Robert Reich for Bernie Sander

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Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Labor Puts Endorsement Behind Sanders

Robert Reich backs Bernie’s plan to break up banks: ‘He understands politics’


By Michael Sainato • 03/04/16 11:00am

Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich testifies before the Joint Economic Committee January 16, 2014 in Washington, DC. Reich joined a panel testifying on the topic of “Income Inequality in the United States.
Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Robert Reich is an impassioned icon for Bernie Sanders’ supporters, often referenced to validate the public policy proposals of Mr. Sanders’ presidential campaign. Mr. Reich has written 14 books including his most recent Saving Capitalism, and is the co-creator of Inequality For All, a documentary exposing surging wealth inequality in America. At 4’11” Mr. Reich’s career has long been focused fighting for the little guys—specifically, those taken advantage of by the economically powerful. Mr. Reich served in the administrations of Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, and was the Secretary of Labor for the Clinton administration in the 1990s. His achievements earned him a spot on Time Magazine‘s 2008 list of the ten most successful cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. Mr. Reich currently serves as the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California-Berkeley.

One of the most polarizing differences between Mr. Sanders and Hillary Clinton is their stance on reforming Wall Street in the wake of the 2008 economic recession. “Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to resurrect Glass-Steagall and does not want to bust up the biggest banks,” Mr. Reich told the Observer. “Unless you are prepared to do that, the danger to the entire financial and economic system is simply too large. Her proposals contain some good ideas but they don’t go nearly far enough.”

In contrast, Mr. Sanders has repeatedly proposed to break up the biggest Wall Street banks, reminiscent of the trust-busting reforms enacted by Theodore Roosevelt in the early 20th century in response to the rampant monopolization of the Gilded Age that socially stratified the country.

‘He is one of those very rare people in American politics who sticks to his guns and doesn’t confuse means with ends.’

“In 1990, when I first began looking closely at the financial system and its risks, the five largest Wall Street banks had ten percent of all banking assets in America. By the year 2000, the five largest had 25 percent of all banking assets. By 2006, when some of the risks began increasing substantially, the five largest had close to 30 precent of all banking assets—and then of course in 2008 everything fell apart. Today, the five largest Wall Street banks have 45 percent of all banking assets.”

Mr. Reich recommends a two-pronged approach to reform, with the first step being to break up big banks.

“There’s no reason they have to be that large—there are no economies of scale that benefit the public in having banks that large,” he said. “The second prong is separating commercial banking from investment banking. There’s absolutely no reason why they should be combined, particularly given that the government insures the commercial deposits against losses. It’s very important not to allow banks to use these commercial deposits for the purposes of gambling in derivative markets or any other financial markets.”

Glass-Steagall was enacted in 1933 after the Great Depression to separate commercial from investment banking, but was repealed in 1999 during the Clinton administration. Mr. Reich explained, “it’s true that resurrecting Glass-Steagall would not have prevented the financial crisis of 2008.It would have helped reduce the crisis, and the combination of busting up the big banks and resurrecting Glass-Steagall would help prevent another crisis.”

Healthcare reform has also been a major issue in this campaign cycle, following Mr. Sanders’ endorsement of a single payer healthcare proposal just hours before the fourth Democratic debate. Mr. Reich defends the proposal, and believes single payer healthcare is not only viable, but crucial in order to make reforms to our current healthcare system.

“There is no question in my mind or in the mind of any policy people who have taken a hard look at healthcare systems around the world that a single payer system is far less expensive, far more efficient, and in most cases delivers better quality healthcare than a system based upon private for profit health insurers. That’s because private for-profit health insurance systems have many costs such as advertising, marketing, complex billing systems, and executive pay (which is competitive with other executives at the highest levels of executive pay in the private sector). All of these extensions work to the detriment of consumers.” He added, “the affordable care act is certainly better than what we used to have, but there are still millions of Americans who do not have health insurance and even those who do are paying more and more in deductibles and co-payments. We simply have to move toward a single payer system and I am hardly alone in believing that. That is the consensus among policy professionals who understand health care and health insurance.”

