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The Case Against Misleading Journalism (And For Bernie Sanders): Part II of II

Apologies for my delay. Real life gets in the way of online commitments sometimes, not to mention that Mr. Chait is VERY long-winded. I hope you will forgive my tardiness!

Did you have time to look into Bernie? It is time well spent if you have not done so already . . . (click here to read Part I of this series).

As I previously disclosed, I will dissect and cross-reference Jonathan Chait’s painfully inaccurate and wholly incomplete assessment of the fitness of Bernie Sanders as America’s next president in his recent article, “The Case Against Bernie Sanders.”

As previously mentioned, Mr. Chait is a democrat. I never want to attack one of my own, but liberals have gotten the idea that we cannot disagree and argue about the merits of voting for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton in the primaries.

I will vote for Bernie Sanders in the primaries, no question. But if it is between Hillary Clinton and some idiot republican in the general election, I choose Hillary. If you can’t have the champagne, drink beer.

It is not the general election yet, though. All bets are off and it is clear that the Clinton camp has decided that the gloves are off as well. That’s fine. This is why the internet is so powerful. None of us have to listen to the mainstream media. We have facts at our fingertips and unique perspectives from all over the world.

The internet also has my perspective . . . for what it’s worth. Without further ado, and my sincerest apologies for the liberal-on-liberal crime I am about to commit, let’s get started.

Mr. Chait’s Stated Case Against Bernie Sanders

Mr. Chait begins his case against Bernie, by praising Bernie, “Sanders is earnest and widely liked. He has tugged the terms of the political debate leftward in a way both moderates and left-wingers could appreciate.” He acknowledges that Bernie is a real threat to Hillary Clinton, “Sanders’s rapid rise, in both early states and national polling, has made him a plausible threat to defeat Hillary Clinton,” and “Suddenly, liberals who have used the nominating process to unilaterally vet Clinton . . . need to think anew.”  Hold the applause, though.

He then asks the question that will shape the remainder of his article:

Do we support Sanders not just in his role as lovable Uncle Bernie, complaining about inequality, but as the actual Democratic nominee for president? My answer to that question is no.

Do tell!

Mr. Chait opens his case by asserting that Bernie Sanders’ view on the economy is “fatalistic.” He tells us that the “evidence” for Bernie’s assessment of the economy is “far weaker than [Sanders] assumes.” Let’s review the evidence!

1.  Healthcare and the ACA: “Sanders has grudgingly credited what he calls the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act which seems like an exceedingly stingy assessment of a law that has already reduced the number of uninsured Americans by 20 million.” (emphasis added).

It appears to me here that Mr. Chait has a problem with one adjective in the entirety of Bernie Sanders presidential nomination announcement speech—MODEST.

It is a bit nitpicky, but I will play along. Mr. Chait asserts that Bernie’s assessment of the effectiveness of the progress of the Affordable Care Act is exceedingly stingy. Exceedingly stingy?

Bernie Sanders idea of more than a “moderate” gain in access to healthcare is when EVERYONE has access to it. Although 20 million people have benefitted (or at least are now using) the federal exchange or its benefits to get insurance, 33 million Americans remained uninsured during 2014.

This also ignores a chief complaint of the ACA, the cost of healthcare continues to rise. In 2014, healthcare spending increased 5.3%.

The Affordable Care Act is too young and too complicated for me to broach the topic in much detail. Suffice it to say, Americans are not that happy with the Affordable Care Act. There were a number of political blunders, bald-faced lies, and a general queasiness about a piece of legislation that is so cumbersome and arduous to parse through, that the citizens of this country cannot aspire to fully understand it. There is power in information and Americans were not given enough information about this law. Thus, we feel we have given up even more of our individual power—the power to stay with the plan we liked, the power to keep seeing our preferred doctors—as an example.

Bernie wants to eliminate health care spending. He wants to eliminate large private insurance companies and take prescription-pricing power back from Big Pharma.

To suggest that Bernie Sanders is not qualified to be president because he, like a lot of us, are not satisfied with the ACA and do not believe it went far enough is an obvious attempt to make a mountain out of a mole hill.

Further, as I mentioned in Part I of this blog, young people like me are well-traveled and largely in-tune with the world around them. Why can’t we have health care like Norway, Germany, France, Sweden, etc.?

Bernie’s healthcare plan is a cost-benefit analysis for most of us. Raise our taxes, but give us healthcare. You may disagree as is your right, but this does not rise to the level of disqualifying Bernie Sanders for the presidency.

