Has Middle Class America Been Fleeced?

Noah Smith, writing in Bloomberg, says that middle class America has indeed been fleeced by our national economic policies. We agree. But which policies have been responsible?
Smith mentions and immediately dismisses trade, immigration, economic regulation, and welfare policies. The real villain in his view is an alleged turn toward managing the economy on free market lines: ‘Your prosperity was taken by the very people who promised to ensure and enhance it. The decades from 1980 through 2008 were the age of neoliberalism — the ideology of the free market.’
This is a story that we hear more and more. Neoliberals, the favorite new epithet on the left for free market exponents, have ruled the roost for decades ( note how the Obama administration is simply ignored in the preceding quote), and have left the poor and middle class far worse off than they were.
The truth is that the Bush-Clinton-Bush-Obama era had much in common, and it was not free market principles. It was an era of unrestrained crony capitalism, in which special interests formed stronger and stronger alliances with government in order to secure economic monopolies and other privileges.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on April 8, 2017.

A Look At Trump’s First Monday In Office: Executive Orders, Meetings, Cabinet Votes And More

As Donald Trump himself tweeted on Monday morning…
“Busy week planned with a heavy focus on jobs and national security. Top executives coming in at 9:00 A. M. to talk manufacturing in America.” -via twitter-
… the president’s first official day on the job will be busy, including a meeting with business executivesm congressional leaders (including a separate meeting with House Speaker Paul Ryan), signing executive orders and getting his cabinet picks voted through.
According to the WSJ, Trump is also expected to sign various executive orders around 10:30am, which as previewed yesterday will include such topics as trade, immigration, government hiring, Obamacare and a lobbying ban. According to the White House, which released daily guidance for the president on Sunday evening, Trump’s Monday will include a ‘breakfast and listening session with key business leaders’ and a similar afternoon session with union leaders and ‘American Workers.’
Among this week’s key meetings, Trump is scheduled to with meet “top executives” at 9 a.m. today to discuss manufacturing, and British PM Theresa May on Friday.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 23, 2017.

A Preview Of Trump’s Seven Imminent Executive Orders

Having already signed a (mostly symbolic) executive order on Obamacare on Friday night, urging US agencies to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation” of provisions deemed to impose fiscal burdens on states, companies or individuals, Trump is preparing to unload a volley of many more executive orders. Courtesy of Axios, which quotes “one of the best-wired Republican lobbyists in town”, here is a preview of the initial round of Trump executive actions, some of which may hit as soon as Sunday afternoon:
Look for a possible hiring freeze at executive branch 5-year lobbying ban on transition and administration officials Mexico City policy, which prevents foreign NGOs from getting U. S. family planning money if they provide abortions with non-U. S. funds. (It’s already illegal to use U. S dollars on abortions.) Task the Defense Secretary and joint chiefs to come up with plan to eviscerate ISIS Report on readiness, and something cyber security related Border/immigration: Something on sanctuary cities, expand E-Verify, an extreme vetting proposal Trade: Withdraw from TPP and a thorough review of NAFTA Axios also notes that “the Mexico City executive order could come as soon as today.”

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 22, 2017.

A Complete List Of What Trump Can, And Can Not Do, On Day One And For The Rest Of 2017

With the Trump inauguration just over 10 days away, attention has now shifted to what Trump will do the moment he steps foot in the White House, and as The Hill reported this morning, judging by his campaign promises, Donald Trump will be a busy man starting on his first day in the Oval Office: “Trump has pledged to take sweeping, unilateral actions on Jan. 20 to roll back President Obama’s policies and set the course for his administration. Many of Obama’s policies he can reverse with the simple stroke of a pen.”
The Hill then lays out some of the key agenda items in terms of Immigration, Environment, Lobbying, Trade and Healthcare.
The reality, however, is a bit more nuanced than captured in the report, and has to take into consideration not only what Trump’s intentions are, but how they would integrate with Congress, where simply structural limitations could put hurdles ahead of the Trump agenda.
So, for a more comprehensive preview of what Trump can – and can not do – both on day one, and for the rest of 2017, we present a recent analysis by Alec Phillips of Goldman Sachs (which, now that Trump has surrounded himself with Goldman alumni will be as critical when it comes to fiscal policy as Goldman was when it came to advising the Federal Reserve on monetary policy), which notes that the political agenda for 2017 is starting to take shape, with tax reform and Obamacare repeal seemingly at the top of the agenda.
Trump will be delighted to know that both items can be passed without Democratic support via the budget reconciliation process.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Jan 9, 2017.

