#DemDebate: Progressivism vs. Neoliberalism | #BernieSanders vs. #HillaryClinton on Blog#42

This last debate in New Hampshire is a classic study in contrasts. The clash between neoliberalism and progressivism was on full display, and the DNC scandal did nothing to obfuscate it.

CNN, quoting Nielsen, reports that the debate was seen by about 8 million TV viewers about the same number as the CBS-held debate last month, also on a Saturday. Considering that this debate took place right before Christmas, these ratings are surprisingly good. These figures do not include internet viewers. While the quality was loudly criticized, ABC livestreamed the debate and YouTube members uploaded segments of the debate as it was taking place. The number of livestream viewers is currently unknown.

While the first volley of questions for Senator Sanders was about the DNC scandal, the debate quickly got into the weeds that are the issues of our day. The debate was spirited, substantive, and it provided the starkest contrast yet between Sanders and Clinton. Video of the entire debate is provided below the fold.

On Racism in the GOP and Donald Trump:

Sanders:

“What you have now is a very dangerous moment in American history. The Secretary is right. Our people are fearful. They are anxious on a number of levels. They are anxious about international terrorism, and the possibility of another attack on America. We all understand that. But you know what else they’re anxious about? They’re anxious about the fact that they are working incredibly long hours, they’re worried about their kids and they’re seeing all the new income and wealth — virtually all of it — going to the top 1 percent. And they’re looking around them, and they’re looking at Washington and saying, ‘The rich are getting much richer. I’m getting poorer. What are you gonna do about it? What are you going to do for my kids?’

And somebody like a Trump comes along and says, ‘I know the answers. The answer is that all of the Mexicans, they’re criminals and rapists, we’ve got to hate the Mexicans! Those are your enemies! We hate all the Muslims because all of the Muslims are terrorists! We’ve got to hate the Muslims!’ Meanwhile, the rich get richer. So what I say to those people who go to Donald Trump’s rallies — understand, he thinks a low minimum wage in America is a good idea! He thinks low wages are a good idea. I believe we stand together to address the real issues facing this country, not allow them to divide us by race or where we come from.”

Bernie Sanders’ very nuanced, albeit incisive, connection between Trump’s usage of blunt racially coded language and the right-wing precariat’s  response to him is one that has been made before,  in the late 1960’s by the man who would inspire Bernie Sanders to join the civil rights movement as a young student in Chicago:

“If it may be said of the slavery era that the white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said of the Reconstruction era that the southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow. (Yes, sir) He gave him Jim Crow. (Uh huh) And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, (Yes, sir) he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man. (Right sir) And he ate Jim Crow. (Uh huh) And when his undernourished children cried out for the necessities that his low wages could not provide, he showed them the Jim Crow signs on the buses and in the stores, on the streets and in the public buildings. (Yes, sir) And his children, too, learned to feed upon Jim Crow, (Speak) their last outpost of psychological oblivion. (Yes, sir)”

Martin Luther King, 1965, Selma

American elites have kept the upper hand in the class warfare through the use of race as a wedge to keep poor Blacks and whites from joining forces. That fact, in and of itself is nothing new. The renewed effort to inject race as a wedge issue since the election of Barack Obama had steadily been escalating since 2008, and today’s crop of Republican contenders have been engaging in the practice. What is new, however, is the blatant and crude way Donald J. Trump has been doing it, and the resulting success he has enjoyed as a result of it.

On Free College:

Clinton:

Secondly, I don’t believe in free tuition for everybody. I believe we should focus on middle-class families, working families, and poor kids who have the ambition and the talent to go to college and get ahead. So I have proposed debt free tuition, which I think is affordable and I would move a lot of the Pell Grant and other aid into the arena where it could be used for living expense. So I put all of this together, again, on my website and I’ve gotten such a good response.

But I want to quickly say, one of the areas that Senator Sanders touched on in talking about education and certainly talking about health care is his commitment to really changing the systems. Free college, a single payer system for health, and it’s been estimated were looking at 18 to $20 trillion, about a 40 percent in the federal budget.

And I have looked at his proposed plans for health care for example, and it really does transfer every bit of our health care system including private health care, to the states to have the states run. And I think we’ve got to be really thoughtful about how we’re going to afford what we proposed, which is why everything that I have proposed I will tell you exactly how I’m going to pay for it; including college.

Sanders:

And I understand in many universities a heck of a lot of vice presidents who earn a big salary. But, bottom line is this is the year 2015. If we are going to be competitive in the global economy we need the best educated workforce.

