Falling apart

A quote from Corey Robin’s Super Tuesday post:

“Outside the South, Sanders has won or come very close to winning every single state. From here on out, many of the states are much friendlier territory for him. Unless our brains are so completely scrambled by the Nate Silvers/Voxification of political life—where every poll is a destiny, every super-delegate a fact of nature, where everyone’s a crackpot realist rather than a citizen activist—it would be the definition of insanity to give up now. This is an uphill battle, always has been. So what? We move. Vorwärts. Always.”

I am starting to get the sense that Hillary Clinton and the Liberal elites are now walking, like Wile E. Coyote, on air, having run over the cliff some time ago, but not having yet looked down. Over at the Roosevelt Institute, Mike Konczal – who was being called one of Hillary’s minions back in January – is writing praise of the Sanders platform and his colleague Richard Kirsch is even saying that Sanders and Clinton are coming together.

To hear Vox or Fivethirtyeight, or even the New York Times, tell it, you’d think the Democratic primary was humming along. But I still hear a lot of people agitating for Sanders, and pushing an anti-Clinton narrative. I am not convinced at all that, even if Sanders were to campaign for Clinton himself during the general election, that she could garner progressive support.

Meanwhile, Bill Black of UMKC is posting up long pieces slamming Paul Krugman – who, Black writes, is “plumbing new depths of moral obtuseness, arrogance, and intellectual dishonesty” – for his criticism of Sanders and Gerald Friedman. Laurence Kotlikoff of Boston University recently wrote that Krugman is “perpetually fact-challenged.” Jamie Galbraith collaborated with Bruce Bartlett on a piece for Bill Moyers’ website that concludes “we shouldn’t be imprisoned by the conventional wisdom of establishment economists.” The Dollars and Sense blog has a good consolidation of links covering the ongoing fight over whether or not Friedman’s analysis is reasonable or not, with links to letter from the Romers and Galbraith’s take-down, and so on. I’ve only really glanced at the actual Friedman analysis, although now that I’ve spent some time feeling guilty for just taking Krugman’s side, I’ve decided I ought to read it and take it seriously, so I will try and write up my thoughts on it in the next couple of days. The thing is that I read stuff like this piece from Glenn Greenwald, who pretty much describes Krugman as a partisan hack.

I suppose being in the spotlight as long as he has, Krugman is rightfully the object of anti-establishment rage, and this is, after all, the year of the anti-establishment. On the other hand, I often get the feeling that, for many progressives, Sanders is simply the only acceptable candidate. You are with him or against him. In the event that Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, I get the feeling that the Sanders campaign will break away from the party altogether, at which point Democratic support will just evaporate.

I watched a marvelous video this morning, “The Philosophy of House of Cards“- pertaining to the popular Netflix series – in which it is pointed out that one of the elements not present in a dramatic show about politics is democracy. There’s all kinds of stuff about theater and spectacle and hypocrisy, but not much actual voting. The debates over Sanders and Clinton, between “establishment” economics and not-establishment economists, seem similarly theatrical to me, and particularly in light of the rise of Trump. And I know how ironic that sounds. But I think the reason why Trump is so likely to win is because 1) people genuinely want to vote for him; and 2) because people don’t want to see Hillary Clinton get elected President.

I don’t think there’s any reason why the US economy couldn’t get considerable growth in the near future with a focused program of public investment, although I do think that such a plan is entirely unreasonable given composition of both Federal and State legislatures. The US economy has stagnated for years now – surely there is plenty of pent up demand, plenty of discouraged workers that could be brought back into the labor force. The capacity for growth is not the issue – it’s the political willingness to enact such a plan. And that’s not a matter of economics. The folks in a lot of these debates seem incapable of seeing that though. It seems like there’s a persistent belief that if only the right politician said the right words, we could have growth. And everyone would win! But that’s not what I see at all.


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