that sure I get hominids of any color. But this I know: not death, nor hunger, nor yet loneliness know the color of your skin. When I see people ignoring the death and misery of their own I wonder why. If I'm going to have to live with, perhaps vote for, a militaristic candidate with a history of semi-racist callouts to white people and neo-liberal economic and social policies, I'd like an explanation.

The black radical socialist Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report) writes: "They tune Sanders out, because their main purpose for voting in national elections is to keep the White Man’s Party, the Republicans, out of the White House, and believe Clinton has a better shot. Almost everything else is bullshit."

On the other hand, this report from Vice seems to show that Sanders has poor name recognition in South Carolina ("I don't know much about Sanders") and points out that the Clintons have a long history there.

On yet a third hand, Sanders is not a Christian, and the churches are enormously important to southern blacks. That is a conservative Christianity, and women are very important in those churches. The white atheistic socialist Sanders had to make his case to people who know nothing about him and his ideas, and he did not have much time to do so.

I think Clinton's history in the state tipped the balance, no matter how awful her politics have been at the national level. The horrifying statistics of the Clinton welfare reforms are largely meaningless to that audience, and will continue to be so until they are more extensively discussed, and examples given. They will have to be made real to the audience. It takes a lot to get voters to reject someone and even moreso when that is someone who they have trusted. We so badly want to believe the iconography of the candidates, even though nothing human could possibly live up to it. Story, that mighty force of nature, triumphs (trumps!) the unromantic realities.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Why do you want to be President, Mr. or Ms. Candidate?

Donald Trump — to feed my ego, which is vast and hungry.

Ted Cruz — because I want to turn the USA into a theocracy. Besides, I'm really mean, and this will give me the opportunity to be mean to lots more people.

Marco Rubio — I wanna get rich, working for Wall Street.

Michael Bloomberg — I wanna get even richer, and make my friends even richer.

Bernie Sanders — Viva la revolucion!

Hillary Clinton —I deserve it! Besides, women's rights!

Bozhe moi! (Which just means OMG in Slavic languages, but it sure sounds impressive.)

Monday, February 22, 2016

I think I see the Clinton Strategy

Bernie Sanders, a man whose “record on civil rights is unimpeachable. It spans seven decades. It began with open housing protests in Chicago, the nut even Dr. King couldn't crack. It is a straight line from those protests to his support of marriage equality today. It is consistent and it is admirable. And it somehow hasn't been enough.” — Charles Pierce

So, Bernie Sanders, who has stood for equality and peace all his life, is to be painted as racist and sexist so that Hillary Clinton, who participated in William Clinton’s racist campaign (look up “Sister Souljah”) and gutted the welfare system, which has failed in the new depression, putting, especially, black families at risk, can win the Democratic nomination.

I think it is going to work. In working, it will tear a rift in the Democratic left that probably will not ever be healed. It may even cost the Democrats the election. How will anyone on the left with any integrity support a candidate who has done that? And yet who wants to see President Trump, Cruz, or Rubio?

I think it will end up that Clinton will have to win this election with a deeply divided party, and without the efforts and perhaps even votes of many people who might have stood with her.

To Hippie-Punching Clinton Supporters

I wish you guys would stop. "Berniebros" is just the latest iteration of that. (I know there are real ones. I also know there aren't very many of them and Sanders reviles them.) The DFHs have been right much more than wrong. And why should the DFHs or the Sanders supporters fall into line when they've every reason to expect to get stiffed, not by Clinton's supporters but by Clinton herself?

Then there's Dolores Huerta and her chanting Berniebots, who don't seem to exist.
At 55:18 the caucus moderator (not Sanders' supporters) simply stated that the inability to locate a neutral translator meant the caucus would continue in "English only." At no point did any Sanders supporters appear to have refused a translator based on the fact that translation was objectionable to them; nor was "English only" used in a pejorative fashion. — Snopes
At best, Heurta let her expectations alter her perceptions and memories. She has spread a falsehood, like many of those about Hillary Clinton, that will never be entirely discredited.

Obama, now, he did great things on civil rights: gay marriage, all these things. But these touched none of the issues of income inequality and their links to racism. Because of the inadequate action on employment and the mortgage crisis, African-Americans unemployment skyrocketed and African-Americans were thrown out of their homes by the thousands. Obama signature success, the ACA, was achieved by making vast concessions to the 1% and Hillary Clinton thinks well of it, seems to feel she had a part in it.

But so many feminist issues — and as far as I can tell, Hillary Clinton is a sincere feminist — are issues of class. They necessarily come into conflict with the desires of the 1%. Obama resolved a similar conflict by simply not addressing the racial component of inequity. I wonder how Hillary Clinton will resolve it.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

To Krugman, on "Worried Wonks."

(Posted in comments on Krugman's article, "Worried Wonks.")

Kraw…I think you are right. These are not minor figures, or conservative cranks.

Problem is, this now fits the narrative we've seen from so many conservative economists, the "nothing can be done about inequity, or unemployment, or health care, or anything that is not of interest to the very wealthy." Naturally, Sanders supporters are suspicious. I think, to answer that claim, liberal economists have to make the case by providing an alternative.

Let's start with health care. You recently asked "Who hates Obamacare?" One of the answers is "an awful lot of people on the Exchanges." For some people, the Exchanges are a godsend. For lot of them, though, they offer insurance that can barely be afforded on such terms that it can only be used at great need. In addition, the insurance companies who operate the system make more profits if care is more expensive, so there is no financial incentive to reduce the high costs of the US system.

