Cartoon: “The Democrats Abandoned Blue Collar Voters”

blue-collar-1200

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This is something that I hear and read frequently, and it always annoys me: People who say “blue collar” or “working class” when what they mean is white working class people. As if people of color somehow don’t count as part of the working class. Ever since the election, this has come up a lot in “why did Hillary lose” analysis.

I don’t usually laugh at my own cartoons, and what I do laugh at is sort of random. But the final line in this comic strip, for whatever reason, makes me chuckle.

(The two paragraphs above, taken together, summarize the job of being a political cartoonist:: Think of something that pisses me off, and then try to make it funny. )

Right now the art looks pretty good to me – but it usually does, right after I finish drawing it. I mainly concentrated on trying to keep the figure drawings loose and lively; I have a real tendency to stiffen up which I’m always fighting against.

TRANSCRIPT OF CARTOON

Panel 1
Two women are having a discussion on the street, a brunette and a redhead. Redhead is speaking intensely.

REDHEAD: Democrats abandoned blue collar voters! That’s why they lose!

Panel 2
BRUNETTE: But don’t democrats push a lot of stuff to help the working class? Minimum wage, obamacare, college grants, the dream act…
REDHEAD (dismissively): Those all help urban people.

Panel 3
BRUNETTE: Besides, Clinton WON blue collar voters, so-
REDHEAD: She only won the blue collar vote if you count urban voters.

Panel 4
Redhead is now looking annoyed, with her arms folded; Redhead leans forward and yells angrily.
BRUNETTE: So to clarify, when you say “blue collar,” that means white?
REDHEAD: I HAVE NEVER ADMITTED THAT!

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, Class, poverty, labor, & related issues, Race, racism and related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

117 Responses to Cartoon: “The Democrats Abandoned Blue Collar Voters”

  1. 1
    Humble Talent says:

    I’ll admit it. The Democrats don’t offer much to white people. And while that might be a positive outcome for people interested in social justice, it’s cold comfort for someone in the rust belt who just lost their job, watching people in a city blame people with their skin tone for everything bad in the world. In this day and age of Our Turn To Eat politics, it’s delusional to think that people like this wouldn’t feel left out.

  2. 2
    Humble Talent says:

    And in what parallel universe does the Dream Act help workers? I was kind scratching my head at minimum wage increases, but please… Please connect the dots that lead to Dreamers benefitting The Middle Class.

  3. 3
    Jameson Quinn says:

    Um… “blue collar”, “worker”, and “middle class” are not precisely synonymous, but in any case, there are dreamers in all three of those categories.

    Which goes to show: all of those words are not just used to code for “white”, but also for an imaginary group that skews “over 45” and “male” too.

    About the art: I don’t like how one of the hairdos seems to impact the head shape of the character. I know that doing these “big head people” is hard, because there’s no real-world “big head people” to go look at, but I think that basic head shape (and positioning above the neck) should read as semi-realistic, even when size isn’t.

  4. 4
    Humble Talent says:

    Between Middle Class/Workers/Blue Collar… Pick whichever one you think serves your assertion best, because I don’t think it’s particularly relevant to the question, and then answer the question I actually asked, which was: “Please connect the dots that lead to Dreamers benefitting (your choice)”.

    “Dreamers can be in (your choice)” doesn’t answer that question, because the question was talking about the effect Dreamers have ON the group. That the Dream act benefits Dreamers is obvious… How it benefits (your choice) as a group, much less so. What I’m looking for here is the elevator pitch… If the assertion is that “Democrats push a lot of stuff that benefits” (your choice), one of which was “The Dream Act”, then explain to (your choice) how the Dream Act benefits them.

  5. 5
    Sebastian H says:

    “Besides, Clinton WON blue collar voters…”

    This is fine rhetorically for a cartoon, but I have to harp on my pet peeve. The single truest fact about voters in the US is that they vote for the same party as last time. If you tell me who you voted for last time, I can tell you who you are going to vote for next time with amazing accuracy.

    Elections tend to be decided on the shifts of people who for various reasons do the improbable–change. So if Democrats normally win 70% of the working class vote, but Clinton only wins 60% of it, you would still be correct that she “won” the working class vote. But compared to what you would expect knowing that people rarely change the party vote for, you would be more correct (in the context of how elections work) to note that she somehow “lost” an enormous portion of the vote that you would expect to go to her.

    The swing against Clinton in the working class was enormous in the white working class, but still existed throughout most of the other demographic slices of the working class (including for example, black working class voters).

    Interestingly I would also say that the second panel shows the weakness of the Democratic Party position.

    Minimum Wage–this is probably the most useful, but rhetorically not as much as you think. Most skilled working class people don’t make minimum wage, so don’t think of minimum wage bumps as helping them much. There probably would be bump up effects, but they aren’t as clear. What they want is some job security at a good job, some guarantee that they will share in the bounty of companies they work for, and some respect. The minimum wage doesn’t speak to that.

    Obamacare–this is good, though normally seen as a backstop for when they lose their job or if they can’t get a good job (see above).

    College Grants–this is an interesting one. We may have played out the “college fixes things” card at this point, so I’m not sure of its applicability to the working class. This is much more of a middle class/upper-middle class benefit. Which doesn’t make it bad, but probably not blue collar. It might be bad signalling though because it plays into the “you’re a loser who shouldn’t be allowed to have a good job if you don’t go to college” frame that seems to float around. (Btw, we seem to be having a ratchet effect on that with Masters degrees of late. Jobs that wouldn’t have needed a BA now are suddenly showing up with a Masters ‘requirement’.)

    Dream Act. I think it is a huge injustice that kids who were raised here at a young age ever get deported. I think it is a huge injustice that we don’t let lots of people become citizens if they want to be. I don’t see how it appeals to most arguments about “voters”, especially in a cartoon that wants to call out white voters. (Black voters have mixed feelings on immigration compared to say college educated whites).

  6. 6
    Ledasmom says:

    The head on the woman to the left is really bothering me, especially in the last panel. It just looks like it’s been stretched front to back.

  7. 7
    Ampersand says:

    Ledasmom: Yeah, I was trying out a different head shape there, just for variety. I might have taken it too far. :-)

  8. 8
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Jameson Quinn says:
    June 5, 2017 at 9:42 am
    Um… “blue collar”, “worker”, and “middle class” are not precisely synonymous, but in any case, there are dreamers in all three of those categories.

    Which goes to show: all of those words are not just used to code for “white”, but also for an imaginary group that skews “over 45” and “male” too.

    Well, you hit on my objection: When someone uses terms with incredibly broad meaning, selects one particular semantic option, and suggests that the other ones are somehow “coded” or racial in nature, that suggestion itself might be a part of the problem.

    For some folks, “blue collar” has an association with “heavy industry,” for other folks it includes “all manual labor.” And so on.

    Besides, as the cartoon asks:

    “But don’t democrats push a lot of stuff to help the working class?”

    The answer depends on what you mean by “help” and “working class,” right?

    Nothing is free, after all.

    Minimum wage helps some folks (people whose wages go up,) at the expense of other folks (employers, small business, people on the hiring margin, people outside of urban high cost districts, etc.)

    Obamacare helps some folks (people who needed insurance and couldn’t afford it) at the expense of other folks (people who now pay more for their insurance, or who had to change doctors’plans).

    Even college grants represent a transfer of money to some folks (always a zero-sum issue), increase competition to the degree they are resource limited, and, to the degree folks aren’t fully qualified (a real problem in the US) make it harder for non-degree-holders to compete.

    And obviously the dream act is great for people who are illegal aliens but is in direct opposition to folks who prefer enforcement of immigration laws, and is also, to the degree that illegal immigration is functionally counted towards quotas, is in opposition to people who prefer to immigrate legally.

    Union support, another Democratic stronghold: great for people in the unions; not so great for people who are shut out by the unions; not so great for people who want lower costs on projects; not so great for those aforementioned working-class or blue-collar students who believe they would be better served by charter schools but are stymied by teachers unions.

    Or, to move outside politics: Walmart: great for people who need cheap stuff; great for people who would otherwise have been fully unemployed; not great for competing store owners who are displaced; not great for folks who would have gotten better jobs had walmart not shown up and who are now only able to work there; etc.

    And so on.

    That’s OK. You can’t serve everyone, it literally isn’t possible. But Dems should own it. Cartoons like this are the opposite of owning up to it.

  9. 9
    Jake Squid says:

    I’d like the stretching more if it was a progression. It takes a step back in panel 3.

  10. 10
    Robert L Bell says:

    What annoys me about these “THE DEMOCRATS ABANDONED THE WORKING CLASS!!!!!!” bleatings is that they reverse cause and effect.

    The southern white working class was a core component of the New Deal Coalition, but they started defecting to the Republicans in the late fifties – a process that accelerated after the Civil Rights Act and the Goldwater/Nixon Southern Strategy – and by the mid eighties the transformation was complete.

    This process was complicated by the destruction of factory jobs and the family farm as the deliberate result of targeted Republican policies, which reduced the bargaining power of both groups relative to the previous generation, but the end result was clearly to the benefit of the Republicans.

    So the pillars of today’s Democratic Party are minorities, and women, and highly educated urban white men. Of course the Party will cater to these groups, for that is how coalition politics has always functioned and will forever function. Which is to say, nothing sinister about it.

    As a cautionary note, the New Deal coalition relied heavily upon the votes of open racists – as does the Republican Party of today. Talk of appealing to the white working class carries the implicit assumption that we can bribe just enough of these guys to join us and hand us electoral victories without pulling in so many that they take over the party and turn us into a spectral version of today’s Republicans. I hold that this is a fool’s errand.

  11. 11
    Adrian says:

    Humble Talent, most of what the Democrats offer white people is health care, and the chance to educate their kids. If you don’t want to believe you’ll ever get seriously sick, it’s tempting to think you don’t need health care.

    It looks to me like some people think they want to go back to the Good Old Days, when a man with a high school education could get a job in manufacturing and make enough money to support a family by working only 40 hours/week. Maybe buy a house. If his kids were ambitious, they could go to college — summer jobs and part-time work would pay for most of their tuition. It’s a dream that’s very tempting, if that’s how your parents lived OR how your parents hoped to live.

    It doesn’t occur to them to accept the medical care that came with those Good Old Days. I see crowdfunding for chemo or open heart surgery and remember when a person that sick would simply have been doomed. The treatment hadn’t been invented. It’s kind of staggering. How can you budget for something like that, when it barely fits in your worldview?

  12. 12
    desipis says:

    I suppose there’s an interesting question about why minority working class people voted for Clinton. Did they vote for her because they thought she would be better for minorities, or did they vote for her because they thought she would be better for the working class? If they thought she would be bad for the working class but the benefits to minorities would out weight that, does that impact conclusions about who “won the working class”?

  13. 13
    Humble Talent says:

    What annoysme about these “THE DEMOCRATS ABANDONED THE WORKING CLASS!!!!!!” bleatings is that they reverse cause and effect.

    The southern white working class was a core component of the New Deal Coalition, but they started defecting to the Republicans in the late fifties

    “Defecting” is such an interesting word choice. Why do you think they did that?

    Look, it’s almost undeniable that over time, party positions change, and demographic positions change, and sometimes they end up aligning more closely, and sometimes they end up separating. Why did working people leave the Democrats in the late 40’s, early 50’s? Maybe they were turned off by all the Communists and Nazis the Roosevelt and Truman administrations let in, and Democrats embraced after the end of WWII?

    So the pillars of today’s Democratic Party are minorities, and women, and highly educated urban white men. Of course the Party will cater to these groups, for that is how coalition politics has always functioned and will forever function. Which is to say, nothing sinister about it.

    Nothing sinister… I think you just answered that question more honestly than a whole lot of other people would have… The thing is, it’s not a winning mix. Women have never been nearly as willing to vote as a bloc as minorities in particular, and the majority of Americans aren’t minorities or the college educated. Writing off the majority demographics in America only makes it harder to win the next time around.

    It doesn’t occur to them to accept the medical care that came with those Good Old Days.

    I’m not going to say that you don’t have a point. But does healthcare matter if you don’t have a job to begin with? I think a winning platform would be something like: “Get people to work, make sure they can afford shit”. I’m not sure which party that candidate comes from, although it strikes me that Bernie was close. The American Dream as envisioned by the Democrats seems to have shifted from “Work hard, do better” to “Pay taxes, collect benefits”, and the Republicans have shifted to “Pay nothing, you’re on your own.”

  14. 14
    Jane Doh says:

    Here is the main problem both parties face with regards to the rural/rust belt working class (that is who are mostly talking about in the discussion so far, as far as I can tell): the old factory type jobs are gone, and they are NEVER coming back. This is due to automation and technology more than anything else. Most new jobs requiring unskilled labor are in service, which is much lower paying. Many new jobs in manufacturing require semi-skilled or skilled labor, and that usually means training beyond high school in some way.

    There are many creative, hard working people who live in places that are not creating many new jobs that can support the lifestyle they are accustomed to/aspire to. Many of these people do not want to move to areas where they might find work for various reasons. We need to think about how to help these people who have been left behind before the next wave of automation sends millions more out of work (like when self-driving vehicles handle most commercial traffic, for example). Neither party is handling this reality particularly well.

