The Widdershins

Activist Monday: A Tale of Two Democrats

Posted on: May 11, 2015

Good morning, all! I hope you enjoyed your weekend. Bernie Sanders, the newest “Democratic” candidate for President, sure did, as he made the case for his candidacy on “Face the Nation.”

During an interview on Face the Nation, CBS host Bob Schieffer asked Sanders if he really thought he could defeat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination.

“The answer is yes,” Sanders replied. “Because there is massive dissatisfaction in this country today with corporate establishment and the greed of corporate America, and the incredibly unequal distribution of wealth and income which currently exists.”

“As a result of this disastrous Supreme Court Citizens United decisions, clearly, the billionaires — Koch brothers and others — are owning the political process,” the Vermont senator explained. “They will determine the political process.”

Sanders pointed out that if Americans put him the White House, this could be the last election controlled by the billionaire class.

“If elected president, I will have a litmus test in terms of my nominee to be a Supreme Court justice,” he remarked. “And that nominee will say that we are going to overturn this disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United. Because that decision is undermining American democracy. I do not believe that billionaires should be able to buy politicians.”

I have to say, I could not agree with him more. I am definitely enjoying Bernie’s candidacy so far, although I don’t like the implication that the billionaires are buying Hillary. If they could buy Hillary, they wouldn’t have been attacking her for the past 20 years, trying to keep her from influencing American and world politics. They’d be backing her, the way they backed Obama…and her press would reflect it.

And speaking of Obama and billionaires…he was out this Friday at Nike, pushing the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership, a “free trade” agreement that has liberal Democrats and the President at odds. (For the record, Bernie Sanders is against it.)

For Obama, the trade dependent Pacific Northwest is a natural place to make his case for trade negotiating authority and to promote a 12-nation Trans-Pacific trade agreement. Congress is debating whether to give Obama so-called fast-track authority to complete that and other trade deals. Obama’s toughest sell is with his own Democratic allies, who fear the loss of American jobs and weakened financial and environmental rules.

Nike, with its massive outsourcing of manufacturing, provides Obama with an opportunity to talk about labor standards he seeks to enforce with trade partners, particularly Vietnam where the U.S. concedes worker rights protections fall short of international standards. Of the 11 countries the U.S. is negotiating with in the Trans-Pacific talks, Nike has contract factories in seven of them.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the stop at Nike will “illustrate how a responsible trade agreement that includes enforceable labor and environmental standards would strongly benefit middle-class families and the American economy.”

Oh really? Let’s see what The Krug says about this.

Not to keep you in suspense, I’m thumbs down. I don’t think the proposal is likely to be the terrible, worker-destroying pact some progressives assert, but it doesn’t look like a good thing either for the world or for the United States, and you have to wonder why the Obama administration, in particular, would consider devoting any political capital to getting this through.


The fact is that at this point trade is fairly free (slide 4), and estimates of the cost of protectionism from standard models are quite small (slide 5). Trade restrictions just aren’t a major drag on the world economy these days, so the gains from liberalization must be small.


So why do some parties want this deal so much? Because as with many “trade” deals in recent years, the intellectual property aspects are more important than the trade aspects. Leaked documents suggest that the US is trying to get radically enhanced protection for patents and copyrights; this is largely about Hollywood and pharma rather than conventional exporters. What do we think about that (slide 7)?

Well, we should never forget that in a direct sense, protecting intellectual property means creating a monopoly – letting the holders of a patent or copyright charge a price for something (the use of knowledge) that has a zero social marginal cost. In that direct sense this introduces a distortion that makes the world a bit poorer.

Yeah, I’m with Paul. I think that Obama is still doing the bidding of his Big Pharma friends with this bullsh*t. Just as he did with Obamacare, he is providing an already wealthy industry with a boost it doesn’t need, while doing little to nothing for the poor and middle-class.

So here we are, Widdershins. Is it the best of times, or the worst of times, when the Democratic Party is represented by two such different politicians? And Hillary Clinton is somewhere in the middle…or is she?

This is an open thread.


37 Responses to "Activist Monday: A Tale of Two Democrats"

And the hits just keep on rolling. I had wondered how long this would take:

@1…oh wow, they have hit a new low. Shorter MSN: Hillary’s brother is simply gauche, darling. Thank goodness the author has never been embarrassed by an awkward relative. 😉

In most respects, the trade deals are State Dept. focused more than trade/jobs focused. I think they have more to do with us trying to look more alluring than the Chinese when it comes to “bidness”.

