The Election From Hell: Trust, Trade, Jobs & #HillaryEmail on Blog#42

Let’s face it. This is the election from hell. Both major parties’ candidates are equally but differently flawed. Both think way too highly of themselves to change for the better. Both will be emboldened to keep acting as they have, were they to win.

Lack of public trust is the one thing both presumptive nominees have in common. Hillary Clinton recognizes that this is her Achilles Heel in the video above. But what has she done of late in order to earn it?

She’s criticized her opponent for the lunacy and the harm his policy proposals would bring but has not done anything to appeal to Democratic voters who didn’t vote for her in the primary. How will she earn their trust when the majority of those voters feel the trade agreements her husband signed and she supported and promoted at the time, are to be blamed in great part for the economic situation they find themselves in today? How will she earn the trust of war-weary voters when she’s advocating for aggressive foreign and military policies? How, in the face of questions about her judgment in running her government email from her home and having just submitted to a three and a half hour interview with the FBI, will she assure that her White House operation will be on the up and up?

To those of you who find logic in Brexit being all about racism and white supremacy, I implore you to rethink things a bit. Think about family and friends who lost their jobs at the start of the Great Recession and never got their careers back on track. Think about their young adult children, maybe even your own, who’ve recently graduated from college and failed to start their careers as you did, ten, fifteen or more years ago and still live at home in a new normal in which jobs don’t sustain, student debt is high and an unprecedented number of young people aged 18-34 live at home because they cannot start life on their own.

What’s more, as The Atlantic reports in The Millennials Balancing Their Parents’ Job Searches With Their Own

“Young adults have a reputation for leaning heavily on their mothers and fathers. For some families, though, the support flows the other way.”

Yes, Brexit is also undoubtedly about a refusal by former colonizing powers to reckon with the debt they said they’d repay, by granting citizens of former colonies free entry and even citizenship. In the face of immigration and a downturn that won’t end, much of that refusal is expressed in the form of xenophobia. But Brexit in the UK, Trumpism and the Sanders revolution all come at a time when much has been extracted from the middle classes of European nations over the last decades, just as it has here in the US.

The seeds of free trade, corporate welfare, offshoring profits and jobs, inversions, Citizens United and the asphyxiation of government by the people and for the people certainly were planted during the Reagan Revolution and, in Maggie Thatcher’s UK for the British. But, here at home, there is no denying that those seeds got turbocharged forms of fertilizers during the Clinton administration. In EPI’s NAFTA’s Impact on U.S. Workers, Jeff Faux recounts how the trade deal decimated unions, pay, and jobs:

“NAFTA affected U.S. workers in four principal ways. First, it caused the loss of some 700,000 jobs as production moved to Mexico. Most of these losses came in California, Texas, Michigan, and other states where manufacturing is concentrated. To be sure, there were some job gains along the border in service and retail sectors resulting from increased trucking activity, but these gains are small in relation to the loses, and are in lower paying occupations. The vast majority of workers who lost jobs from NAFTA suffered a permanent loss of income.

Second, NAFTA strengthened the ability of U.S. employers to force workers to accept lower wages and benefits. As soon as NAFTA became law, corporate managers began telling their workers that their companies intended to move to Mexico unless the workers lowered the cost of their labor. In the midst of collective bargaining negotiations with unions, some companies would even start loading machinery into trucks that they said were bound for Mexico. The same threats were used to fight union organizing efforts. The message was: “If you vote in a union, we will move south of the border.” With NAFTA, corporations also could more easily blackmail local governments into giving them tax reductions and other subsidies.”

Fast forward all the way to the present day and the low-paying jobs that have been created since the beginning of the recovery, here is but one illustration of what millions of Americans are experiencing. Robert Reich posted a comment and an article on Uber and Lyft and what is turning out to be very low pay with none of the protections of a job:

“Uber chief adviser and board member (and former Obama adviser) David Plouffe claims the company is a pathway to the American dream. Baloney. According to internal pricing data leaked to Buzzfeed, Uber drivers in several markets make about as much as Walmart workers. In Denver they average $13.17 an hour after expenses; in Houston, $10.75 an hour after expenses; and in Detroit, $8.77 an hour after expenses — more like the same American nightmare large numbers of workers are now living.

And they have no labor protections – no unemployment insurance, no worker’s compensation for injuries, no time-and-a-half for overtime, no right to form a union, Uber pays nothing into Social Security for them so they can’t collect it when they retire, no Affordable Care Act healthcare, no minimum wage. Nothing. Nada. Uber calls them “independent contractors.” In this sense, they’re worse off that Walmart workers.”

