Elizabeth Warren Actually Wants to Fix Capitalism

She makes sense, for sure. Is she enough of a brawler? Eugene Debs, Robert LaFollette, Henry Wallace, maybe Raph Nadar, also and sense. But the destiny of the Republic requires, this once, a tough guy (he can have a VP of any combination of genders and colors as long as they are really good and can balance the macho chieftain who can knock Trump (or Pence, should Trump step down) of the pedestal.

She has big ideas for repairing the American economy. The other Democratic candidates should too.

David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt NEW YORK TIMES

Opinion Columnist

Senator Elizabeth Warren is running for president with a platform that aims to reform American capitalism.CreditFrank Franklin Ii/Associated Press

  • March 15, 2019
Senator Elizabeth Warren is running for president with a platform that aims to reform American capitalism.CreditCreditFrank Franklin Ii/Associated Press

Bill Clinton had a consequential presidency when it came to the economy. He brought down the Reagan-era deficits, helping spark the strongest economic boom in decades, and he made the tax code more progressive.

Barack Obama had an even more consequential presidency. He halted the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. He did so in part by signing a stimulus bill full of spending on education, wind energy and other programs with lasting benefits. He also put in place new regulations for Wall Street and extended health insurance to almost 20 million people.

Yet for all that both men accomplished, neither changed the fundamental direction of the American economy.

By the end of Obama’s eight years, G.D.P. growth was still disappointing. Middle-class and poor families were still receiving less than their fair share of that growth. Median household wealth was lower than it had been two decades earlier. In the most shocking sign of struggle, average life expectancy has declined in recent years. Rich Americans, on the other hand, continue to thrive, amassing Gilded Age-level concentrations of wealth. The resulting frustration helped make possible the rise of Donald Trump.

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This history suggests that the Democratic Party’s economic agenda needs to become more ambitious. Modest changes in the top marginal tax rate or in middle-class tax credits aren’t enough. The country needs an economic policy that measures up to the scale of our challenges.RelatedOpinionOne-on-One With Elizabeth Warren An interview with the Massachusetts senator and 2020 presidential contender.March 13, 2019

So far, only one candidate among the 2020 contenders has an agenda with this level of ambition: Elizabeth Warren. Her platform aims to reform American capitalism so that it once again works well for most American families. The recent tradition in Democratic politics has been different. It has been largely to accept that big companies are going to get bigger and do everything they can to hold down workers’ pay. The government will then try to improve things through income taxes and benefit programs.

Warren is trying to treat not just the symptoms but the underlying disease. She has proposed a universal child-care and pre-K program that echoes the universal high school movement of the early 20th century. She favors not only a tougher approach to future mergers, as many Democrats do, but also a breakup of Facebook and other tech companies that have come to resemble monopolies. She wants to require corporations to include worker representatives on their boards — to end the era of “shareholder-value maximization,” in which companies care almost exclusively about the interests of their shareholders, often at the expense of their workers, their communities and their country.

Warren was also the first high-profile politician to call for an annual wealth tax, on fortunes greater than $50 million. This tax is the logical extension of research by the economist Thomas Piketty and others, which has shown how extreme wealth perpetuates itself. Historically, such concentration has often led to the decline of powerful societies. Warren, unlike some Democrats, comfortably explains that she is not socialist. She is a capitalist and, like Franklin D. Roosevelt, is trying to save American capitalism from its own excesses.

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“Sometimes, bigger ideas are more possible to accomplish,” Warren told me during a recent conversation about the economy at her Washington apartment. “Because you can inspire people.”

Before I go further, I want to offer two caveats. One, Warren’s grasp of the country’s problems does not necessarily mean that she should be the Democratic nominee for president. Politics is not an expertise competition. The nominee should be, and most likely will be, the candidate who best inspires voters. Maybe that will be Warren, or maybe it will be someone else.

Two, I don’t agree with all of Warren’s proposals. Her plan to break up the big technology companies seems too uniform, for example. Her plan to put workers on corporate boards may not be as practical as, say, a big federal push to increase workers’ bargaining power.

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Paul Krugman did explanatory journalism before it was cool, moving from a career as a world-class economist to writing hard-hitting opinion columns.SIGN UPSenator Warren’s proposals include a universal child-care and pre-K program, and a wealth tax.Credit Gabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

Senator Warren’s proposals include a universal child-care and pre-K program, and a wealth tax.CreditGabriela Bhaskar for The New York Times

But whatever my — or your — specific objections, Warren is identifying the right problems and offering a coherent vision for a post-Obama Democratic agenda. “Clinton and Obama focused on boosting growth and redistribution,” Gabriel Zucman, a University of California, Berkeley, economist who has advised Warren, says. “Warren is focusing on how pretax income can be made more equal.”

