The Racial Justice Failures That Hillary Clinton Can’t Ignore

Clinton’s record is far from stellar.

While the Black Lives Matter movement has focused attention on Bernie Sanders for his perceived racial justice deficiencies, no one seems to be giving much scrutiny to the civil rights record of Bill and Hillary Clinton and the impact their political work has had on the black community.

History has not been kind to the Clintons’ record and it is possible that Bill Clinton while president, with no public objections and often with enthusiastic support from Hillary, did more damage to the black community than any modern American president.

Let’s take a look at the Clintons’ record, in particular the 1996 Welfare Reform Act, the 1994 Violent Crime Act, repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, and the support and passage of NAFTA and NAFTA-style trade agreements.

1996 Welfare Reform Act: Any consideration of Bill Clinton’s impact on the black community must include the 1996 Welfare Reform Act that had been put forward by Republicans Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole as a cornerstone of the Republican Contract for America and signed into law by Clinton, fulfilling his 1992 campaign pledge to “end welfare as we know it.”

The bill ended the federal guarantee of cash assistance to the poor, limited welfare payments and turned welfare programs over to the states. Civil rights and women’s groups strongly opposed this legislation, which has proved to be a disaster for poor people. Three of Clinton’s assistant secretaries at the Department of Health and Human Services resigned to protest the law. According to one of them, Peter Edelman, the 1996 welfare reform law destroyed the safety net for poor people, increased poverty, lowered income for single mothers, put people into homeless shelters and left states free to eliminate welfare entirely.

Clinton’s welfare reform did “not offer benefits sufficient to lift recipients out of poverty, and despite a strong economy, the majority of families who have moved off the [welfare] rolls have remained in poverty,” according to the book Success Stories, by Joe Soss. Jason DeParle of the New York Times, after interviews with single mothers, said that they have been left without means to survive, and have turned to desperate and sometimes illegal ways to survive, including shoplifting, selling blood, scavenging trash bins, moving in with friends, and returning to violent domestic partners.

Feminist critics such as Barbara Ehrenreich said Clinton’s welfare reform was motivated by racism and misogyny, using stereotypes of “endlessly fecund” African-American welfare recipients.

On the face of it, devolving welfare programs to the states was racially neutral, but it didn’t work out that way. Joe Soss, who co-wrote the book, Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberal Paternalism and the Persistent Power of Race, explains how race became the defining characteristic of Clinton’s welfare reform:

[P]eople had become so focused on racial issues that race really drove the patterning….[A]ll of the states with more African-Americans on the welfare rolls chose tougher rules.  And when you add those different rules up, what we found was that even though the Civil Act prevents the government from creating different programs for black and white recipients, when states choose according to this pattern, it ends up that large numbers of African Americans get concentrated in the states with the toughest rules, and large numbers of white recipients get concentrated in the states with the more lenient rules.

So state freedom to make these different choices became the mechanism for recreating a racially biased system across the states, where the toughness of the rules you confronted really on your racial characteristics.

Despite the human costs of welfare reform, Bill Clinton is still bragging about knocking people off welfare and Hillary has neither repudiated nor disavowed the 1996 Clinton welfare legislation, which has been a catastrophe for the black community. Hillary Clinton not only supported the 1996 legislation, but as recently as her 2008 presidential campaign, publicly supported it, expressing no regret about how it turned out and telling the New York Times she thought the act was necessary and enormously successful.

1994 Violent Crime Control Act: Another Bill Clinton legacy that has had catastrophic impacts on the black community is the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act, which, among other things, expanded the death penalty, provided funds to hire 100,000 more police, imposed tougher prison sentences, eliminated funds for inmate education and provided money to build extra prisons. Clinton, who had a history of pandering to racist, anti-crime sentiments (witness his 1992 flight back to Arkansas to personally oversee the execution of a mentally retarded African-American murderer which helped his poll numbers in the New Hampshire primary), pandered to tough-on-crime voters and described the Violent Crime Control Act in stark terms: “Gangs and drugs have taken over our streets and undermined our schools,” he said. “Every day we read about somebody else who has literally gotten away with murder.”

Bill Clinton wasn’t the only one using tough language to sell this tough crime bill; Hillary, in selling this punitive bill to the public, added her own red-meat rhetoric, calling kids in gangs “super-predators” without conscience or empathy:

“[W]e also have to have an organized effort against gangs, just as in the previous generation we had an organized effort against the mob. We need to take these people on. They are often connected to drug cartels. They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about how they got that way but first we have to bring them to heel….”

As a result of this legislation, 28 states and the District of Columbia followed the federal money and enacted stricter sentencing laws and built more prisons. Jeremy Travis, a former member of the Clinton Justice Department and now president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says there was a basic problem with the Clinton crime legislation: There is only a small relationship between high levels of imprisonment and lower crime rates. “We know with the fullness of time that we made some terrible mistakes,” Travis has said. “And those mistakes were to ramp up the use of prison. And that big mistake is the one that we now, 20 years later, come to grips with. We have to look in the mirror and say, ‘look what we have done.'”

What we have done is incarcerate a lot of minorities. There are more than 2.3 million people in U.S. state and federal prisons and nearly one million are black men. “If you’re a black baby born today, you have a 1 in 3 chance of spending some time in prison or jail,” says Nick Turner of the Vera Institute. “If you’re Latino, it’s a 1 in 6 chance. And if you’re white, it’s 1 in 17….[C]oming to terms with these disparities and reversing them…is a matter of fairness and justice.”

When we speak about justice and fairness, we need to consider not just the prisoners, but the families who are devastated by the imprisonment of a parent and the stigma and loss of job opportunities that endure forever. And when people are in prison, they are not earning pensions or building Social Security accounts, so their futures are permanently diminished.

Recently, the New York Times published an article about the disappearance of 1.5 million black men from daily American life. The reasons were premature death, foreign military deployments and prison.

The 1994 Clinton Crime bill has been a huge failure, at great cost to the black community, as well as many state budgets, and there has been a big public policy debate shift away from excessive incarceration policies. Even the arch-conservative Koch brothers and some Senate Republicans like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio are promoting a re-evaluation of incarceration policies.

To Bill and Hillary’s credit, they have acknowledged some of the damage their policies caused. In her meeting with three members of the Black Lives Matter movement, Hillary Clinton tried to explain her policy reversals as the result of different times demanding different policies. Yet the over-reliance on incarceration, particularly for non-violent crimes, made no sense in 1994, and it is equally bad policy today.

The 1994 Act spawned the “era of mass incarceration” that Hillary now questions. The Act supported “truth in sentencing” laws that dramatically increased the amount of time criminals served and over the course of the Clinton presidency, the number of Americans in prison rose an astounding 60 percent. This might have been justified if it led to large reductions of crime, but very little crime reduction is caused by mass incarceration. The Brennan Center for Justice, after spending two years studying 14 different causes of the reduction of crime, concluded that “incarceration was responsible for approximately five percent of the drop in crime in the 1990s” and an even lower percentage since then.

