A Different Perspective About Bernie

Everywhere I look, I see pundits opining that Bernie Sanders is the worst possible choice for Democrats, that he is too far left, that moderates will never vote for him, that he cannot possibly beat Donald Trump.  It disturbs me to see even the democrats writing such drivel, but I hadn’t been able to come up with my own well-reasoned response, though I knew there was one somewhere inside this head, if only I could find it.  Well, once again Robert Reich comes to the rescue!

Calm down, establishment Democrats. Bernie Sanders might be the safest choice.
“Moderate” candidates won’t be electable if they can’t speak to middle- and working-class frustrations.

Robert Reich-4Right after Sen. Bernie Sanders’s big win in last week’s Nevada caucuses, Joe Lockhart, President Bill Clinton’s former press secretary, expressed the fear gripping the Democratic establishment in an op-ed for CNN: “I don’t believe the country is prepared to support a Democratic socialist, and I agree with the theory that Sanders would lose in a matchup against Trump.”

Like much of the party establishment, he is viewing American politics through outmoded lenses of left versus right, with Sanders (I-Vt.) on the far left and President Trump on the far right. So-called moderates such as former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg supposedly occupy the political center, appealing to a broader swath of the electorate.

This may have been the correct frame for politics decades ago, when America still had a growing middle class, but it’s obsolete today. As wealth and power have moved to the top and the middle class has shrunk, more Americans feel politically disempowered and economically insecure. Today’s main divide isn’t left versus right. It’s establishment versus anti-establishment.

Some background: In the fall of 2015, I visited Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Missouri and North Carolina, researching the changing nature of work for my book, “The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It.” I spoke with many of the same people I had met two decades prior, when I was secretary of labor, as well as some of their grown children. I asked them about their jobs and their views about the economy. I was most interested in their sense of our system as a whole and how they were faring in it.

What I heard surprised me. Twenty years before, most said they had been working hard and were frustrated that they weren’t doing better. Now they were angry — at their employers, the government and Wall Street; angry that they had not been able to save adequately for retirement, and that their children weren’t doing any better. Several had lost jobs, savings or homes during the Great Recession. By the time I spoke with them, most were employed, but the jobs hardly paid any more than they had years before.

I heard the phrase “rigged system” so often that I began asking people what they meant by it. They spoke about the bailout of the banks, political payoffs, insider deals and out-of-control CEO pay. The resentments came from self-identified Republicans, Democrats and independents; white, black, Latino and Asian American; union households and non-union. The common thread was that everyone was either middle or working class.

With the 2016 primaries on the horizon, I asked which candidates they found most attractive. At the time, party leaders favored Democratic former secretary of state Hillary Clinton or former Florida Republican governor Jeb Bush. But the people I spoke with repeatedly mentioned Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. They said Sanders or Trump would “shake things up,” “make the system work again,” “stop the corruption” or “end the rigging.”

The next year, Sanders — a Jewish, 74-year-old Vermonter and self-described Democratic socialist — barely lost to Clinton in the Iowa caucuses, beat her decisively in the New Hampshire primary, garnered 47 percent of the caucus-goers in Nevada and ended up with 45 percent of the pledged delegates from Democratic primaries and caucuses.

Trump, then a 69-year-old egomaniacal maybe-billionaire and reality TV star who had never held office and never had any previous standing in the Republican Party, won the GOP primaries and then went on to beat Clinton (though not, of course, in the popular vote), one of the most experienced and well-connected politicians in modern America.

It was seismic, and it cannot be fully explained by Sanders’s or Trump’s appeal to their core base voters. It was a rebellion against the establishment. Clinton and Bush started with all the advantages, but neither could credibly convince voters they were not part of the system.

A direct line connected decades of stagnant wages, the 2008 financial crisis, the rise of the tea party and the occupy movement and the emergence of Sanders and Trump in 2016. The people I spoke with no longer felt they had a fair chance to make it. National polls told much the same story: According to the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who felt most people could get ahead through hard work dropped by 13 points between 2000 and 2015. In 2006, according to Gallup, 59 percent of Americans thought government corruption was widespread; by 2013, 79 percent did.