    In terms of sheer numbers, there are probably more working class people in the urban Democratic strongholds, so the Democratic strategy to focus more on them while supporting a stronger social safety net that would also help people outside those areas mostly makes sense, at least on the national level. As far as I can tell from speaking with friends and family who live in rural areas, they actually don’t want a stronger social safety net. They want the clock turned back, and so will vote for those who say it can happen.

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    Why did working people leave the Democrats in the late 40’s, early 50’s? Maybe they were turned off by all the Communists and Nazis the Roosevelt and Truman administrations let in, and Democrats embraced after the end of WWII?

    “Working people.”

    So do you mean these working people?

    Or these construction workers?

    Or these workers? Or these? Are these the working people you’re saying turned away from the Democratic party?

    Or is there something else you mean when you say “working people”?

    And by the way, the Dixiecrat movement – which would eventually morph into a exodus of many white Democrats to the Republican party – was explicitly begun in response to Truman’s support of civil rights.

    From the Dixiecrat’s official platform:

    We stand for the segregation of the races and the racial integrity of each race; the constitutional right to choose one’s associates; to accept private employment without governmental interference, and to earn one’s living in any lawful way. We oppose the elimination of segregation, the repeal of miscegenation statutes, the control of private employment by Federal bureaucrats called for by the misnamed civil rights program. We favor home-rule, local self-government and a minimum interference with individual rights.

    We oppose and condemn the action of the Democratic Convention in sponsoring a civil rights program calling for the elimination of segregation, social equality by Federal fiat, regulations of private employment practices, voting, and local law enforcement.

    We affirm that the effective enforcement of such a program would be utterly destructive of the social, economic and political life of the Southern people, and of other localities in which there may be differences in race, creed or national origin in appreciable numbers.

  16. 16
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Ampersand says:
    June 6, 2017 at 9:16 am
    “Working people.”
    …Are these the working people you’re saying turned away from the Democratic party?

    Amp,

    Given that your cartoon uses the terms ‘blue collar’ and ‘working class’; and given that you clearly have a definition in mind (or that you at least appear to disagree with how some folks use the term) maybe you will cut through all the semantic-argument mud:

    Using whatever level of precision you deem appropriate, how do you define those terms? Then we can all try to use the same terms and level of precision.

    (For example, a lot of folks I grew up with used “blue collar” primarily to refer to factory work, as opposed to “farm work” or “service work”. But I can have a discussion using your terms, so long as I know what they are.)

  17. 17
    Humble Talent says:

    Ok… First off: Some of those pictures were plantation workers. You’re damn right they turned away from the Democratic party.

    Second… Your point, if I’m reading you right, is that black people work too. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s the gist. Yes. Of course. But are those workers supporting democrats on social, or economic measures? I mean… Black Americans show more conformity at the polling station than any other demographic. Often more than 90% of black people that vote in any given contest vote D. This is similar regardless of age, gender, ability, socioeconomic, or working status. And at that point… Yeah, people need to work, black people fit into the Venn diagram of “workers”, but why would you think that differences in labour policy is the reason they vote the way they do?

    When I say things like “Why did working people leave the Democrats in the late 40’s, early 50’s? ” I’m 1) Obviously talking about the ones that did, because they all didn’t. And 2) Talking about people who will actually be swayed based on self-interested economic policies.

  18. 18
    RonF says:

    Jane Doh @ 14:

    Many new jobs in manufacturing require semi-skilled or skilled labor, and that usually means training beyond high school in some way.

    True. But, increasingly, that training is not college. Either political party would profit from starting to support technical schools and apprenticeship programs whose designs have a great deal of input from the people desiring to employ their participants. After watching my own two children go through engineering programs at two well-known universities I have seen that a great many students who are NOT engineering students treat college as an extension of high school with the absence of adult supervision and with the addition of alcohol and other drugs and casual sex and to put a considerable amount of coursework in their schedule that is not challenging – and not so astonishingly end up walking across a stage to get a degree that represents an academic curriculum that did little to prepare them for employment. Now, education’s end point is not simply to prepare you for work. But that should be one of the objectives, especially if the school knows full well that the student has ended up borrowing an average of $30,000+ to do so, with some having borrowed considerably more. The best way to avoid this is to divert public support (e.g., grants to the schools and loan guarantees to the students) from such an outcome and towards programs that actually DO prepare students to be self-supporting adults upon completion.

  19. 19
    Humble Talent says:

    the old factory type jobs are gone, and they are NEVER coming back.

    That’s true… But this goes back to a conversation I’ve never had here but would love to sometime: Social Justice isn’t justice. Social justice is the idea that the group is more important than the individual, that individual injustices can be ignored in favour of broader trends. That if you’re having a hard time personally, but share the tone of your skin or the shape of your genitals with a demographic that generally does OK, you can be ignored. There are bigger problems to deal with.

    People who have lost their factory jobs, or their coal jobs, they don’t care who they get help from, they need help. And Democrats offer them nothing. You have whole states of poor, disenfranchised people, and you’re beating them down for grasping at hope. Maybe the Republicans are lying to them about their prospects, but at least they offer lip service. Back to Hillary “We’re going to put coal companies out of business” Clinton, she was right, and it was inevitable… But it was also tone deaf and what was offered instead? Employer subsidised ACA exchanges? You don’t get that if you aren’t employed.

  20. 20
    RonF says:

    What people working for coal companies – and the people who sold them their food and clothing and educated their children, etc., etc., heard from Hillary Clinton was “You work in an evil business and deserve to lose your jobs.” Now, coal companies have been losing business for some time. So these folks looked around at communities that were alive and thriving when they were kids but are turning into ghost towns now and said “Hell, it’s going to get worse!” They know that promises of re-training and green or STEM jobs are empty, because those promises have been made for years but their communities are still collapsing. And what Hillary also didn’t realize is that she wasn’t talking about urban residents when she talked about things like ACA> She was talking about rural residents. Rural residents on an individual basis have a culture that sees living on government benefits as undignified. They don’t want to do so on a long-term basis – it destroys their self-respect. They want to support themselves with jobs and the benefits they earn from their employer.

  21. 21
    Jane Doh says:

    RonF–I totally agree with you about technical/vocational school (whatever you want to call them). I have a few friends from high school that went that route, though it was quite unpopular where I live, and got useful, relevant training that helped them get good jobs. I am certainly not a person who believes everyone needs a 4-year degree. That sort of thinking is ruining universities for those who really want/need one, since so many think of college as 4 years of partying and fun before work.

    In terms of rural folks in dying towns wanting local jobs, not handouts, I do understand that, but I don’t see that happening on a large scale in the near future. A friend was telling me that at her workplace, there are maybe 80 people working per shift doing the work of thousands a generation ago. There was all this talk about outsourcing tech support and other telework to rural communities, but let’s face it, labor costs in the developing world are much, much lower because the cost of living is much, much lower. It is a real problem that many of the long term unemployed live in places where there are no jobs now and unlikely to be jobs in the future. I don’t see an way out of this that does not involve levels of government involvement that are currently politically unpalatable.

  22. 22
    Elusis says:

    (After a discussion of how Black people tend to vote in a group for Democrats)

    When I say things like “Why did working people leave the Democrats in the late 40’s, early 50’s? ” I’m 1) Obviously talking about the ones that did, because they all didn’t.

    Congratulations, you have just perfectly illustrated Amp’s cartoon.

  23. 23
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Just thinking about the ways in which education policy seems to me to be so much like healthcare policy.

    You get a wide variety of inputs, some of which are controllable; we don’t really do much to discuss controlling them and both systems ‘take folks as they are’.

    You have arguments on both sides about expanding the scope of services, many of which are becoming rights-based.

    The neediest folks are also the most expensive to serve, and are often (though not always) those who have less response per dollar spent.

    The overall package demands more and more administration to handle the increasing complexity of the rules, and the increasing disparity between the lower- and higher- performing outcomes.

    The costs continue to go up, often without a matching performance increase, absent a tech breakthrough.

    The vast majority of spending and policy are driven by the location of the deciding line somewhere on the “more equal spending / less equal outcomes” and “less equal spending / more equal outcomes” spectrum. Nonetheless, the decision process and the precise location of the line are almost never discussed openly, and it is very rare for anyone to openly acknowledge a tradeoff between the spending.

    Do people disagree? I’m not sure I’m right about how similar they are.

  24. 24
    Michael says:

    I agree- it makes no sense to talk of the DREAM Act as supporting the working class since it’s meant help illegal aliens, who are only a small part of the working class and can’t vote anyway. When most people say working class in this context, they mean “working class VOTERS”.

  25. 25
    Michael says:

    Gilad Edelman wrote a good article today demonstrating why “Clinton won working class voters” is missing the point:
    http://washingtonmonthly.com/2017/06/06/the-straw-man-argument-about-the-election-that-wont-die/
    Trump’s support among the white working class was necessary but not sufficient for Trump to win.

  26. 26
    Harlequin says:

    In talking about why members of the white working class vote the way they do, it’s worth keeping in mind that most people don’t vote on narrow economic self-interest. What they do vote on is hard to tease out–some combination of randomness, selective information, and values broader than their own interest, probably–but it’s wrong to think the WWC voted for Trump mainly because they thought it would for sure make them better off financially, or at least would be more likely to make them better off than voting for Clinton. Just like wealthy Democrats promote many policies which would result in them taking home less income.

    (I like to think of this as “rich people who want tax cuts don’t simply want more money–many of then genuinely believe it is better for the economy as a whole if they have more money.”)

    That’s a good link, Michael. I often phrase this another way–middle-class and wealthy white people are why Republicans have a chance at all at the national level; the white working class explains a large part of the difference between Romney and Trump.

  27. 27
    Michael says:

    I think that part of what is turning the white working class against the Left is the message from the Left that they’re all racist sexist privileged white males. There’s definitely a message that their suffering is somehow less, that their suffering is their own fault. This article in the Washington Monthly sums it up:
    http://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/junejulyaugust-2017/how-to-win-rural-voters-without-losing-liberal-values/
    “Yet how is that different from scapegoating “inner city” residents of America’s “ghettos” as an “underclass” beset by “pathologies,” as liberals rightly castigate conservatives for doing? Telling the white working class that they should just move to San Francisco is like telling poor urban black people that they should stop complaining and relocate to Chappaqua.”
    If you don’t believe that left-wingers do that, then look at these comments from D.L. Hughley:
    http://atlantablackstar.com/2016/12/23/d-l-hughley-poor-white-people-youve-wasted-whiteness/
    “But your assertion is to make America great is to roll it back to the industrial age. You want to bring factories back rather than learn,” Hughley says. “If your a– can’t buy a house in the Rust Belt, you did something wrong. They talk about the white working class, … You blew it.
    “If the white working class is not working, they weren’t working when they were supposed to. In other words, they weren’t educating themselves.”
    I don’t remember anyone on the left condemning Hughley for saying this.
    Or look at this article from Arthur Chu:
    “It’s a truism that the most openly vicious practitioners of any brand of oppression tend not to be the people at the very top level of privilege, but those in the second-to-last row, desperate for someone at the very bottom that they can feel better than.”
    Now this is primarily perpetrating the “nerds are more sexist than “normal” men” meme which is bad enough but there’s also the implication that poor whites are more racist than wealth whites. Again I don’t remember anyone condemning Arthur Chu for this.
    In fact, being told that you’re privileged makes being poor, or being a virgin late in life, or being mentally ill WORSE- it’s like other people might have an excuse for those things but you don’t. And the left is willfully blind to this.

  28. 28
    Humble Talent says:

    but it’s wrong to think the WWC voted for Trump mainly because they thought it would for sure make them better off financially,

    I disagree completely… When you look at the two most successful campaigns of this election: Trump and Sanders, Trump who ultimately won and Sanders who gave Clinton, one of the most enfranchised candidates in the history of the DNC, a legitmate run for her money… What strikes me is that they’re flip sides of the same coin: They made economic arguements. People got out and supported unconventional candidates who paid attention to the issues they actually cared about (Holy shit, right?).

    From Trump: “We’re going to build a wall (to keep illegal immigrants who are stealing your jobs out), We’re going to bring jobs back, we’re going to Make America Great Again, We’re going to start winning deals.”

    From Sanders: “We’re going to tax the rich and cut taxes for the middle class, we’re going to make college free, we’re going to raise the minimum wage, we need single payer!”

    You can think these messages are vile, pie in the sky, or outright lies, but the fact of the matter is that these were the messages that resonated, and the social messages fell flat. I think one of the best take aways from this conversation for people arguing that people don’t vote with their financial self interest in mind is a reminder that not all people think like you. The left needs more than social justice if it wants to start winning again.

  29. 29
    Chris says:

    I disagree completely… When you look at the two most successful campaigns of this election: Trump and Sanders, Trump who ultimately won and Sanders who gave Clinton, one of the most enfranchised candidates in the history of the DNC, a legitmate run for her money…

    Wait, what?

    How was Sanders’ campaign more successful than Clinton’s when Clinton beat Sanders?

    Doesn’t the fact that you called Sanders’ campaign more successful than Clinton’s despite the objective fact that hers was more successful indicate an overwhelming anti-Clinton bias on your part?

  30. 30
    Ampersand says:

    Perhaps they’re defining “success” as “achievement beyond original expectations”?

  31. 31
    Harlequin says:

    Humble Talent @28:

    When you look at the two most successful campaigns of this election: Trump and Sanders, Trump who ultimately won and Sanders who gave Clinton, one of the most enfranchised candidates in the history of the DNC, a legitmate run for her money… What strikes me is that they’re flip sides of the same coin: They made economic arguements.