Hillary deserves credit for rethinking the damage the Clinton crime bill caused, but how much credit should that be, since she is now moving on this issue with a herd that includes right-wing Republicans and arch-conservatives like the Koch brothers? Her change of position does not help the millions of people, including hundreds of thousands of African Americans, whose lives were devastated by the hysteria for mass incarceration.

Repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act: After the 1920-’21 Depression, the United States began the decade known as the Roaring Twenties, characterized by new forms of consumer credit and bank expansion. Banks sold securities side-by-side with traditional bank services like loans and deposits. The stock market boomed and reached bubble territory and along with the bubble came market manipulation in which banks and other financial entities would hype the value of stocks, then dump them on less-informed buyers right before the stocks collapsed. Banks offered holding company stocks, many of which were little more than heavily leveraged pyramid schemes backed by dubious assets as prudent investments.

In October 1929, the bubble burst, the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began. In 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected president and in 1933, a Democratic Congress passed the Glass-Steagall Act in response to bank abuses. Because of Glass-Steagall, banks were prohibited from engaging in banking and investing activities simultaneously. Banks could take deposits and make loans. Brokers could underwrite and sell securities, but no firm could do both due to conflicts of interest and risks to insured deposits. From 1933 to 1999, the system worked well. There were very few large bank failures and no large financial collapses.

In 1999, Democrats led by President Bill Clinton and his Wall Street supporters and joined by Republican Senator Phil Gramm, succeeded in repealing Glass-Steagall at the urging of the big Wall Street banks. As they did in the Roaring Twenties, banks began to originate fraudulent loans and sold securities backed by toxic, worthless assets, to their customers, often while simultaneously “shorting” or betting against the same securities themselves. The bubble peaked in 2007 and collapsed in 2008, causing Wall Street to run to Presidents Bush and Obama and Congress for a financial bail-out, which ultimately cost the federal government $1 trillion in cash and $11 trillion in guarantees. Millions of people lost their homes in foreclosure, unemployment spiked, the average American family lost 40 percent of its net worth and 52 percent of black families and 47 percent of Latino families were left with zero net worth.

Joseph Stiglitz, a Noble Prize-winning American economist has written:

Commercial banks are not supposed to be high-risk ventures; they are supposed to manage other people’s money very conservatively…Investment banks, on the other hand, have traditionally managed rich people’s money — people who can take bigger risks in order to get bigger returns.

When repeal of Glass-Steagall brought investment and commercial banks together, the investment-bank culture came out on top. There was a demand for the kind of high returns that could be obtained only through high leverage and big risk-taking.

Although American taxpayers bailed out the banks, Wall Street, with the support of President Obama, vigorously and successfully fought the re-institution of Glass-Steagall and the United States today remains just as vulnerable today to bank speculation and financial melt-down as it was in 2007.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have called for the re-legislation of Glass-Steagall; by contrast, a spokesperson for Hillary Clinton recently said she did not support legislation reinstating Glass-Steagall rules. The banks remain free to run wild, while the U.S. economy continues to limp along, apparently with Clinton’s approval.

NAFTA: In 1993, President Clinton strongly lobbied for and passed NAFTA, which he and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce promised would create an export boom with Mexico that would create 200,000 high-paying jobs in America within two years and millions of jobs within five years. Instead, trade deficits with Mexico eliminated 682,000 good-paying jobs in the United States, 61 percent of which were manufacturing jobs, many held by African Americans.

When China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001, according to Robert Scott, director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Research at the Economic Policy Institute, black workers lost 281,000 high-paying manufacturing jobs from 2001-’11 and tens of billions in wages. The U.S. trade deficit with China is $318 billion per year and Celeste Drake, globalization policy specialist for the AFL-CIO, has written that, “The displacement of manufacturing jobs by growing U.S. trade deficits with China has been particularly hard on minority workers: 958,800 were displaced, with wage-related losses in 2011 of $10,485 per worker and $10.1 billion overall.”

The NAFTA-style trade agreement with Korea (KORUS) has resulted in the net loss of 75,000 jobs for African Americans and other workers, U.S. imports from Korea surged to more than $12 billion, while U.S. imports to Korea increased by less than $1 billion, said Robert Scott.

Once African Americans and other non-white workers lose their jobs, they have a difficult time finding new ones, wrote author Lori Keltzer in the book Job Loss from Imports: Measuring the Costs. “Minority workers face reemployment rates almost 11 percentage points lower than white workers,” Keltzer wrote. “For less skilled manufacturing workers, the male minority’s employment rate is 20 percent lower than the average. Female minority’s reemployment rate is 24 percent lower.”

NAFTA  and NAFTA-style trade agreements have been described as a “little discussed triple whammy in the black community that has hit black Americans financially hard over the past two decades,” wrote Frederick H. Lowe in, “Will the proposed trade agreement be another bad deal for black workers?”

You can thank Bill Clinton for NAFTA. But the story of bad trade deals is not over. In fact, the worst may be yet-to-come — the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has been described by the AFL-CIO as “NAFTA on steroids.”

The TPP, which has been negotiated in secret, involves the U.S., Japan, Canada, Australia, Mexico, Malaysia, Singapore, Chile, Peru, New Zealand, Vietnam and Brunei — almost 40 percent of the world economy. If passed, it would reduce tariffs and allow capital to move more freely among these nations. NAFTA and other NAFTA-style agreements have encouraged capital to flee to the lowest-wage countries, a “race to the bottom,” wrote William Greider in his seminal work on globalization, One World, Ready or Not.

If the TPP passes, the race not only will accelerate to the great profit of U.S. corporations, which already are sitting on $2+ trillion of retained earnings they have not repatriated to the U.S. or paid U.S. taxes on, but it will further gut the already-weak U.S. manufacturing base and further damage jobs for the black community. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have publicly opposed the TPP, while Hillary Clinton has refused to take an identifiable position on it.

The Clinton administration, with policies Hillary Clinton supported at the time and in most respects still supports, pushed millions of African Americans off welfare; over-incarcerated hundreds of thousands of African Americans while devastating hundreds of thousands of black families and careers; supported Wall Street-friendly legislation that helped to melt down the economy, leaving millions homeless and 52 percent of black families with zero net worth; and promoted trade policies like NAFTA which cost African Americans hundreds of thousands of jobs and tens of billions in salaries and income. Is this the track record and set of policies African Americans and racial justice advocates really want to endorse for 2016?

7 Things About the Inevitability of Hillary Clinton You Probably Haven’t Thought About

As in 2007, war hawk Clinton is less of a shoo-in, but Warren shines.

In December 2007, just as the 2008 presidential primaries were beginning to heat up, and with Hillary Clinton 26 points ahead in national polling of Democrats, I wrote an article for AlterNet arguing that she was beatable, that she had vulnerabilities the other candidates did not have, that she had historically high “unfavorables,” that she polled poorly against Republicans and that Democrats should rethink the “inevitability” of her candidacy. Apparently, they did and we know how that turned out.