Trump Tweets – Peso Plunges

Trump tweets of taxes at the southern border and the Peso plunges. Mexico has abundant petroleum, cheap labor and a preeminent location for global companies to reach the largest consumption market in the world. Yet they struggle with slow growth and massive corruption. To add insult to their injurious system, Mexico’s worst nightmare has now been elected next door with a vow to tax Mexico, penalize potentially any factory that locates there and to reverse the tide of illegal immigration. Not surprisingly, the Bearish sentiment is rising over the plight of the Peso as Trump tweets promise to indirectly punish their currency further in 2017. Look for depreciation of the Mexican currency (MXN) down to 23 to 24.4 per dollar (.0435 – .041 dollar/peso) with resistance near 20.
Mexico is clearly one of the most affected followers of Trump Tweets as illustrated in the chart below.

This post was published at FinancialSense on 01/09/2017.

European Temper Tantrumps: “A World Is Collapsing Before Our Eyes”

Submitted by Juduth Bergmann via The Gatestone Institute,
The arrogant claim to the moral high ground by European elites has no basis in reality. There is no respect for freedom and democracy on a continent where citizens, such as the politician Geert Wilders, are arrested and prosecuted by in a court of law for speaking their minds freely about topics that the authorities find it expedient not to debate in public. Freedom, respect for the rule of law, and people’s race, religion and gender have never been less respected and protected in Germany during the post-WWII era than under Merkel. German authorities have completely failed to protect women, Christians and others from the chaos unleashed by the mass, unvetted, immigration of mainly Muslim migrants from Africa and the Middle East. The rule of law is anything but “respected” in Germany. Not everyone is “panicking”. UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, rejected the invitation and told his colleagues to end their “collective whinge-o-rama” about the U. S. election result. Critics of the U. S. election omitted, however, the runaway lawlessness, divisiveness and corruption that American voters declined to reinstate. “A world is collapsing before our eyes”, tweeted the French ambassador to the United States, Gerard Araud, as it became clear that Donald Trump had won the US presidential election. Although he later apparently deleted the tweet, the sentiment expressed in his tweet encapsulates the attitude of the majority of the European political establishment.

This post was published at Zero Hedge on Nov 15, 2016.

OK, Now What?: The Party is Over, Cometh the Hangover

All right, we have him. My reaction to Trump’s victory is barely of interest to me, and so it may be that the world is not waiting in quiet desperation for an account. I have no information on this matter from Ulan Bator or Sulawesi. Insofar as my reaction was that of half of the country, it may be of note.
My reaction was, ‘Yes! Yes! Yessss!’
This, of course, is because like all of Trump’s supporters I am sick of corruption, oligarchs, New York, candidate’s who sell state favors surrounded by serial rapists and goofy-looking pedophiles, and the goddamned bought-and-paid-for media.
And then I wondered how much I should be delighted. I am not a particularly enthusiastic Trump fan. The man seems radically incoherent, almost nutty. What now? Of the things Trump has promised, which, if any, make sense? Which are unthought-out huff and puff? From what will he back away? Will he transmute himself by degrees into Hillary?
For example, his Wall. As a metaphorical expression of opposition to immigration, it serves well. As a practical project? No. What are the specifics? A Wall made of what? How high, how deep underground, requiring how much of what materials? Do the arithmetic on yards of concrete and feet of rebar and then pour yourself a stiff drink. Flimsy is cuttable, tall requires only a taller ladder.
Electronic monitoring sounds good but would require either use of the military as a domestic police force to patrol the Wall – hello, Guatemala – or a huge new federal bureaucracy working three shifts, often housed in barracks in an uninhabited country. Helicopters, sensors, big contracts for the same.

This post was published at Lew Rockwell on November 12, 2016.