Trump galvanized millions of blue-collar voters living in places that never recovered from the tidal wave of factory closings. He promised to bring back jobs, revive manufacturing and get tough on trade and immigration. “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country, and that’s what they’re doing,” he roared. “Five, 10 years from now — different party. You’re going to have a workers’ party,” he forecast. “A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry.” He blasted politicians and financiers who “took away from the people their means of making a living and supporting their families.”

Trump’s populist pose, of course, was one of the biggest cons in American political history. Since his election he has given the denizens of C-suites and boardrooms almost everything they’ve wanted and hasn’t markedly improved the lives of his working-class supporters, even if his politically incorrect, in-your-face style continues to make many feel as if he’s taking on the system.

The frustrations today are larger than they were four years ago. Even though corporate profits and executive pay have soared, the typical worker’s pay has barely risen, jobs are less secure, and health care less affordable.

The best way for Democrats to defeat Trump’s fake populism is with the real thing, coupled with an agenda of systemic reform. This is what Sanders offers. For that reason, he has the best chance of generating the energy and enthusiasm needed to regain the White House.

He will need a coalition of young voters, people of color and the white working class. He seems on his way: In Nevada, according to entrance polls, he won with Latino voters and white voters, women and men, college and non-college graduates. He was the first choice of every age group except for over-65. Nationally, he is narrowing former vice president Joe Biden’s edge with African American voters.

In a general election, Republicans would surely do everything they can to tag Sanders with the “socialist” label. But that hasn’t hurt him so far, partly because it doesn’t come with the stigma it once did.

And worries about a Nixon-McGovern-like blowout in 2020 seem far-fetched. In 1972, the middle class was expanding, not contracting. Polls currently show Sanders tied with or beating Trump: A Quinnipiac poll released last week shows Sanders beating Trump head-to-head in Michigan and Pennsylvania (but shows Trump beating all Democrats head-to-head in Wisconsin). A CBS News-YouGov poll released this week has Sanders beating Trump nationally.

Instead of hand-wringing about Sanders’s electability, maybe establishment Democrats should worry that a “moderate” Democrat might be nominated instead.

Think about it …

Robert Reich’s View On Bloomberg

Yesterday, I shared Jeff’s post about the possibility of Michael Bloomberg becoming the democratic nominee for the office of president.  While he is not my first choice, I do accept that if he manages to buy the nomination, I will certainly do everything in my power to help him beat the megalomaniacal incumbent.  Robert Reich, whose views I greatly respect and whose work I have shared here before, rings in on Michael Bloomberg as a candidate, and I think there is value in hearing a variety of opinions, so I am sharing his latest.  It’s a bit longer than my usual, but well worth the time.

Michael Bloomberg is trying to buy the presidency – that should set off alarms
Robert Reich

Robert ReichWe haven’t seen his name on any of the ballots in the first four states, but that’s about to change. I’m talking, of course, about multibillionaire presidential hopeful Michael Bloomberg.

Bloomberg has a chance of winning the presidency because his net worth is more than $60bn.

The yearly return on $60bn is at least $2bn – which is what Bloomberg says he’ll pour into buying the highest office in the land. It’s hardly a sacrifice for him, but it’s a huge sacrifice for American democracy.

Encouraged by the murky outcome from the Iowa caucuses and the notable lack of enthusiasm for Joe Biden, Bloomberg has decided to double his spending on TV commercials in every market where he is currently advertising, and expand his campaign field staff to more than 2,000.

He’s not competing in the first four states with caucuses and primaries but focusing instead on 3 March. So-called Super Tuesday will be more super than ever because it now includes California, Texas, Virginia, Minnesota, North Carolina and Massachusetts – a third of all delegates to the Democratic convention.

“It’s much more efficient to go to the big states, to go to the swing states,” Bloomberg told the New York Times. “The others chose to compete in the first four. And nobody makes them do it, they wanted to do it. I think part of it is because the conventional wisdom is, ‘Oh you can’t possibly win without them.’”

Later, he added: “Those are old rules.”

Yes, and the new rules are also to spend billions of your own money, if you have it.

In January alone Bloomberg spent more than $300m on advertising for his campaign. That’s more than Hillary Clinton spent on advertising during her entire presidential run in 2016. It’s multiples of what all other Democratic candidates have spent, leaving even Tom Steyer, another billionaire, in the dust.

The heart of Bloomberg’s campaign message is that he has enough money to blow Trump out of the water. As if to demonstrate this, Bloomberg bought a $10m Super Bowl ad that slammed Trump in the middle of the big game, then bashed Trump again in a national ad just hours before the State of the Union address.