Once again, Clinton is riding high in polling of Democrats; once again, her supporters are claiming she is “inevitable;” and once again, she has vulnerabilities other candidates lack, including extremely high “unfavorables,” as well as additional liabilities in 2016 she didn’t have in 2008 — some of her own making, some not.

1. Worrisome Polling

Hillary Clinton has maintained consistently high “unfavorable” ratings since at least 2007 (ranging from 40 to 52 percent). In December 2007, they were running 45 percent and are still hovering in the 45 percent range today. In 2007, I wrote that her unfavorable” ratings “currently are running 45 percent — far higher than any other Democratic or Republican presidential hopeful and higher than any presidential candidate at this stage in polling history. Hillary may be the most well-known, recognizable candidate, but that is proving to be as much of a burden as a benefit.” That still seems to be true.

Before Chris Christie melted down in the Bridge-Gate scandal, Quinnipiac, a well-respected poll, had him running ahead of Hillary Clinton 43-42 percent. That doesn’t, in my opinion, mean Christie is a strong candidate — people hardly know who he is — but it suggests Clinton is a weak, or at least vulnerable, candidate. She is someone who has been on the national scene prominently for 20-plus years, people know her, yet a relatively unknown Republican runs even with her? Not a sign of strength.

In a Quinnipiac poll in Colorado, a state with two Democratic senators and a Democratic governor, Rand Paul was out-polling Clinton 45-40 percent and she was running 42-42 percent against the scandal-ridden Christie. Colorado is a blue state Democrats need to win in 2016 and having a well-known Democrat running behind a virtual unknown Republican is not good news.

And, in a recent [October] Presidential match-up poll by the Des Moines Register, Hillary trailed Mitt Romney in Iowa by one point [44-43] and ran only one point ahead of Paul Ryan and three points ahead of Rand Paul.

This should be a serious concern for Democrats because in Presidential years, Iowa has become a fairly reliable Democratic state.  In fact, Romney lost Iowa by 6 points to Obama in 2012 and Obama won Iowa by 10 points in 2008.  To be trailing in Iowa by even a point to a Republican candidate who lost the state by six points just two years ago and, to date, has shown no interest in even running for President, is one more ominous indication that Hillary is not as strong a candidate as her supporters want you to think.  But this is not the only reason to think that Hillary’s relationship to voters is not robust.   In the just-concluded 2014 mid-term election, of the Senate candidates Hillary personally appeared and spoke on behalf of, 8 won and 14 lost [one race remains undecided].  By contrast, Elizabeth Warren personally stumped for 11 Democratic Senate candidates: 6 won and 5 lost. Elizabeth Warren pulled voters in her direction; Hillary did not.

2. New Liabilities

By every metric, voters are in a surly mood and they are not going to be happy campers in 2016, either. Why should they be? The economy is still in the toilet, not enough jobs are being created even to keep up with population growth, personal debt and student debt are rising, college graduates can’t find jobs, retirement benefits are shrinking, infrastructure is deteriorating, banksters never were held accountable for melting down the economy, inequality is exploding — and neither party is addressing the depth of the problems America faces.

As a result, just like in the 2014 mid-terms, voters in 2016 will be seeking change and there is no way Clinton can run as a “change” candidate — indeed, having been in power in Washington for 20-plus years as First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, she is the poster child for the Washington political establishment, an establishment that will not be popular in 2016. This problem is not really her fault, but it creates serious headwinds for her candidacy and makes her susceptible to any Republican candidate who does not appear to be crazy, who can say a few reasonable things and who looks fresh, new and different. The status quo is not popular today and it is not going to be any more popular in 2016.  If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic presidential candidate, even though she will try to harken back to the nostalgia of the 1990s, she will not be able to escape being the candidate representing old ideas and an unpopular status quo.

3. Democratic Party Base

On nearly every important issue, except women’s issues, Clinton stands to the right of her Democratic base. Overwhelmingly, Democrats believe that Wall Street played a substantial role in gaming the system for their benefit while melting down the economy, but Clinton continues to give speeches to Goldman Sachs at $200,000 a pop, assuring them that, “We all got into this mess together and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it.” In her world — a world full of friends and donors from Wall Street — the financial industry does not bear any special culpability in the financial meltdown of 2007-’08. The mood of the Democratic base is populist and angry, but Clinton is preaching lack of accountability.

According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll done by Hart Research, only four percent of American voters have a great deal of confidence in the financial industry, while 43 percent have “very little or none at all.” With Wall Street at a historic low in popularity and respect, with her close ties to Goldman Sachs, Bob Rubin and the financial industry, Clinton will be perceived as Wall Street’s candidate.

Clinton has not explained why she supported the repeal of Glass-Steagall legislation, which deregulated banks during the Clinton administration and contributed significantly to Wall Street speculation, the meltdown of big banks and the trillion-dollar federal bailout. She has not explained her support for NAFTA, which has eroded the manufacturing base of America and cost American workers a million-plus well-paid jobs; nor her support as Secretary of State for the Trans Pacific Partnership, which has been described as “NAFTA on steroids.” On all these core financial issues, Clinton is well to the right of the Democratic base, so how is she going to fire up the base the way Obama’s promises of “Hope and Change” fired it up in 2008?

The 2014 mid-term election confirmed voter antipathy to Wall Street:  According to a Hart Research poll of 2014 voters, the most important issue in the election was the economy and 80% of voters agreed with the statement that “politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties do too much to support Wall Street financial interests and not enough to help average Americans;” only 13% disagreed.  It is not plausible that voters in 2016 are going to feel much differently or want to support a candidate so closely associated with the financial industry as Hillary has been.

Clinton is no more in-tune with her Democratic base on foreign policy issues than on domestic issues. She is not simply a hawk at a time when the Democratic base (and the country) is sick of expensive and counter-productive foreign adventures, she is a superhawk, consistently trying to outflank Republicans on foreign policy issues. We all know she voted in favor of invading Iraq in 2003, despite the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and despite the fact that evidence of WMDs was sketchy at best. She has never recanted that vote, shown any remorse about not examining classified reports about Iraq, reports that were made available to her before the vote nor expressed any qualms about the fact that the U.S. blew $3 trillion down a rat-hole in Iraq and Afghanistan with nothing to show for it. Then, five years later, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan collapsing, she strongly urged new President Obama to escalate the commitment of troops in Afghanistan, advice that proved disastrous. It is no surprise that General David Petraeus has endorsed Clinton for President. He knows a military hawk when he sees one.

More recently, she supported invading Libya and bombing Syria. And, at a time when Obama was trying to moderate Putin’s behavior in the Ukraine and get our European allies to support economic sanctions against Russia, Clinton threw gasoline on the fire by comparing Putin to Hitler, a comparison which is ridiculous on many counts, but which played very badly with our allies.