As someone who chased IP pirates for a living for a long time, Asia, particularly China, is a lawless land of killer whales because of the size. Patents, trademarks, and copyrights don’t mean spit to them. They hide and ship tanker loads of pirated goods into the country based upon no research, no creativity, and no thought to devaluing the reputation of our companies, our authors, our inventors, our designers.

If you have the world abiding by the same rules established by 100-years of treaties and conventions, and you have a killer whale feeding on those law abiders, it isn’t fair.

I agree with you, Prolix, but do we need fast-tracking and this semi-secret legislation to address that issue?

chat@1: So when Jeb announces, is the NYT/MSN going to do a piece on Neil Bush and his textbook schemes? Just wonderin’.

Not to mention the Bush family involvement with the savings and loan crash.

Don’t forget: Carlyle Group and daddy Bush.

Aw geez…look who’s in the news again.

Prolix@3: One of the concerns I have Prolix, is what I read about the sweet deals that may be heading Pharma’s way. Like they need more breaks.

Excellent post, MB. I admit I know nothing about the new trade deal. I have heard there is tons of fake crap shipped here from China and sold all over the place, everything you can think of: clothes, purses, sunglasses, dvds, cds, drugs, construction materials, even fake antiques.

@8, very funny! I can’t stand that &%$(#!

@5, 6, & 7: good points!.

annie@11: Dude just needs to find himself a place waaay out in the boonies…and not come back.

Brady out 4 games, 1 million in fines and loss of first round pick in 2016, 4th round in 2017. NFL is annoyed.

@13, Fredster, I think he’s addicted to fame now. He got tons of support and $ from a lot of people after he shot Trayvon.

Laker gave me that update a while ago. It could have been a lot worse, a lot of people were calling for Brady to be out the whole season. And I think a million bucks is nothing to these people. I think the draft picks are probably the worst of the punishment.

@chat and annie:

Tom and Gisele previously sold a property in Boston’s Back Bay for $9 mill. plus. I think they will be okay on a 4 game suspension. That fine is chump change for Bob Kraft.

@4, MB, I have the same confusion and I want to believe Elizabeth Warren on this, but I’m having a hard time understanding why a 60-day public comment period and another four months in open public review is “in secret.” I’ve listened to her explain and even the most adamant opponents of these trade deals don’t latch onto her criticism. I agree that secrecy is prima facie bad, but I’m not sure this is going to be such a secret.

The fast track stuff of being able to negotiate with one voice is the only practical option, it just has to be public afterward. I’m not sure how it isn’t eventually going to be public in this case.

@9, Pharma is going to have its hand in the cookie jar whenever there is a cookie jar even being considered. Pharma will get protections on the patent, trademark, and copyright protections. That will translate to increased revenue, but they are realistically due that revenue. If the revered invisible hand of the free market works, that increased revenue should reduce drug costs here in the U.S. Of course, that is the theory, most likely it will never happen.

@10, Annie, it is unbelievable the amount of pirated IP gets back here to the U.S. from Asia, most of it from China. The knockoff stuff alone is hundreds of billions of dollars. It’s not like the Chinese government doesn’t know about it too. Practically speaking, with the need for China’s economy to grow at a sustainable rate in order to feed the new middle class, they have to tacitly support these thieves and pirates.

When Chinese knockoff artists can duplicate fashions off the runway and have them to market before the designers, things have to change.

I would love to have Bernie as my Senator, but honestly even if Hillary weren’t running I would be looking elsewhere for a candidate. He’s not diverse enough on ALL the issues.

I saw a Bill Maher clip with Bernie where a woman was sitting next to him (I think it was that horrid SE Cupp, but still). Bernie was lecturing the guy on the other side of her by shaking his finger at him-right in her face. He was not even aware he was doing it. So rude. She finally reached out and grabbed his hand and pushed it away and down.

GAgal, yes, there is a lot to like about Bernie, and as Karen pointed out here last week, I would rather have him for prez than any of the nuts on the other side, but I don’t know if he could even win.

Agree that SE Cupp is horrid! She dominates any panel she is on with her right wing tripe.

Prolix, thanks for explaining all this stuff about the trade deal! 🙂

@18: Look what happens to generic drugs, like doxycycline. All sorts of people make it, and’s it’s $4. All but one cease production, and overnight it’s $150. Ditto levothyroxine. From $4 to $178 overnight. They conspire to create artificial shortages, then suddenly the same damn drug that’s been around since I was in nursing school shoots up 3000%.

@10 & 23: What Annie said!