“The Real State of the Union? A nation divided by an angry, out of control president,” a narrator says. “A White House besotted by lies, chaos and corruption.”

If Trump’s tweets are any barometer, Bloomberg’s tactics are getting under the thin-skinned president’s fragile epidermis. According to one Trump adviser, the president “thinks that money goes a long way” and those who believe Bloomberg has no hope are “underestimating him”. Another says Trump “takes money seriously. He’s a businessman.”

The Democratic National Committee is ready to boost Bloomberg into the top tier. Last Friday it abandoned one of its criteria for getting on to the coveted debate stage – the individual-donor threshold, which was used for the first eight debates including this week’s event in New Hampshire – presumably because Bloomberg doesn’t take donations.

To participate in the 19 February debate in Las Vegas, candidates will need to show at least 10% support in four polls released from 15 January to 18 February. Three candidates have met that threshold: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Bloomberg’s wall-to-wall advertising is giving him a good shot.

Last Monday he tied with Warren for third place in a Morning Consult tracking poll. He’s in the top four in many Super Tuesday states. In Texas and North Carolina, he has overtaken Pete Buttigieg for fourth. He has the third-highest polling average in Florida, ahead of Warren, and fourth-highest in Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, whose primaries all fall after Super Tuesday. In the past week, polls have Bloomberg tied for second in New York and trailing only Biden in Missouri. He was also fourth in a Suffolk University poll of Utah, at 13%.

Amazing what money will buy, if there’s enough of it.

Bloomberg has some attractive public policy ideas: he’s for gun control, he wants to reverse climate change and he’s unveiled a plan to raise an estimated $5tn of new tax revenue from high earners and corporations, including a repeal of Trump’s 2017 tax cuts and a new 5% “surcharge” on incomes above $5m a year.

But he’s also a champion of Wall Street. He fought against the milquetoast reforms following the near-meltdown of 2008. His personal fortune is every bit as opaque as Trump’s. Through his dozen years as mayor of New York he refused to disclose his federal taxes. Even as a candidate for president, he still hasn’t given a date for their release. And, let’s not forget, he’s trying to buy the presidency.

America has had some talented and capable presidents who were enormously wealthy – Franklin D Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt, John F Kennedy, for example. The problem lies at the nexus of wealth and power, where those with great wealth use it to gain great power. This is how oligarchy destroys democracy.

The word “oligarchy” comes from the Greek word oligarkhes, meaning “few to rule or command”. It refers to a government of and by a few exceedingly rich people or families who control the major institutions of society. Oligarchs may try to hide their power behind those institutions, or excuse their power through philanthropy and “corporate social responsibility”. But no one should be fooled. An oligarchy is not a democracy.

Even a system that calls itself a democracy can become an oligarchy if power becomes concentrated in the hands of a corporate and financial elite. Their power and wealth increase over time as they make laws that favor themselves, manipulate financial markets to their advantage, and create or exploit economic monopolies that put even more wealth into their pockets.

Since 1980, the share of America’s wealth owned by the richest 400 Americans has quadrupled while the share owned by the entire bottom half of America has declined. The richest 130,000 families in America now own nearly as much as the bottom 90% – 117 million families – combined. The three richest Americans own as much as the entire bottom half of the population. According to Forbes, Michael Bloomberg is the eighth richest.

All this has been accompanied by a dramatic increase in the political power of the super-wealthy and an equally dramatic decline in the political influence of everyone else. Unlike income or wealth, power is a zero-sum game. The more of it at the top, the less of it anywhere else.

In the election cycle of 2016, the richest one-hundredth of 1% of Americans – 24,949 extraordinarily wealthy people – accounted for a record 40% of all campaign contributions. By contrast, in 1980 the top 0.01% accounted for only 15% of all contributions.

Make no mistake: the frustrations and insecurities that fueled Trump’s rise – and are still the basis of his support – have their origin in this power shift, which has left most Americans with a small slice of the nation’s prosperity and almost no voice in its politics.

A half-century ago, when America had a large and growing middle class, those on the left wanted stronger social safety nets and more public investment in schools, roads and research. Those on the right sought greater reliance on the free market.