Ironically, Rand Paul represents the concerns of the Democratic base far better than Clinton about foreign interventions and the excesses of the National Security State and if he were the Republican presidential candidate, would undermine her support among Democrats in an unprecedented way.

4. Assets

Clinton’s biggest asset, in my opinion, is that she is a woman, and America is long past the time when a woman should be elected President. But Democrats already win the women’s vote and lose the vote of men, so what is the net advantage? She also has the highest name-recognition of any candidate, which is why she is polling so highly in Democratic polls, but name-recognition evaporates in any high-profile campaign and is an ephemeral asset.

Indeed, that is the essence of her problem: She has a small and active hardcore base of feminist supporters and donors; a large core of conservatives who hate the Clintons; and among others, her support is a mile wide and two inches deep — which is why a relative unknown ran her down and beat her in 2008.

5. Bill’s Legacy

Hillary Clinton’s campaign will harken back to the glory years of the Clinton administration, but is a campaign based on nostalgia really going to work, particularly with disengaged young voters the Democrats need to win? Certainly, Bill Clinton deserves credit for some things. He increased taxes on the rich, wages grew in his second term and jobs were created in his eight years as President (helped in no small part by the tech revolution and the financial bubble he helped create and which ended in disaster 10 years later). Bill also expanded the earned income tax credit, which helped working people. But there are a lot of things his administration did which don’t look very good in hindsight.

With help from Newt Gingrich, he enacted a Draconian welfare reform program; he overrode the opposition of labor to enact NAFTA, again with mostly Republican support; and, he repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which deregulated Wall Street. He deregulated the telecom industry, and that deregulation now has put net neutrality in jeopardy, while enriching the big telecom companies.  As he described himself to Bob Woodward, “I hope you’re all aware we’re all Eisenhower Republicans. We stand for lower deficits and free trade and the bond market. Isn’t that great?” Conservative Alan Greenspan, whom Bill twice appointed to chair the Federal Reserve Board, said, “Bill Clinton was the best Republican president we’ve had in awhile.”

So here we are, 20 years later, with wages of average workers in decline, CEO pay and Wall Street bonuses accelerating at obscene rates, pensions disappearing, the loss of millions of jobs to developing countries thanks to NAFTA and exploding wealth inequality. Yes, we can blame Bush/Cheney for their contributions to these trends, but the major policy changes that started the ball rolling steeply downhill for workers and the middle class began in the Clinton Administration.

6. Accomplishments

There is no question Hillary Clinton is smart, hard-working and competent. She does her homework, shows up for work every day and works long hours. Yet she has been on the world stage for more than 20 years, so it is fair to ask what are her accomplishments over those 20 years. She led a healthcare task force in Bill Clinton’s first term, but that effort failed, largely because she was not collaborative and failed to involve Congress, despite the fact Democrats controlled it. She repeatedly claims credit for the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, passed during Bill Clinton’s second term, and while her role has been disputed even by the bill’s sponsors, she played an important role in supporting it within the White House and later publicly.

In 2008, however, she tried to bootstrap many accomplishments of her husband by exaggerating her role as First Lady and got roundly mocked for her exaggerations. She had a term as U.S. Senator, and was re-elected, but can anyone identify anything of consequence that she accomplished during that period other than facilitating Republican idiocy by supporting Bush’s war in Iraq? Then she spent four years as Secretary of State, which certainly improved her public profile, but can anyone identify any substantial accomplishments she had as Secretary of State?

Clinton came to the role of Secretary of State with a huge asset — her strong relationship with AIPAC and the Israeli government. She, like President Obama, supports a two-state solution, opposes Jewish settlements in Palestinian territory and seeks peace with the Palestinians. There was hope when she was appointed that she would leverage her strong relationship with AIPAC and move Israel away from aggressive settlement activity and toward the peace process. That did not happen. Clinton is cautious, by nature, and I have little doubt she feared angering her wealthy Jewish donors by pushing them hard on peace negotiations. So she didn’t act and whatever leverage she had was wasted; it was not until John Kerry replaced her as Secretary of State that peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine resumed. Likewise with Iran, as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was a consistent advocate of tough sanctions and serious peace negotiations did not begin until John Kerry replaced her.

7. Foreign Policy Credentials

The Arab Spring exploded on her watch, but Clinton and U.S. foreign policy drifted. There were no long-term strategies and with her stewardship, America supported whoever looked like a winner. When it was Mubarak, she supported Mubarak. When he was going down, she supported elections. Then when they had elections and the military tossed out the winners, she supported the military. Of course, she is not the only person responsible for the policy drift, but where did she leave a positive imprint on the direction of American foreign policy?

In my opinion, she has been wrong about almost every major foreign policy question in recent American history. She probably lost the Democratic presidential primaries and the presidential nomination due to her ill-advised vote to start a war in Iraq, a vote which ultimately gave Obama’s candidacy substantial impetus, and it is reasonable to assume she will face some amount of accountability with voters for her consistently hawkish and unpopular views on foreign interventions.

In the past few months, Hillary has double-downed on her hawkish positions in the Middle East by her continued unconditional support for Israel, despite its murderous assault on Gaza which killed 2,000 mostly defenseless people, her criticisms of President Obama for not arming Syrian rebels fast enough and her hawkish stance about making a peace deal with Iran.

In an August interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, published in The Atlantic, and elsewhere, Hillary said, “The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad — there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle — the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled.” This is mostly fantasy. The U.S. invested trillions of dollars in Iraq, including hundreds of billions trying to train an Iraqi Army, and utterly failed in the effort. What could possibly make Clinton think the U.S., with far fewer resources available for Syria, had the capacity to train a competent rebel army, let alone even determine who the “good rebels” were?  Is she unaware of how bad—and counter-productive—America’s track record has been arming and training fighters in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere? And, if she really believed Syrian rebels needed to be armed, why didn’t she protest publicly at the time? The fact that she remained silent as Secretary of State shows lack of conviction and no courage.

In the interview, Hillary also took a very hard line on Obama’s negotiations with Iran’s nuclear expectations: “I’ve always been in the camp that held that they [Iran] did not have a right to enrichment,” Clinton said. “Contrary to their claim, there is no such thing as a right to enrich. This is absolutely unfounded. There is no such right. I am well aware that I am not at the negotiating table anymore, but I think it’s important to send a signal to everybody who is there that there cannot be a deal unless there is a clear set of restrictions on Iran. The preference would be no enrichment. The potential fallback position would be such little enrichment that they could not break out.” When asked if the demands of Israel, and of America’s Arab allies, that Iran not be allowed any uranium-enrichment capability whatsoever were militant or unrealistic, she said, “I think it’s important that they stake out that position.”