The Never Trump Crowd Prefers Smiling Statism From Nurse Hillary

While I never have, and certainly never will, get on board the ‘Trump Train,’ I am perhaps more annoyed by the certain type of Republican and evangelical ‘conservative’ who opposes Trump specifically for reasons such as his vulgarity, his alleged racism, his rudeness and crudeness, his un-Christlikeness, his narcissism, and so on. The Donald is notoriously – and purposefully (he’s a reality TV sensation after all) – provocative in the way he treats his political opponents and those by whom he feels threatened. Obviously, all these things are worthy of criticism.
However, what is completely shocking to me, though perhaps it shouldn’t be, is that these same ‘Never Trump’ hashtag users literally would have been just dandy with Mitt Romney, John McCain, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, and so on. In other words, what matters to them is not the fact that the GOP’s leaders and champions are Big Government, pro-welfare state, pro-warfare state, pro Federal economic regulation/intervention, pro- Taxes, pro spending, pro-nationalization of commerce and industry; no, what matters most to them is that the politician is ‘nice.’
I have heard countless ballyhooing about the fact that Trump is the next Hitler due to his vocal denouncement of free trade, his immigration preferences, his appeal to the ‘nativists’ in America, and so on. Hogwash! Trump is a demagogue to the very same extent, though not necessarily to the same constituency, as all other politicians! Every single politician, by nature of his dirty rotten job, is a demagogue, one who appeals to emotion and sentiment. We live in a time when the Democratic and Republican parties have pushed for deficit after deficit, every debt ceiling addition, every war, every welfare program, the annual and constant funding of hundreds of Federal departments and agencies, law upon law, regulation upon regulation, bailout for the rich, bailout for the poor, bailout for some foreign government, bailout for some radical group who opposes some foreign government – and yet Donald is the bad guy, because he is profane and insensitive.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on July 28, 2016.

Donald Trump is Right About Globalization: It’s a Broken System

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (Project Syndicate) – – While seemingly elegant in theory, globalization suffers in practice.
That is the lesson of Brexit and of the rise of Donald Trump in the United States. And it also underpins the increasingly virulent anti-China backlash now sweeping the world. Those who worship at the altar of free trade, including me, must come to grips with this glaring disconnect.
Truth be known, there is no rigorous theory of globalization. The best that economists can offer is David Ricardo’s early-19th century framework: If a country simply produces in accordance with its comparative advantage (in terms of resource endowments and workers’ skills), presto, it will gain through increased cross-border trade. Trade liberalization – the elixir of globalization – promises benefits for all.
That promise arguably holds in the long run, but a far tougher reality check invariably occurs in the short run. Brexit, the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, is just the latest case in point.
Voters in the U. K. objected to several of the key premises of regional integration: free labor mobility and seemingly open-ended immigration, regulation by supranational authorities in Brussels, and currency union (which has serious flaws, such as the lack of a fiscal transfer mechanism among member states). Economic integration and globalization are not exactly the same thing, but they rest on the same Ricardian principles of trade liberalization – principles that are falling on deaf ears in the political arena.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner By Stephen S. Roach, Marketwatch ‘ July 25, 2016.

The Archipelago Of Retirement – – Japan’s Population Declines Again

The Japanese population of Japan, the world’s fastest-aging major nation, fell the most on record as the number of deaths outweighed those born in the country.
The number of Japanese living in the country fell for a seventh straight year, down by 271,834 to 125.9 million people as of Jan 1., according to datareleased Wednesday. The figures, first compiled in 1968, showed those living in one of the three biggest urban areas (around Tokyo, Nagoya, and Kansai) rose to a record, while the number of foreigners living in the immigration-averse nation rose, mostly in large cities.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner By Andy Sharp, Bloomberg Business ‘ July 14, 2016.

The Italian Job – – Enough Is Enough!

‘You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’
That one line, spoken on the big screen by Michael Caine was crowned, according to a 2003 Daily Telegraph survey, Britain’s favorite one-liner of film. That kind of staying power is remarkable considering The Italian Job, the original, that is, was released in 1969, two years before Mark Wahlberg, who portrayed Caine’s character, Charlie Croker, in the movie’s 2003 remake, made his 1971 debut.
As for the film’s American version and one-liners, the crown for favorite was won when Charlie’s 2003 on-screen nemesis Steve taunted: ‘You blew the best thing you had going for you. You blew the element of surprise.’ Charlie’s reaction? A knock-out punch followed seamlessly by the understated comeback, ‘Surprised?’
The element of surprise was on full display in the hours and days that followed Britain’s voters’ decisive move to Leave the EU. The Brexit referendum succeeded in blowing off a different set of doors, leaving taunting politicians and policymakers alike flat-footed, with a whole new fear, that of contagion, beginning to the south in Italy. Might the Italians pull of a Job of their own, following Great Britain’s lead in stealing back their own country?
The hope, stated diplomatically by Gluskin Sheff’s inimitable David Rosenberg, a dear friend, is that Brexit will prove to be a, ‘wakeup call for the long-awaited fundamental changes with regards to the EU – make it more democratic and make it less bureaucratic and embark on immigration rules that do not sacrifice regional security.’

