David Stockman’s Note: Tonight, I’m streaming a live video broadcast from my home in Aspen, CO. I believe the most popular investment of the 21st century is about to implode. The collapse of this $3 trillion bubble could be the “final nail: in your retirement if you’re unprepared. But, if you invest in a discreet alternative investment right now your savings could be spared… and you could actually make up to 300% by July. That’s why I’m hosting this live video training from my home. I’ll lay out all of these details and more for you. All you need to do is RSVP right here before your spot is taken. There’s nothing to buy in order to get access — it’s free.]
By Bill Curry at Salon
In 1992, James Carville, Bill Clinton’s senior campaign strategist, scribbled a terse memo containing three instructions. Two are long forgotten. The third may live forever. “It’s the economy, stupid” became a meme because it nailed the issue that drove that election. One overarching issue drives this election, but neither Hillary Clinton’s campaign nor the Democratic Party got the memo. Any swing voter could tell them what it says: It’s the corruption, stupid.
One reason is that people don’t know what they mean. If you talk about Citizens United or Glass Steagall, you must tell us what they are. The key to campaign finance is discussing how much money flows into the system, where it comes from and how it’s spent. For financial regulation, talk about how without it, banks can bet their depositors’ money — and if they lose big enough, even with Dodd Frank, we taxpayers end up bailing them out.
Another reason is that Democrats who bewail Citizens United so often depict corruption as a right-wing plot of which they themselves are mere victims. Not even the base buys that. Citizens United arrived in 2010. Pay-to-play politics took off in the mid-’70s, right about the time the middle class stopped getting raises. The sad truth is elite Democrats like the current system a lot. Here’s a well-guarded secret: They even see a lot to like in Citizens United.
Poorly written and atrociously reasoned, Citizens United rests on three simple, absurd precepts: Money is speech; corporations are people; and corruption is OK so long as it is sanctioned. OK, the third one isn’t so simple, but it sure is absurd. It pertains to what Justice Kennedy, the opinion’s author, calls “soft” corruption, by which he means the entire system: big donors, lobbyists, lush retreats, revolving doors, exorbitant speaking fees. The whole shebang.
Kennedy says that unlike “hard” corruption (bribery, mainly), “soft” corruption harms and offends no one, so Congress can’t regulate it. The issue hadn’t come up at trial, so there was nothing about it in pleadings. There’s tons of data about how evil it is and how much we hate it, but Kennedy ignored it. He offered no proof to support his “finding.” He just said it was so and now it’s the law.
I’d rate Citizens United the second most corrupt decision in Supreme Court history after Bush v. Gore. Blind partisanship drove Bush v. Gore. Right-wing ideology informs both decisions. But Citizens United’s key findings, that our politics isn’t really corrupt and we don’t care anyway, is neither partisan nor extreme. It is in fact the bipartisan consensus of Washington’s soul-sick, brain-dead establishment.
If you doubt it, consider Barack Obama. In 2008, America was almost as angry at its government as it is today. Then as now, the media and political consultants to both parties were blind to the issue. But Obama and strategist David Axelrod sort of got it. Axelrod wasn’t much for specificity. He preached the “politics of biography” (sell the person, not the policy). So Obama spoke of transforming “Washington’s culture.” It was powerful stuff, but not quite powerful enough.
Voters knew the problem wasn’t “partisan gridlock” but a hammerlock of special interests. They could abide politicians’ incivility but not their corruption. Obama added some policy meat to the metaphorical bone of his message. He called whistle-blowers heroes and vowed to strengthen freedom of information, to let C-SPAN cameras film healthcare negotiations, end no-bid contracts, close revolving doors and never hire lobbyists to handle matters of special concern to their ex-clients. By late fall, nearly every speech he gave ended in a rousing call for reform.
Breaking those vows was the original sin of the Obama administration. No C-SPAN cameras ever filmed a meeting. He didn’t treat whistle-blowers as heroes; he broke records prosecuting them. He didn’t end no-bid contracts; he increased them. He didn’t ban lobbyists; he recruited them. (Healthcare industry consultants drove that team; he even hired a defense lobbyist to oversee Pentagon procurement policy.) Revolving doors kept swinging; every ex-Obama staffer you ever heard of now sits on some comfy corporate perch. Republicans didn’t kill the reforms. Obama had the power to implement each one by executive order, but chose not to.
In 2008, Obama raised more money from big business than any candidate in either party’s history and in 2009 he hired the most conservative economic team of any Democratic president since Grover Cleveland. He then sided with insurers against a public option, with banks against rescuing homeowners and with business against raising the minimum wage. If you’re highly educated and care more about cultural than economic issues, you may not have noticed. If you’re financially pressed, you may be torn between Sanders and Trump, or have given up on politics altogether.
Clinton calls it an “artful smear” to suggest that she, Obama or any Democrat is influenced by the money they say corrupts every Republican. Her anger is partly a pose. But any card-carrying member of the establishment will take any suggestion that the system is compromised as a personal insult. This is true of elite reporters as well as politicians.
Back when Bill was governor of Arkansas, she began trading cattle futures. She put up hardly any money but a Tyson Foods lawyer arranged credit and did the trading. She made $100,000 in 10 months. She joined the well-wired Rose Law Firm, appeared before legislative committees, went on Wal-Mart’s board and got a loan for the ill-fated Whitewater deal from a bank she represented before regulators Bill had appointed.
For all this she was hounded by prosecutors, many of them vicious partisans. Kenneth Starr ran a sting operation on the president of the United States hoping he’d lie if caught in an affair, an abuse of process for which Starr himself should have been investigated. But the issue isn’t whether the Clintons broke the law. It’s whether any governor’s spouse should rep corporate clients before state agencies, hop on corporate boards or take favors from corporate “friends.” The answer’s simple. No. The reason’s also simple. It’s wrong.
It’s all ancient history, unless of course it isn’t. An ongoing FBI probe is now being overseen by James Comey, the former George W. Bush deputy attorney general whom Obama, inexplicably, appointed director of the bureau. Here’s hoping he wraps it up soon, lest Clinton make history not only as the first woman presidential nominee but as the first person ever nominated while under criminal investigation. The media’s near silence on the matter reflects a concern for due process but also a failure even now to grasp how heavily the integrity issue weighs on her candidacy and the election. Democratic elites await the outcome with preternatural calm.
Clinton bristles at any implication she’d ever stoop to a policy quid pro quo. I don’t think she would. But that’s not how soft corruption works. Politicians spend more time talking to their donors than to their children. As in all intimate relations, each learns to see the world through the other’s eyes. It affects everyone: pollsters, policy advisers, reporters, pundits. You can hear it in the current healthcare debate.
On the topic of single payer, Clinton sounds like Dan Aykroyd in “Ghostbusters” (Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!). Bill calls it a “fairy tale.” Hillary rails, “I don’t want us thrown back into a terrible, terrible national debate … about some ‘better idea’ that will never, ever come to pass!” Alleged experts regurgitate Clinton campaign talking points: It’s unattainable, unaffordable and scares voters half to death.