Claiming Iran has “no right to enrichment,” is a half-truth. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not expressly grant a right to uranium enrichment to any nation, but it also doesn’t prohibit enrichment, so long as enrichment is not done secretly. Hillary, of course, knows this, but by choosing to emphasize only parts of the Treaty and ignore the rest, she is misleading and inflaming the discussion. In the case of Iran, misinformation feeds right-wing opposition and potentially could jeopardize a peace agreement with a country with an educated population and democratic traditions [destroyed by the CIA coup in 1953] which could be a stabilizing force and America’s ally in the Middle East.

Ironically, as Secretary of State, Clinton explicitly recognized that Iran could enrich uranium under the terms of a negotiated comprehensive deal, which, of course, is exactly what Obama is seeking to do, but now, as a potential Presidential candidate, Hillary appears to want to forget her own history and criticize Obama from the right.  Does that sound like opportunism to anyone other than me?

Concerns about these types of hawkish positions by Clinton are not academic or inconsequential. Becoming enmeshed unnecessarily in long-term sectarian conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of people, including 5,000 Americans, and cost U.S. taxpayers $3+ trillion, and counting, as 500,000 war-damaged American vets get healthcare, most for the rest of their lives. Worse, U.S. military intervention inflamed a situation America never had control over, or ever could have control over, promoted recruitment of thousands of militants by terrorist organizations, and made America, despite this huge investment, less safe.

It has been a total clusterfuck, to be sure, but apparently Hillary Clinton is willing to repeat the policy mistakes which caused it. Voters should be, and I think will be, concerned.

Is There a Democratic Alternative?

Bernie Sanders has declared his intent to run, but Sanders is technically a socialist; more importantly, his candidacy is unlikely to present a formidable challenge to Clinton.

The name on people’s lips is Elizabeth Warren, who is the harshest critic of Wall Street excesses and who speaks to the populist zeitgeist. Would she run, despite having said she is not interested?

I think we should take her protestations of disinterest seriously. Running for President is a brutal task: Two years of living in motels; two years of banquets and bad food; two years of glad-handing people; two years of dialing for donor dollars; two years of facing attacks from Republicans. No rational person would do it. Unless they wanted to change the world.

I believe there are five scenarios that would make it possible, perhaps even likely, for Elizabeth Warren to run in 2016:

  1. Elizabeth Warren ran for the U.S. Senate because she wanted to change the world, most immediately to break the stranglehold on American politics and the economy that Wall Street currently holds. If she sees Hillary Clinton continuing to suck up to the financial industry and offering the failed economics and deregulation beliefs of Bob Rubin, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner, Warren might rethink what she can accomplish in the U.S. Senate. She is a person of great principle; she has fought for her principles, often against brutal odds. In the end, principles could prove more compelling than the easier and more comfortable path of stepping back.
  1. I have been told by friends of hers that Warren likes her job as senator and thinks she can make important contributions in that role. But now that the Democrats have lost control of the Senate, she might want to rethink that, because as a member of the minority in a rigidly controlled Republican Senate, it is unlikely she could accomplish anything other than increase her level of frustration.
  1. Warren might rethink the clock. She is 65 now and would be 67 on Election Day 2016, so 2016 could be the only chance she has to run for President.
  1. Clinton could choose not to run. In December 2012, she suffered dehydration and fatigue, fainted, fell and hit her head, suffering a concussion. She was re-hospitalized two weeks later and her condition was described as a clot between her brain and skull. She previously had suffered a large blood clot in her leg. These medical issues could cause her to rethink undertaking the rigors of a presidential campaign, which are brutal.
  1. Warren raised a record $42.5 million to run for the Senate and Democratic donors would come out in droves to fund her presidential campaign. A challenge to Clinton and Democratic Party orthodoxy by Warren would be like catnip to the media. So the minute Warren declared to run for President, she would have $100 million worth of free advertising from the media telling her story and playing up the differences between her and Clinton. Even if Warren lost, she would have pushed Clinton away from Wall Street and toward more progressive Democratic Party positions and ignited a new generation of Democrats opposed to neoliberalism and dedicated to making America a more fair and equal society.

Barbara Bush recently commented that America should have more choices for President than two family dynasties. This may be the first time I have ever agreed so strongly with Barbara Bush.

Cows, Rice Fields and Big Agriculture Consumes Well Over 90% of California’s Water

Low-flow shower heads help save much less water than people think.

California is experiencing a serious drought and the media is filled with recommendations about how to save water: Switch to dry landscaping; don’t run water when you are shaving or brushing your teeth; install low­-flow shower ­heads; and don’t wash your car. All those ideas would help, but much less than people think.

When I ask people to guess how much personal consumption accounts for water usage in California, people guess 20­-40%, which sounds reasonable; ­­­after all, there are 38 million people in California and they have lawns to water, teeth to brush, toilets to flush, cars to wash, and showers to take. But 20-­40% is not even close to being accurate.

  • ­­­According to a 2012 report by the Pacific Institute, only 4% of California’s water is used by individuals
  • ­­­An astounding 93% of California’s water goes to agriculture; and most of that 93% is misused or wasted

Drive down I­nterstate 5 in the middle of summer in 100-plus-degree weather and you will see huge sprinklers spraying water in the middle of the day and fields being flooded­­­ in the process, losing huge amounts of water to evaporation. Very few crops and very little acreage is watered with drip irrigation in California compared to other arid regions of the world.

California agriculture also concentrates on growing the thirstiest foods­­­ derived from animals, mainly beef, dairy and eggs. One pound of animal protein requires 100 times more water than producing one pound of grain protein. Producing one pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water, compared to 100 gallons for a pound of wheat.

  • ­­­Humans drink less than one gallon of water per day
  • ­­­A cow drinks 23 gallons per day—and we have 5.5 million of them

Not only does it take huge amounts of water to hydrate animals, it takes billions of additional gallons of fresh water to irrigate the feed for livestock, wash excrement off concrete floors, and clean blood and grease from equipment used in the butchering process. A dairy operation that uses an automatic flushing system can use 150 gallons of water per cow, per day.

Crops like corn and soybeans­­­ made cheap by government subsidies­­­ used to fatten up cattle also waste water.

And why does California grow water-­intensive crops like rice, which requires the flooding of fields, and cotton? Shouldn’t water-­hogging crops like cotton and rice be grown in the southeast United States, which has abundant water?

Most people shower once a day and use an average of 14 gallons of water. You could save more water by reducing your beef intake by one pound than by not showering for six months!

People think grass-fed beef is the ecological answer, but pasture-­raised animals require more water than factory-farmed beef because they have higher activity levels and spend more time in the sun. Grass-­fed cows produce 60% to 400% more methane. (Of course, there are compelling health reasons to switch to grass-fed beef, as grass-fed cows are far healthier and organic beef will be free of chemicals, hormones and antibiotics.)

But none of that is the worst of the story. Agriculture uses 93% of California’s water and almost half of that is devoted to growing alfalfa for shipment to the Far East, mainly China, to feed their cows. California is, in effect, shipping almost half its precious water to China.

And none of this would have been possible without the help of Democrats. The extravagant waste of California water by California agriculture is the result of cheap water, water subsidized by state and federal water projects begun more than 50 years ago.