    Sanders’ message was majority economic, yes. To claim that Trump’s was focused on the economy, and Clinton’s wasn’t, though, is cherry-picking in the extreme.

    Trump emphasized not only the job-competition aspects of immigrants, but their (supposed) criminality, especially violent criminality. Muslim ban. “Lock her up.” “Drain the swamp.” Inner cities and their violent crime. And in addition to her social policies, Clinton had many economic policies that would have helped the working class (of all races), including policies surrounding childcare and education. Here’s a word cloud from all their debates. White is said equally by both, blue by Clinton, red by Trump. Yes, Trump mentioned NAFTA–but he mentioned Chicago about as many times (and to my recollection that was mostly to talk about crime). Meanwhile, Clinton’s top words include “invest”, “income”, and “affordable” (the latter probably due to the ACA, which, again, big economic policy).

    It’s also important, here, to distinguish that when most pollsters are talking about the working class, they are talking about education, not income. Wealthy uneducated people swung to the Republicans in November, while less well-off educated people did not. So when you said @19, Humble Talent:

    People who have lost their factory jobs, or their coal jobs, they don’t care who they get help from, they need help. And Democrats offer them nothing.

    those are some of the working-class people who swung to Trump, yes. But some of the people who changed their votes are at least economically comfortable; they were responding to Trump’s messaging on the culture as a whole, including the economy, not just a narrow promise of new jobs for themselves. That’s the point I wanted to make with my comment @26.

    Humble Talent again:

    I think one of the best take aways from this conversation for people arguing that people don’t vote with their financial self interest in mind is a reminder that not all people think like you.

    To be clear: I don’t think people don’t vote for their financial self-interest because I personally don’t do that; I think that because that’s what most empirical research shows. In the spirit of acknowledging mistakes, my statement @26 is part wrong: part of the reason people don’t vote in their own economic self-interest may be that, due to many factors, they don’t accurately judge the economic impact of candidates’ proposals. So some people may have thought they were voting for their own self-interest by voting for Trump, even though they weren’t.

    RonF has a good point that Democrats do offer help to the economically struggling members of white working class, but it’s not the kind of help they want. (I don’t mean to imply any judgment on either side by that: it’s just true, as far as I can tell.) That fits in well with Amp’s original cartoon, too, I think.

  32. 32
    Ampersand says:

    Humble Talent:

    Back to Hillary “We’re going to put coal companies out of business” Clinton, she was right, and it was inevitable… But it was also tone deaf and what was offered instead? Employer subsidised ACA exchanges? You don’t get that if you aren’t employed.

    Came across this while looking for something else… If you look at that quote in context, she was talking about the need to create new jobs to replace coal jobs. She referred to her plans to create jobs and investments, which she (or her campaign writers) talked and wrote about many other times – it was literally the thing Clinton talked about most on the campaign trail (a few examples: 1 2 3 4).

    Finally, if you’re poor and unemployed, you almost certainly qualify for free medical care under the ACA, through the medicaid expansion. How does that not help someone who lost their job?

    Unless you live in one of the 19 states in which Republicans have blocked the medicaid expansion. But I don’t see how that’s the Democrats’ fault, and Democrats have been pushing to get the medicaid expansion into more states.

  33. 33
    Ampersand says:

    You can think these messages are vile, pie in the sky, or outright lies, but the fact of the matter is that these were the messages that resonated, and the social messages fell flat.

    How do you know – as “the fact of the matter” – that it was these messages, rather than other messages (such as Trump’s race-baiting), that resonated with Trump voters?

    ETA: And I’m really not convinced that lying is the way to go. It’s easy to tell people that you’re going to wave a magic wand and coal jobs will appear, but there really is something wrong with making promises that not only can’t be fulfilled, but which encourage people to have unrealistic expectations about what’s economically possible.

    The left needs more than social justice if it wants to start winning again.

    The idea that “the left” – which, in this context, apparently means Clinton – talked about nothing but social justice is ridiculous and counterfactual. Here, by wordcount, is what Hillary Clinton talked about in her 2016 campaign speeches:

    HRC_WORDS

    Source: The most common words in Hillary Clinton’s speeches, in one chart – Vox

  34. 34
    Harlequin says:

    g&w, I took a stab at answering your comment 23 over on the most recent open thread.

  35. 35
    Humble Talent says:

    So much to reply to…

    How was Sanders’ campaign more successful than Clinton’s when Clinton beat Sanders?

    Because they didn’t start at the same place and the DNC tried very hard to game the system in favor of Clinton. Someone running 150 meters in the 100 meter run with a peg leg coming in a close second to someone who started at the start line and has two legs still ran a hell of a race.

    part of the reason people don’t vote in their own economic self-interest may be that, due to many factors, they don’t accurately judge the economic impact of candidates’ proposals. So some people may have thought they were voting for their own self-interest by voting for Trump, even though they weren’t.

    That’s absolutely fair, I said something that kind of touched on that in another post: When Trump (or Republicans) are talking about bringing back coal jobs, they’re lying. Coal jobs are gone. If someone supported Trump with the idea that he was actually bringing back coal jobs, they were horribly misled. But they THOUGHT they were voting in their best interest… And as far as most of them know, as far as most of them believe, Democrats offered them nothing. If you think that Democrats actually offer them something, do we agree that Democrats sold their offering poorly?

    To claim that Trump’s was focused on the economy, and Clinton’s wasn’t, though, is cherry-picking in the extreme.

    That’s fair. I’d argue that his economic policies got more traction than Clinton’s but that’s not because he pushed them more. He definitely ran a more populist campaign (from his base’s perspective) than Clinton did.

    It was literally the thing Clinton talked about most on the campaign trail.

    I think that’s irrelevant. Look, Trump didn’t talk about the joys of grabbing pussy on the campaign trail, but damned if there wasn’t a whole lot of coverage on those words. People think the media is biased left or right, and they aren’t completely wrong, but I think more than left and right, they’re biased towards sensationalism and laziness. It made a better story that Clinton was going to “put coal companies out of business” so that’s what they ran.

    Was it true? Yeah… It was. She had every intention of watching the coal industry die. Did it lack context? Yeah… It did. She offered clean energy jobs and education. Did the context make it any better? Slightly… Selling ephemeral “Green Jobs” in coal country probably went over like a brick anyway, but it WAS something, and ‘education’ doesn’t tend to resonate with people who’ve already been working 20 years. But still… Who thought it was a good idea to have those words come out of her mouth? Completely tone-deaf.

  36. 36
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    part of the reason people don’t vote in their own economic self-interest may be that, due to many factors, they don’t accurately judge the economic impact of candidates’ proposals.

    We think it’s normal for some people to spend $250,000 and four years of their time to get a degree in Art History and a minor in Egyptian History*. So why would we be surprised that people give low priority to a set of uber-complex and often-unreliable political-economic predictions?

    A more likely reason is that economic self-interest is rarely the highest priority. That is probably part of why you’re a cartoonist and I am a lawyer. Both of us could probably have made more driving trucks or doing something else, but I suspect neither of us wanted to.

    Also, I don’t know if anyone really CAN “accurately judge the economic impact of candidates’ proposals” in many cases. The country is pretty damn complicated.

    *I pulled these out of a hat as a guess about relatively apolitical, highly interesting, and not especially high-paying areas of study. If you majored in them, no insult intended!

  37. 37
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Here, by wordcount, is what Hillary Clinton talked about in her 2016 campaign speeches:

    This is not especially convincing:

    First, wordcount really relates to rate. Hilary gave relatively long and complex speeches, IMO.

    Second, word use and speech emphasis are not the same at all. Example of two uses of “jobs:”

    1) “Everything is about jobs. I hate NAFTA, but that doesn’t change the focus of my speech: If you vote for me, I will give you jobs. Thank you!”
    2) “NAFTA and global warming are battles facing this country. If we don’t address the complex issues of global trade, we may not preserve American jobs in the coming centuries. But our increasing opportunities in the green arena will create new jobs, while also serving the equal priority of helping to protect our planet.”

    Only one of those is perceived as a “job focus” even though both examples have the same word count.

  38. 38
    RonF says:

    Amp, I see something odd about #33. I’ve seen a survey that claimed that 16% of Pres. Trump’s voters listed the Supreme Court nomination as the #1 reason they supported him (and frankly, it was the one thing that almost got me to vote for him myself). I find it hard to believe that “Supreme Court/Garland” wouldn’t have hit on that graphic.

  39. 39
    nobody.really says:

    But they THOUGHT they were voting in their best interest… And as far as most of them know, as far as most of them believe, Democrats offered them nothing. If you think that Democrats actually offer them something, do we agree that Democrats sold their offering poorly?

    If we define “sold your offering poorly” to mean “failed to achieve the desired end,” then I’d agree. Likewise, I’d say that bikers who refuse to use performance-enhancing drugs typically bike poorly.

    I keep thinking of Michael Armstrong who, in 1997, took the reins at AT&T and launched an ambitious project to create a superior nationwide telecommunications network based on coaxial cable which could defeat the stranglehold that the Bell Operating Companies had on their wireline customers. The plan was bold and required enormous capital—and by 2000-2001, AT&T simply ran out of money. The various parts of the project had to be sold off for scrap. The AT&T name now lives on as a label purchased by Southwestern Bell.

    What went wrong? The business model seemed pretty sound—but the cost of capital for communications projects skyrocketed. Why? Because every time AT&T wanted to issue more stocks or bonds, it had to compete with the wunderkind called MCI, who could always promise a better return. And how could MCI do that? They had developed a secret strategy: THEY LIED THEIR ASSES OFF. Today people scarcely remember AT&T’s failure because it was shortly eclipsed by the unprecedented implosions of MCI and Arthur Anderson.

    Clinton offered people a constructive message about a future that, with some effort and sacrifice, we might have been able to achieve. And people might have been willing to receive and embrace that message—if there hadn’t been an irredeemable charlatan telling people that effort and sacrifice is for suckers because you can lose weight using the Chocolate Fudge Diet!

    In short, Clinton was unwilling to outbid a lunatic, and thus lost the election. Like AT&T, she will be remembered as a footnote in the origin story of an unprecedented debacle.

    I’m not sure that “selling their offering poorly” is the most illuminating way to characterize the situation, but that’s just one guy’s opinion.

  40. 40
    Ampersand says:

    Related to this discussion: The Democratic Party Is in Worse Shape Than You Thought – The New York Times

    There’s plenty of raw meat there for both sides of this debate – and plenty that cuts against my cartoon. :-p

    Indirect link.

  41. 41
    Kate says:

    to get a degree in Art History and a minor in Egyptian History*.

    Was that seriously random? I did my undergraduate degree in art history and my MA and PhD in ancient Egyptian language and literature. It took more like twelve years, though.
    I would think you’re of an age to remember that in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s there was expected to be an expansion in need for university instructors, before the adjunctification of the system. There were also plenty of jobs (or, at least I never had trouble finding them…) for research assistants, secretaries and the like.
    We still used film to do copy stand photography, and had slides to remount, file and organize for lectures. We also typed papers and books for older professors who still wrote their work out long hand on pads of lined paper.
    Manufacturing and coal aren’t the only areas that have lost tens of thousands of jobs to technology over the past 20-30 years.

    Clinton offered people a constructive message about a future that, with some effort and sacrifice, we might have been able to achieve. And people might have been willing to receive and embrace that message—if there hadn’t been an irredeemable charlatan telling people that effort and sacrifice is for suckers because you can lose weight using the Chocolate Fudge Diet!

    This is basically the way I see it. Democrat’s problem is they haven’t found a way to counter Republican lies.

  42. 42
    Michael says:

    @Ampersand#32- yes, she mentioned retraining- BUT that’s the problem. To most people in Rust Belt states,suggesting retraining is like suggesting drowning puppies. It’s difficult to change careers in middle age. The jobs usually pay much less than their previous job and/or are located 100 miles away. The workers feel like retraining accomplishes nothing for most workers except finding a way to blame them for not getting new jobs. Clinton’s inability to recognize that workers are understandably wary of retraining problems just showed how out of touch she was.

  43. 43
    nobody.really says:

    A study in language usage:

    Clinton offered people a constructive message about a future that, with some effort and sacrifice, we might have been able to achieve. And people might have been willing to receive and embrace that message—if there hadn’t been an irredeemable charlatan telling people that effort and sacrifice is for suckers because you can lose weight using the Chocolate Fudge Diet!

    ….I’m not sure that “selling their offering poorly” is the most illuminating way to characterize the situation, but that’s just one guy’s opinion.

    [Y]es, [Clinton] mentioned retraining- BUT that’s the problem. To most people in Rust Belt states, suggesting retraining is like suggesting drowning puppies. It’s difficult to change careers in middle age. The jobs usually pay much less than their previous job and/or are located 100 miles away. The workers feel like retraining accomplishes nothing for most workers except finding a way to blame them for not getting new jobs. Clinton’s inability to recognize that workers are understandably wary of retraining problems just showed how out of touch she was.

    Indeed, retraining isn’t very attractive—compared to the fantasy of a resurgent coal industry. But it might seem attractive compared to the reality of unemployment or a lifetime as a Walmart greeter.

    In sum, Trump responded to Rustbelt discontent with pie-in-the-sky promises. Clinton responded with practical strategies for addressing real-world problems. And from this, we conclude that the Clinton campaign was “selling their offering poorly” and that Clinton was “out of touch.” Am I getting this right?