In a different article on Uber and Lyft, one about a lawsuit against both companies, we get a sense of the size of the workforce these companies manage:

“A federal judge withheld approval Thursday of a settlement of $84 million to $100 million for hundreds of thousands of Uber drivers in California and Massachusetts and questioned whether the deal would compensate drivers adequately for the claims they were giving up.”

and

“The suit, filed on behalf of 385,000 Uber drivers in the two states, challenged Uber’s classification of them as contractors. The settlement would not affect that status, which could be disputed in future cases.”

That’s 385,00 Uber drivers in just those two states. That there are so many who work as glorified taxi drivers both full and part-time just goes to show the extent and scope of our problem with unemployment and underemployment. The connection with NAFTA is the very consequence EPI’s Jeff Faux describes above, in connection to what NAFTA did to organized labor and wages.

Where does Hillary Clinton stand in all this? Will she ever acknowledge the extent of the damage done by a trade agreement she supported and promoted for her husband? We now know from a report in Politico, that the Obama administration has delayed the publication of TPP-related Clinton emails until after the November election. Why? How is that going to help Clinton, as she says, earn the voters’ trust?

In “Clinton’s pledge to forgive student debt of entrepreneurs, not average workers, will benefit the elite,” Salon’s Ben Norton writes:

“”Clinton claims this entrepreneurship policy can benefit “millions of young Americans.” Yet one must ask: Does she really believe that millions of young people will start businesses?

Anyone who has tried starting a business knows it is very difficult, and it more often leads to failure than success. A staggering 90 percent of startups fail.

It defies reason to expect the more than 43 million Americans who have student loans to become entrepreneurs.”

If this token gesture to a small segment of the population seems alarmingly neoliberal, especially when we know so much about how crushing student debt is, then what about the effect of industry consolidation and the failure to enforce anti-trust laws? Paul Glastris, in his Washington Monthly piece, reports on a new speech by Elizabeth Warren:

“Warren is, of course, famous for her attacks on too-big-to-fail banks. But in her address yesterday, entitled “Reigniting Competition in the American Economy,” she extended her critique to the entire economy, noting that, as a result of three decades of weakened federal antitrust regulation, virtually every industrial sector today—from airlines to telecom to agriculture to retail to social media—is under the control of a handful of oligopolistic corporations. This widespread consolidation is “hiding in plain sight all across the American economy,” she said, and “threatens our markets, threatens our economy, and threatens our democracy.””

Stream Online

Video courtesy of Ustream  Move slider to 56:45

So, why so much opposition to Hillary Clinton’s candidacy? The mainstream media is insistent that her win in November is a slam-dunk. But when one dives into poll data, one quickly discovers that the negatives of both presumptive nominees are about even, blurring the picture the media projects. For one, Senator Bernie Sanders is still officially a candidate and the majority of his voters haven’t peeled away. Why haven’t they?

Then, when one examines the biggest block Clinton can thank for her seeming victory, one finds a different picture than projected by the media. In a recent report on NPR, Black activists were interviewed about voting:

“When Graham turned 18, the first thing she did was register to vote. And, year-after-year, she was a loyal voter — until this primary season.

“I’m not interested anymore. I don’t see any immediate, significant changes happening,” says Graham, now 36. “I don’t see voting as a means to an end.”

Graham recognizes that her decision could be controversial.

“I know people use the argument, ‘Well, black people have fought so hard to get the right to vote and then how can you not vote?’ I understand, I understand your point,” she says with an exasperated sigh. “But, we vote, we vote these people into office, but once they get into office — then what?””

These Black activists are hardly alone in some form of that kind of thinking. An analysis of voting in 25 states, conducted by NBC News in May confirmed data that has been published by various outlets all throughout this past year: there is a big generational gap among Black voters:

“Among blacks ages 45-59, Clinton was ahead 85 percent to 14 percent. Among blacks ages 30-44, Clinton won 70 percent, Sanders 29 percent.

Hillary Clinton has won more than 70 percent of the African-American vote in most of the states with a sizable black population, but that varies greatly by age.

The turnout gap was stark. About 9 percent of the black voters in these states were under 45, compared to 16 percent over 45.”

Add  to those voters, those among Senator Sanders’ supporters who, when polled, still say they won’t vote for Clinton, and the picture of a formidable candidate, or one with the potential to be formidable, fades.

The media has been rife with articles on this or that Republican millionaire who has switched allegiance to the Clinton campaign, and even news of a former Bush SuperPAC beginning to fund Clinton. For a time, during late May and June, the nation’s major papers suddenly all had their attention on the possibility that Clinton might court Republican women, hinting that those voters could replace stalwart progressives. Now, as the DNC platform committee wraps up its efforts, the media is full of articles claiming that the Sanders camp has reached its goals to transform the party.

When one scratches the surface of that last claim, one is quickly reminded that party platforms are largely ceremonial statements that are non-binding upon party officials but, rather, describe the party’s ideals and not necessarily it’s to-do list. Upon even closer examination, one begins to see the loose grammar and lawyerly doublespeak and the lack of commitment to platform planks become obvious. Party platforms, as tightly as they may be written, must be adopted by individual candidates and officials in order to become binding.