When water is cheap­­­ and the state is willing to continue building water infrastructure like viaducts and tunnels­­­ there is little incentive for California agri­business to do anything but continue to feed California politicians. Yes, California agri­business supports Republicans too, but the Democrats get most of the big agriculture money because Democrats have delivered the water for Big Ag. Jerry Brown’s father, Pat, delivered the California Water Project in 1959, and Jerry Brown supported the Peripheral Canal 30 years ago and supports the Twin Tunnels project today.

Stewart Resnick, an agri­business tycoon who owns 115,000 acres of farmland in Kern County, has funneled $4 million to politicians, mostly to Democrats, including $99,000 to Jerry Brown in 2010. Resnick has been repaid handsomely for his political donations, most notably the creation of the Kern County Water Bank, which has pumped water underground and is one reason Central Valley reservoirs were drained so low the last few years. The book How Limousine Liberals and Water Oligarchs are Hijacking Our Water, by Yasha Levine, says, “through a series of subsidiary companies… Roll International [owned by Resnick] has been able to convert California’s water from a public, shared resource into a private asset that can be sold on the market to the highest bidder.”

There is a saying, “Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.” Unfortunately, to date, the fight mostly has been about moving water from north to south at public expense. Missing in this fight is any serious discussion about how California agri­business could stop wasting California’s water. As we go forward into more years of potential drought, California needs to change the conversation. We need to reassess the blame and point fingers at the real users and abusers of California water.

The Deafening Silence of Hillary Clinton

The implicit Dem favorite for the 2016 presidential elections, Clinton is mum on the issues that matter.

Many Democrats these days are ready to anoint Hillary Clinton as the 2016 Democratic nominee for president, although that election is more than two years away. And many of her closest supporters want everyone to think she is inevitable. But if Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic candidate, shouldn’t she be telling us what she thinks about important issues? If she is going to claim the mantle of leadership, shouldn’t she be showing some leadership on vital issues?

Clinton has been speaking to Wall Street and apparently providing it with assurances that she won’t rock the boat. She has given two speeches to Goldman Sachs, one to private equity firm KK&R and another to the Carlyle Group. She was paid $200,000 for each of her Goldman Sachs speeches; it is unknown what she was paid by KK&R and the Carlyle.

According to Politico:

“Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, according to accounts offered by several attendees, declaring that the banker­bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish. Striking a soothing note on the global financial crisis, she told the audience, in effect: We all got into this mess together, and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it. What the bankers heard her say was just what they would hope for from a prospective presidential candidate.”

While Hillary has been reassuring Wall Street, has she told any of us what her positions on financial regulation are? Where does she stand on Glass­ Steagall legislation, which de­regulated banks during the Clinton administration and contributed to the 2007-‘0­8 financial melt­down; NAFTA, which has caused a million jobs to move off­shore; the trillion­-dollar bail­out of Wall Street; the lack of accountability for Wall Street; CEO wage inflation; widening disparities of income and wealth; and the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership, which has been described as “NAFTA on steroids”? Do we have any reason to believe that, if elected, she wouldn’t bring back the Bob Rubin/Larry Summers economic team, or Rubin/Summers clones, who de­regulated Wall Street, contributing to the melt­down of Wall Street and the American people’s loss of $13 trillion in wealth?

Do we know what her position is on the Keystone Pipeline or what she would do about impending climate change? As former Secretary of State charged with the task of reviewing the Keystone Pipeline application, she should be highly knowledgeable and informed about the environmental issues presented by the Keystone tar sands pipeline. Has she said anything publicly? If so, I missed it.

Has she even led on foreign policy issues, her area of expertise? We know she was strategically wrong about invading Iraq and escalating the war in Afghanistan and she tried to lead us into attacking Syria. On Iran, I credit her with finally supporting Obama’s peace initiative, but she did so only after almost every Democrat in the foreign policy community to the left of hawkish Madeleine Albright had come out publicly in favor of the initiative and in opposition to the Menendez­-Kirk Iran sanctions bill. Clinton only spoke up on the issue after the Menendez­-Kirk bill had completely stalled, so her opposition was not strategically important, although it was welcomed. Is being late to the party the new definition of leadership?

Like many of you, I am a lifelong Democrat who has never voted for a Republican, but if Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic standard-bearer, we deserve to know what she stands for, who she will fight for and where she wants to take the country. I am not asking her to be “transformational,” I would just like to have some basic idea where she stands on critical issues.

What Obama’s Willingness to Deal with the Right Means for Progressive Politics

Obama was willing to make substantial cuts to the crown jewels of liberalism–Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid–in order to get a deficit-reduction deal with Republicans.

Recently, three articles have been published analyzing President Obama’s negotiations with Republicans about a deficit reduction deal (Peter Wallsten, et al., “Obama’s evolution: Behind the failed ‘grand bargain’ on the debt,” Washington Post; Jonathan Chait, “How Obama Tried to Sell Out Liberalism in 2011,” New York Magazine; Matt Bai, “Obama vs. Boehner:  Who Killed the Debt Deal?New York Times Magazine).

All three articles come to essentially the same conclusion: Obama was willing to make substantial cuts to the crown jewels of liberalism—Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—and get little in return, in order to get a deficit-reduction deal with Republicans.

The details of the proposed deal should be very disturbing to anyone who believes in Democratic core values and protecting the American Dream. In addition to substantial cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the domestic budget, Obama was willing to reduce top-end tax rates, maintain current tax rates on investment income (the reason millionaires like Mitt Romney pay such low tax rates) and prevent the expiration of the Bush tax cuts in return for increasing tax revenues by $800 billion.

That amount is less than half the amount of new revenues recommended by the co-chairs of the Bowles-Simpson Deficit Reduction Commission, but, as it turns out, the $800 billion in “new revenues” was mostly a mirage. The $800 billion mentioned by the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, would not have come from increasing taxes on anyone, especially not the rich, who would have had their taxes cut even below the Bush tax cut levels, but from nebulous plans to “overhaul the tax code,” which may or may not have ever gotten through Congress, and from projecting new revenues based on the largely disproven assumption that lower tax rates would boost the economy and produce more revenues (the laughable Laffer Curve). As one of the authors, Jonathan Chait, characterized it, “The Republican position was that its higher revenue, in other words, had to be imaginary, theoretical revenue.”

Obama did not reject this proposal. In fact, according to the Washington Post article, “[W]hen Boehner brought up economic growth, arguing that his caucus would not accept tax increases under any other terms,” Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said, “Yes, we accept that” and Obama’s Chief of Staff, Bill Daley, is quoted in the Washington Post article saying, “We walked away feeling that we were 80 percent there” [to achieving a deal].  Events intervened, including a proposal by a bipartisan group of senators for $2 trillion in higher revenues—real revenue increases, not the imaginary increases Obama apparently was willing to accept in a deal with Boehner.