2. Big banks are breaking themselves up: “The Dodd-Frank reforms of the financial industry may not have broken up the big banks, but they have, at the very least, deeply reduced systemic risk.”

You provided a link to make this point, but the Dodd-Frank Act is not even mentioned in the article you cite.

Rather, this article is about, “[t]he latest action, from the global banking regulator known as the Financial Stability Board (FSB) . . . .” (emphasis added). To make matters worse, the FSB’s decisions are not legally binding. Rather, “the [FBS] operates by moral suasion and peer pressure[.]”

Journalism fail.

3. Wall Street and Big Banks: “The penalties for being too big to fail exceed the benefits, and as a result, banks are actually breaking themselves up to avoid being large enough to be regulated as systemic risks.”

It is convenient that you cite a paid Wall Street Journal article here. I guess only those who overpay for the privilege of reading the newspaper that my friend, Josh Mitchell works at, can fact check you here. Lucky for you, I do have a paid subscription!

My first problem with this link (other than it is only available to a limited number of people) is that the article is actually about MetLife—an insurance company and not a big bank—shedding parts of its business to avoid prospective regulations. The article also mentions that MetLife is only the second large company to shed part of its financial business in order to avoid being regulated. The first company was GE—also not a big bank. Not only did you mislead your readers about what is actually happening and what role Dodd-Frank has or has not had on these changes, you made it impossible for them to check your “evidence.”

How about talking about how Dodd-Frank has the potential to be a great piece of legislation with far-reaching effects. And although it has had some success (albeit, very delayed success), it could have done more over the past five years?

But instead of addressing the continued systematic abuses of Wall Street, you try to imply that Bernie’s feelings about the economy are unwarranted and are one more example that he is disqualified from being our president.

Lest we forget, the Clintons are very intertwined with Wall Street. And Bill Clinton drove one of the final stakes in the deregulation of the banks that led to the financial meltdown.  Bernie voted against this legislation. You have to admit, he has a pretty legitimate voting record.

What we should be talking about is how Dodd-Frank does not really have the teeth that the words in the legislation lead one to believe. This is because Congress (the GOP) has underfunded (or blatantly refused to fund) the SEC for years in order to prevent it from hiring and training the personnel needed to enforce the law effectively.

I think Barney Frank sums it up perfectly in a quote from a WSJ interview:

WSJ: How successful do you think the regulators have been at implementing the law?

Frank: Very good given the constraints. I remember part of the problem was as soon as the Republicans took power [in the House] they cut the funding [for] the [Securities and Exchange Commission] and the [Commodity Futures Trading Commission], which got an enormous amount of new authority over financial derivatives.

Why do Bernie supporters agree with his “fatalistic” assessment of the American economy? Because we got screwed and we are still getting screwed. I have written in-depth about the bailout and its effect on student loans and that does not even scratch the surface. The wounds caused by using tax payer money to bail out the banks that bet against us, is infuriating. On this we agree:

“It is true that the Great Recession inflicted catastrophic economic damage, and that fiscal policy did too little to alleviate it. The impression of economic failure hardened into place as the sluggish recovery dragged on for several years.”

4. Wages and Unemployment: “Recently, conditions have improved. Unemployment has dropped, the number of people quitting their job has risen, and—as one would predict would happen when employers start to run short of available workers—average wages have started to climb.”

That’s a really long sentence. First, we agree that unemployment has dropped.

I do not agree, however, that wages have started to “climb.” (emphasis added). Climb? Really? It seems like Bernie is not the only casually throwing questionable adjectives around . . . Your choice of words gets even more laughable when we see that government released data showing that wages are not rising. In fact, in December 2014, average pay fell. (page 8).

You assert that Bernie’s conclusion that “Obama’s policies have failed to raise living standards for average people is premature.” Maybe you’re right. Only time will tell. This still doesn’t disqualify Bernie as a presidential candidate, though.

5. Eliminating Corporate Power: “And the progress under Obama refutes Sanders’s corollary point, that meaningful change is impossible without a revolutionary transformation that eliminates corporate power.”