  44. 44
    Elusis says:

    And of course the irony is that many Trump voters are the types who are first in line to say “the world doesn’t owe you a job! If you can’t get a job where you are, you should move! You can’t just wait for the jobs to come to you because you want to live in some certain place! You should take whatever job you can find and be glad you have it, not look for a government handout! You should find a job and work your way up, or you should accept that you chose the wrong field and go train for another one, even if that means starting at the bottom!” and etc. etc.

    As long as they’re saying it to (choose your shibboleth: Millennials, Gen Xers who majored in Art History, youth of color living in cities, “welfare queens,” formerly incarcerated people, etc.) “Good for thee but not for me” is practically an 11th Commandment with these folks, it seems like.

  45. 45
    Harlequin says:

    Amp, that was an interesting NYT article, thanks. I notice it tells two stories:
    – The Democrats are losing working-class share in a way that cuts across race and political ideology
    – The reasons white working-class people are leaving the Democratic party

    I wanted more info on why minority working-class voters are leaving the Democratic party (or not voting). Less enthusiasm for candidates, sure–but we got much more detail on the WWC. Presumably racial resentment, which is a big part of what the WWC reported (not all of it!), doesn’t apply. So what else does the party need to be doing to keep those voters? I think, as both a matter of practicality and a matter of morality, reducing Democrats’ commitment to anti-racist policies is a bad idea. But other policy changes (including some targeted programs in WWC areas hit hardest by eg foreign competition) might work. Knowing what the non-white working class wants would help retain those voters and also, perhaps, help gain back some of the WWC as well.

  46. 46
    Michael says:

    But the point is there’s considerable evidence job training doesn’t work:
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/10/retraining-jobless-janesville-gm-obama-romney/2/
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/job-retraining-for-the-unemployed-a-popular-fix-that-might-not-work/2012/02/15/gIQAbpc3JR_story.html?utm_term=.83522bc02ee2
    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/23/magazine/retraining-jobs-unemployment.html?_r=0
    http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/job-training-programs-may-be-more-popular-they-are-effective
    Now Hillary could have tried to explain how she’d avoid the mistakes of past programs. She could have acknowledged the difficulties of past programs. But she ignored all the problems workers had in the past.

  47. 47
    Charles says:

    Michael,

    I’m guessing you have no idea what Clinton’s actual proposal for revitalizing the economies of Appalachian Coal communities was, because what you are claiming it was is basically completely wrong.

    Here is the fact sheet for Clinton’s plan. Tell me how that matches your claim that “Now Hillary could have tried to explain how she’d avoid the mistakes of past programs. She could have acknowledged the difficulties of past programs. But she ignored all the problems workers had in the past.”

    In fact, it is odd that you brought retraining into it at all. That wasn’t what Amp referred to and it isn’t a major component of Clinton’s plan, and Clinton didn’t mention it in the snippet in the interview Amp linked to, but you brought it in and claimed that it was the entirety of her plan. I’m wondering where you got that impression from and whether you’ll continue trusting that source of information.

    I’m not going to bother hunting down her relevant white papers at the moment, but it is probably pretty easy to find them if you’d like to know the actual details of her plan beyond just a fact sheet.

  48. 48
    Michael says:

    My apologies if I got Clinton’s plan wrong. I guess I was thinking of articles like this:
    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/29/us/politics/coal-country-is-wary-of-hillary-clintons-pledge-to-help.html?_r=0
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-clinton-coal_us_57310338e4b016f37896bf10
    http://www.politico.com/story/2015/11/hillary-clinton-aid-coal-communities-215789
    https://thinkprogress.org/hillary-clinton-is-promising-tough-love-to-openly-hostile-coal-country-84085245cb6e
    Maybe I missed some of the subtleties in the articles but it’s not clear from them exactly what makes Hillary’s plan different from other failed retraining schemes. All the articles do use the word retraining, though. (They mention her claiming that what works in Virginia doesn’t work in Ohio but they also make it clear the locals weren’t buying Hillary’s plan.)

  49. 49
    Ampersand says:

    Michael, here’s a quote from the thinkprogress article you just linked to:

    While there, Clinton is expected to tout the same plan that got her into rhetorical trouble two months ago — let the coal industry fizzle, and build something better from the ashes. For Appalachia, it can be considered a tough love plan — the cultural legacy of coal will die, but $30 billion will be invested into the promise of a new future: infrastructure improvements, health programs for former coal miners, mine land remediation, training and education programs, and incentives for business investment in the region.

    If you read that and concluded “this plan is retraining, full stop, nothing else,” then there’s something wrong with your reading skills. (Here’s the Clinton campaign’s six-page description of the Clinton plan (pdf link). Training is about one paragraph of it.)

    I don’t know if such a plan would work. There’s no surefire way to do something as hard as reversing a region’s economic momentum.

    But let me ask you, what better plan did Trump advocate? (What Bernie advocated was very similar to what Clinton advocated, unsurprisingly.)

  50. 50
    Michael says:

    I’m not disputing that Trump and Bernie didn’t have better plans. But the article mostly doesn’t go into detail explaining HOW Hillary’s plan will help provide new jobs other than training. (Admittedly, there is that line about incentives for business investment.) I apologize if I misunderstood it. But is the idea that infrastructure improvements will provide “shovel ready” jobs for people without college degrees? Or is the idea that it will make it easier for people to travel to work to seek jobs? And how will mine land remediation help? I see from looking on Hillary’s website that the idea is to convert the mines into other businesses but that’s not clear from the article. (And the example her website uses is converting one into a google data center- that doesn’t sound like something that coal miners could staff without retraining.) A lot of the articles did not go into details. It’s possible Hillary’s plan might have provided jobs for people without college degrees without retraining but if that’s the case, it wasn’t clear from the article.

  51. 51
    Sebastian H says:

    Ugh. Referencing a white paper is not responding to the discussion if the contents of the white paper were not well communicated to voters. The white paper mentality is exactly why Clinton was such a horrible candidate. You can flesh out details in white papers, but a good candidate MUST be able to communicate the general thrust of them to the public.

    A metaphor–you don’t judge a good cartoonist by saying “if you properly explain all the jokes they can be funny”. A good cartoonist has a good idea of the audience, so most of the jokes won’t need to be explained to that audience. A bad cartoonist needs most of the jokes explained.

    Clinton was a bad politician because she needed the jokes explained (and seemed to think that lots of regular Democratic voters weren’t necessary components of her audience).

    [btw I think you’re a good cartoonist–the jokes don’t need to be explained even when I disagree with them].

  52. 52
    Humble Talent says:

    Yeah… What Sebastian said. “It’s on her website, it’s everyone’s fault for not reading it.” Strikes me as especially hollow when part of the fact sheet explicitly states that the people who they most desperately wanted to read that information generally have poor access to broadband.

    I mean really… Is it a voter’s job to figure out ways to support candidates, or is it a candidate’s job to engage voters?

  53. 53
    Charles S says:

    It was also in her speeches etc. I agree that her campaign utterly failed to get effective media attention to her policy proposals, and part of that was a decision to focus on how bad Trump was rather than how good Clinton was (the other part was the media decision to focus endlessly on the bullshit email server nonsense).

    But Michael’s description was presented as what Clinton did and said, not as whether her campaign was effective or if the media was effective. Those are very different things. He is absolutely wrong about what Clinton did and said.

  54. 54
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Charles S says:
    what Clinton did and said,

    Through what filter?

    If you use the “what Clinton intended to say” filter, you’re right. If you use the “what people understood her to be conveying” filter, I don’t think you are right.

    Obviously the second filter can lead to some weird conclusions, in which a candidate (for example) has at least a facially decent plan to support Appalachia and people don’t understand that to be true.* But if you’re talking retrospectively about why people voted as they did, I think the second filter is the better one.

    *The way to get that vote IMO is to make the investments first, THEN transition away from coal. Nobody trusts promises these days.

  55. 55
    Humble Talent says:

    (the other part was the media decision to focus endlessly on the bullshit email server nonsense).

    I’m not sure this is the place to go in depth on the topic, but I think that Democrats kept themselves purposefully ignorant about classification levels, government procedure, and the laws surrounding the server in order to treat it like it was a much smaller issue than it was. I reject the framing of the issue as “bullshit” and I would LOVE to hash this out with you.

  56. 56
    Charles S says:

    Nope, sorry, it’s a bunch of bullshit and I have no interest in re-hashing it with you.

  57. 57
    desipis says:

    The email thing at least had the potential to be an issue that demonstrated poor decision making. The media’s obsession with the “grab her by the pussy” comment by Trump on the other hand seemed to me to be “bullshit”. I think it achieved nothing other than cementing Clinton as the “identity politics/political correctness candidate”, which undermined any efforts made by Clinton to communicate economic policies.

  58. 58
    Kate says:

    The media’s obsession with the “grab her by the pussy” comment by Trump on the other hand seemed to me to be “bullshit”.

    This is a gross mischaracterization of this issue. Trump walked into the changing rooms of the pagents he oversees, including Miss Teen U.S.A. (meaning minors were involved). He has been accused of sexual assualt by mulitple women, including his ex-wife, who (I believe) testified under oath at some point. This is not about one offhand comment.

  59. 59
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    desipis says:
    June 13, 2017 at 2:29 am
    The email thing at least had the potential to be an issue that demonstrated poor decision making

    There’s the email server itself, and the response to inquiry about it (the decision to stonewall and delete; to have Bill meet with Lynch; etc.)

    I think the response was much more damaging than the server. When you hide shit, the assumption is that there is something to be hidden. When you duck an investigation, the assumption is that you are worried you will be guilty. Shades of Trump, right? Except worse, perhaps, because unlike Trump the folks in place were very pro-Hillary.

    The hide/stonewall issue also robbed her defenders of the opportunity to base their defenses on objective facts (since things were deleted, etc.) and forced them to parrot a lot of her personal claims.

    And that was uber-magnified by the subsequent hacking of her campaign, since that made it more clear that the server could also have been hacked.

    Anyway, a bad move.

  60. 60
    Kate says:

    G&W Can you link to an article with facts about the response, because my memory of events is quite different?
    For example, I am pretty sure that Hillary never decided to have Bill meet with Lynch in response to the inquiry. I though that he spontaneously popped over to say hi when then were at the same airport. I’m not sure why you think Hillary was involved in that. The optics of that were bad. He shouldn’t have done it. But, I think Lynch recusing herself was a more than adequate response. What would you have had Hillary do?

  61. 61
    David Simon says:

    Regarding deletion: my recollection is that the order to delete the old emails went out before there was any investigative interest in them. There’s an episode of the “Reply All” tech podcast that covers this in more detail.

  62. 62
    Sebastian H says:

    You’re not really understanding the email timeline.

    In late 2014, it was discovered that Clinton had been maintaining her email server privately. Her state department emails were subject to freedom of information act requests.

    She claimed at the time that she had freely mixed personal and government emails. Instead of letting the state department sort it out, she had her personal attorney do it. Then, on December 5, 2014, ONLY the emails that the lawyer claimed were subject to State Department jurisdiction were turned over.

    This was already improper handling. But even if you analogize this to a lawsuit privilege situation it gets much worse. In a lawsuit privilege situation the attorney keeps all the records not turned over in case there is controversy over whether or not they were properly classified. Clinton’s lawyer instead ordered them all destroyed. Here Clinton’s lawyer exploited a joint in the system. They knew Clinton’s emails were under investigation but not yet under formal subpoena. So they reviewed it and turned it over like it was lawsuit, but then purged as if there was no investigation and as if the FOIA didn’t apply.

    On March 4, 2015 Clinton received a subpoena from Congress regarding the records. Her staff sent a preservation of records notice around knowing that the documents had already been ordered destroyed.

    But oops, the documents hadn’t already been destroyed as it turns out.

    The network hadn’t destroyed them yet. They shouldn’t have anyway, but Clinton’s lawyer was exploiting the gap between the freedom of information act and a congressional subpoena. Now that it was under congressional subpoena they DEFINITELY should not have destroyed it. But according to the FBI, they got around to destroying the emails sometime between March 25-31. There was a conference call with the attorney and the employee on March 31st. We don’t know what was said in that call because he invoked attorney client privilege. What oddly isn’t know is when the order to destroy the emails when out–only that it is before the subpoena.

    We know that at least 30 destroyed emails turned up elsewhere in the investigation and dealt with state department business–strongly indicating that not all of the destroyed emails were actually personal.

    So the VERY most charitable reading is that she improperly tried to have the documents destroyed, and when it would have violated the congressional subpoena to do so the employee who hadn’t done it before (when it was only clearly improper) did it anyway without further authorization (to not get in trouble for failing to have done it earlier). I actually buy that explanation (say 65-70% probability) but think it is pretty bad anyway. The ‘privileged’ meeting on the 31st concerns me, especially as the record is super fuzzy about whether or not any of the deletions took place after the meeting.

  63. 63
    Ampersand says:

    It would be useful if people would link to sources, when possible.

  64. 64
    Sebastian H says:

    Not every bit of that timeline is here, but I think most of it that might not be widely know is. Its source is the FBI report. The speculation about Clinton’s lawyers’ thoughts is speculation–as we would never be directly told–but it is well grounded speculation given the precise steps they took.

  65. 65
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks, Sebastian!

