…well you know, we don’t need one.
Let me get his out of the way first. I could not possibly care less about who gets the Republican nomination for president. Doesn’t matter one iota to me, I ain’t voting for any of them. No way, no how. I do, however, care who gets the Democratic nomination. Very much. Much has been gained during the Obama administration, naysayers on the left notwithstanding, and much stands to be lost should Democrats nominate the wrong person. The wrong person is Bernie Sanders.
I suppose that by the time one is pushing 60 years of life on this thing we call Earth, one should find very little at which to be surprised. One would be wrong. I find myself surprised at the intelligent, pragmatic, and otherwise generally clear-thinking and practical people who have been and continue to be taken in by the so-called Bernie Sanders revolution.
This isn’t original (read it somewhere but can’t remember where, another consequence of those nearly 60 years) but I wholeheartedly agree with it. The 2016 election isn’t about changing the guard, it’s about guarding the change. We changed the guard in 2008. After 8 years of the utter disaster that was Bush/Cheney, the American people were ready for a new direction–a completely different direction–we got that with the historic election of Barack Obama. Now we need a president who can guard the change. Who can first and foremost protect what has been accomplished and, where possible, make some incremental improvements. That isn’t nearly as exciting and sexy as “revolution” but I’ll take it 7 days a week and twice on Sunday.
I suppose the appeal of the revolution is that it sounds so good and so simple. Medicare For All, Break Up the Banks, Overturn Citizens United. Yeah buddy, let’s do it. But drill down a little bit and it isn’t quite that good or that simple. Yes, the cost of health care is still a problem, the power of Wall Street is as well, and the influence of money on political campaigns needs to be addressed. But all these are complex and intricate issues which have reached the point they are now over years and even decades. They won’t be fixed with simple slogans and 8 page plans that don’t take into account the ramifications that would ensue should they be enacted.
Medicare For All. Does anybody actually believe that the health care needs of a family of four can be covered for $460 a year and paid for by nothing but a measly 2% increase in income taxes? Doesn’t pass my smell test. The state of Vermont found that out with their attempt to implement single-payer. When pencil met paper the result was closer to a 20 percent tax hike and a doubling of state expenditures.
Abolish private health insurance? What about the millions of Americans who make their living working for them? The private insurers aren’t just the few fat cat CEOs who sit at the top receiving exorbitant compensation. There are millions of Americans who work for not only those companies directly but whose jobs are dependant on their existence. Claims, billing, etc. What happens to them if private health insurance goes away? Does the Sanders plan lay out what happens to them should the “revolution” hit health care, and what would be the effects on the economy as a whole should private health insurance be outlawed? Nope.
The way forward is not to scrap the ACA after only 5 years, but to build on it. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, none of these were perfect originally, neither is the ACA. But it’s damn sure better than what we had before, and in its infancy and with all its shortcomings has helped millions of Americans. To scrap it for a hastily concocted and not well thought out alternative would be foolish.
Break Up The Big Banks. Okay, then what?
“For example, to break up the big banks sounds good and well but what happens to the customers of those banks that rely on them for their savings accounts? What about small businesses that rely on those banks for loans? What about homeowners who pay a mortgage through the bank? Are all these accounts then shifted toward community banks? If so, which ones? What if this new bank is far away from someone’s home or business?”
And again, what is the effect on the economy of the break up and the loss of jobs sure to follow? As with the private insurers, these institutions are a significant portion of our economy and encompass more than just the guys at the top who get all the headlines. Lots of jobs for people not named Jamie Dimon or Lloyd Blankfein depend on Chase, Bank of America, Citi, et al. What happens to those people?
No, we don’t need to take that risk. Dodd-Frank, despite all its imperfections, is doing its job. Could it be stronger? Absolutely. But gradually and incrementally, as boring as that is, is the only way to proceed, both practically and politically.
Overturn Citizens United. This is a recording, it ain’t that simple. The Supreme Court can’t just take it upon themselves to overturn a standing decision. A case must be brought, in almost every situation, after having gone through years in lower courts. This whole “money is speech” and “corporations are people” mess got started with the Buckley v Valeo decision. In 1976. The rotten fruit of that decision became Citizens United. In 2010. For those keeping score, that’s 34 years. Changing the system will take time and a Supreme Court amenable to hearing and reviewing cases brought before it. We don’t have that now, revolution notwithstanding.
Just to be really blunt, Sanders can’t win in November. I know his supporters like to claim that he polls better against Republican candidates than does Hillary Clinton. Two things about that. One, January polls are about as predictive of November election results as Tarot cards and tea leaves. Two, should Sanders be nominated, and once Republicans settle on a nominee and turn all their blazing guns on Sanders, he will be destroyed by months of negative and yet more negative ads. He will go down and take a lot of people and a lot of progress with him in the process.
We can’t afford to let that happen. Change is hard, change takes time, and nobody waves a magic wand. The way forward is to build on the solid foundation laid by what will be the 8 years of President Obama. Given the two choice facing Democratic primary voters (sorry Martin, but it’s true) Hillary Clinton is the right person for that job.