What progress have we made on reducing corporate power? There has been no campaign finance reform. The presidential candidates are expected to spend over $5 BILLION dollars this election. Where does this money come from? You could ask Hillary, but you already know the answer: anonymous corporate donations to a candidate’s Super Pac. Bernie doesn’t have one of those and we agree that a revolution is necessary. We live in a country where Supreme Court justices attend parties thrown by the Koch brothers! But yeah, let’s keep doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Getting 20 million+ people on health insurance is awesome, but as we have discussed, it’s not enough. Second, the unemployment rate is amazing, too. But since I am not an economist, I cannot comment on any policy changes that can be proven to have caused unemployment rates to decline with any statistical significance.  And since you did not provide a citation here, I guess we’ll move along.

6. Raising the Minimum Wage: “Even liberal labor economists like Alan Krueger, who have supported more modest increases, have blanched at Sanders’s proposal for a $15 minimum wage.”

You cite an article by Alan Krueger railing against a $15/hour minimum wage. See my last post on the 210 economists that support Bernie Sanders’ plan for a $15/hour minimum wage by 2020. His is not a widely-held belief.

7. Socialism: “[H]is self-identification as a socialist poses an enormous obstacle, as Americans respond to ‘socialism’ with overwhelming productivity.”

Adjectives really seem to get under your skin! It’s time to move on from socialist fever. Nobody cares what Bernie calls himself anymore. That was so 2015 and we are the generation of redefining labels and trying not to stereotype others. Rather, we are paying attention to what he is saying now and what he has been saying for over 30 years.

Further, the link you cite to support your assault on yet another adjective has the following headline: “Younger Americans have a much better view of socialism, and worse view of capitalism, than their elders.” Who do you think is going to run this country—maybe even as early as November 2016? Millennials!

John Mayer sums it up perfectly in his 2006 hit, “Waiting on the World to Change:”

“One day our generation is gonna rule the population.”

Welcome to our world.

8. Taxes: “Likewise, his support for higher taxes on the middle class—while substantively sensible—also saddles him with a highly unpopular stance.”

Since you did not provide a citation here, I’ll just argue that once people learn more about Bernie Sanders and his policies, the more appealing he seems to become. See above re: the cost-benefit analysis.

9. Bernie did not talk enough about Paris at the Democratic debate following the massacre: Therefore, “he has difficulty addressing issues outside his economic populism wheelhouse.”

What? I’m not even going to dignify that with more key strokes.

Shame-Bell-Lady-From-Game-Thrones

Gif from Giphy.

  1. Bernie Sanders does not have the grassroots support Obama did: So he’s going to fail.

Again, what? Do you have a crystal ball we should be aware of?

  1. Healthcare again:

The citation you provide here actually sings the praises of national single-payer healthcare systems. For example:

Overall, single-payer systems tend to be especially good at two things: increasing health coverage rates and holding down health care prices. Getting people covered is, unsurprisingly, a much easier task when the government is running a health insurance plan. When Taiwan implemented a single-payer system in 1995, the insured rate went from 53 percent to 96 percent in nine months.

The United States is not Vermont. It is not Cyprus. It is not Taiwan. Would this change be hard? Yes. Would it be worth it? My answer, along with millions of other Bernie supporters, is yes.

  1. Congress is more powerful than the president: “Those areas in which a Democratic Executive branch has no power are those in which Sanders demands aggressive action, and the areas in which the Executive branch still has power now are precisely those in which Sanders has the least to say.”

Are you suggesting that the bulk of Hillary Clinton’s main issues are something that the president can control? I don’t see how you could with a straight face. The link you provide here states, “For the purposes of evaluating a prospective Clinton presidency, this is all beside the point, because the number of these proposals she will sign into law hovers around zero.”

You state that “The next Democratic presidential term will be mostly defensive, a bulwark against the enactment of the radical Ryan plan. What little progress liberals can expect will be concentrated in the non-Sanders realm.” Duh.

Believe it or not, Bernie supporters generally know that there are three branches of government. We fiercely believe in the separation of powers, checks and balances and non-partisan adult legislation from our elected officials. The power that someone like Bernie Sanders has is to educate people about how they can take back their power in the political system.

  1. You don’t like Bernie Sanders.

Thanks, Captain Obvious.

Liberal to liberal let me give you some advice. The weakness of the Democratic Party is that it underestimates the growing support behind Bernie Sanders. It doubted that Barack Obama would defeat Hillary Clinton in 2008 (especially as decisively as he did).

Mr. Chait, just like the Democratic Party, you underestimate the intelligence of your readers generally, and Bernie Sanders supporters, specifically. We did not elect Hillary in 2008, and there is a possibility that we will fail to do so in 2016. The race has just begun.

I welcome a response.

 

Peace and Love.

Lindsey