  66. 66
    David Simon says:

    Sebastian, thank you, that’s very detailed!

  67. 67
    Charles S says:

    She claimed at the time that she had freely mixed personal and government emails. Instead of letting the state department sort it out, she had her personal attorney do it. Then, on December 5, 2014, ONLY the emails that the lawyer claimed were subject to State Department jurisdiction were turned over.

    This was already improper handling.

    What is the basis for claiming that this was improper handling?

  68. 68
    Sebastian H says:

    You will note I didn’t say illegal, I said improper. We don’t technically know if it is illegal, it’s never been tested in court. But it is clearly improper given the existence of the Freedom of Information Act. the FOIA presupposes that the government has access to all the documents and that the government then sorts through them to decide what is relevant to the request. If you let the officials decide what counts as pertinent to their official duties, you eviscerate the freedom of information act.

    It isn’t really a hole in the FOIA because officials aren’t supposed to keep their records ‘privately’. With any person lower on the chain the government would have demanded all the documents to let the government sort through them on pain of losing their security clearance. The fact that they didn’t do so was enormous class privilege (similar to the General Patreaus scandal where giving classified information to his mistress got him a slap on the wrist).

    The freedom of information act was a huge progressive triumph in making government accountable. The Clinton approach just demolished it. And worse, we are expected to defend it because she’s on our side.

    But destroying the ‘private’ emails afterwards is even worse. That just puts the final nail in the coffin of the FOIA (and any other method of accountability you might try that depends on record keeping). If you let the official decide what counts as private, and then destroy the documents, you forclose any ability to deal with wrongly classified documents. We just have to trust the official at their word.

    Try to imagine defending that in any case that doesn’t involve Clinton. Prison warden keeps private records mixing his work communications. Governor mixing business transaction communications with public communications. In each case we wouldn’t want to leave them in charge of classifying which was which. And we certainly wouldn’t want them to destroy the documents in case they got it wrong. And if they tried, but failed, to destroy the documents, we clearly wouldn’t want them to destroy them after a subpoena had been issued.

  69. 69
    Humble Talent says:

    Sebastian’s points about FOIA are pertinent, and part of the story not much talked about. I think that’s because it isn’t particularly well understood, and if it was understood, it would be particularly damning for Hillary.

    But there were other things…

    You remember all those times where she said “Nothing I sent was marked classified at the time it was sent”? This is the kind of phrase that sounds good to people that don’t understand how classification works, but made the heads of people that actually know the process of classification explode. And the fact that it got the traction that it seems to is why I think that people who were interested in protecting Hillary weren’t particularly interested in actually learning the truth.

    That phrase doesn’t even pass the “If you think about it for a second” test… Because if you think about it for a second, you realize it’s absurd. If Hillary is Emailing something that’s obviously classified, like troop movements, just off the top of my head, there’s no magical classification fairy hovering over her shoulder, marking the documents in real time. So when she sends that Email, even though EVERYONE and their dog knows that troop movements are classified, they bear no markers. This is why (and we’re out of “If you think about it for a second” territory) ALL communications for people at a certain level of government are assumed by virtue of their position to be some level of classification until the documents go through the FOIA process and receive their actual classification and possible redaction. It is for this reason that it was actually more reasonable to assume (to use Hillary’s own words) that “her yoga classes were classified” than that they weren’t. What’s worse is because her Emails were NEVER meant to make it to a classified server, they would never be subject to FOIA requests, they could not receive classification, and they would never be a matter of public record.

  70. 70
    Sebastian H says:

    Humble talent. You’re using ‘classify’ differently than I was. Which may be fine, but I want to be clear.

    I was using it for the process of distinguishing between ‘secretary of state emails’ and ‘non-secretary of state emails’. Clinton’s lawyer treated it like a legal privilege situation for the purpose of classifying which was which. That was how they treated it at the time of classification. But in a legal privilege situation, the lawyer would be required to keep the privileged documents afterwards so that if there was any dispute about whether they got the classification right (even in non nefarious ways like not understanding the FOIA request properly) the issue could be revisited.

    None of this speaks to CLASSIFIED documents. Now the risk of having CLASSIFIED information get out is one risk of running your own email server. But it isn’t what I was talking about. I was talking about using it as a mechanism to evade otherwise mandated oversight.

    The problem I think a lot of people have is that despite how it would look if it were Trump, they trust Clinton. Which on some level is fine. Maybe she wasn’t hiding anything crucial to anything you care about. But systemically it is still bad because it encourages people to distrust the system more and more. Knowing that oversight is available is one of the key ways people can trust the other side with winning. Seeing people on the other side blow past oversight while having people make excuses for it makes us fear that they will oppress us. Clinton fed into that dynamic.

    One of the scariest things about Trump is how he completely blows past all the built in oversight and reality checks. Hopefully we haven’t degraded them enough to make them useless.

  71. 71
    Sebastian H says:

    Also humble talent you’re wrong about CLASSIFIED documents. Most of them become CLASSIFIED by marking them as CLASSIFIED well before the FOIA process–usually as they are being created.

  72. 72
    Humble Talent says:

    Most of them become CLASSIFIED by marking them as CLASSIFIED well before the FOIA process–usually as they are being created.

    Eh…. You aren’t wrong… But this starts to get into areas that’s over the head of the average person and beside the point. Yes, you’re right, there are systems in place where every document produced from certain people or in certain locations are born classified and marked by the program they’re using. And to be fair to you… The Secretary of State probably warrants that. But Hillary’s devices weren’t set up like that. That there are systems where information is born classified doesn’t really apply because Hillary’s servers purposefully ducked the system.

    I mean… Even giving her the benefit of the doubt in that maybe Clinton was illiterate when it came to IT, and hired people just as illiterate as she was (That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it could be the truth.)… The first time the State Department got a FOIA request, all kinds of alarm bells should have been ringing. But it seems, whether by incompetence or design (Again, neither is particularly flattering) that the State Department seemed more than happy to respond to thousands of FOIA requests on the Secretary of State’s correspondence with “No Records Found”, not even a single completely redacted page, because the records were all on a server in the basement of their New York home.

  73. 73
    Ampersand says:

    Micahel wrote:

    And the example her website uses is converting one into a google data center- that doesn’t sound like something that coal miners could staff without retraining.

    I think the idea was what G&W said: If more industry – of any sort – comes to the area and does well, that will create more local jobs of all sorts.

    I don’t know if this is true of Michael, but in general, there is absolutely no plan – other than “demolish environmental regulations and coal jobs will magically come back,” which simply isn’t true – that Hillary’s critics will accept. Retraining is bad; trying to economically revitalize the area is bad; welfare is bad; government as employer of last resort is bad; helping people to move to more economically viable areas is bad.

  74. 74
    Ampersand says:

    Referencing a white paper is not responding to the discussion if the contents of the white paper were not well communicated to voters.

    This is true. But Michael himself suggested the article which made it clear, in plain English, that Clinton’s plan was not limited to retraining. Either he didn’t read the article, or he read it but was so wrapped up in his bias (sorry, Michael) that he decided it had said something other than what it actually said.

    Clinton could have done better. I completely concede that point.

    But I don’t think there’s a thing she could have said, or any communication strategy, that would have overcome many people’s tendency to believe the worse and ignore whatever she actually said, or any news story that contradicts their already-held beliefs.

    That said, let’s not forget that millions more Americans voted for her than for Donald Trump. Ordinary Americans voted for Clinton – and more of them did than voted for Trump.

  75. 75
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Ampersand says:
    June 19, 2017 at 12:42 pm
    But I don’t think there’s a thing she could have said, or any communication strategy, that would have overcome many people’s tendency to believe the worse and ignore whatever she actually said

    Seriously?

    You’re basically implying that people didn’t fairly dislike her, but that her opposition was merely simply hard-headed or resistant to reality. So much so, in fact, that they literally couldn’t have been convinced. Which implies you can tell people who are reasonable and accepting of reality by the fact that they don’t oppose her policies.

    Now, you probably already classify me in the first group*, so you may ignore this, too, but I mean this seriously: That sort of response is why you have Trump as President right now.

    *Which is right only insofar as I detested Hillary, but, like most folks, wrong in the “couldn’t be convinced” part.

  76. 76
    Kate says:

    That sort of response is why you have Trump as President right now.

    Trump is president right now because Democrats haven’t figured out a way to counter Republican lies.
    In the case under discussion now – coal jobs (not Clinton’s general likability, as you imply in your response). Republicans promise that deregulation, tax cuts and stronger border controls will bring back coal jobs. That is a lie. Coal jobs are not coming back. Democrats try to offer job training; investment in alternative industries and infrastructure; and social safety net programs. None of these are perfect solutions, but they are honest attempts to help. Unfortunately, people in coal country still prefer to believe the lie that coal jobs are coming back. As long as there’s a party telling them what they want to hear, there’s nothing anyone can say to make people let go of that dream and face a reality that is difficult to face.

  77. 77
    Ampersand says:

    AMP: Many eggs are hard-boiled.

    G&W: How dare you say all eggs are hard-boiled!

    (Also, what Kate said.)

  78. 78
    Humble Talent says:

    “Democrats haven’t figured out a way to counter Republican lies.”

    I’d counter that they do… They just target different groups. Black America continued to lag behind averages during Obama’s tenure. Basically any promise made by Democrats to Black America was a lie.

    Before “Republicans are worse!”

    This isn’t to say Republicans are any better… I’m just saying, pot… meet kettle. Democrats lie.

    Before: “Republicans stonewalled them.”

    I’d like to know which legislation Democrats put forward that you think Republicans stonewalled, and how that would have had a disproportionately positive effect on Black America… Because I can’t think of one. But if you can: When Obama was elected, he had a supermajority, he could (and did) pass all kinds of laws that Republicans didn’t like, the very first of which was the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

  79. 79
    Harlequin says:

    HT: Surprisingly, Democrats were unable to completely undo the damage of hundreds of years of discrimination in only 8 years. Still, black people do better under Democratic presidents than they do under Republicans.

    Edit: I agree with you that Democrats also lie (although, and this may be my partisan bias speking, I think less). But it’s weird to point to that issue as proof when it is obviously true that Democrats do do more to help black Americans.

  80. 80
    Ampersand says:

    Black America continued to lag behind averages during Obama’s tenure. Basically any promise made by Democrats to Black America was a lie.

    Did Obama promise that he would make Black Americans no longer “lag behind averages” during his term? I’m skeptical. Do you have a link to a direct quote of Obama making that promise?

    For example, when I say that Trump promised to bring back coal jobs, I’m thinking of things that he said like: “We’re gonna put the miners back to work. We’re gonna put the miners back to work. We’re gonna get those mines open.” That wasn’t just a slip of the tongue: He repeated the promise, in similar words, in other speeches.

  81. 81
    Humble Talent says:

    Did Obama promise that he would make Black Americans no longer “lag behind averages” during his term?

    No…. But that shifts the goalposts, no one talking about coal jobs explicitly said that they would disproportionately benefit white people. Did Obama make promises that would disproportionately and positively effect black people, and then break them? Oh yes.

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/rulings/promise-broken/

    “Expand the child and dependent care credit”
    “Create a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners”
    “Provide option for a pre-filled-out tax form”
    “Create a mortgage interest tax credit for non-itemizers”
    And on and on…

    I feel like we need to take some giant steps back… Kate said Republicans lied when they said that they could get coal jobs back, and Democrats don’t have a way to combat those lies. I’m not saying Republicans are better for black people, I’m not saying that they don’t on average pay more attention to Black America… I don’t need to.

    All I need to counter that point is to point out that Democrats DO have a counter for “Republican Lies”: They lie too.

    EDIT: And it’s not just to black people… Bernie’s “Tax the Rich, get Free School” plan is a lie. There’s no math that makes that feasible: You could tax the top 1% at the rate of 100% income tax and not come up with the numbers you need to fund a fraction of what he said it would.

  82. 82
    Sebastian H says:

    I’m on mobile so can’t comment extensively. But this seems to suggest that Sanders voters think the system is rigged while Clinton voters mostly didn’t. That seems to be right in line with some of the Obama then Trump voters.

  83. 83
    Chris says:

    Black America continued to lag behind averages during Obama’s tenure. Basically any promise made by Democrats to Black America was a lie.

    Humble, the second sentence here only follows from the first if Democrats had promised that Black America would not continue to lag behind averages during Obama’s term. (And it doesn’t even especially follow from that, since that’s only one promise.)

    So Amp’s question wasn’t “shifting the goalposts.” It was a direct response to what you wrote.

  84. 84
    Humble Talent says:

    I think that’s being deliberately obtuse, especially in the face of my later explanation. Did Obama personally say those exact words? No… Probably not. Did a Democrat sometime? Oh, I’d be surprised if I couldn’t find an example….

    But does it matter? Not even a little bit.

    Let’s say you’re right. Let’s say that I meant those two sentences to stand alone, that they’re factually inaccurate. So… What’s the point? That Democrats don’t lie to get votes? That Obama didn’t break more than 100 promises he made on the campaign trail? That Bernie’s “tax the rich” math works?

    I know you Chris, you’re smarter than that. So I’m left wondering if your entire point in the face of what I’m saying is merely: “Obama didn’t actually say that”? In which case: Touche. Now how about the rest of it?