Mr. Reich noted the difference in opinion lies on the feasibility of moving to a single payer system. “Those who say Bernie Sanders’ plan is unrealistic assume Republicans in congress would never buy it. After all, they have tried desperately to repeal Obamacare. But, if Bernie succeeds in being elected that would be a very clear signal of the public’s willingness to take the next step towards a single payer plan and it may also change the membership of congress.”

Last week, Mr. Reich officially endorsed of Mr. Sanders:
“I have always been impressed by his steadfastness and his principled positions. He is one of those very rare people in American politics who sticks to his guns and doesn’t confuse means with ends. He keeps the ends clearly in mind, and also does his homework. He understands public policy, but he also understands politics.”


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Filed under: 2016 elections, Bernie Sanders, Bill Clinton, democrats, Glass Steagall, Healthcare Reform, Hillary Clinton, Robert Reich, Wall Street
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The Dubious Prospects of the Stop Trump Movement

By Lincoln Mitchell • 03/04/16 10:34am
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The GOP panic around Donald Trump has risen to new levels, following Mr. Trump’s strong Super Tuesday showing. Stern speeches by GOP establishment figures like Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney may warm the hearts of GOP leadership, but without a concrete plan they will do little to stop the controversial mogul’s march to the nomination. Crafting a plan is not easy due to the divided Republican field, the mood of the Republican electorate, the structure of GOP primaries and, not to be overlooked, the enduring, if perhaps surprising, popularity of Mr. Trump. Nonetheless, it is possible to explore what mechanically would have to happen for Mr. Trump to be denied the nomination.

Two issues, however, must be considered regarding the feasibility of any such plan. First, while we have heard the term “Republican establishment” from pundits since this campaign started, there is, in real terms, no such thing. The Republican establishment can be defined as a group of individuals and institutions that support the GOP, are generally most concerned with Republican foreign policy and economics, and have strong ties to the higher levels of American government and industry, but there is no steering committee or group of ten people in a room in Washington or Greenwich, Connecticut making decision on behalf of this establishment. Similarly, for years now the Republicans are simply a collection of the voters, local and state organizations, conservative interest groups and the like. The same is true of the Democrats, but, of course, with different interest groups and organizations. Thus, any sentence that begins with “The Republicans should” must be heavily discounted.

Second, while Republican opposition to Mr. Trump is clearly strong, three different strains of opposition to Trump have emerged. The first is that many Republicans believe he would be a weak general election candidate, making it easy for Hillary Clinton, or possibly Bernie Sanders, to win the general election. The second is that many Republicans claim to be concerned about Mr. Trump’s racial insensitivity, specifically his less than immediate and unequivocal condemnation of David Duke. Third, many Republicans believe that Mr. Trump is insufficiently conservative to represent the GOP.
This year’s Republican Convention may prove less celebration than showdown.
This year’s Republican Convention may prove less celebration than showdown. Wikimedia.

These three reasons represent very different sentiments. Additionally, while they all have elements of truth to them, they are also all somewhat problematic. First, if the biggest concern about Mr. Trump is his electability, that is not an issue over which it is worth tearing the party apart. Clearly, at least on paper, Marco Rubio or John Kasich would be better general election candidates, but going to dramatic extremes to stop a very successful primary candidate simply because some feel he is not the most electable would damage the party a great deal, and could lead to the nomination of Ted Cruz, who also might end up winning a limited number of electoral votes against Hillary Clinton.

Concerns about Mr. Trump’s reaction to being endorsed by David Duke, his strong anti-Muslim rhetoric and his approach to immigrants that many find prejudiced towards Latinos appears to be more principled, but also should be examined more closely. While many Republicans who raise these concerns have a real opposition to racism, it remains true that view has not always been consistently applied within a party, that has long been accused of exploiting white racist sentiment and whose majority whip in the House of Representatives has described himself as “David Duke without the baggage.”