It is insane to my mind, hundreds of thousands of young people today, bright qualified people, cannot go to college because they cannot afford — their families cannot afford to send them. Millions coming out of school as you indicated, deeply in debt. What do we do?

My proposal is to put a speculation tax on wall street, raise very substantial sums of money, not only make public colleges and universities tuition-free, but also substantially lower interest rates on student debt. You have families out there paying 6 percent, 8 percent, 10 percent on student debt, refinance their homes at 3 percent.

What sense is that? So I think we need radical changes in the funding of higher education. We should look at college today the way high school was looked at 60 years ago. All young people who have the ability should be able to get a college education.”

College, whether it is a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year Bachelor’s degree, is a necessity. More community colleges are offering degrees in the trades and technical fields. States should invest in expanding the range of non-academic degrees and certifications offered, in recognition that while not everyone wants or needs an academic degree, everyone needs training that leads to a living-wage job. No graduate of community college or university should start out so indebted that it will take a lifetime of payments to get out from under. Mrs. Clinton’s answer neither reconciles her opposition to free college with debt-free college, or even gives us a path to imagine how her prescription would work. Her opposition to free college, however, does two things:

  1. gives the listener a clear sense that Wall Street profits are off-limits; and
  2. reinforces her decades long message of making it easier for those who can to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

While this may have resonated with a white middle class audience when she was talking to BLM in New Hampshire this summer, to a harried, beaten down former middle class, thems is fightin’ words. No middle class parent wants to see their child start life with so much debt they don’t feel they can marry and start families. Too many middle class and precariat parents live in multi-generational households in large part due to the high cost of higher education and the low wages their children are earning once they graduate.

On Taxes:

Clinton:

“Yes, and it was the same one that President Obama made. Because I don’t think we should be imposing new big programs that are going to raise middle class families’ taxes.

We just heard that most families haven’t had a wage increase since 2001. Since, you know, the end of the last Clinton administration when incomes did go up for everybody. And we’ve got to get back to where people can save money again, where they can invest in their families, and I don’t think a middle-class tax should be part of anybody’s plan right now.”

Sanders:

“Now, when Secretary Clinton says, “I’m not going raise taxes on the middle class,” let me tell you what she is saying. She is disagreeing with FDR on Social Security, LBJ on Medicare and with the vast majority of progressive Democrats in the House and the Senate, who today are fighting to end the disgrace of the United States being the only major country on Earth that doesn’t provide paid family and medical leave.

What the legislation is is $1.61 a week. Now, you can say that’s a tax on the middle class. It will provide three months paid family and medical leave for the working families of this country. I think, Secretary Clinton, $1.61 a week is a pretty good investment.”

Needless to say, paid family leave would be a huge boost to all, from single mothers to the very top of the middle class. At $1.61 a week, it can hardly be called a burden.  This is a no-brainer, something that is easy to agree on, yet not for Clinton.

On Healthcare:

Clinton:

“Well, I would certainly build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act and work to fix some of the glitches that you just referenced.

Number one, we do have more people who have access to health care. We have ended the terrible situation that people with pre- existing conditions were faced with where they couldn’t find at any affordable price health care.

Women are not charged more than men any longer for our health insurance. And we keep young people on our policies until they turn 26.

Those are all really positive developments. But out-of-pocket costs have gone up too much and prescription drug costs have gone through the roof. And so what I have proposed, number one, is a $5,000 tax credit to help people who have very large out-of-pocket costs be able to afford those.

Number two, I want Medicare to be able to negotiate for lower drug prices just like they negotiate with other countries’ health systems.

We end up paying the highest prices in the world. And I want us to be absolutely clear about making sure the insurance companies in the private employer policy arena as well as in the Affordable Care exchanges are properly regulated so that we are not being gamed.

And I think that’s an important point to make because I’m going through and analyzing the points you were making, Martha. We don’t have enough competition and we don’t have enough oversight of what the insurance companies are charging everybody right now.”

Raddatz: Senator Sanders, I want you to respond to what she was saying, but you’re instead calling for single-payer health care.

Sanders:

“Yes, exactly, exactly.”

Raddatz: You note people won’t have to pay deductibles or premiums but they will have to pay new taxes. Can you tell us specifically how much people will be expected to pay?

Sanders:

“Yes, well, roughly. Let me say this. As a member of the Health Education Committee that helped write the Affordable Care Act, much of what Secretary Clinton said about what we have done, among other things, ending the obscenity of this pre-existing situation is a step forward.

Seventeen more million more people have health care. It is a step forward. A step forward.