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner by Danielle DiMartino Booth ‘ June 29, 2016.

Brexit and the Crisis of Capitalism

If you collapse these extractive, debt-dependent crony-capitalist cartels, you collapse the entire status quo.
Thousands of commentaries have been issued about Brexit in the past week. I’ve written four myself. Most discuss Brexit as the result of immigration issues, class war, political theater, a reaction against the European Union’s bureaucratic power, sovereignty, etc. Other essays focus on the potential upsides or downsides of Brexit.
What few if any commentators present is the idea that Brexit is a symptom of the Crisis of Capitalism.
The current global version of Capitalism is characterized by these overlapping dynamics:
1. Replacing stagnant real growth and income (and thus taxes) with debt.
2. Replacing investment in real-world productivity with speculation (i.e. financialization)

This post was published at Charles Hugh Smith on JULY 01, 2016.

Ron Paul: Don’t Let Them Take Your Liberty After Orlando

Last week America was rocked by the cold-blooded murder of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Unlike the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Orlando shooter appears to be a lone gunman who, while claiming allegiance to ISIS, was not actually working with a terrorist group. About the only thing Orlando has in common with 9/11 is the way power-hungry politicians and federal officials wasted no time using it to justify expanding government and restricting liberty.
Immediately following the shooting, we began to hear renewed calls for increased government surveillance of Muslims, including spying on Muslim religious services. Although the Orlando shooter was born in the US, some are using the shooting to renew the debate over Muslim immigration. While the government certainly should prevent terrorists from entering the country, singling out individuals for government surveillance and other violations of their rights because of religious faith violates the First Amendment and establishes a dangerous precedent that will be used against other groups. In addition, scapegoating all Muslims because of the act of one deranged individual strengthens groups like ISIS by making it appear that the US government is at war with Islam.
The Orlando shooting is being used to justify mass surveillance and warrantless wiretapping. For the past three years, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Defense Department appropriations bill limiting mass surveillance. But, last week, the same amendment was voted down. The only difference between this year’s debate and previous debates was that this year defenders of the surveillance state were able to claim that the Orlando shooting justifies shredding the Fourth Amendment.
The fact that the Orlando shooter had twice been investigated by the FBI shows that increased surveillance and wiretapping would not have prevented the shooting. Mass surveillance also creates a ‘needle in a haystack’ problem that can make it difficult, or impossible, for law enforcement to identify real threats. Unfortunately, evidence that giving up liberty does not increase security has never deterred those who spread fear to gain support for increased government power.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on June 21, 2016.

Even France Shuns Europe as Brexit Revolt Spreads

France has turned even more viscerally eurosceptic than Britain over recent months, profoundly altering the political geography of Europe and making it impossible to judge how Paris mightrespond to Brexit.
An intractable economic crisis has been eating away at the legitimacy of the French governing elites for much of this decade. This has now combined with a collapse in the credibility of the government, and mounting anger over immigration.
A pan-European survey by the Pew Research Center released today found that 61pc of French voters have an ‘unfavourable’ view, compared to 48pc in the UK.
A clear majority is opposed to ‘ever closer union’ and wants powers returned to the French parliament, a finding that sits badly with the insistence by President Francois Hollande that ‘more Europe’ is the answer to the EU’s woes.
‘It is a protest against the elites,’ said Professor Brigitte Granville, a French economist at Queen Mary University of London. ‘There are 5000 people in charge of everything in France. They are all linked by school and marriage, and they are tight.’

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on June 8, 2016.