As I’ve written in many pieces over the past year, whether Republican or Democrat, voters are concerned with their standing within the middle class. Those who fell out of it and never got back in are primarily concerned with trade, jobs, student debt, healthcare and housing. The candidate who speaks directly to those voters will win, no matter what the polls say, as evidenced in the UK. While Boris Johnson and the other candidates never dreamed voters would actually follow through on the idea of Brexit, they did, all the while lying to pollsters.

But, you say, the media is full of pieces about the very short distance between Clinton and Sanders on the issues. The answer is that short is a relative term, especially in relation to do or die items for voters who remain in a very precarious economic position and see no hope either for themselves or their children. The ranks of voters who consider themselves a part of a new social class called precariat cross the boundaries of race and geography. They are found in every state of the United States, all throughout Europe and Asia and in the U.K which recently voted to Brexit.

The reason why so many will not vote for Clinton, much to the dismay of neoliberals such as Nate Cohn and Paul Krugman, is that she has never appealed to the precariat, whereas Sanders has always spoken directly to it. Trump lies to the precariat and he’s trying to fool them with promises he won’t keep, but he is talking to them. Clinton just ignores them and speaks to a middle class that is fractured. As the nation’s top economists ditched unemployment and the “lost generation” in their writings for the popular press almost three years ago, the nation got angrier, as rosier pictures were put on display in the mainstream press and readers no longer got an explanation for the hurt they continued to experience.

Acclaimed writer, Alice Walker, aptly describes Donald Trump’s success:

“In contrast to Mr. Sanders’ specific prescriptions, Mr. Trump suggests a profoundly generic remedy:  Make America Great Again.

For millions of voters this holds great intuitive appeal.  We used to be great:  America was first in life-expectancy, first in infant survival, first in education, first in health care, first in technology, first in equitable income and wealth distribution, first in home ownership, first in industrial productivity, first in innovation, first in per capita income and wealth, first in reserves of foreign exchange, first in exports, and so on and on.  But we don’t win any more.

Mr. Trump’s rebel partisans—more than half of the Republican Party—yield nothing to Mr. Sanders’ in enthusiasm.”

The result, today, is that voters are splitting away from their party establishments. In retrospect, had Paul Krugman and his colleagues in the media opted to continue pointing out that the recovery is weak because the GOP is steadfastly united in its effort to shut down any policy that might be credited to Barack Obama, the electorate might not be quite so angry and the candidates on the left would have been freer to speak in a more direct manner about the work that needs to be done.

As Thomas Frank writes in , in the UK’s The Guardian:

“Donald Trump’s campaign to “Make America Great Again” is one big, flatulent exercise in delusional nostalgia, as so many have noted. Given the likely outcome of the American presidential contest, however, it is Hillary Clinton’s delusional nostalgia that may ultimately prove more harmful for the country.

Campaigning in Kentucky recently, she promised that, should she be elected, she would task former president Bill Clinton with “revitalizing the economy, because he knows how to do it”. A few minutes before, she had recited her husband’s qualifications for this job: “In the 90s, everybody’s income went up, not just people at the top. We lifted more people out of poverty than at any time in our recent history.” And so on.”

Well, Frank is right about the nostalgia and how much of a problem it is twenty years after Bill Clinton’s presidency and the policies it spawned. Post-Great Recession, people are much wiser about financial deregulation, trade agreements, and money in politics.  But what may turn out to be even more of a problem is the way Bill has comported himself. Whether it is a certain lack of care that comes with age or the accrual of even more arrogance in the twenty years since his ascendance, the former president has lost any semblance of decorum he might have had and his judgment is even poorer than anyone remembers. That slick coat Willie once wore just doesn’t have that same shine anymore. Bill, who used to be an asset to Democratic campaigns has been a cog-in-the-wheel surrogate to his wife’s campaign on more than one occasion, culminating in his latest blunder on an Arizona tarmac and engaging in what many see as interference in a federal investigation (see links below.)

On trade, however, it is highly doubtful that either Bill or Hillary Clinton will adopt any of Jared Bernstein’s excellent ideas on how to think about trade:

–Do not conflate globalization and trade agreements. The former is a both here to stay and a potential force for good if it is shaped by smart policies representative of all stakeholders. The latter has been largely co-opted by a narrow, unrepresentative group of corporate stakeholders.

–The idea that more trade is always win-win for everybody is unquestionably wrong in theory and practice.

–Selling trade deals as job creators is a fabrication inconsistent with theory and evidence. Oftentimes, such tactics are just a stalking horse for geopolitical goals.