But as power and wealth have moved to the top, everyone else – whether on the old right or the old left – has become disempowered and less secure. Today the great divide is not between left and right. It’s between democracy and oligarchy.

Bloomberg is indubitably part of that oligarchy. That should not automatically disqualify him but it should set off alarms. If the only way we can get rid of the sociopathic tyrant named Trump is with an oligarch named Bloomberg, we will have to choose the oligarch. Yet I hope it doesn’t come to that. Oligarchy is better than tyranny. But neither is as good as democracy.

Some Food For Thought …

Like many of you, I’m extremely disappointed in the events of the past few days … the Iowa caucus chaos, the State of the Union reality show, and of course the Senate’s unconscionable acquittal of the most corrupt and criminal president in history.  To say that I’m discouraged would be an understatement.  I am overwhelmed, burned out by the onslaught of news and the number of times the face of the ugliest man in history has cropped up on my computer screen.  I’ve spent the last three hours trying to pull together a meaningful post, and finally gave up … decided there would be no morning post on Filosofa’s Word today.  But then, I stumbled across Robert Reich’s latest video.  I’ve shared his work before … he is intelligent, well experienced in government, and has a good head on his shoulders.

This video is from Tuesday, the day of the State of the Union address, and in it, Reich puts forth some thought-provoking premises about why we are where we are today, and what Democrats must do in order to beat Trump in November.  Much of what he says, we have all talked about before, but he puts it all together in a way that makes us stop and think for a moment.  Now if only we can get the democratic candidates to watch the video!

Take a look, let me know your thoughts, and I hope to get a bit of sleep and come out of the rabbit hole in time for my afternoon post.

The Downward Slide …

I ask you to watch the following short (just over 3 minutes) video clip by Robert Reich, explaining six ways in which the United States is becoming less like an industrialized nation and more like a third world, or developing nation.  Take a look, and then we’ll talk a bit about it.

To that, I would add a couple:

  • Gun violence – The U.S. leads the developed world in firearm-related murders, and the difference isn’t a slight gap – more like a chasm. According to United Nations data, the U.S. has 20 times more murders than the developed world average. Our murder rate also dwarfs many developing nations, like Iraq, which has a murder rate less than half ours. More than half of the deadliest mass shootings documented in the past 50 years around the world occurred in the United States, and 73 percent of the killers in the U.S. obtained their weapons legally.

  • Healthcare – In many areas of the U.S., especially in the deep South, life expectancy is lower than in Algeria, Nicaragua or Bangladesh. The U.S. is the only developed country that does not guarantee health care to its citizens; even after the Affordable Care Act, millions of poor remained uninsured because governors, mainly Republicans, refused to expand Medicaid, which provides health insurance for low-income Americans. And now, of course, Trump has chipped away at ACA such that it covers far fewer people than it did three years ago.

  • Education – The U.S. education system is plagued with structural racial biases, like the fact that schools are funded at the local, rather than national level. That means that schools attended by poor black people get far less funding than the schools attended by wealthier students. The Department of Education has confirmed that schools with high concentrations of poor students have lower levels of funding. It’s no wonder the U.S. has one of the highest achievement gaps between upper income and low-income students, as measured by the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). Schools today are actually more racially segregated than they were in the 1970s. Our higher education system is unique among developed nations in that is funded almost entirely privately, by debt.

Truth is, I could probably think of more, but Mr. Reich’s clip pretty much cover the worst of the problems in this country.  Most of the situations described by Mr. Reich and listed above did not happen overnight but have been building up for years or even decades.  The gun culture has been with us since the start, but has become worse with the enhanced influence of the NRA and legal access by civilians to military-style assault weapons.

Reich’s first point, that political power is concentrated in the hands of the wealthy, is a direct result of the Supreme Court’s ‘Citizens United’ ruling in 2010, when the Court ruled that to limit donations to political campaigns was an infringement on the 1st Amendment right to free speech.  Thus, large corporations with money to burn can now effectively buy our politicians.

His third point, that those in power stoke racial, ethnic and religious tensions, is the one that I lay directly at the door of Donald Trump, for he has been doing just this since the day he announced his candidacy back in 2015.  He has stoked fear of ‘other’, has played into the hands of the religious right, has adopted policies that are discriminatory by nature.  Divide and conquer.