The Libertarians Did It – – -Nominated Neither Liars Nor Bullies And Wrote A Good Platform, Too

Yes, let’s go ahead and suck it up: That guy, James Weeks II (his eponym must be so proud), who disrupted the Libertarian Party convention by stripping down to a thong while announcing his withdrawal from the chairmanship race, is an embarrassment to his party and the larger movement for which it stands.
Such antics, along with what Brian Doherty has rightly called a candidates debate packed with puerile questions better geared for a late-night college bull session, make it easy for conservatives and liberals to troll the LP and dismiss a serious challenge to the played-out politics of the Democrats and Republicans.
Here’s the latest version of that, via National Review’s Ian Tuttle:
The Libertarian party is a reminder that no one truly grows out of Dungeons and Dragons. Around the Rosen Centre [in Orlando], there are lots of suits-with-sneakers and punk-rock hairstyles and impromptu chants of ‘Taxation is theft!’ Organization-wise, it’s the political equivalent of the cantina scene from Star Wars. Since its founding in 1971, the Libertarian party has been a catchall for political misfits. ‘We’re weirdos,’ says a Georgia delegate who has been in the party since 1972. ‘We’ve always been weirdos.’ No offense, but no kidding. (And in a display of pure, untrammeled, glorious cosmic irony – enough to make me revise my disbelief in Fate – MegaCon, an annual gathering of 80,000 comic book fans, sci-fi cosplayers, fantasy-lovers, and gamers, is taking place over the same 48 hours, and at the very same Orlando hotel.)
Har har har.
And yet…lest we forget, it’s the Republican and Democratic parties that are imploding, with the former group split over a candidate who openly mocks handicapped people, has zero grasp of even the most basic policy issues, and calls for the forcible removal of 12 million (his count) illegal immigrants and their children (even if the kids are actually U. S. citizens).
And before ‘real conservatives’ object that they are #NeverTrump, remember that Trump is saying exactly the same stuff they’ve been calling for over the past 30 years. Here’s the editors of National Review’s ‘Against Trump’ house editorial from late last year, which called Trump soft on immigration!:

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on May 31, 2016.

Crooked Hillary and the Rape of Honduras

Tens of thousands of Central Americans, many of them unaccompanied children and teenagers, have flooded into the US illegally in recent years: they are a growing part of a human tsunami that has hit the southern border and caused what many refer to as a humanitarian crisis, overwhelming the local and federal authorities – and becoming a major political issue.
On the one hand, we have immigration restrictionists like Donald Trump, who say that ‘we cannot be a country and have no borders,’ and who vow to build a Wall – ‘and make Mexico pay for it.’ On the other hand, we have Hillary Clinton, who says we should be ‘knocking down barriers, not building walls,’ and claims that Trump and his supporters are motivated by ‘bigotry.’
Like most partisan political debates, this one gives off plenty of heat without shedding much light. Because the real question is: why are hundreds of thousands of people suddenly abandoning their homes, their families, and their countries to make the long and dangerous trek through Mexico and into the United States? And where are these people coming from?
Contrary to what the Trumpistas seem to believe, the influx of Mexican illegal immigrants has tapered off. Increasingly, the floodtide consists of Central Americans, who are coming from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. And while the circumstances surrounding the Great Migration have particular causes in each of these countries, in general the causes are the same: a wave of criminality and chaos, which has its origins in decades of misgovernment and repression. Grinding poverty, the rule of a landed oligarchy, and the de facto dominance of brutal militaries – supported by the US – have stunted and deformed these resource-rich countries, forcing their citizens into what is surely one of the largest population transfers in recent history.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on May 18, 2016.

How To Deconstruct Hillary – -Ignore The NeverTrump Crowd

As Donald Trump prepares for an epic battle with ‘First Enabler’ Hillary Clinton, the media is too focused on party unity and are oblivious to the fact that denunciation of Trump by failed elites like the Bush’s as well as the prevarications of Paul Ryan only fuel his rise, as did the opposition of Mexico’s ex-president, the Chinese Communists, the Pope, David Cameron, the Saudis, and Mitt Romney. The political class is discredited with voters hungry for change.
What they are missing are the millions of new voters and donors Trump has brought to the party, with the GOP contest drawing two million more voters than the rather boring Hillary v. Bernie bout. It is important to note that in 2012, a change in just 700,000 votes in five states would have changed the outcome of the election.
Analytics show there are 1 million unregistered Trump supporters. In Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, Trump will have the resources to sign them up. This is where elections are won.
All successful Republican presidents – Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan – remade the party in their image. Trump is snatching the party back from Wall Street and the special interests. His is street populism, far right on some issues but far left on others. Not a pure conservative by any means, he is the best choice for conservatives on the big four issues – the economy, terrorism, trade, and immigration. Those who worry about his views on eminent domain must realize that there will be no private property rights if we are incinerated by Islamic radicals.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on May 11, 2016.