  85. 85
    nobody.really says:

    I’d like to know which legislation Democrats put forward that you think Republicans stonewalled, and how that would have had a disproportionately positive effect on Black America… Because I can’t think of one. But if you can: When Obama was elected, he had a supermajority, he could (and did) pass all kinds of laws that Republicans didn’t like, the very first of which was the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

    * * *

    Did Obama make promises that would disproportionately and positively effect black people, and then break them? Oh yes.

    http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/rulings/promise-broken/

    “Expand the child and dependent care credit”
    “Create a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners”
    “Provide option for a pre-filled-out tax form”
    “Create a mortgage interest tax credit for non-itemizers”
    And on and on…

    So … you’ve kind of answered your own question, right? We can show that Republicans engaged in an unprecedented level of stonewalling, and this led to a number of policies bogging down.

    Or, as you note, there’s the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restored protections against pay discrimination for women. Black people are 52% female, as opposed to the general US population which is 51% female. Ergo, the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act should have a disproportionately positive effect on Black America.

    And there’s Obamacare, which caused the percentage of Americans with health insurance to increase by 7.4% for black Americans, 7.8% for Hispanic Americans, but only 4.5% for white Americans. Ergo, Obamacare has a disproportionately positive effect on Black America.

    Crime rates fell during Obama’s Administration, (as they had during W.’s and Clinton’s Administrations). Blacks are disproportionately likely to be victims of crime. Ergo, Obama’s crime policies had a disproportionately positive effect on Black America.

    Perhaps not coincidentally, federal prison populations also fell during the Obama Administration. Blacks represent 13% of the US population, but 40% of the (state and federal) incarcerated population. Ergo, Obama’s crime enforcement policies had a disproportionately positive effect on Black America.

    Finally, during Obama’s Administration black unemployment fell 8 percentage points, whereas total unemployment fell by only five percentage points, suggesting that Obama’s economic policies had a disproportionately positive effect on Black America. But in each case, the numbers fell by roughly half, so perhaps it’s better to call this one a draw.

    Etc.

    But the larger point is this: Obama made plausible promises–promises that might, with sufficient political capital, be kept. Obama eventually ran out of political capital, that’s all. In contrast, it’s unclear how Trump would create a resurgent coal economy, regardless of his political capital. Certainly Trump has given no indication about how he would do so.

  86. 86
    Kate says:

    “Democrats haven’t figured out a way to counter Republican lies.”

    I’d counter that they do… They just target different groups.

    I was using “counter” to mean oppose, not tabulate. So, my point was that Democrats have not figured out a winning response – honest or dishonest – to respond to Republican lies. Some of the most egregeous lies I see are:
    * deregulation, tax cuts and immigration control will bring back good jobs in manufacturing, mining, etc..
    * everybody will have “access” to healthcare under the house Republican plan (they don’t count people who no longer can afford healthcare, for starters)
    * global warming is not happening/not man made/not a problem

    Part of the problem is, Republicans are telling people things that they want to hear. I think Democrats are more honest about the problems that face us, and how difficult and complicated addressing those problems will be. Democrats mostly lie by trying to downplay those difficulties.

  87. 87
    Humble Talent says:

    I mean…. I think that’s just a case of extreme bubbling. By the same logic that says that Democrats don’t have answers for those particular lies, Republicans don’t have answers for certain lies told by Democrats.

    I already brought up Bernie’s “Tax the Rich” and “fair share” rhetoric… I’ll say it again: You could tax the 1%’s incomes at 100% and not even make a significant dent in the deficit, never mind attempt to cover all the new spending he proposed. You could confiscate the entire holdings of the twenty most rich Americans and actually post a surplus instead of a deficit… For a single year. You’d have to confiscate the entirety of the next 100 to cover the year after that returns diminish steeply. Regardless of where the wealth goes, America just doesn’t create enough to pay for the big ticket items, never mind every pet project someone thinks is a good idea. Hand to mouth socialism is a lie. But it sounds so good!

  88. 88
    nobody.really says:

    America just doesn’t create enough to pay for the big ticket items….

    What does that mean? The Federal Reserve reports that US gross domestic product is perpetually higher than government outlays. Likewise, the Fed reports that real disposable personal income per capita has never been higher. As far as I can tell, America creates roughly three or four times enough to pay for the “big ticket items.”

    Can we think of a time when people were not bitching that government consumes too much of the GDP? How ’bout the end of the Reagan Administration? What if we designed our tax code to recreate the wealth distribution that existed at that time–with the top 1% continuing to receive, in real terms, the income they received then, and the same with each other echelon of the income distribution. I suspect that tax code would generate enormous revenues for government because the US is vastly richer now than it was then. Yet somehow I continue to hear that the US is simply too poor to enjoy the living standards that Europeans enjoy.

    I’m not thrilled with making college free ‘cuz I suspect such a policy would be regressive: It would transfer wealth to college-bound people, who are already disproportionately likely to enter the upper strata of US earners. If college-bound people lack liquidity, loan guarantees seem like the better solution.

    But I’m not wowed with the pleas of poverty.

  89. 89
    Michael says:

    @Ampersand#73- I voted for Hillary over Sanders and Trump. And I know full well that there’s no magic bullet that can bring coal back.

  90. 90
    Michael says:

    @Ampersand#74- I admit that I made a mistake- everyone is biased, including me. But I think that there was another reason for my mistake- a trait which we have in common. In this blog:
    http://amptoons.com/blog/?p=22879
    You originally thought the Kentucky bill would allow all clubs (not merely political or religious) ones to exclude gays. Is that because you’re so biased against the Religious Right that you can’t think rationally? Maybe a little. But more likely it was what you said- that you were reading it in the context of previous attempts to use “religious freedom” as an excuse to exclude gays. And I was reading the article in the context of previous promises of retraining and similar programs to ease the effects of globalization which turned out to be worthless. If that’s the case, then the Democrats are screwed, because they can’t change the past and the people in the Rust Belt will see their programs through the lens of previous failed programs.
    Although David Betras did have an idea:
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/11/rust-belt-democrats-saw-trump-wave-coming/
    “focus on the reinvigoration of American manufacturing, and I don’t mean real high-tech stuff because they’ve heard that a million times before and they aren’t buying it.”
    “Talk about policies that will incentivize companies to repatriate manufacturing jobs. Talk about infrastructure—digging ditches, paving roads, building buildings and producing the materials needed to do it all. The workers we’re talking about don’t want to run computers, they want to run back hoes, dig ditches, sling concrete block. They’re not embarrassed about the fact that they get their hands dirty doing backbreaking work. They love it and they want to be respected and honored for it. And they’ll react positively if they believe HRC will give them and their kids the opportunity to break their backs for another ten or twenty or thirty years. Somewhere along the line we forgot that not everyone wants to be white collar, we stopped recognizing the intrinsic value of hard work.”

  91. 91
    Kate says:

    I mean…. I think that’s just a case of extreme bubbling. By the same logic that says that Democrats don’t have answers for those particular lies, Republicans don’t have answers for certain lies told by Democrats.

    Last time I checked, Republicans controlled the presidency, both houses of congress, a majority of governorships and a majority of state legislatures. Republicans are winning. Both sides are not equal here.

    I already brought up Bernie’s “Tax the Rich” and “fair share” rhetoric… I’ll say it again: You could tax the 1%’s incomes at 100% and not even make a significant dent in the deficit, never mind attempt to cover all the new spending he proposed.

    This is a total mischaracterization of Bernie’s plans. Taxing the top 1% is just a first step. He has other ideas as well. For example, he wants a single payer healthcare system, which would allow the government to negotiate lower drug prices, saving millions if not billions in healthcare costs. A lot of what he wants to do with tax dollars is not just spending, it is investing, meaning that the dollars put into programs will create more wealth.
    Also, what nobody.really said @ 88 especially

    Yet somehow I continue to hear that the US is simply too poor to enjoy the living standards that Europeans enjoy.

    I live in a country that does much of what Bernie plans to do with healthcare and education. It’s not perfect, but is a hell of a lot better than the system in the U.S.. Our income tax rate is about 10% higher, but we were spending far, far more than that difference on healthcare and private school tuition when we lived in the U.S., without the benefit of knowing that all of our fellow citizens had access too.

  92. 92
    Humble Talent says:

    The Federal Reserve reports that US gross domestic product is perpetually higher than government outlays.

    Saying things like that leads me to think that you have absolutely no expertise in Economics. That the American GDP is higher than government outlays is irrelevant for a couple of reasons: Right off the top of my head because GDP counts the sales price, without taking into account Cost of Goods Sold, so we aren’t even talking about actual usable profit. But most importantly: because not all spending is public. At some point, you have to realize, people need to eat. You can’t take everything that everyone makes in a country, and attempt to put it towards government programs unless you’re planning on converting to some kind of communist system where the basic necessities of life are also covered by the government, and if you add the basic necessities of life to the bill the government is expected to pay, we’re back to “America doesn’t produce enough to cover it all.”

    Likewise, the Fed reports that real disposable personal income per capita has never been higher. As far as I can tell, America creates roughly three or four times enough to pay for the “big ticket items.”

    Please cite that. The only way I can see that being true is if you either defined “disposable income” very strangely or used figures failing to take inflation into account. We hear it all the time: Americans on Average haven’t received a raise in 20 years when adjusted for inflation…. And that’s true. What’s also true is that cost of living is up across the board over the last 20 years, and the tax burden increases year over year.

    Last time I checked, Republicans controlled the presidency, both houses of congress, a majority of governorships and a majority of state legislatures. Republicans are winning. Both sides are not equal here.

    Maybe there’s more to it than you’re suggesting? The presupposition that the only reason Republicans win is that they lie (better?) than Democrats fails to take into account the pure toxicity of the Democratic Party. Donna Brazile was caught leaking debate questions to the Clinton campaign, which she publicly said she didn’t regret, despite it costing her her job. But that’s OK, who better to head up the DNC after Debbie WS was fired for her perceived (By Democrats) biasing of the process against Bernie? But don’t worry about her, because Democrats don’t really lose jobs, they shuffle, and Debbie found herself right at home in the Clinton campaign. Can you think of an example of something even approaching that level of scuzziness coming out of the RNC?

    This is a total mischaracterization of Bernie’s plans. Taxing the top 1% is just a first step. He has other ideas as well. For example, he wants a single payer healthcare system, which would allow the government to negotiate lower drug prices, saving millions if not billions in healthcare costs. A lot of what he wants to do with tax dollars is not just spending, it is investing, meaning that the dollars put into programs will create more wealth.

    Saving millions if not billions in healthcare costs while costing millions if not billions in additional services provided…. Which I’m all for, actually, it’s better value and more coverage, but Sanders never actually said single payer would actually cut government expenditures. Look… Even taken as a whole, Sanders plan was never even close to realistic.

  93. 93
    Elusis says:

    Our income tax rate is about 10% higher, but we were spending far, far more than that difference on healthcare and private school tuition when we lived in the U.S., without the benefit of knowing that all of our fellow citizens had access too.

    And there it is, a major difference between conservatives and liberals in the US: whether or not you feel it’s beneficial to you to know that others have access to the same things you do.

  94. 94
    nobody.really says:

    The Federal Reserve reports that US gross domestic product is perpetually higher than government outlays.

    Saying things like that leads me to think that you have absolutely no expertise in Economics. That the American GDP is higher than government outlays is irrelevant for a couple of reasons: Right off the top of my head because GDP counts the sales price, without taking into account Cost of Goods Sold….

    I apologize for my lack of economic sophistication. For example, I was under the impression that for purposes of national income accounting, analysts measure the value of final goods net the cost of intermediate goods used in production. If you would be so kind as to provide a contrary link, we might all improve our understanding of economics today.

    As far as I can tell, America creates roughly three or four times enough to pay for the “big ticket items.”

    Please cite that.

    See that first link in my prior post, showing that government outlays are less than a fourth of GDP?

    [T]he tax burden increases year over year.

    Again I fear my lack of econ education impedes me here. What does “the tax burden” mean? Since marginal income tax rates have almost never been lower, it surely can’t refer to that.

    For what it’s worth, notwithstanding our enormous military expenditures, US tax bills are below average among developed nations. So, while I understand people arguing about the relative merits of different public expenditures, I lack the economic sophistication to understand people whining about being overtaxed generally.

    [N]ot all spending is public. At some point, you have to realize, people need to eat. You can’t take everything that everyone makes in a country, and attempt to put it towards government programs unless you’re planning on converting to some kind of communist system where the basic necessities of life are also covered by the government….

    Fair enough. But I am also under the impression that the vast majority of government expenditures are transfer payments–which, to my limited understanding, sounds a lot like money with which people can eat.

    While I noted the growing real disposable personal income per capita, my limited economic understanding causes me to think that “per capita” refers to an average number, while actual disposable personal income is rather less evenly distributed. Indeed, some have suggested that income inequality in the US has reached an all-time high. Since the rich are so much VASTLY richer than at any time in the history of history, and since you’ve expressed such concern that people receive the “basic necessities of life,” perhaps you could explain again the problem with additional transfer payments?

    And try to keep the words short for the benefit of us simple folk. Much obliged.

  95. 95
    Humble Talent says:

    I apologize for my lack of economic sophistication. For example, I was under the impression that for purposes of national income accounting, analysts measure the value of final goods net the cost of intermediate goods used in production. If you would be so kind as to provide a contrary link, we might all improve our understanding of economics today.

    No problem,

    Different countries do it differently, but generally the GDP is equal to private consumption plus gross investments plus government investments plus government spending plus the national trade surplus/deficit. The part we’re talking about is private consumption.