All in all, while the U.S. economy appears to be stable, while Trump has touted the economy as his accomplishment (it isn’t, for the current economic upswing started with the Obama administration after the 2007-2008 financial crisis), and while unemployment is very low, the average working class family is no better off today than they were ten years, or even twenty years ago.  The wealthy, on the other hand, are reaping the fruits of our labours in lower taxes and increased wealth.

Meanwhile … since the wealthy and giant corporations are paying almost no taxes, benefits to the rest of us are being cut, and still the national debt continues to grow.  Folks, this is not sustainable.  This nation cannot simply keep on giving money to the rich, cutting benefits to the poor, and owing more and more money to both its citizens and other nations.  The U.S. was once respected by other nations and appreciated by its citizens.  Overall, neither of those things are true today. banana republic-4The question becomes, then, how do We the People make the necessary changes to put this country back on the right path?  There is no simple panacea, but we start by voting out those politicians who are indebted to special interests and the wealthy.  We stop supporting politicians who are in the pockets of the NRA, fossil fuel industries, and others.  We use our vote to express our displeasure, to make changes.  If we don’t, then I promise you we will continue on this downhill slide toward a banana republic, as Mr. Reich said.

Think about it.

The Rich Get Richer …

Last night, I came across a short piece by Robert Reich, whose work I’ve shared here before.  I hadn’t, to the best of my knowledge, heard of Paul Singer before, so after reading Reich’s piece, I did some digging.  Paul Singer is one nasty man … a very wealthy, nasty man.

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich
27 December at 19:40

From time to time, I’m going to write in some detail about how the American oligarchy is shafting Americans by siphoning up the wealth of the nation for itself and corrupting our politics. Please let me know if you find these short summaries helpful.

Today’s example: Billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott Management hedge fund, which has launched a campaign to lay off workers, sell off key assets, and extract huge short-term profits at AT&T – the iconic $270 billion company with 257,000 employees.Paul SingerSinger wants AT&T to save up to $10 billion a year by outsourcing jobs, closing corporate retail stores and outsourcing to dealers, selling off assets (such as its Puerto Rican network).

And instead of using these savings to invest in better services and high-speed broadband internet, Singer wants AT&T to buy back its stock in order to get higher short-term share prices – a boon to Singer’s hedge fund, which has been buying up AT&T.

If Singer succeeds, he will hollow out a major U.S. employer and critical provider of broadband and wireless services.

Singer’s Elliott Management is a leading vulture capitalist with a track record of destroying jobs, reducing wages, abandoning communities, and pumping up share prices in the short term.

Its wrecking ball is worldwide. One of Singer’s few unsuccessful campaigns, to block a merger within Samsung, eventually led to the impeachment and imprisonment of the South Korean President after Singer’s opponents became so desperate to fend off his attack that they allegedly began bribing government officials.

Singer’s ventures generated average annual returns of almost 14 percent, making him and his executives hugely wealthy. The mere news that Elliott has invested in a company often causes its stock price to go up—creating even more wealth for him and his hedge fund. Singer’s own net worth is $3.5 billion.

Singer has been investing some of his riches in Republican politics. In the 2016 election he contributed $24 million, and continues to donate to the Republican National Committee and to individual Republican congressional candidates. Singer contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inauguration, and the two have met at the White House, at Trump’s request.

Not surprisingly, many policies enacted under Trump and Senate Republicans have benefitted Singer — including corporate tax cuts, the shrinking of governmental agencies, and the aggressive elimination of regulations, particularly in the financial industry.

This is how the American oligarchy works, friends.

And now, let me tell you just a bit more about Mr. Paul Singer …

Singer made a lot of his money by purchasing sovereign debt from financially-distressed countries, usually at a massive discount. Once a country’s economy regained some stability, Singer would bombard its government with lawsuits, until he made his money back with interest. The practice is called vulture capitalism — feeding off the carcass of a dying nation.

Over the past couple of decades, Elliott has made billions by buying large stakes in American companies, firing workers, driving up short-term share prices, and in some cases, taking government bailouts. Bloomberg News has described Singer as “the world’s most feared investor,” which tells you a lot.