But this is what we also have to say. Not only are deductibles rising, 29 million Americans still have no health insurance and millions of people can’t afford to go to the doctor. Major crisis and primary health care. Here is the bottom line. Why is it that the United States of America today is the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right?

Why is it…

Why is it that we are — why is it that we spend almost three times per capita as to what they spend in the U.K., 50 percent more than what they pay in France, countries that guarantee health care to all of their people and in many cases, have better health care outcomes. Bottom line.

This ties into campaign finance reform. The insurance companies, the drug companies are bribing the United States Congress. We need to pass a Medicare for all single payer system. It will lower the cost of health care for a middle-class family by thousands of dollars a year.”

Raddatz: Senator Sanders, you didn’t really tell us specifically how much people will be expected to pay…

Sanders:

“I can tell you that adding up the fact you’re not paying any private insurance, businesses are not paying any private insurance. The average middle-class family will be saving thousands of dollars a year.”

Social media went wild with Bernie Sanders’ assertion that the US spends three times as much on healthcare than the UK.  PolitiFact checked and…:

BernieUKHealthTrue

The bottom line, on healthcare, is that Clinton is unwilling to cut out Big Insurance from the equation, whereas Sanders is. Big Insurance is raking in profits by the billions, at a relative high cost to consumers, when everyone could be covered for their medical needs for a fraction of the money that is currently being spent. Continuing to allow the “free markets” to control what should be a basic human right is at the heart of the issue and the fundamental difference between these two candidates.

On Black Lives Matter, Police Brutality and Incarceration:

Clinton:

“Well, David, I think this is one of the most important challenges facing not just our next president but our country. We have systemic racism and injustice and inequities in our country and in particular, in our justice system that must be addressed and must be ended.

I feel very strongly that we have to reform our criminal justice system and we have to find ways to try to bring law enforcement together again with the communities that they are sworn to protect. Trust has been totally lost in a lot of places.

At the same time, we know that in many parts of our country police officers are bridging those divides and they’re acting heroically. The young officer who was killed responding to the Planned Parenthood murders. The officer who told the victims of the San Bernardino killings that he would take a bullet before them.

So I think that we need to build on the work of the policing commissioner that President Obama impaneled. We need to get a bipartisan commitment to work together on this.

And we need to hear the voices of those men and women and boys and girls who feel like strangers in their own country and do whatever is necessary to not only deal with the immediate problems within the criminal justice system, but more opportunities, more jobs, better education so that we can begin to rebuild that very valuable asset known as trust.”

Sanders:

“Today in America we have more people in jail than any other country on earth, 2.2 million people. Predominantly African-American and Hispanic.

We are spending $80 billion a year locking up our fellow Americans. I think, and this is not easy, but I think we need to make wage a major effort, to come together as a country and end institutional racism. We need major, major reforms of a very broken criminal justice system. Now, what does that mean?

Well, for a start it means that police officers should not be shooting unarmed people, predominantly African-Americans.

It means that we have to rethink the so-called war on drugs which has destroyed the lives of millions of people, which is why I have taken marijuana out of the Controlled Substance Act. So that it will not be a federal crime.

That is why we need to make…

That is why we need to make police — and I speak as a former mayor. I was a mayor for eight years, worked very closely with a great police department. And what we did is try to move that department toward community policing, so that the police officers become part of the community and not, as we see, in some cities an oppressive force.

We need to make police departments look like the communities they serve in terms of diversity. We need to end minimal sentencing. We need, basically, to pledge that we’re going to invest in this country, in jobs and education, not more jails and incarceration.”

Clinton gave no specifics as to what she would do to bring about the changes and improvements she listed and spent, roughly, half of her time answering the question on issues not related to Black lives. Clinton has yet to put forth a proposal that matches Sanders plan for racial justice. As a reminder, during her first meeting with Black Lives Matter activists in New Hampshire this summer, Clinton made it clear she expected them to come up with a list of demands which, she would then sell to the electorate. In Atlanta, Black Lives Matter was escorted out. Actions speak louder than words.

As to who won? Online polling should no longer be deemed controversial or less reliable than traditional polling. As I explain in a previous piece, a majority of Americans no longer have landlines and it is Baby Boomers who tend to still have them, more than likely skewing poll results.

To close, here is the Twitter poll activist Deray McKesson conducted starting immediately with the conclusion of the New Hampshire debate. His results are consistent with general polls online.

DerayNHPoll

 

Video of the Democratic debate in New Hampshire, December 19:


A full transcript is available from CBS News.

References:

Martin Luther King, address at the conclusion of the march on Selma, 1965