Trumpism For The People, Clintonism For The 1%

Rich Americans still have it pretty good. I don’t mean everything’s perfect: business regulations can be burdensome; Manhattan zoning can prevent the addition of a town-house floor; estate taxes kick in at over $5 million. But life is acceptable. Barack Obama has not imposed much hardship, and neither will Hillary Clinton.
And what about Donald Trump? Will rich people suffer if he is elected president? Well, yes. Yes, they will. Because we all will. But that’s a pat answer, because Trump and Trumpism are different things. Trump is an erratic candidate who brings chaos to everything. Trumpism, on the other hand, is the doctrine of a different Republican Party, one that would cater not to the donor class, but rather to the white working class. Rich people do not like that idea.
Yesterday’s primary handed victories to Trump and Clinton, and, if Michael Lind is right, Trumpism and Clintonism are America’s future. Lind’s point, which he made last Sunday inThe New York Times, is that Trumpism – friendly to entitlements, unfriendly to expanded trade and high immigration – will be the platform of the Republican Party in the years going forward. Clintonism – friendly both to business and to social and racial liberalism – will cobble together numerous interest groups and ditch the white working class. Which might be fair enough, but Lind didn’t mention rich people. Where will they go?

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on April 21, 2016.

Rubio’s Failure: How Our Broken Economy Fuels Voter Rage

Rubio post-mortems miss the point. In the end, it is just more fall-out from crony capitalism.
None of the post-mortems of Rubio’s campaign I have seen mention the real reason why the young senator, so articulate, so successful, recently touted as the future of his party, never got launch speed in his campaign for the presidency. It is actually Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY)’s handiwork, aided and abetted by Rubio’s misjudgment.
Shortly after the 2012 election, the GOP was worrying about Romney’s poor showing among Hispanics. At the same time, Senator Schumer and other Democrats were thinking that Rubio, himself Hispanic, was by far the most electable Republican candidate in 2016. How to bring him down?
Schumer’s plan was simple: lure Rubio into the gang of eight immigration bill promising eventual citizenship to all illegal immigrants. Success in this would effectively kill Rubio’s chances in 2016 with GOP primary voters. Rubio would not only have gotten out of step with those primary voters; he would also have reversed the position he took in his Senate race and thus appear to be dishonest.
Would Rubio walk into this trap? That it was a carefully plotted trap was clear enough to me and others at the time. But he did. Once he did, the odds of his gaining the GOP nomination were always poor. They became even poorer as President Obama increasingly refused to enforce border protection laws, thereby stirring up GOP voters on the issue.

This post was published at Ludwig von Mises Institute on MARCH 21, 2016.

It’s The Corruption, Stupid – -Hillary Doesn’t Get What The Donald Understands

‘ February 24, 2016
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.
Donald Trump got the memo. What you notice first about Trump is his xenophobia, but he also speaks more about corruption than immigration. For example: when he falsely claims to self-fund his campaign, blames Bush’s donors when he gets booed, shames his opponents for crooking the knee to the Kochs, or belittles the Clintons for attending his wedding. He brags of buying influence as if buying it were less corrupt than selling it. He gets away with it because few in the press see the issue’s centrality to the race – or would know what questions to ask if they did.
Deep in their unconscious, even Trump’s most ardent fans must know that such a colossal liar couldn’t possibly be a reformer. Asked to explain their enthusiasm, they invariably cite his independence. Doubtless many are also drawn to his racism – but corruption is what Trump and his backers talk most about. In any event, the only real reformer in the race is Bernie Sanders. Even he must broaden his message beyond cracking down on Wall Street and repealing Citizens United. All Democratic candidates call for repealing Citizens United. Democratic audiences cheer when they do. Other audiences doze off, and for good reasons.
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.

This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner By Bill Curry Salon.