Some countries, including the United Kingdom, have banned this kind of behavior. It bears no resemblance to the capitalism we were taught about in school. It creates nothing. It destroys entire cities. It couldn’t be uglier or more destructive. So why is it still allowed in this country? Because people like Paul Singer have tremendous influence over our political process. Singer himself was the second biggest donor to the Republican Party in 2016. He’s given millions to a super PAC that supports Republican senators. You may never have heard of Paul Singer. But in Washington, he’s rock star famous. That may be why he’s almost certainly paying a lower effective tax rate than you or me. Just in case you’re still wondering if the system is rigged.

In October 2015, Singer’s hedge fund disclosed an 11 percent stake in Cabela’s, the sporting goods retailer, and set about pushing the board to sell the company.  Cabela’s management, fearing a long and costly fight with Singer, announced it would look for a buyer. At the time, Cabela’s was healthy. The company was posting nearly $2 billion a year in gross profits, off $4 billion in revenue. There was no immediate need to sell. But they did anyway. One year after Singer entered the equation, Bass Pro Shops announced the purchase of Cabela’s. The company’s stock price surged. Within a week, Singer cashed out. He’d bought the stock for $38 a share. He sold it for $63. His hedge fund made at least $90 million up front, and likely more over time.

But in Sidney, Nebraska, it was a very different story. The residents of Sidney didn’t get rich. Just the opposite. Their community was destroyed. The town lost nearly 2,000 jobs. A heartbreakingly familiar cascade began: people left, property values collapsed, and then people couldn’t leave. They were trapped there. One of the last thriving small towns in America went under.

Oh … one last thing … in case you were wondering, Trump applauds Singer’s investment in AT&T, which owns CNN …

Singer-Trump

Still think you’re living in a “democracy”?

Give Us Back Our Elections …

One of my pet peeves is the 2010 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission (FEC), in which the Court ruled that the free speech clause of the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for political communications by corporations, including nonprofit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.  In a nutshell, it opened the door to unlimited donations by wealthy corporations, such lobbying groups as the NRA, and others to basically buy our politicians.  This is why we have a Congress that is unwilling to enact gun regulations, despite the fact that some 80% of the people in this country are in favour of such things as enhanced background checks and a ban on assault weapons.  This is why our very lives are placed at risk by the rolling back of environmental regulations that are so crucial to preserving life on earth.  And this is why there is an ever-widening income gap between the billionaires and the rest of us who live payday to payday.  And this is why ours is no longer a government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’, but rather of, by, and for only the wealthy and powerful people.

I have featured Robert Reich on this blog a few times before.  He is an economist, professor, author, and political commentator. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. He was Secretary of Labor from 1993 to 1997. He was a member of President Barack Obama’s economic transition advisory board.  He, better than most, understand the inner workings of our government.  Sans partisanship, he explains why we simply must overturn Citizens United, must get the big money out of politics, and return our elections to We the People.  Please take three minutes to watch …

Robert Reich And The Founding Fathers Speak

Many people who support Trump, both in and out of government, claim that what Trump has done is not an impeachable offense.  Some even go so far as to claim his extortion of the Ukrainian president, holding up much-needed military support in exchange for President Zelenskyy announcing he would investigate Trump’s rival Joe Biden, is “business as usual”.  I can talk until I’m blue in the face, and those people will say I’m just a sore loser, still angry because Hillary Clinton didn’t win in 2016.  They’d be wrong … Hillary actually did win by nearly 3 million votes.  The unfair skewing of districts in many states, however, handed Trump enough undeserved electoral votes to carry him into the Oval Office.

But, about impeachment … though I studied Constitutional Law for two years, and have read the Constitution probably 30-40 times, I am not an expert on Constitutional Law.  But I know of someone who is.

Robert Reich-4

Robert Reich

Robert Reich is an American economist, professor, author, and political commentator. He served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. He was Secretary of Labor from 1993 to 1997. He was a member of President Barack Obama’s economic transition advisory board.

Reich has been the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at UC Berkeley since January 2006. He was formerly a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and professor of social and economic policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management of Brandeis University.

Suffice it to say that this man knows how government works, and knows the Constitution far better than, say, a president who has never read the short, 8.000-word document.  So, let’s hear what Mr. Reich has to say about whether what Trump has done is impeachable.

Above The Law???

Trump says the Mueller report exonerates him, that it proves there was ‘no collusion, no obstruction’.  Those of us who can both read and think know better.  We know the Mueller report, in fact, proves that at the very least, Trump did attempt on multiple occasions to obstruct justice, to interfere with an ongoing investigation.

