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Edwards, Clinton & Obama: On Economics & Workers [UPDATED x2]

UPDATE x1: Today’s ad featuring RFK Jr. as well as the son of the late Cesar Chavez, on the “voiceless” and how “Hillary has inherited his father’s legacy of speaking up for the disenfranchised.” “Hillary knows how to solve our problems, to get things done,” says Cesar L. Chavez. (CNN Ticker)

John Edwards’ loyal, astute supporters are rightfully proud of his focus on economic inequities and the decline of the middle- and lower-classes in this country. Therefore, these two important news revelations will certainly interest both Edwards and his supporters:

1) Hillary Clinton’s history on NAFTA, and

2) Stephen Schlesinger’s report on the conservative economists who advise Barack Obama (which helps explain why Paul Krugman is critical of both Obama’s economic stimulus and health care plans). [UPDATE x2: See Steve Clemons's HuffPo article on Obama's inadequate health plan: "Note to Barack Obama: Choice is the Problem, Not the Fix in Health Insurance."]

Taylor Marsh alerted me to this key item on Clinton’s progressive economics at Crooks & Liars, “Carl Bernstein: Hillary Clinton and NAFTA“:

Bernstein: Hillary Clinton’s economics, the ones she preached to her husband in the White House are much closer to John Edwards than you would think. She argued with Bill Clinton when she was First Lady, her husband, she said ‘Bill, you are doing Republican economics when you are doing NAFTA.’ She was against NAFTA. And if she would somehow come out and tell the real story of what she fought for in the White House and failed in a big argument with her husband she would end up moving much closer to those Edwards followers. (Video at Crooks & Liars)

You’ll never hear this on television, obsessed as the pundits are with snubs, mannerisms and polls, rarely (if ever) talking about issues. This Huffington Post article, “Obama’s Conservative Economists,” comes from Stephen Schlesinger, former Director of the World Policy Institute at the New School University and the son of Arthur Schlesinger:

This week’s Nation magazine is running a piece by the head of its intern program, Max Fraser, in which he suggests that the economic advisors who are assisting Senator Obama’s campaign are helping him stake out a position on the subprime lending crisis ‘to the right of not only populist Edwards but Clinton as well.”

Fraser notes that Obama’s proposed solution to the mortgage mess is “short on aggressive government involvement and infused with conservative rhetoric about fiscal responsibility.” He states that Obama has not called for a moratorium on foreclosures or a freezing of interest rates or the use of federal subsidies to help homeowners keep up with payments and restructure loans or some regulation of the financial industry — Edwards and Clinton have offered variations on those themes. Instead Obama has proposed legislation against mortgage fraud, a tax credit for homeowners which amounts to about $500 on average and an additional fund that will help a certain limited number of homeowners.

Fraser attributes Obama’s constricted response to “the centrist politics of his three chief economic advisors and his campaign’s ties to Wall Street institutions opposed to increased financial regulations” and points out that Obama has received almost $10 million in contributions from the finance insurance and real estate sector through October 2007.

For the candidate of change and bold ideas, Obama’s tepid response to the overwhelming mortgage crisis suggests a Republican-orientation rather than a Democratic one — and should be subject to debate in the remaining presidential primaries.

No wonder Krugman is upset as he indicated in his January 14th column:

[It is] a devastating dissection of Obama’s economic stimulus package today. “Disreputable” is the term that Krugman uses to describe the Obama campaign’s first weak attempt. About Obama’s second attempt, delivered on Sunday, Krugman says it’s “tilted to the right” and that Obama “really is less progressive than his rivals on matters of domestic policy.”

I continued: “We’ve heard that before, haven’t we, about Obama’s use of GOP talking points on Social Security and more. That Obama’s policies, such as they are, are far more conservative than those of Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards. Krugman also points out“:

Last week Hillary Clinton offered a broadly similar but somewhat larger proposal. (It also includes aid to families having trouble paying heating bills, which seems like a clever way to put cash in the hands of people likely to spend it.) The Edwards and Clinton proposals both contain provisions for bigger stimulus if the economy worsens.

And you have to say that Mrs. Clinton seems comfortable with and knowledgeable about economic policy. I’m sure the Hillary-haters will find some reason that’s a bad thing, but there’s something to be said for presidents who know what they’re talking about.

Dr. Krugman has joined the ranks of those of who dare question the Obama “hope” machine, hence his reference to “Hillary-haters.” He knows that, having published that column, he will be deluged with hate mail.

It’s a disturbing phenomenon. For all their rapturous adoration of Obama’s message of “change” and “hope,” his followers — they’re really not so much supporters as they are Hari Krishna-like followers — are filled with ugly rage at anyone who dares to question their irrational beliefs.

Here’s what Dr. Krugman wrote about Obama’s “disreputable” first plan and right-leaning second plan:

The Obama campaign’s initial response to the latest wave of bad economic news was, I’m sorry to say, disreputable: Mr. Obama’s top economic adviser claimed that the long-term tax-cut plan the candidate announced months ago is just what we need to keep the slump from “morphing into a drastic decline in consumer spending.” Hmm: claiming that the candidate is all-seeing, and that a tax cut originally proposed for other reasons is also a recession-fighting measure — doesn’t that sound familiar? [NOTE THE REFERENCE TO BUSH'S PLAN.]