So the fast track vote this week is all about refusing amendments to the TPP once it finally becomes public. We all know amendments in Congress has killed many good bills and bad. The House and Senate throw it back to each other like a game of Hot Potato. I understand why the big corporations are all for it. After all, they are the one’s with a seat at the table much like insurance/pharma during “ObamaCare” negotiations. Up or down vote? We have all seen Repubs vote against their own bill because of amendments added. Nope. Let’s see the deal, no fast-track needed.

prolix said: That will translate to increased revenue, but they are realistically due that revenue.

Well I don’t want to hear about much they devote to R&D.

The truth is that a great deal of research funding does not come out of their extravagant profits, but from government and university funding (i.e. our tax dollars). The first phase of developing a new drug, called basic research, has been estimated to be 84 percent funded by governments and private universities. While an industry-funded study from 2003 estimated that the cost of bringing a new drug to market was close to $1 billion, a new study estimated the real cost to be closer to $59 million, after outside funding and tax breaks are taken into account.

@27, that is obscene.

annie@28: Isn’t it? And the drug companies would definitely have you believe otherwise.

Prolix, as usual you make great points. I just don’t agree that fast-track is a transparent process. Vote now, review later is not okay. And I am not buying Elizabeth Warren just because I like her on one issue either. 😊

Also, TPP is not being sold as a solution to Chinese theft, it is being sold as a free trade, jobs creation engine, which it is clearly not, per Krugman. Why is Obama lying about that?

I may have an overly cynical mind, but I am just not buying the need for this bill. I think Big Pharma is going to use it to extend patents and soak the American consumer even more.

And re Bernie Sanders – I totally agree that he is too one dimensional to be President. I just like it when he talks about the elephant in the room (corporate ownership of the political process).

@31, MB I can’t really disagree with anything because I have the same misgivings. I’m just having a hard time chasing down a concrete basis upon which to land my cynicism. The TPP process has been around for 50 years or so until it was so rudely interrupted by Newt and friends in 1994.

I’m holding on to the thought that TPP is more about hegemonic influence on our part than trade. It really is one of those value propositions where there might be no really “right” answer. I can’t say for sure if the American jobs are worth more than enhancing our diplomatic influence in the long run or vice versa. And no, even though it seems like I did, I didn’t have waffles for breakfast.

I’m trying to get my head around what Prolix is saying, but as usual, he is way too smart for me. But I do agree with what ( I believe ) MB and GAgal are saying: No fast track, show us the deal now, then vote on it.

I don’t care if the TPP process has been around since G-d parted the Red Sea. Obama’s “Just trust me” on this comes across as a con job.

Prolix, I understand completely! You are looking for more facts, and they are not easy to find. If we are going on smell tests, though, I think we both feel like something stinks…just hard to pinpoint the source of the odeur.

Isn’t every union in the country opposed to the TPP? Unless one is among the union-busting crowd, doesn’t that scream “Whoa, doggie, this is one bad deal for American workers”?

When facts are hard to find in trade deals, it may be because they are buried somewhere near Jimmy Hoffa’s body. The powers-that-be don’t want them found.

@33 & 34, Obtuse is my name and booze should be my game. I’m genetically non-understandable, but I’m also not a quitter, so here’s another go at it.

I don’t believe and a good number of really smart economists don’t believe China can sustain itself. Always before in the Chinese history, if things got out of hand with its population, it just closed its doors and shut down in isolationism. There’s a 5,000 year history of this cultural truism. In today’s world, too many hundreds of millions of Chinese have gotten a taste of how luscious the real world is now that they are approaching the economic middle class.

If China isn’t sustainable and it can’t close its borders as it has done in the past, the Column C alternative is that it becomes regionally aggressive swallowing those around it or at least suffusing the better part of Asia through economic coercion.

I think this trade deal is in reaction to those possibilities. I don’t think it is so much about trade as it is about diplomacy and/or defense. Practically speaking we will never know because we can never be told if this is what underpins these deals.

Politics is politics — unions are and will always be against globalization. Elizabeth Warren has resorted to the Karl Rove, Fox News tactic of sewing paranoia. I want to believe her concerns, but when you get into the process and procedure, she is just flat out wrong or at least exaggerating. Such intellectual policy shallowness is beneath what I have come to expect from her. What she is advocating is not practically or has ever been practically possible. You can’t negotiate deals with 538 negotiators pulled in tens of thousands of different directions by parochial interests.

That is where the value judgment comes in and it just might be a dreaded Rumsfeldian “unknowable.” It just might be that some jobs are being sacrificed for future regional security. And yes, none of this passes the smell test. And yes, pharma and big business will always be looking for alternatives to maximize opportunity, but those facts are never mutually exclusive to the greater good — whatever that is.

Again, I’m trying to put too fine a point on this, but yes, I still have lots of questions like everyone else.

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