In fact, the Gang of Six proposal, which was supported by some very conservative Republicans, including Senator Lamar Alexander, then the third-ranking member of the Republican Senate leadership team and senators Tom Coburn and Saxby Chambliss, contained $2 trillion in real revenue increases, including higher taxes and stronger protections for the poor than the deal Obama was negotiating. This caused Bill Daley to say, “We’d be beat up miserably by Democrats who thought we got out-negotiated” if Obama took the $800 billion of phony revenue projections, and no deal was concluded.

Nevertheless, with the prospects of a deal dimming and even with the embarrassment of the much better Gang of Six proposal in the background, two days later, according to the Post, “Working late into the evening, Obama asked someone to get Boehner on the phone. His message: I’ll take your last offer.” At this point. Boehner refused to reopen negotiations and Obama was left at the altar without a mate. But, the Post article reports that, “White House officials said this week [March 17] that the offer is still on the table.”

Obama’s willingness to bargain away core progressive values of the Democratic Party in a deficit-reduction deal comes after his meltdown on a large range of issues dear to progressives: His unconditional support for Bush’s Wall Street bailout; his escalation of the Afghanistan War; his acceptance of Bush-era limits on civil liberties; his shift from supporting the healthcare public option and opposing individual mandates during the 2008 campaign to subverting the public option and backing individual mandates in 2009; his extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich (in exchange for Republicans allowing an extension of unemployment benefits and aid to cash-strapped states); his withdrawal of strong EPA rules on clean air; his gratuitous attacks on “the professional Left.”

At times it has seemed that Obama went out of his way to attack progressives and undermine progressive programs in order to prove he was truly the post-partisan president he claimed to be. Indeed, as I and Andrew Sullivan have previously argued, the evidence is pretty conclusive that Obama has governed as a conservative.

So, the question for progressives is, “What do we do now?”

Obama supporters would answer that question by arguing that now is not the time to criticize the president because the alternative–electing a Republican–would be worse. Now is the time to mute criticism, because criticism can be embarrassing and dispiriting. Buck up, Dems, forget issues and actual performance, now is the time for cheerleaders, not critics. We can reconvene on the issues after Obama gets re-elected

I think exactly the opposite is true. The only leverage progressives have on Obama is now, not later, not after the election. After the election, what is most likely is that Obama will return to his vision of himself as someone standing above politics, capable of making a “Grand Bargain” with Republicans, as a serious deficit hawk, as someone willing to put Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security on the chopping block before he demands more sacrifices from the rich and well-connected.

The 2012 presidential election is going to be one of the most dismal and depressing presidential elections in American history. Morale among Democrats is low because Obama has not been the savior many people expected and because the 2008 Democratic mandate was squandered so quickly and for so little. Republicans, on the other hand, likely will be led by Mitt Romney, a guy who has been pulling an aggregate of 39 percent of votes in the Republican primaries and who has been strongly opposed by the Tea Party and conservative wings of the party; indeed, if the conservative Republican votes had not been split among conservative candidates, Romney would not be the nominee.

Voters also will be bombarded by $3 billion of negative advertising, which is not likely to increase voting enthusiasm; indeed, much of the Republican advertising will be designed to suppress voting. Low enthusiasm elections mean one thing, low turnout and in low-turnout elections, what do you do? You activate the base voters because base voters are more likely to vote than occasional voters.

Obama already has figured this out, which is why his State of the Union address was so populist and progressive (if you leave out the 15 minutes or so of pure pandering to the military). He is smart enough to realize that he can’t get re-elected talking austerity and cuts to important social programs that many people, especially his base, like. He may want to make a Grand Bargain with Republicans, but he can’t do that now, not with an election looming.

Obama has few progressive achievements to offer his base, but he knows he’s a skilled wordsmith of populist rhetoric. And this is what gives progressives power now that they haven’t had for 3-plus years: Obama needs progressives; he especially needs progressives to vote; he is reaching out to us; he is beginning to talk our talk.

So, now is the time to make demands on him, to push him to make promises and commitments–as MoveOn did recently by demanding that he promise to veto any extension of the Bush tax cuts for the rich and by protests of inaction about mortgage relief at Obama for America sites. This is also what Bill McKibben’s 350.org did on the Keystone Pipeline, putting pressure on the president to reverse a State Department decision to permit the pipeline from Canada and thereby reaching out to the environmental community, which heretofore he had largely ignored, but which he needs in November.

Between now and the election, we need to take the lead from actions like McKibben’s and MoveOn and drive Obama as far to the progressive side of politics as possible, because if we don’t, once he is freed of having to run for re-election again, the Grand Bargain will be back on the table and it will take 20 years, or more, to reverse the damage. Ironically, by pushing Obama to take more populist positions, we will be helping to make him more electable, so there is no conflict between pushing him on issues and re-electing him.

The progressive vehicle for this pressure may now be in sight with plans by The 99% Spring to train 100,000 people in nonviolent direct action April 9 to 15 to push a progressive agenda about foreclosure relief, student debt, protection of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, job creation, poverty, pollution, wealth inequality and the roll-back of tax cuts for the rich. Let us hope this potentially game-changing force puts its allegiance squarely behind real change, not protecting the president, or any other politician.

What Next for Democrats?

The first thing Democrats need to do is stop feeling sorry for themselves and stop issuing idiotic statements like the one they issued today that they cannot “mathematically” do anything. They still control the Presidency and have large majorities in the Congress. With a bozo who won the Presidency with a minority of votes and thin majorities in Congress, the Republicans in 2001-6 still aggressively pushed their agenda. “Mathematics” didn’t stop the Republicans and there is no reason for the Democrats to act impotent and paralyzed now.

What could they do to turn momentum in their favor?

1. Pass the House’s $154 billion job creation bill. Find more TARP money to add to the House bill. Talk about job creation every day.

2. Pass Obama’s proposed bank tax. Talk every day about excessive bonuses, how the banking industry failed America and how Republican economics collapsed the economy and transformed a $250 billion federal surplus in 2000 into a $1.3 trillion deficit in 2008.

3. Order the Department of Justice to investigate the financial manipulations and inept regulation which led to the financial collapse for possible criminal violations. The conflicts-of-interest were rampant; surely, there must be criminal violations somewhere in this gigantic mess of profiteering and greed.

4. Publicize the hearings and findings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and develop legislative proposals to rein in Wall Street and prevent their gambling with our money. Point fingers and assign blame and if some of the blame touches Clinton, Summers and Geithner, be honest about it. The public sees too little honesty from politicians. Use the findings to dump Summers and Geithner.

5. Make the federal foreclosure agency work to reform mortgages [it has been close to dysfunctional for nearly a year]. It is estimated that between 20-25% of all mortgages now exceed the value of the properties. There are tens of millions of homeowners who need help and most of them vote.