So propose a realistic alternative: let's see something that doesn't hammer the working poor, who are often young (and Sanders supporters, funny thing about that) and takes the cost-raising incentives out of the system. It would be nice if brought insurance industry profits down to something reasonable as well; 15-20% gross, near-guaranteed by the government, is a bit much.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sanders: Asking For A Pony

First politician evah to promise more than he can deliver? Oh, noes!

There are complaints from credible sources that Sanders economic proposals are over-optimistic, and not just from a few cranks. They probably are, but, hey, if you ask for a pony you just might get something good, even if you don't get a pony.

Look at what the other candidates will deliver. Clinton, we may reasonably expect to deliver war and nothing on employment, health care, and housing. The Republicans will deliver even more wars, a police state, and an economic collapse or else military Keynesianism. I'll take a Sanders compromise any day, though I will admit that Clinton is likely to fight the good fight for women's rights and against the radical right, which she has every reason to hate. Still, I don't want to vote for a candidate who defends that war criminal Kissinger. Is there no point at which the lesser evil is too evil to abide?

Lawrence Summers thinks we are in  a prolonged period of low growth and high unemployment — what economists call "secular stagnation" — is real and advocates fiscal policy to fight it. This major mainstream economist is now advocating redistribution as policy.

Returning to the subject at hand, which of the Presidential candidates is most likely to support non-military fiscal policy as a response to secular stagnation?

(Adapted from my remarks in comments at Balloon Juice.)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Who Hates Obamacare?

Most of the people who buy insurance from the exchanges. (You've got to stop handing us straight lines, Professor Krugman.) At the low end, people are required to spend scarce cash on insurance; at the high end people are required to buy insurance and then pay for most of their care anyway. It's a miserly system and a much better deal for the insurance companies than for most of the people in the system.

The way I explain it is that a tent and and a place to pitch it is infinitely better than sleeping on the street, but most of us would really rather have a house with walls, heat, and insulation.  And then you get the supercilious misers who tell us that they themselves are wonderful for giving us a tent and we should be grateful for it!

If Clinton would campaign for, say, more regulation on health insurance companies and real price controls, she would probably have a case for preserving the privatized system. It would be a sensible market reform to outlaw the mergers that are making health insurance  a national oligopoly. But her funders would abandon her in a shot. I remember the process of the writing of the PPACA, and how any cost-control measures that might have cut into the profits of the health insurance industry were removed from the final bill.

There is a central contradiction in relying on private insurers to in the US system: insurers get a percentage of health care spending, so they have no incentive to reduce those expenses, and every incentive to encourage price rises.  There are reforms that could improve matters, but will they go anywhere in a political system so heavily influenced by the financial services industry?

[Minor changes 2016.02.16]

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

False Hope in Democratic Politics

I do not believe that Clinton will suddenly turn into a liberal when elected any more than Obama did. There is false hope in that. She has a record of supporting conservative measures in both economics and foreign policy and solid Wall Street support in her Presidential candidacy. Her feminism, at least, somewhat leavens her conservatism. She seems to be Wall Street's Democratic candidate; their hedge if someone like Rubio does not become President.

Sanders, on the other hand, cannot possibly deliver on his policy proposals unless somehow the whole Congress is overturned. I think he knows it, too, and will compromise when push comes to shove. But how will the public react to that? Senators are expected to compromise; Presidents are expected to lead. Still, Sanders, with his 25 years in Congress pushing for incremental reform has a damn good record as a liberal reformer, while Clinton, with much more history as an appointed than elected official, has a poor one.

It may not matter. Foreign policy and domestic immigration policy may dominate both the election and the next Presidency, making all these issues moot. But there is much false hope for liberals. Clinton supporters hope she will turn into an economic liberal, which seems unlikely, and Sanders supporters hope he will somehow be able to get sweeping reforms through a Congress that has charged off a cliff to the right, which also seems unlikely.

Maybe the best possible outcome is for Hillary Clinton to become President, the Republicans to self-destruct, and the Sanders campaign to go on to found a new liberal party.

Monday, February 1, 2016

We created the Jobs

[Notes to defenders of the Obama administration's record on job creation]

Basic Stance

Let's give ourselves credit for creating the jobs and finding our way in a new, tougher economy. This administration hasn't done nothing.

If the economy had fallen over, if the banks had been let to fail, things would have been much worse; it would have been 1930 over again. At least the Administration acted on that. But the banks which made the problem got bailed out. One banker, I think, was prosecuted. And all the while the rest of us were left to scramble for a living. A lot of us lost our homes, especially a lot of blacks, who were targeted by the mortgage fraudsters.

Unh-unh. There's been good things about this administration. But not going to give them cred for the employment recovery; they did the minimum, not anything that deserves accolades.


On claims that employment is good

Oh, you mean like the claim that employment is good, when 5% of the public still wishes it could find work? (Just mouse over the chart, subtract U-3 from U-6.) And that the Obama administration somehow created jobs when it did almost everything possible to avoid doing that? And that doesn't even count the people who are working the s..t jobs that are most of what have been created since the depression started.

(Then there's minority and youth unemployment, which is awful. The numbers for black youth are heartbreaking.)

The definition of U-6

Where you get that s..t from? Here's the definition of U-6, straight from the horse's mouth: "Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force."

The standard definition of unemployment, also known as U-3, is a measure for good times, not during a deep depression.