She isn’t simply proposing larger versions of Obama’s (worthy) tax cut for middle-class and poor families, as several 2020 candidates have. Her plans are also much more detailed than those of Bernie Sanders (who, to his credit, pushed the party to become bolder). And she has avoided getting trapped in the health insurance wonkery that too often dominates progressive policy debates. The future of the republic does not actually depend on the relative sizes of Medicare, Medicaid and the private market.

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It may, however, depend on whether Americans’ incomes and living standards are consistently rising.

In the months to come, I hope that every other 2020 candidate offers answers to the questions that Warren has taken on: How can corporate America again help create a prosperous, growing middle class, as it did from the 1940s through the 1970s? How can the power of giant corporations — over consumers, workers and smaller businesses — be constrained? How can the radical levels of wealth inequality be reversed? How can the yawning opportunity gaps for children of different backgrounds be reduced? How can the next president make changes that will endure, rather than be undone by a future president, as both Obama’s and Clinton’s top-end tax increases were?

It is not surprising that Warren has jumped out to an early lead in the ideas primary. The main theme in her life, both professional and personal, has been economic opportunity. Her father was a carpet salesman at Montgomery Ward in Oklahoma City in the 1960s, until he had a heart attack. He had to switch to lower-paying work as a janitor, and her mother got a minimum-wage job, answering phones at Sears.

Warren’s three older brothers all went into the military. “That was their chance to make it into the middle class,” she told me. Warren went to college and became a teacher, until the school chose not to renew her contract rather than give her maternity leave. She then went to a public law school — for $450 per semester — and became a bankruptcy expert, early on at the University of Houston and ultimately at Harvard.

“The way I see it is, I have lived opportunity,” she said. “I’ve lived the kind of opportunity that comes from a government that invests a little in its kids, a government that tries to keep the playing field a little bit level for folks like my family.”

Her theory of political change has been shaped by two experiences — one failure and one success. As a professor in the 1990s, she served on a federal bankruptcy commission and fought against legal changes that favored banks over borrowers. The fight went on for a decade, and Warren’s side lost. The defeat left her believing that a technocratic legislative debate — “the inside game,” as she calls it — almost always favors industry lobbyists.

Four Pieces of Evidence from Michael Cohen Testimony, Ranked by Credibility

Analysis from Associate Blog Editor Alexandra Shiels

Cohen Evidence 1: Stormy Daniels

Stormy Daniels Payment: Cohen claims first-hand knowledge of hush money payment made to Stephanie Clifford aka Stormy Daniels before Election Day to silence her about a sexual encounter she had with Trump. Cohen obtained a home equity line of credit to pay Daniels $130,000 (clearly highlighted in exhibit). He provided oversight committee with a clear signed copy of check dated Aug 1, 2017 from Trump’s personal bank account. The check is allegedly one out of 11 installments from Trump to Chen reimbursing him for using line of credit to pay Daniels. Cohen claimed that Trump directed him to lie and say that Trump had no knowledge of payment to Clifford.




Stormy Daniels Payment: Cohen claims first-hand knowledge of hush money payment made to Stephanie Clifford aka Stormy Daniels before Election Day to silence her about a sexual encounter she had with Trump. Cohen obtained a home equity line of credit to pay Daniels $130,000 (clearly highlighted in exhibit). He provided oversight committee with a clear signed copy of check dated Aug 1, 2017 from Trump’s personal bank account. The check is allegedly one out of 11 installments from Trump to Chen reimbursing him for using line of credit to pay Daniels. Cohen claimed that Trump directed him to lie and say that Trump had no knowledge of payment to Clifford.

Credibility rating (1-5)? Solid five. Check is clearly signed, amount is highlighted, and the home equity docs are there to back up. Trump also denied the payment, but hasn’t exactly been vocal on denying the act itself. Unfortunately, we have this very detailed description and Mario Bros’ toadstool is no longer a nostalgic memory of a fun video game for us 90s kids. 

Cohen Evidence 2: Deutche Bank Financial Statements
Cohen gave the committee three years of Trump’s financial statements stating that Trump had “strategically inflated or deflated” his personal assets. The statements were given to Deutsche Bank when Trump was asking for a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills and to improve his Forbes ranking on list of wealthy Americans.
Credibility rating: Hard five. Cohen’s legal team provided multiple, detailed financial statements. Cohen showed committee two news articles that were examples of how Trump would under or overstate his assets when it was convenient. The first article in the Guardian, describes how Trump tried to reduce his local taxes on New York golf club by claiming it was actually worth $1.4 million instead of $50 million in assets he listed on financial disclosure he released when running for president. The second article from Forbes demonstrated how their estimate was VERY different from Trump’s estimate of his net worth. Trump claimed he was worth almost $9 billion while Forbes put him around $4 billion. The disparity was due to differing evaluations of worth of Trump’s brand. Cohen Evidence 3: The Straw Bidder
Cohen testified that Trump set up a fake bidder to purchase a portrait of him at an Art Hamptons event. Trump wanted his portrait to be purchased for the highest price of the day. The straw bidder, Stewart Rahr, bought the portrait for $60,000 and later the Trump Foundation, a “charitable” organization repaid Rahr using its funds. The WP wrote a similar story in 2016.
Credibility scale: 4.5/5: Remember kids, corruption and fraud are the most common crimes, therefore, the easiest to prove. 