Anyway, on Sunday Mr. Obama came out with a real stimulus plan. As was the case with his health care plan, which fell short of universal coverage, his stimulus proposal is similar to those of the other Democratic candidates, but tilted to the right.

For example, the Obama plan appears to contain none of the alternative energy initiatives that are in both the Edwards and Clinton proposals, and emphasizes across-the-board tax cuts over both aid to the hardest-hit families and help for state and local governments. I know that Mr. Obama’s supporters hate to hear this, but he really is less progressive than his rivals on matters of domestic policy. …

It must also be noted that Dr. Krugman gives John Edwards his due — which makes Edwards a far more serious candidate than Obama will ever be:

On the Democratic side, John Edwards, although never the front-runner, has been driving his party’s policy agenda. He’s done it again on economic stimulus: last month, before the economic consensus turned as negative as it now has, he proposed a stimulus package including aid to unemployed workers, aid to cash-strapped state and local governments, public investment in alternative energy, and other measures.

Krugman is deadly serious about the need for sound, progressive economic stimulus packages because of a looming recession:

Suddenly, the economic consensus seems to be that the implosion of the housing market will indeed push the U.S. economy into a recession, and that it’s quite possible that we’re already in one. As a result, over the next few weeks we’ll be hearing a lot about plans for economic stimulus.

Since this is an election year, the debate over how to stimulate the economy is inevitably tied up with politics. And here’s a modest suggestion for political reporters. Instead of trying to divine the candidates’ characters by scrutinizing their tone of voice and facial expressions, why not pay attention to what they say about economic policy? ( Read all of Krugman’s column.)

I’m not telling Edwards’ astute — and rational — supporters anything they don’t know. I just hope the rest of the American voters find out before it’s too late.

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  • Robin

    Is any of this up on YouTube? If not, it should be

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  • Taters

    Well done Susan. Here at NQ, I have voiced my admiration for Gene Sperling whom I believe to be brilliant. His expert opinion was one of the most articulate in regards to the debate on privatizing Social Security and he obviously has serious credentials. His Universal 401K resonated with me – and perhaps may with others here.He is the top economicadvisorand was referred to as “MVP” during his tenure with Bill Clinton.

    A Universal 401(k) to Promote Ownership, Savings and Bipartisanship:

    Progressives and conservatives alike should support serious efforts to increase savings, ownership and wealth creation for typical hardworking families. Yet these goals are achievable without dividing Washington by carving up Social Security into private accounts. The president and progressives could both protect Social Security’s guaranteed benefit and promote ownership with a new Universal 401(k) that offers all Americans a private retirement account on top of Social Security, and uses government funds to match contributions made by middle income and lower-income workers. The Universal 401(k) would spread individual savings and wealth creation to tens of millions of American families currently falling through the cracks by offering all Americans the generous incentives and automatic savings opportunities that the best employer-provided 401(k)’s offer their employees. The components of a Universal 401(k) include:

    Generous $2-to-$1 government matching contributions for initial savings of low-income families and $1-to-$1 matches for middle-income families. By targeting new incentives to those families having the hardest time saving, the Universal 401(k) would be designed to leverage new private savings.

    A new Flat Tax Incentive of 30 percent for savings done by all workers. In addition to matching contributions, the Universal 401(k) would institute a new flat refundable tax credit for retirement savings. The credit would replace our current upside-down system of incentives for retirement savings through tax deductibility, which offers those in the highest tax brackets the most generous incentives to save and lower- and moderate-income families little or no incentive to save.

    cont’d
    http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2004/01/b289151.html

    http://www.americanprogress.org/experts/SperlingGene.html

    And I believe the link below is well worth the read.

    http://www.cfr.org/publication/6949/senator_clinton_offers_education_plan_for_all_plan.html

  • kenoshaMarge

    I believe that as a former Edwards’ supporter my natural progression was to Hillary Clinton.

    However it also seems to me that is doesn’t matter much what Hillary Clinton says or what her position is.

    The Clinton hating media as well as the Clinton hating liberal blogosphere will twist any issue and spin any thing she says to her detriment. Just look at what they are doing with the MoveOn Endorsement and with a lie about what Bill Clinton said about global warming and the economy.

    The hatred of the Clintons is absolutely Pavlovian. Say the word “Clinton” and the programmed people that have been taught by the media to hate these two people salivate and begin to spew vitriol. I don’t think they can help it. Brain-washing is easy enough to do when you control the information and easier still to do when people don’t have the intellect or the integrity to form their own opinions.

    • http://noquarterusa.net/ SusanUnPC

      Marge writes: Say the word “Clinton” and the programmed people that have been taught by the media to hate these two people salivate and begin to spew vitriol.

      I have some intelligent friends, a couple of whom even post comments here, who “don’t like” or “hate” the Clintons, but can’t tell me why.

      And a while ago, here, I made a confessional in which I said that I felt the same way for a long time, particularly about Hillary Clinton. Then I had a day of “epiphany.”