6. Pass the Consumer Protection Agency and blame every politician who opposes protecting consumers for being tools of banks. Get Elizabeth Warren on TV every day. Have her make the State of the Union speech. 🙂

7. Fire Tim Geithner and Larry Summers. Replace them with Joe Stiglitz and Elizabeth Warren. Withdraw Ben Bernanke’s nomination for the Chair of the Federal Reserve and replace him with Paul Volcker.

8. Pass healthcare reform with a public option and the surtax on the wealthy and no excise tax through reconciliation. Bend the reconciliation rules as much as necessary and let the Republicans howl. There is no judicial review and the public doesn’t give a shit about the nuances of Senate procedures, they just want to see action. Accuse the Republicans of being pawns of the insurance companies.

9. Announce that the Democratic Party will stop accepting donations from the banking and insurance industries and demand that the Republican Party do the same. They won’t, of course, which would provide many opportunities to accuse the Republicans of being the party of the banks and insurance companies — the message would be, “If you want to empower banks and insurance companies, vote Republican.” Whatever money the Democrats give up by this gesture would be more than made up by a surge of small donations, a surge in integrity and a surge in credibility.

I’m sure I am missing many other good ideas, but this list would keep the Democrats busy for at least a few months.

The United States of eBay

We all know what America’s biggest problem is, right? You thought it might be healthcare, climate change, the economy, financial regulation, immigration reform? Well you were wrong! Corporations don’t have enough influence on government. They don’t have a strong-enough voice. Those 57,642 paid corporate lobbyists in Washington DC spending $140 million every day lobbying Congress just aren’t getting their messages across strongly enough. And then there are those messy elections where voters think they have the right to exercise some control and even donate money to candidates.

So, today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations have unlimited free speech rights under the Constitution and can put unlimited amounts of money [money which originates from you, of course] behind the candidates and issues they support. So much for citizen-based democracy, but maybe that’s a good thing.

But why just let corporations buy off the President and Congress with campaign donations and corporate-funded campaigns? Why not let them BE the President? I mean, why not just cut out the middle men?

And if corporations can name every stadium in America, why not let them just buy the country? We could be the Petco United States. Or the United States of eBay. I mean, Meg Whitman is running for Governor of California in an attempt to make California the California of eBay. Why stop there?

Are Dogs Worse than SUVs?

As a dog owner, I read with interest Time to Eat the Dog, a book by Robert and Brenda Vale. The book argues that the carbon impact of a dog is double that of an SUV, that a typical dog eats 360 pounds of meat and 200 pounds of cereal a year and that it takes two acres to grow the food for just one dog. Dogs also attack wild animals, so, according to the book, the best pet is a chicken, which serves a dual purpose because chickens lay eggs, or rabbits “provided you eat them.” Of course, if you eat your dog, you get a dual purpose, which I guess explains the book’s title.

There really is no need to forsake dogs and the solution to the carbon dog footprint problem problem is obvious: environmentalists need to give up their big dogs and turn to small dogs to save the planet. Take me, for example. I own a 3-pound toy poodle. I guarantee that a 3-pound dog leaves very small footprints, carbon or otherwise, yet provides the companionship of bigger dogs. And, to date, my 3-pounder, Moxie, has not brought down any deer, elk or bears, although the coyotes in my neighborhood are terrified whenever Moxie walks onto the porch. In short, the time is at-hand to begin cross-breeding dogs for smallness.

But why stop with dogs? If we encouraged large humans to cross-breed with dwarfs and midgets, and if we got a little help from genetic engineers, I think we are capable of producing a race of 60 pound humans. Just think of the advantages: 60 pound people would consume a quarter of the food of typical obese Americans; cars could be half the size and 2-lane highways could immediately become 4-lanes; planes could carry twice as many people; two small people could share one coach seat; two small people could share one bag of pretzels. The upside is almost unlimited.

In fact, let’s start the cross-breeding with the authors of the book, Time to Eat the Dog. We already know their brains are only half the size of normal brains.

What’s Bad for Tiger Ain’t Bad for the Rest of Us

The golf industry is in total shock — its number 1 meal-ticket is now in self-imposed exile. TV viewership is set to fall 50 percent or more, sponsors are going to be bailing out, prize money will be headed down-hill, endorsements are going to dry up. We’re not just talking industry recession here, the golf industry is heading to its own Armageddon. They’ll be going back to wooden shafts any day now.

But hold on. Tiger’s demise is not bad for golfers. Golfers are doing just fine. We’re doing better than fine. In fact, I’ve never done better in my life. I mean who were all these skanky, hot women fucking? Not Tom Brady, not Derek Jeter, not LeBron James. They were fucking a fucking golfer! Who woulda thunk it?

I now carry my golf bag everywhere I go. I take it to work, I take it to bars, I take it to my spinning class and when I’m driving, my golf bag sits prominently on the back seat of my Porsche so everyone can see it. I have a new bumper sticker on my car: “Real Golfer Inside.” I want women to know I play golf. I want them to know I know how to use my putter. I want them to inspect my long shaft. I want them to dream about getting into bed with a guy wearing spikes.

Hey, in the last two weeks I’ve had so many women hitting on me I’ve had to set an artificial limit: No women under 20. I mean, I’m 66-years-old and it just doesn’t look right having a 19-year-old hottie groping for my putter.

I even have Tiger to thank for a potential new career in film. I have just been recruited to play a caddy in the new film about Tiger: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Cocktail Waitress. I’m the guy who is supposed to get drinks for Tiger and his hot ladies and then clean up the mess afterwards.

Plus Tiger leaving the Tour means there’s one more opening on the PGA Tour. One of us is going to get it.

These are tough times for Tiger — and my heart goes out to the poor schmuck — but these are boom times for the rest of us golfers. All you got to know is how to swing your shaft. I mean, this is our time!

And next time you see Elin, let her know I’m available. But she’ll have to get in line.

Obama Blows the Olympics

Losing the Olympics to Rio de Janeiro just shows that Dick Cheney, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the Republicans have been right all along. Relying on reasoning, discussion and goodwill is just bullshit. What did the Obamas think the Olympic Committee was, the fucking United Nations General Assembly, or something? And what are we, some whiny little country like Brazil? Hell no! We’re the Hegemon. Instead of sending Michelle and Barack to reason with those Socialist and Commie bastards on the Olympic Committee, we should have sent those 40,000 troops slated to go to Afghanistan to Copenhagen instead. You can bet that if the Olympic Committee members had needed to ask permission from our troops to get out of their hotel rooms or use the bathroom, they would have thought twice before rejecting Chicago as the 2016 Olympic site. And if our troops had just kicked down a few hotel room doors as examples of our nation’s commitment to Olympic values, it would have been no contest.

If we had sent our troops to Copenhagen, they’d already be halfway to Afghanistan. A twofer.

Any country can be awarded the Olympics, but We Are the Hegemons. We don’t need to rely on reason and goodwill, we could have taken the Olympics.

The United States had a great opportunity to demonstrate our Dominance to the world. The chronically weak Democrats blew it.

Dick Cheney in 2012. He’ll take back the Olympics for all of us.