Thursday, February 11, 2016

What does money buy in politics? Contrasting approaches by Clinton and Sanders

Greg Sargent (Plum Line/Washington Post) considers the differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders

Are Hillary Clinton’s policy positions and instincts shaped directly by the money she has taken from Wall Street and corporate interests? Clinton has repeatedly answered this question — which has emerged as central to the Democratic primary battle — with a firm No. The Sanders campaign has equivocated on it, with his campaign aides suggesting the answer is Yes, while Sanders himself has mostly demurred, instead appropriately directing his criticism at the whole system, while noting that Clinton remains a part of it and wouldn’t sufficiently challenge it.

[snip] What's been snipped here is the fact checking.

Ultimately, at the bottom of this whole argument is a debate over what money really buys in politics. This is not a simple subject, and despite Clinton’s protestations, the debate does not end with a lack of proof of a direct line from money to policy positions. As Ezra Klein argues, Clinton’s Wall Street contributions could very well have resulted in more Wall Street access to her and/or more general sympathy with Wall Streeters’ worldview. Meanwhile, liberal groups rightly point out that Clinton could settle a lot of doubts now about her sympathies by promising not to appoint Wall Streeters to financial oversight positions, which she hasn’t done.

Of course, none of that should be too surprising. While some liberal economists have concluded that Clinton’s Wall Street plan has some very tough elements that draw on Warren’s approach, Sanders probably would be tougher on Wall Street in some ways than Clinton would. As Kevin Drum notes, at a minimum he would relentlessly use the power of the bully pulpit to spotlight Wall Street recklessness and malfeasance.

But this doesn’t settle the debate for Sanders, either, since Clinton argues that getting half a loaf is all that is possible and that it’s better than getting nothing, and that a fully confrontational posture towards Wall Street is not a precondition for getting that half a loaf in the first place. Ultimately, it’s hard to determine which candidate has the superior argument to the other, since their arguments are proceeding on separate tracks.

See, however, the blog by Benjamin Studebaker (posted here today) for an argument that, with respect to economics, the ideological gulf between Sanders and Clinton is, using the word of another candidate, huge.

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