Today, Trump is still obstructing justice with his refusal to turn over his tax returns or financial records, his threatening and bullying those who have been subpoenaed by congressional committees, and more.  As usual, Robert Reich chimes in with words of wisdom …

In Fighting All Oversight, Trump Has Made His Most Dictatorial Move

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich

The president is treating Congress with contempt. This cannot stand – and Congress must fight back

Sun 28 Apr 2019 01.00 EDT

“We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” says the person who is supposed to be chief executive of the United States government.

In other words, there is to be no congressional oversight of this administration: no questioning officials who played a role in putting a citizenship question on the 2020 census. No questioning a former White House counsel about the Mueller report.

No questioning a Trump adviser about immigration policy. No questioning a former White House security director about issuances of security clearances.

No presidential tax returns to the ways and means committee, even though a 1920s law specifically authorizes the committee to get them.

Such a blanket edict fits a dictator of a banana republic, not the president of a constitutional republic founded on separation of powers.

If Congress cannot question the people who are making policy, or obtain critical documents, Congress cannot function as a coequal branch of government.

If Congress cannot get information about the executive branch, there is no longer any separation of powers, as sanctified in the US constitution.

There is only one power – the power of the president to rule as he wishes.

Which is what Donald Trump has sought all along.

The only relevant question is how stop this dictatorial move. And let’s be clear: this is a dictatorial move.

The man whose aides cooperated, shall we say, with Russia – the man who still refuses to do anything at all about Russia’s continued interference in the American political system – refuses to cooperate with a branch of the United States government that the Constitution requires him to cooperate with in order that the government function.

Presidents before Trump occasionally have argued that complying with a particular subpoena for a particular person or document would infringe upon confidential deliberations within the executive branch. But no president before Trump has used “executive privilege” as a blanket refusal to cooperate.

How should Congress respond to this dictatorial move?

Trump is treating Congress with contempt – just as he has treated other democratic institutions that have sought to block him.

Congress should invoke its inherent power under the constitution to hold any official who refuses a congressional subpoena in contempt. This would include departmental officials who refuse to appear, as well as Trump aides. (Let’s hold off on the question of whether Congress can literally hold Trump in contempt, which could become a true constitutional crisis.)

“Contempt” of Congress is an old idea based on the inherent power of Congress to get the information it needs to carry out its constitutional duties. Congress cannot function without this power.

How to enforce it? Under its inherent power, the House can order its own sergeant-at-arms to arrest the offender, subject him to a trial before the full House, and, if judged to be in contempt, jail that person until he appears before the House and brings whatever documentation the House has subpoenaed.

When President Richard Nixon tried to stop key aides from testifying in the Senate Watergate hearings, in 1973, Senator Sam Ervin, chairman of the Watergate select committee, threatened to jail anyone who refused to appear.

Congress hasn’t actually carried through on the threat since 1935 – but it could.

Would America really be subject to the spectacle of the sergeant-at-arms of the House arresting a Trump official, and possibly placing him in jail?

Probably not. Before that ever occurred, the Trump administration would take the matter to the supreme court on an expedited basis.

Sadly, there seems no other way to get Trump to move. Putting the onus on the Trump administration to get the issue to the court as soon as possible is the only way to force Trump into action, and not simply seek to run out the clock before the next election.

What would the court decide? With two Trump appointees now filling nine of the seats, it’s hardly a certainty.

But in a case that grew out of the Teapot Dome scandal in 1927, the court held that the investigative power of Congress is at its peak when lawmakers look into fraud or maladministration in another government department.

Decades later, when Richard Nixon tried to block the release of incriminating recordings of his discussions with aides, the supreme court decided that a claim of executive privilege did not protect information pertinent to the investigation of potential crimes.

Trump’s contempt for the inherent power of Congress cannot stand. It is the most dictatorial move he has initiated since becoming president.

Congress has a constitutional duty to respond forcefully, using its own inherent power of contempt.

I leave you to ponder.