Liberals who are observing Mr. Trump’s campaign may be surprised to learn that many Republicans find him insufficiently conservative, but his positions on issues like the Iraq War, healthcare and Planned Parenthood strike hardline conservatives as inconsistent or, in the case of Iraq, simply in contrast to orthodox Republican views. Ironically, it is these very positions that might allow Mr. Trump to expand the Republican electorate and do better than expected in a general election.

The internal confusion, perhaps even contradictions, driving the Stop Trump movement are mild compared to the complex logistics needed to actually stop Trump from winning the Republican nomination. Mr. Trump could be prevented from winning the nomination if another candidate somehow manages to win a majority of delegates, or, in a more likely scenario, if Mr. Trump is denied a majority of delegates needed to win the nomination forcing a brokered convention.

To win the nomination, any candidate will need 1,237 out of 2,472 delegates. Currently, Mr. Trump has 319, or about 26 percent of the delegates needed. Ted Cruz is second with 226 followed by Marco Rubio with 110. Significantly, Mr. Trump has not received 50 percent of the delegates thus far, so at this pace, is not on track to win the nomination outright. To win the nomination, Mr. Trump would need to win roughly 51% of the 1,792 delegates remaining. That will not be easy, but is certainly possible—particularly if he picks up a few winner-take-all states like Florida and Ohio or if other candidates fail to qualify for delegates in some large states. Mr. Cruz, who has the second most delegates thus far would need fully 56 percent of the remaining delegates. That is also not impossible, but difficult to imagine for a candidate who currently lags far behind Mr. Trump in all national polls. Additionally, Mr. Cruz is hardly a favorite of the GOP leadership, so they will be very reluctant to rally around him, even as an alternative to Mr. Trump.

A brokered convention may be the most plausible way to stop Mr. Trump, but that will not be easy either. it will require the remaining candidates coordinating their efforts in a way that given, the campaign so far, seems unlikely. The first test of this approach will be March 15th when both Ohio and Florida hold primaries. If favorite sons Marco Rubio and John Kasich can win those primaries, with the support of anti-Trump Superpacs, a combined 165 delegates will be denied Mr. Trump. If a week later, one of the candidates, most likely Ted Cruz, can win Arizona (another winner-take-all state), that number will increase to 223. It is unlikely, but certainly possible, that Mr. Trump could lose all three of those winner-take-all states. If that happens, Mr. Trump would face the substantial challenge of winning 58 percent of remaining delegates. Thus, the best way to force a brokered convention is not to clear the field for a candidate to go one on one with Mr. Trump, not least because that candidate would very likely lose to Mr. Trump. Instead, the remaining candidates, and the GOP anti-Trump leaders need to do the hard work of creating a tactically sophisticated and coordinated approach to stopping Mr. Trump from getting the required 1,237 delegates.

A brokered convention, while difficult to achieve, would bring about its own set of problems, including potential confusion about the rules that would govern that process. Additionally, even if Mr. Trump does not do as well for the rest of the primary season, he will have a substantial amount of delegates, probably no less than 40 percent, at the convention. Those delegates will be very reluctant to vote for an establishment figure like Paul Ryan, who is frequently mentioned as the candidate most likely to emerge from a brokered convention. If, however, somebody like Mr. Ryan is nominated without those Trump delegates, Mr. Trump can make a good argument for leaving the party and running as an independent, likely guaranteeing a Democratic victory in November. Mr. Trump’s leverage over a brokered convention should not be underestimated.

Ultimately, the Stop Trump campaign will either fail or likely damage the party. Republicans must now assess their motivations and decide whether or not is worth what would inevitably be a very high risk gambit.

Lincoln Mitchell is national political correspondent at the Observer. Follow him on Twitter @LincolnMitchell.

Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.

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Filed under: 2016 Presidential Election, republican party, Republican Primary