    Your misunderstanding is in the word “intermediate”. GDP is calculated as the final sale on any particular item, not taking into account the secondary market. So if a farmer sells sugar to Coke, Coke sells drinks to Safeway, and then Safeway sells the drinks to you, only the final sale is counted, and it is not counted net of COGS (Cost of Goods Sold). But if your friend buys a car, and then you buy that car from them, only the sale from the dealer to your friend is counted, because it was in the secondary (used goods) market.

    See that first link in my prior post, showing that government outlays are less than a fourth of GDP?

    You will never have GDP lower than government spending because government spending is part of the calculation of GDP. The government cannot spend itself out of debt, which is why attempting to tie production to GDP is stupid, America already has 800 billion dollar deficits and those deficits ADD to the GDP.

    Again I fear my lack of econ education impedes me here. What does “the tax burden” mean? Since marginal income tax rates have almost never been lower, it surely can’t refer to that.

    I don’t blame you, tax isn’t very well understood. Taxes vary greatly by district, but no one’s are going down. Income taxes are what we think about when we hear tax… But add to that sales taxes, payroll taxes, school, property, and municipal taxes. Regardless of where those taxes are going, they are all coming from the same pockets.

    Payroll taxes in particular are insidious, because despite being tied to labor, people don’t always see them on their paystubs, up here in Canada we have CPP and EI, which is our National Pension and Employment Insurance, which about to 4.6 and 1.5% respectively, what most people don’t know is that the company you work for has to pay those numbers on top of what they’ve deducted from you, and in the case of EI, they pay 2.1% instead of 1.5%, and then on top of all of that, they pay a WCB (Injury insurance) rate (Which varies based on history, but hovers around 2%) and in Manitoba, where I live a 2.5% HET (Health and Education Tax) That means that where I live (4.6+1.5=)6.1% of what you earn is taxed before you even dream about paying income tax, and your employer tops up an additional (4.6+2.1+2.5+2) 11.2%. If you were to say “Corporate tax rates have never been lower”, you’d be right, if you only looked at income taxes. But if you look at payroll tax rates, they pay basically just as much as they ever have. And trust me, your employer builds those numbers into the cost of your employment.

    But I am also under the impression that the vast majority of government expenditures are transfer payments–which, to my limited understanding, sounds a lot like money with which people can eat.

    Yeah. Ok. That’s a very… philosophical way of looking at it, but sure. Now… How many people are on those programs? 20, 30% of America? Take whatever percentage of the population is on those programs and extrapolate it to the population at large. This does not scale up graciously.

    Since the rich are so much VASTLY richer than at any time in the history of history, and since you’ve expressed such concern that people receive the “basic necessities of life,” perhaps you could explain again the problem with additional transfer payments?

    Ok… First: What is Money?

    Money is more than a Store of Value or A Unit of Barter… People can only eat so much food, can only wear so many clothes, and only sleep in so many beds… Sure, you hear about (usually celebrities and New Money) wasting a ridiculous amount of money on those exact things, but most responsible people with a whole lot of money eventually find themselves at a point where the money ceases to be useful to buy things, because they have what they perceive they need.

    At that point money transforms into one of several things… But one of the most common is a Vehicle of Investment, to scrub it down to the most barest of bones: The money goes to places that makes more money. “That’s Greedy!” Someone might say. Irrelevant. What’s important is what comes out of the process of making that additional money: production. Those investment dollars create jobs and products that our system relies on.

    Second: Inflation.

    Let’s say, rhetorically… That granite counter tops are desirable. They are a symbol of status, and a luxury, if someone could afford them, it means that their immediate needs are accounted for, and they have money to burn. People want them, but generally the people that can afford them already have them. Because of that, there isn’t a whole lot of demand for them and the producers of counter tops have a very low production run of counter tops.

    What would happen if a sudden influx of cash occurred in the population?

    All of a sudden, the demand for granite counter tops would increase, not by the entire amount of the influx… But by more than you would expect, because people who are poor tend to be bad with money, and might neglect certain other things you’d expect people to look after first (you see this all the time with lottery winners in particular).

    Because counter top production is low, and increasing production would take time, generally what happens at this point is inflation. Demand has increased, maybe a couple of lucky producers were able to increase production, but generally production is stable, so prices increase. If producers thought that in the long run, the demand would stay high, they might make plans to increase production, but generally they won’t especially with obviously temporary cash influxes.

    What’s worst about this scenario is something called Price Elasticity… Generally, prices rising are more elastic then prices lowering, that means that producers are much quicker to raise prices than they are to lower them. Think gas prices. So those increased counter top prices are likely to take a long time to get back to their original price, if they ever do.

    Third: “Could [you] Explain Again The Problem With Additional Transfer Payments?”

    Sure.

    They come from somewhere. If you take money away from the wealthy, they aren’t going to eat less food, wear fewer clothes, or sell their home. What you do when you take wealth from the top, generally, is impede production. Maybe not immediately, maybe they just don’t open the plant they planned next year, or maybe the charitable donations this quarter take a cut, but the ripples are felt throughout the system. And then when you give it to the bottom, you’ve created SOME amount of demand on the system, without increasing (in fact, possibly decreasing) production, so SOME amount of inflation is likely.

    To wrap that up: When you take money from the top, it has a negative effect on production, when you give additional money to the bottom without increasing production, prices rise.

    What happens to the middle class worker in that case? The one working a production job that keeps him above the poverty line.

    And try to keep the words short for the benefit of us simple folk. Much obliged.

    How’d I do?

  96. 96
    nobody.really says:

    I apologize for my lack of economic sophistication. For example, I was under the impression that for purposes of national income accounting, analysts measure the value of final goods net the cost of intermediate goods used in production. If you would be so kind as to provide a contrary link, we might all improve our understanding of economics today.

    No problem,

    Well … a bit of a problem. That web page provides no discussion of the issue.

    There are no shortage of web pages that provide this GDP formula; they also tend to be web pages that say that GDP is a measure of a nation’s output. I’m happy to substitute “national output” for GDP if that resolves the matter for you.

    Similarly, there are quite a few web pages that list criticisms of GDP as a measure, but I haven’t found any that object to the failure to subtract Cost of Goods Sold. Could you provide a link to a discussion of that issue?

    You will never have GDP lower than government spending because government spending is part of the calculation of GDP.

    Maybe someone should tell the Index of Economic Freedom.

    Again I fear my lack of econ education impedes me here. What does “the tax burden” mean? Since marginal income tax rates have almost never been lower, it surely can’t refer to that.

    I don’t blame you, tax isn’t very well understood. Taxes vary greatly by district, but no one’s are going down.

    Really? From 1944-45, the US taxed incomes above $200,000 at 94%; today’s top bracket is 39.6%. (In addition, there has been enormous reductions in the estate tax.) I defy you to demonstrate how the sum of all other taxes offsets these declines.

    More to the point: Who cares? Would you rather receive gross income of 10 and endure an 80% tax rate, or a gross income of 1 tax-free? My limited grasp of economics tells me that people are motivated by after-tax income—regardless of the tax rate. And, in case anyone missed it the first two times, real disposable personal income (that is, after-tax income) has never been higher.

    In short, we’ve never been more productive, which permits greater income for households AND for government: there is no contradiction.

    We may bear a greater “burden” in the sense that we’re a rich society, and can thus afford more of everything—including more compassion, and more government services. And that doesn’t mean that households have less than they had in the past—at least, not on average. But again, the average doesn’t tell the whole story, because the distribution of income has never been more skewed.

    But I am also under the impression that the vast majority of government expenditures are transfer payments–which, to my limited understanding, sounds a lot like money with which people can eat.

    Yeah. Ok. That’s a very… philosophical way of looking at it, but sure. Now… How many people are on those programs? 20, 30% of America? Take whatever percentage of the population is on those programs and extrapolate it to the population at large. This does not scale up graciously.

    Hm. Good point. Every man, woman, and child citizen of Alaska receives an annual check from the state—and how gracious are they? Two words: Sarah Palin. ‘Nuf said.

    Since the rich are so much VASTLY richer than at any time in the history of history, and since you’ve expressed such concern that people receive the “basic necessities of life,” perhaps you could explain again the problem with additional transfer payments?

    Ok… First: What is Money?

    Money is more than a Store of Value or A Unit of Barter… People can only eat so much food, can only wear so many clothes, and only sleep in so many beds… Sure, you hear about (usually celebrities and New Money) wasting a ridiculous amount of money on those exact things, but most responsible people with a whole lot of money eventually find themselves at a point where the money ceases to be useful to buy things, because they have what they perceive they need.

    At that point money transforms into one of several things… But one of the most common is a Vehicle of Investment, to scrub it down to the most barest of bones: The money goes to places that makes more money. “That’s Greedy!” Someone might say. Irrelevant. What’s important is what comes out of the process of making that additional money: production. Those investment dollars create jobs and products that our system relies on.

    Another good point. When taxes are so high, there are no funds left for investment—which explains why interest rates have skyrocketed.

    Except that they haven’t. Not even close. In some nations, they’re negative.

    Indeed, the predominant theories for the dot-com and housing bubbles are that the world is so damn rich, so awash in money, that investors are hungry for anything to invest in. They’ll invest in the craziest things, because all the existing alternatives have been bid up to the point that the risk-adjusted price/earnings ratios look like government bonds.

    Anybody who can demonstrate a steady stream of customers can get financing—from banks, credit unions, venture capitalists, angel investors, pay day lenders, credit card issuers—heck, even Petron and Kickstarter. Lack of capital is not the problem impeding growth today. The problem is lack of DEMAND.

    (Ok, in fairness, real estate is getting crazy in some urban centers. Here we observe real crowd-out dynamics. But not in the financial markets per se.)

    Second: Inflation.

    Another good point—except that there ain’t any. The Fed has a target inflation rate of 2.0%–and they haven’t been able to reach it in years.

    Let’s say, rhetorically… That granite counter tops are desirable. They are a symbol of status, and a luxury, if someone could afford them, it means that their immediate needs are accounted for, and they have money to burn.

    You’re describing people who are experiencing diminishing marginal returns on consumption (a/k/a rich people). Having gotten the stuff they can enjoy in use, they are left to pursue status goods—that is, goods that have value primarily because of their signaling of position in a hierarchy.

    What if we engage in progressive income distribution? Now people who have reached diminishing marginal returns on consumption have less with which to consume. But since they weren’t getting much from their marginal consumption, they’re not losing much when they can’t spend that marginal dollar.

    Instead, the resources go to people who have large marginal returns on consumption (a/k/a poor people). That is, instead of using resources to replace someone’s granite countertops with platinum ones, we use them to get somebody a doctor’s appointment. What’s not to like?

    (If you ever wonder how much income influences someone’s health care, realize that medical interventions are highly correlated with the patient’s wealth. The sole medical intervention that is greater for the poor than the rich: amputation.)

    Finally, the people who are gaining satisfaction from pursuing status goods can STILL pursue status goods unimpeded. So long as everyone in the hierarchy moves in the same ranking, the status good retain their value as social markers. Again, what’s not to like?

    To wrap that up: When you take money from the top, it has a negative effect on production, when you give additional money to the bottom without increasing production, prices rise.

    What do we think people on the bottom are going to do with the money, if not spend it? And if they spend it, how would that not create demand for more goods and services? And if they create more demand, why wouldn’t people increase production to meet that demand?

    (Conversely, if the people on the bottom didn’t spend the money, then we’d basically just be taking currency out of circulation. Far from triggering inflation, this would trigger DEFLATION. This would have the net effect of increasing the value of the dollars that remain in circulation—presumably to the benefit of the rich, and lenders.)

    Sure, an abrupt change in income distribution might trigger some supply shocks, which might trigger some short-term inflation. But that’s just as true when the supply shock comes from the rich as from the poor.

    And try to keep the words short for the benefit of us simple folk. Much obliged.

    How’d I do?

    Just fine. You even kept them Canadianisms in check, eh.

  97. 97
    Kate says:

    Saving millions if not billions in healthcare costs while costing millions if not billions in additional services provided…. Which I’m all for, actually, it’s better value and more coverage, but Sanders never actually said single payer would actually cut government expenditures.

    From Bernie’s website:

    GETTING HEALTH CARE SPENDING UNDER CONTROL
    We outspend all other countries on the planet and our medical spending continues to grow faster than the rate of inflation. Creating a single, public insurance system will go a long way towards getting health care spending under control. The United States has thousands of different health insurance plans, all of which set different reimbursement rates across different networks for providers and procedures resulting in high administrative costs. Two patients with the same condition may get very different care depending on where they live, the health insurance they have and what their insurance covers. A patient may pay different amounts for the same prescription depending solely on where the prescription is filled. Health care providers and patients must navigate this complex and bewildering system wasting precious time and resources.
    By moving to an integrated system, the government will finally have the ability to stand up to drug companies and negotiate fair prices for the American people collectively. It will also ensure the federal government can track access to various providers and make smart investments to avoid provider shortages and ensure communities can access the providers they need.

    There’s more information at the link, including honestly acknowledging that tax increases will not be limited to the top 1%. You have totally mischaracterized Bernie’s plan.

    Look… Even taken as a whole, Sanders plan was never even close to realistic.

    Similar plans work in almost every other industrialzed country in the world.

  98. 98
    Humble Talent says:

    That web page provides no discussion of the issue.