Be Angry … BE VERY DAMNED ANGRY

A day or two ago I received the following ‘breaking news’ update from Politico:breaking-news

I impatiently cleared it from my phone, saying, “Yeah, yeah, I already figured that”.  And then today, Robert Reich posted this on Facebook:

breaking-newsSure, it came as no surprise, for it has become obvious that the congressional investigations are not being taken seriously by Trump and his minions. But, if we keep doing as I did, treating it as just another day, another abomination, ho-hum … then we have lost, and he has won. And the result of his winning will be that the United States of America will become yet another dictatorship in the Western world, like Turkey, like Russia.  Perhaps we are already on the brink … it very much feels as if we are.

And then this, from Amy Siskind, also on Facebook …

“Okay folks, the FBI is heading to meet with Gov Scott about Russia having hacked at least on [sic] county in Florida during the 2016 election and this story isn’t even trending or getting attention. This is how our democracy gets extinguished in the chaos and broad daylight.”

She is right.  Spot on, in fact.  This is how democracy dies.  We tune it out, we turn it off, we close our eyes and our minds, for it is too much, just too much.  Surely the dam that was built in 1787 to protect us from evil fascist leaders will hold, right?  We can simply go on playing games, posting pictures of our regurgitatable lunches on Facebook, and let the politicians deal with it all, right?  Yeah, right … that was what the German people thought in 1933, too, and look how well that worked out.

Not only has Trump blocked the release of the six years’ worth of tax returns requested by Congress, but he has filed a lawsuit against the Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, in order to delay or block the release of his company’s financial records.  He has ‘forbidden’ former White House security official Carl Kline from answering the subpoena serviced upon him.  He is currently threatening …

“If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Which just proves what I have said for two fucking years now … the ‘man’ does not even have the foggiest concept of how our government operates!!!  Nothing in the Constitution or American legal history gives the Supreme Court a role in deciding whether Congress has misidentified what counts as a high crime or misdemeanor for the purpose of impeachment.  It matters not how many of his sycophants he has managed to insert into the Supreme Court, by law … BY LAW … they cannot quell a Congressional move to impeach!

But folks, the law only applies to the extent that We the People give it legitimacy.

Thus far, I have urged caution on the impeachment path, felt it was better to have our ducks in a row first.  But, my patience has run out, for Donald Trump is attempting to poison the ducks before we can bring them into the row, and it appears the only means for obtaining the information the Congressional committees are seeking is going to be via the impeachment process.  He is forcing our hand … he has made his own bed.

Robert Mueller himself, and former White House attorney Don McGahn are expected to testify within the coming month.  Trump has zero control over these two, for they no longer work for or owe allegiance to the administration.  Their testimonies will likely remove all doubt that Trump has obstructed justice, but even if they don’t, he is blatantly obstructing justice today … now … right this minute, by interfering with a legitimate investigation by Congress.  He claims “executive privilege”.  There is no such thing when it comes to treason, when it comes to turning a democratic republic into a dictatorship.  No, Donnie, you have no fucking executive privilege!

Per our friend Gronda, from the articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in 1974:

Article 3: Contempt of Congress.

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, contrary to his oath faithfully to execute the office of the President of the United States, and to the best of his ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, had failed without lawful cause or excuse, to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives, on April 11, 1974, May 15, 1974, May 30, 1974, and June 24, 1974, and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas. The subpoenaed papers and things were deemed necessary by the Committee in order to resolve by direct evidence fundamental, factual questions relating to Presidential direction, knowledge or approval of actions demonstrated by other evidence to be substantial grounds for impeachment of the President. In refusing to produce these papers and things, Richard M. Nixon, substituting his judgement as to what materials were necessary for the inquiry, interposed the powers of the Presidency against the lawful subpoenas of the House of Representatives, thereby assuming to himself functions and judgments necessary to the exercise of the sole power of impeachment vested by Constitution in the House of Representatives.

In all this, Richard M. Nixon has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and subversive of constitutional government, to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice, and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States.

Wherefore, Richard M. Nixon, by such conduct, warrants impeachment and trial and removal from office.

(Approved 21-17 by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, July 30, 1974.)

Can we re-write this for our current situation?  I think so … what do you think?  Need I say more?

We must not, under any circumstances, become complacent to the atrocities being committed by not only Trump, but his hired thugs such as Stephen Miller, Steve Mnuchin, William Barr and others.  We must not turn the page of the breaking news update with naught but a sigh and a roll of our eyes.  We must demand an accounting in the press, we must stay on top of the day-to-day atrocities, and we MUST make our voices heard, else all is lost.