      It was not only embarrassing to admit to myself that I felt that way because the media had so influenced me but also that the media, along with the rightwing pundits like Limbaugh et al., had seeped into my brain and changed how I thought — without my even consciously realizing what was being done TO ME.

      It was a humbling experience.

      Larry has had a similar experience / his view of Hillary was changed by having a personal meeting with her. He wrote a great story about that day.

    • Fred C. Dobbs

      My Bush-hatred exceeds it in every dimension.

    • Robin

      Yeah.. Rush did his job well for the past 20 years.
      He’s not really needed anymore. Everytime a Obamabot opens their mouth they spew forth HillaryHating propaganda straight from the right wing gullet. sickning

  • Mr.Murder

    RFK has deep traditional roots with voter roll recruiting in California.

    His endorsement carries more weight than Ted’s past the Mississippi.

    That doesn’t matter though, the big money is backing Obama now, they’ll push him through.

    Larry’s already detailed his relatives abroad, whose own reactionary brand of politics will become our staging point for the entire Continent he lives on.

    This will have major impact upon the rest of the Muslim crescent.

    We’re facing the sunset provisions of American prominence. Who better to lay the blame on than the incoming new face. This will drive enough voters back into republican ranks within four year’s time that we’ll ba back to the usual polemics.

    Vote for radical change! Buyer beware, etc.

    • http://www.evergreenpolitics.com shoephone

      RFK Jr’s article on the voter suppression in 2000 and 2004 published in Rolling Stone almost two years ago was really excellent. He does great work and doesn’t just pay lip service.

      • Fred C. Dobbs

        Smarter than any of his cousins…or his uncle.

  • CognitiveDissonance

    I’ve often wondered why Hillary doesn’t say anything about people accusing her of the NAFTA problems. For one thing, it irks me that they think she is a clone of Bill, which obviously she is not. She has her own strong beliefs, and is actually much farther to the left than Bill is. But it is demeaning to be told that any woman has to believe exactly what her husband believes. They should know by now that Hillary is her own person.

    But about NAFTA, I’ve come to the conclusion that just like she didn’t throw her governor under the bus, even if it hurt her, she’s definitely not going to throw Bill under the bus. Thankfully, though, the message is getting out. Hopefully, it’s not too late for all those union people worried about supporting someone they think was for NAFTA.

    • BernieO

      There should be no issue here because Obama voted for a trade agreement with Peru that is a mini-NAFTA. He explains this by saying the agreement had labor and environmental protections. (So did NAFTA.)
      It is also true that Hillary supported the same agreement. Only Edwards opposed it. People may not like these deals, but there is absolutely no difference between Obama and Hillary on them, contrary to popular opinion.
      I believe both of them say that the difference will be that, unlike Republicans, they will enforce the protections.

  • ybnormal

    I still find Edwards’ wording curious. Am I alone?

    “Today, I am suspending my campaign for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency.”

    Curious because of what he did not say. We can read it as a rose by any other name, but what he did NOT say was that he was withdrawing his candidacy.

    Since he’s still an eligible candidate, then regardless of not actively campaigning, votes for him and thereby his positions, still have meaning; if not for him as president, then for bargaining at the convention with his positions.

    If HC and BO are close enough at that time, the Edwards backing and support will have renewed importance.

    • http://noquarterusa.net/ SusanUnPC

      It was intigruing. I will wish he’d been part of the debate last night … he always added a lot to the discussion substantively. And he would have had great retorts to Obama’s silliness about non-mandatory health care plans, which also gives a huge opening to Republicans to weaken and water down any plans he brings forth.

      • ybnormal

        Right on. Obama’s silliness about non-mandatory health care plans would be laughable if it weren’t so deadly.

        Technically speaking, we currently have a health care plan that does cover everyone. It’s called ER.

        How many times have we all paid higher by not fixing a problem sooner? How much could be saved in both health and money by early treatment instead of the emergency room? How much do we lose in disability payments for people who might have recovered with earlier treatment?

        • BernieO

          Obama talks about audacity, but his health care and economic stimulus plans are far from it. I have the audacity to hope for universal coverage and a president who won’t concede points to Republicans even before they challenge him.

    • http://www.evergreenpolitics.com shoephone

      I read an analysis the day after Edwards “suspended” the campaign that he used that terminology so that he could still receive the contributions from this last quarter, get any matching funds and then sufficiently pay his staff. He didn’t to leave them in the lurch the way Guiliani did with his campaign staff.

      • http://www.evergreenpolitics.com shoephone

        I meant to write, “He didn’t want to leave them in the lurch…”

      • http://noquarterusa.net/ SusanUnPC

        Wow. That’s awesome. He is a class act.

        Rudy? Well …

    • Robin

      Personally, I’m so pissed at Edwards for not coming out and supporting Hillary. I supported HIM and I just don’t get why he and Ritchardson are not backing her. My biggest fear is he is holding out in hopes of getting the veep if Barry makes it.

  • Steve Judd

    Further to the topic of Sen. Obama’s capacity for talk and inability to deliver…from the Chicago Tribune online, which endorsed him by the way:

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-galesburg_obama_webfeb01,1,6024020.story