–The idea that the benefits of trade are diffuse and the costs narrow is also wrong. While some groups and communities feel the costs much more acutely, they are widespread among non-college educated workers.

–Expanded trade carries many potential benefits, both for consumers here and those in emerging economies who can raise their living standards through trade with wealthy economies. But the fact that the US has steadily run economically significant trade deficits since the 1970s is a symptom of imbalanced trade that hurts and distorts growth. Moreover, this imbalance is not benign but is the result of currency manipulation, mercantilist practices fueled by savings gluts, the dollar as the dominant reserve currency, and an unwillingness of US policymakers to do much about any of the above.

–It is essential that we develop a new set of trade policies that reflect all of these insights. Trump’s 45 percent tariffs ain’t it. An end to the current spate of trade agreements, like TPP, is a start, but it is only that. We must better manage globalization from the perspective of working people as opposed to corporate and political elites.

The media and many an academic have been describing the rise of today’s populism, right and left, as white supremacy. That view falls into the racial trap the elites long set for American voters, deepening divisions and pitting the classes, and the racial divisions within them, against each other. Labeling the candidacies of Trump, Sanders, and those who support separatism a struggle for white supremacy, has the side effect of keeping minorities firmly in the camp of the left establishment and, as a bonus, is garnering the defection of some in the right establishment. But, as voters, we surely are smarter than that because we’ve learned from previous experience and, therefore, are able to see through this exercise in control. Right?

Brexit is a lot of things, including white supremacy desperately trying to reassert itself. But, at the core, Brexit is more the same failure of neoliberalism and the abject failures of leadership that produced the successful candidacies of Donald J. Trump and created the need for a candidate like Bernie Sanders on the left. Do capitalism, and by extension neoliberalism, rely on patriarchy, matriarchy, authoritarianism, classism, colonialism, and racism that prey on women and racially-constructed minorities?  Of course, they do!

But the crisis of leadership we currently find ourselves in is not one that is primarily racist in nature as much as it is extractive in its main purpose. Racial division is not the main goal, but the vehicle by which the end-game is achieved, by splitting and pitting the classes, races, and generations against each other with the help of a complicit corporate media, the moneyed elites retain control. Make no mistake, this game of race and class divide and conquer is being played by the candidates of both parties. The candidate who refused to pander lost. Why? In part, because Sanders’ candidacy was so unusual and he was not slick or well-known enough even though, of all the candidates, he is the only one with a civil rights record.

Brexit is but the first installment in both an economic reckoning of the punishment European middle classes have suffered, and the realization of the true cost of promises made at colonialism’s end. When one frames the promises colonial powers made when granting former colonies their independence as a balloon payment, the current European immigration crisis is a sign of that payment having come due at the most inauspicious of times, one of very deep economic inequality and uncertainty. If the absorption of millions of immigrants on the old continent and the British Isles was never smooth, true assimilation has become neigh impossible in the age of ISIS. Europe, all of it, has had a great deal of experience with terrorism and economic failure and has dealt with both before on many occasions, but never quite like this or during such a generalized failure of leadership in both parties of the left and right.

Here, at home, America is going through its own crisis of leadership and what Americans now realize is that it isn’t affecting only the party it was predicted for. Both parties are now undergoing a period of upheaval with their respective establishments being spurned in some fashion.  This time, a rather significant number of voters are faced with choosing between two differently and deeply flawed candidates.

The GOP establishment is now stuck with a candidate who is playing the part of the stereotypical “Ugly American” to a T. Whether this is a deadpan rendition of the stereotype or Donald Trump’s newly freed inner self, outwardly, the image he projects is one that is benighted, loud, crude, infantile, and terribly rude.

The Democratic establishment is promoting the candidate the party apparatus was groomed to promote over decades, interrupted by the candidacy of Barack Obama and, again, not only almost interrupted by Bernie Sanders, but by Hillary Clinton’s very flawed ethics.

In an election in which much of the public perceives both choices as very flawed, there is a very real risk that millions of disgusted voters will decide that electing Clinton to the presidency of the nation and the Democratic party means the status quo gets a new life at the expense of their children’s futures. Could enough voters decide that four years of hell and breaking the neoliberal charm are better than the assurance of perpetual neoliberal hell?


Related:

Bill Clinton, AG Loretta Lynch meet on tarmac in Phoenix

The Clinton Email Scandal Timeline

Clinton questioned by FBI as part of email probe

Chris Cillizza: The FBI interviewed Hillary Clinton today. The next two weeks will be huge.

Wikileaks:

Hillary Clinton Email Archive

On March 16, 2016 WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for 30,322 emails & email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was Secretary of State. The 50,547 pages of documents span from 30 June 2010 to 12 August 2014. 7,570 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton. The emails were made available in the form of thousands of PDFs by the US State Department as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. The final PDFs were made available on February 29, 2016.