    From that web page:

    “GDP is the sum of Consumption (C), Investment (I), Government Spending (G) and Net Exports (X – M): Y = C + I + G + (X – M)”

    “C (consumption) is normally the largest GDP component in the economy, consisting of private (household final consumption expenditure) in the economy.”

    Similarly, there are quite a few web pages that list criticisms of GDP as a measure, but I haven’t found any that object to the failure to subtract Cost of Goods Sold. Could you provide a link to a discussion of that issue?

    I’d challenge you to find one that does. Frankly, the idea is so outlandish that the reason you might not be able to find a source that specifically prohibits it is because no one thinks it’s necessary to outright say so… “Final Sale Price” is fairly clear.

    Maybe someone should tell the Index of Economic Freedom.

    If you have to use the singular example of the mighty nation of Timor-Leste to make your point, you’re doing it wrong. The only way that you can have a GDP smaller than your government spending is if your trade deficit is so significant that it offsets both government spending and personal consumption. This will never happen in America, barring an apocalypse.

    Really? From 1944-45, the US taxed incomes above $200,000 at 94%; today’s top bracket is 39.6%. (In addition, there has been enormous reductions in the estate tax.) I defy you to demonstrate how the sum of all other taxes offsets these declines.

    Well, first off: What I said was: “Taxes vary greatly by district, but no one’s are going down.” I didn’t say: “Taxes are the highest they’ve ever been.” If you look at more recent windows, what I say stands. I mentioned “20 years” twice, I’ll work with that. Pick a state, any state, and I’ll break it down for you.

    And, in case anyone missed it the first two times, real disposable personal income (that is, after-tax income) has never been higher.

    Well, that’s actually the first time you cited that, and like I said the first time you cited that… The only way you get to that conclusion is be either defining disposable income strangely or by ignoring inflation… Both of which happened. You might not be old enough to remember this, but despite the relatively low recent inflation rates, inflation was double digits in the 80’s.

    In fact, if you tabulate and compound the inflation between 1960, where disposable income was $12,000 and 2015, where disposable income is slightly less than $40,000 (A number I find highly suspect seeing as the average household income is about $56,000) you have an 814% real inflation rate, which means that for people in 2015 to have the same relative buying power of someone in 1960 who had $12,000, they would need about $97,680.

    Every man, woman, and child citizen of Alaska receives an annual check from the state

    That’s a horrible comparison. The Alaska oil dividend is an amount that the government issues as the citizen’s portion of their state run oil proceeds. I’m waffling on whether it’s a good idea, because it probably would be better to not tax the population in the first place, but they’ve aimed this so as to benefit the poor, who didn’t pay taxes. The oil dividend is just that… A dividend. A portion of profits made in a very discrete government activity, and it depends on whether or not the oil industry actually made money. Also, it bears mentioning that Alaska is able to do this and still run their annual budget as a surplus.

    When taxes are so high, there are no funds left for investment—which explains why interest rates have skyrocketed. […] Except that they haven’t.

    What are you even talking about? Taxes and interest rates don’t naturally correlate. If taxes are high, and investors aren’t investing, governments can (and did, starting in 2007) decrease interest rates in order to coax people into borrowing, creating a kind of bottom-up investment… But interest rates are set by central banks, and are manipulable.

    What if we engage in progressive income distribution? Now people who have reached diminishing marginal returns on consumption have less with which to consume. But since they weren’t getting much from their marginal consumption, they’re not losing much when they can’t spend that marginal dollar.

    That’s a novel assumption. You’re saying that you think that in the case of an embarrassed millionaire, they will choose to accept a lower standard of living in order to maintain current market investment levels? Why would you think that?

    Instead, the resources go to people who have large marginal returns on consumption (a/k/a poor people). That is, instead of using resources to replace someone’s granite countertops with platinum ones, we use them to get somebody a doctor’s appointment. What’s not to like?

    Where does the doctor come from? Professionals are an even harder ‘product’ to produce than counter tops, because as opposed to building facilities and buying machinery, (which can be done within a year, generally, if you rush.) you have to train doctors for most of a decade, and so any major increase in demand will almost definitely cause inflation while medical schools scramble to meet demand.

    What do we think people on the bottom are going to do with the money, if not spend it?

    No, my point is that they WOULD spend it, and that’s not necessarily good.

    They’d spend it, as opposed to investing it, and they’re likely to spend it not only on food and diapers, but also on luxury items. This is anecdotal, but can you really not think of someone who took their tax return and bought an ATV, or a piece of jewelry, or the like? Poor people have been historically horrible at handling sudden influxes of cash (that was my point in using the extreme example of lottery winners).

    And if they spend it, how would that not create demand for more goods and services?

    They WOULD, I specifically said that.

    And if they create more demand, why wouldn’t people increase production to meet that demand?

    ARGH! So close! The answer amounts to: “Because you can’t pull goods (or services) out of your ass”. Someone has to make (or train) them, so that increase of production takes capital, and time. And you’ve just created an immediate demand with (at best) no immediate increase to production, possibly a decrease in the amount of a direct transfer. So in the long term, yes, especially with consumer goods, production could increase. In the short term: inflation.

    Conversely, if the people on the bottom didn’t spend the money, then we’d basically just be taking currency out of circulation.

    It’s like you know all the words, but you’ve come to some strange conclusions. Why is having money out of circulation a bad thing? If the answer was simply to have more money in circulation, why not fire up the printing machine and give everyone a million dollars? Oh. Right. Hyperinflation.

    Far from triggering inflation, this would trigger DEFLATION.

    Lunacy. I challenge you to try to cite that.

    This would have the net effect of increasing the value of the dollars that remain in circulation—presumably to the benefit of the rich, and lenders.)

    You know that if you increase the value of the dollars in circulation, their buying power increases, and that’s the exact opposite of inflation, right? Your arguments aren’t even self consistent.

  99. 99
    Humble Talent says:

    On second reading I realize what you were trying to say in your last paragraph… If the wealthy take their money out of circulation, it would create deflation, which benefits them.

    Well, first off: You’d need to take a LOT of money out very suddenly for that to actually cause deflation. I mean… Since 2008, we’ve seen this… There’s a certain amount of what Jay Carney once called “Dead Money”, but that’s a Canadianism. We haven’t seen deflation, but even if we did, a rising tide raises all ships… Everyone’s wages or benefits having more buying power would mean they’d be able to buy more, even if it effected the wealthy more. Also… If the wealthy did withhold enough cash to deflate the market… It would only last until they went to spend it.

  100. 100
    nobody.really says:

    Regarding GDP: Let’s use the definitions in that web page you found for purposes of this discussion. Every time I refer to GDP, please feel free to substitute the phrase “the sum of all goods and services that are produced within a nation’s borders over a specific time interval, typically one calendar year.”

    And, in case anyone missed it the first two times, real disposable personal income (that is, after-tax income) has never been higher.

    The only way you get to that conclusion is be either defining disposable income strangely or by ignoring inflation…

    I’m not defining anything; the Federal Reserve is.

    Moreover, people with my limited understanding of economics tend to regard the word “real” to mean that the data has been adjusted for inflation. That was the conclusion I drew when I read where it says, Units: Chained 2009 Dollars, Seasonally Adjusted Annual Rate”.

    Every man, woman, and child citizen of Alaska receives an annual check from the state….

    That’s a horrible comparison. The Alaska oil dividend is an amount that the government issues as the citizen’s portion of their state run oil proceeds. I’m waffling on whether it’s a good idea….

    In other words, you do not categorically oppose government distribution of wealth. Thus, I surmise the problem you have with distribution programs is not the distribution side but the collection side.

    And that’s why I’ve discussed the growth in GDP and real disposable personal income: We’re rich enough, even measured on a per-capita basis, to support a stronger social safety net.

    “Oh, but if we taxed the rich more, then … well, people would lack incentives to be productive!” Which makes sense—until you realize that throughout history NOBODY has ever received the kinds of after-tax income as today’s rich; ergo, we’d have to conclude that throughout history NOBODY has ever had an incentive to be productive. Which is quite obviously absurd.

    As I suggested previously, we could return to the income distribution of the Reagan years (yes, adjusted for inflation). Did people lack sufficient incentives to be productive back then? And if not, then what harm to productivity would arise if we structured our tax system to reproduce those after-tax results for, say, the upper quartile or so?

    Don’t care for the Reagan years? Fine; propose some other era when you think the economy provided people with sufficient incentives to be productive. I’m open to suggestions.

    [P]erhaps you could explain again the problem with additional transfer payments?

    People can only eat so much food, can only wear so many clothes, and only sleep in so many beds… Sure, you hear about (usually celebrities and New Money) wasting a ridiculous amount of money on those exact things, but most responsible people with a whole lot of money eventually find themselves at a point where the money ceases to be useful to buy things, because they have what they perceive they need.

    At that point money transforms into one of several things… But one of the most common is a Vehicle of Investment…. Those investment dollars create jobs and products that our system relies on.

    When taxes are so high, there are no funds left for investment—which explains why interest rates have skyrocketed. […] Except that they haven’t.

    What are you even talking about? Taxes and interest rates don’t naturally correlate.

    I apologize. I thought that you were arguing that when government draws in more resources (in the form of higher taxes) this “crowds out” private investment. That is, more investors chase fewer remaining dollars. And when supply falls while demand remains constant, all else being equal, price increases—in this case, the price of money a/k/a the interest rate.

    But apparently you’re not arguing that higher taxes lead to higher interest rates. But if we have low interest rates, that indicates that firms have ready access to capital. So why do you think that higher taxes would detract from the supply of “investment dollars [to] create jobs and products that our system relies on”?

    What if we engage in progressive income distribution? Now people who have reached diminishing marginal returns on consumption have less with which to consume. But since they weren’t getting much from their marginal consumption, they’re not losing much when they can’t spend that marginal dollar.

    Instead, the resources go to people who have large marginal returns on consumption (a/k/a poor people). That is, instead of using resources to replace someone’s granite countertops with platinum ones, we use them to get somebody a doctor’s appointment.

    That’s a novel assumption. You’re saying that you think that in the case of an embarrassed millionaire, they will choose to accept a lower standard of living in order to maintain current market investment levels? Why would you think that?

    Uh … no. I’m saying that the utility poor people would gain from medical care would exceed the utility rich people would gain by swapping out granite counter tops for platinum ones, and that a wealth distribution program could make this possible. I made no statement about what anyone would “accept.”

    Where does the doctor come from? Professionals are an even harder ‘product’ to produce than counter tops, because as opposed to building facilities and buying machinery, (which can be done within a year, generally, if you rush.) you have to train doctors for most of a decade, and so any major increase in demand will almost definitely cause inflation while medical schools scramble to meet demand.

    This if a fair point, which I neglected to acknowledge. But let’s explore it.

    1. I have made no assertions about the speed with which to make the transfer payments. If anyone thought that this would be a problem, we could announce that the program would begin distributing funds in XX years, thereby providing time to ramp up the production of new MDs (or relax the regulation of services that can be provided by nurse practitioners, or increase immigration by MDs, or induce current MDs to delay retirement or skip their Wed. day on the golf course, etc.)

    Note that the qualifications of people applying to med school has never been higher, thus there’s no shortage of potential talent. The shortage appears to be in the number of residencies that the US federal government is willing to subsidize.

    2. But also consider: A wealth transfer would not cause any surge in demand for physicians—unless people want medical care that they are not currently receiving. A doctor’s visit is not like a trip to Disneyland; people aren’t likely to go recreationally. So, are you arguing that we should refrain from transferring wealth to people who need medical assistance but are too poor to obtain it because we’re more concerned about inflation than about people’s lives?

    3. Finally, let’s move beyond medicine. Another big ticket item is education. College enrollment peaked in 2010 and has been on the decline since. Ergo, I expect that schools currently have unused capacity and could increase their enrollments without triggering much inflation.

    What do we think people on the bottom are going to do with the money, if not spend it?

    No, my point is that they WOULD spend it, and that’s not necessarily good.

    They’d spend it, as opposed to investing it, and they’re likely to spend it not only on food and diapers, but also on luxury items. This is anecdotal, but can you really not think of someone who took their tax return and bought an ATV, or a piece of jewelry, or the like? Poor people have been historically horrible at handling sudden influxes of cash (that was my point in using the extreme example of lottery winners).

    1. I’m proposing a policy of transferring more wealth from rich to poor. You object that poor people might spend money on luxury items. Do you have any basis to think that this behavior would be more prevalent among poor people than among rich people? If not, then I’m not seeing the point of this objection, even if it were accurate.

    2. We don’t need to rely on anecdotal evidence. We can look to studies of how people reacted when they started receiving Social Security, or when Alaskans receive their dividends, or when people did trial runs of basic income guarantee (BIG), or just giving poor people cash. Generally people behave quite reasonably, especially when funds are administered over time.

    And if they spend it, how would that not create demand for more goods and services? And if they create more demand, why wouldn’t people increase production to meet that demand?

    [I]n the long term, yes, especially with consumer goods, production could increase. In the short term: inflation.

    Agreed. Of course, this is equally true of any increase in demand. If Congress repeals Obamacare and triggers a tax cut for millionaires, that change may also trigger a sudden surge of spending in, say, the fine art world, and thus inflation.

    I’m happy to see some inflation in the market for things demanded by the poor in the short run if this coincides with a rise in demand that will spur production in the long run.

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