Lately the internet has become full of arguments about the merits and demerits of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been discussing and pondering all the various views about this, and I’m increasingly of the opinion that most of the people engaging in this debate don’t really understand what is at stake in the democratic primary. This is in part because many Americans don’t really understand the history of American left wing politics and don’t think about policy issues in a holistic, structural way. So in this post, I want to really dig into what the difference is between Bernie and Hillary and why that difference is extremely important.
When we evaluate whether or not the economy is performing well, we sometimes pay too much attention to GDP. Gross domestic product tells us about the total amount of exchange going on in an economy, but many of those exchanges only serve to enrich those at the top of the economic ladder. To get a better sense of how ordinary people are doing, we need to look at real (inflation-adjusted) median household income. Today I checked in on the American figures, and they are bleak:
The median American family is not only poorer than they were before the 2008 crisis–they’re poorer than they were during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. What on earth is going on?
One of the things I’ve noticed lately is that there is a lot of confusion about how governments finance themselves. Many people try to make sense of the state’s finances by extrapolating from their own experiences with household budgets or running businesses. This leads to a lot of misconceptions, the most prominent of which is the idea that whenever governments borrow money, they must be acting irresponsibly. So I’m embarking on a 3-part series that I hope will clear things up for some people.
One of the big problems in our election coverage is the tendency for journalists to focus on descriptive questions (who will be president?) rather than normative ones (who should be president?). This is understandable, given journalism’s focus on objectivity, but the result is that we often spend much more time talking about whether a candidate is electable than we do about whether or not the candidate would actually do a good job. Voters need to know which candidates support policies that will help them and those they care about–they don’t need to know which candidates pundits think are likely to prevail. So my response is to continue my Candidate Evaluations series, which considers a candidate’s background, policy history, and explicit statements to determine whether or not the candidate would actually be any good at being president. Previously, I did Ted Cruz. Today, I tackle Rand Paul, who declared his intent to run earlier this week.
Hillary Clinton has been getting reamed for being “out of touch” for comments she made regarding the Clinton family’s wealth. The Clintons earned $109 million during their first 7 years out of office (for an average annual income of $15.5 million), but she nonetheless claimed that the Clinton family was “dead broke”and in debt when it left the White House in 2001, and that the Clintons are not truly “well off“. While Clinton badly misses the mark here, what’s far more disturbing is the role her husband’s administration played in enriching people like them at the eventual expense of the wider population.