Published online 28 January 2016.
The topic of this diary will be the Washington Post’s recent editorial board’s piece, “Bernie Sanders’ Fiction-Filled Campaign.” Here I hope to examine the main arguments presented by the good people at the Washington Post. Below I’ve blockquoted, and responded to, the WaPo’s main arguments.
Let’s begin. Against the Sanders plan for reining in the banks, the editorial board says:
Here is a reality check: Wall Street has already undergone a round of reform, significantly reducing the risks big banks pose to the financial system.
The editorial board at WaPo doesn’t really examine the Sanders argument, undergirding the candidate’s plan, that the regulatory bodies are affected by regulatory capture — which is to say that the regulators and the regulated are drawn from the same pool of people, and so current regulation still fails to curb “too big to fail.” James Kwak confronts the problem of regulatory capture in his critique of the “Clinton Plan” for dealing with banks. Writing more rules which won’t be enforced, he argues, just extends the fiction that they will be enforced. Do the Post board members think there is no regulatory capture at work within the system, and that the Fed really is keeping the banks in line?
And then I have to ask about this one:
The evolution and structure of the world economy, not mere corporate deck-stacking, explained many of the big economic challenges the country still faces.
So there are maybe about 80 people as rich as half the world. We can call it “evolution and structure,” or “deck-stacking,” but the real question is one of whether or not we support or oppose it.
The editorial continues with a discussion of Sanders’ ideas on health care:
He admits that he would have to raise taxes on the middle class in order to pay for his universal, Medicare-for-all health-care plan, and he promises massive savings on health-care costs that would translate into generous benefits for ordinary people, putting them well ahead, on net. But he does not adequately explain where those massive savings would come from.
It shouldn’t be terribly difficult to figure out, in defense of Sanders, how the rest of the industrialized world (or at least that portion of it with single-payer health planning) pays significantly less for its medical care than does the United States. Plenty of work on this matter has already been done.
He would be a braver truth-teller if he explained how he would go about rationing health care like European countries do.
Here in the US the consumers do their own rationing, skipping needed medical services because the deductibles are too high. Meanwhile Canada is rationing non-necessary procedures while using need, and not financial status, as a criterion for rationing. Is it not rationing if you can’t afford it?
Meanwhile, when asked how Mr. Sanders would tackle future deficits, as he would already be raising taxes for health-care expansion and the rest of his program, his advisers claimed that more government spending “will result in higher growth, which will improve our fiscal situation.” This resembles Republican arguments that tax cuts will juice the economy and pay for themselves — and is equally fanciful.
What’s fanciful is the “omigod deficits” argument the Washington Post borrows from the Peterson Foundation. Why again are we supposed to worry about deficits? Drastically reducing them is a good way to tank the economy. Is it that the masses need to remain poor or something, so their government can’t spend money on them?
Mr. Sanders tops off his narrative with a deus ex machina: He assures Democrats concerned about the political obstacles in the way of his agenda that he will lead a “political revolution” that will help him clear the capital of corruption and influence-peddling. This self-regarding analysis implies a national consensus favoring his agenda when there is none
I’m sure that the Important People will dissent from any “national consensus” favoring a political revolution against the present-day control of government (and grooming of candidates) by America’s wealthiest few. So what? Should we continue to have our policies made, and our candidates chosen, by billionaires? The political class of the status quo has completely failed to address climate change in any significant way, making voluntary “promises” before going back on them. Is that unimportant?
And, more centrally for my review of this Washington Post editorial, is the Sanders campaign in fact “fiction-filled”? Any movement intended to change things beyond small-scale adjustment is going to begin in fiction before it becomes fact. Before real change can be enacted it must be imagined. On the other hand, one can also imagine about what will be done in the society of money with all of those Clinton speaking fees..