Cohen gave the committee three years of Trump’s financial statements stating that Trump had “strategically inflated or deflated” his personal assets. The statements were given to Deutsche Bank when Trump was asking for a loan to buy the Buffalo Bills and to improve his Forbes ranking on list of wealthy Americans.
Credibility rating: Hard five. Cohen’s legal team provided multiple, detailed financial statements. Cohen showed committee two news articles that were examples of how Trump would under or overstate his assets when it was convenient. The first article in the Guardian, describes how Trump tried to reduce his local taxes on New York golf club by claiming it was actually worth $1.4 million instead of $50 million in assets he listed on financial disclosure he released when running for president. The second article from Forbes demonstrated how their estimate was VERY different from Trump’s estimate of his net worth. Trump claimed he was worth almost $9 billion while Forbes put him around $4 billion. The disparity was due to differing evaluations of worth of Trump’s brand.Cohen Evidence 3: The Straw Bidder
Cohen testified that Trump set up a fake bidder to purchase a portrait of him at an Art Hamptons event. Trump wanted his portrait to be purchased for the highest price of the day. The straw bidder, Stewart Rahr, bought the portrait for $60,000 and later the Trump Foundation, a “charitable” organization repaid Rahr using its funds. The WP wrote a similar story in 2016.
Credibility scale: 4.5/5: Remember kids, corruption and fraud are the most common crimes, therefore, the easiest to prove. 


Cohen Evidence 4: Russian Trump Tower

Cohen was circumspect and did not use the word “collude” in his testimony. However he was very clear that Trump would do anything to win. Cohen stated Trump asked numerous questions about Moscow negotiations and referred to as specific meeting on June 2016 that Donald Trump, Jr, Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort attended.
Credibility rating? Put this one at a three, maybe 3.5.  There’s no recording or email threads documenting this meeting (or it’s not being released in C-Span public testimony) . Although likely and the subject of numerous long form articles, more proof is needed. Tragic, because this is one of the most important pieces in case against Trump. 
One of the most important moments of the hearing wasn’t from Michael Cohen, but from Rep Elijah Cummings (D) during his closing remarks. He said: “You come saying I have made my mistakes, but now I want to change my life,” “And you know, if we…as a nation did not give people an opportunity to change their lives, a whole lot of people would not do very well.” Cummings may be able to offer this benediction, but I’m not that forgiving. Am I glad Cohen’s testimony exists? Sure. But let’s not kid ourselves. This is a man who only came forward because he is facing prison time, because he was caught. This is not a crisis of conscious. Cohen enabled a white supremacist, made sure a lot of hard-working people didn’t get paid, and bullied a lot of schools into keeping Trump’s test scores and grades secret.We have just begun to scratch the surface of Dumb Dumb Watergate. We’ve known for a while that the president is corrupt. But will he pay for that corruption? Does this evidence mean anything or is it just financial statements and salacious anecdotes that will just be another aspect of Trump’s terrible presidency that we’re numb to? We have the evidence. We’ve had the evidence, when do we get the conviction? 

· Topic you might like What would the US look like if liberals were allowed to enact all of their policies without opposition? Are there any existing countries like that to help us judge its long term impact?

Answered 8h ago


Martin Levine
, former Canadian Foreign Service Officer at Government of Canada (1978-2009)





Martin Levine
, former Canadian Foreign Service Officer at Government of Canada (1978-2009)

Americans who are concerned about such issues sometimes point to Canada as a kind of liberal test bed. As I have said in some other Answers this can be very deceptive. Conditions are very different here. So is the Canadian Constitution. So are attitudes. So is the economy. So are the political lobbies.

You can extract a few examples and possibilities but you have to be careful with them and not overextend them.

You’d Need A Comprehensive US Liberal Platform

At both the federal and provincial levels Canada has Liberal Parties. They put forward what their definition of what “liberal” means in the Canadian context. If they get elected they enact their liberal platform, to the extent that budgets allow.

The United States does not have this. The Democratic Party does not pretend to be a liberal party. It’s a grab bag of interests, big corporations, minority group activists, career social workers, people who believe in open borders, people who want the Second Amendment cancelled, some trade unions. etc. This does not add up to a liberal platform. The supporters of Bernie Sanders are saying just that. If it wasn’t so difficult to form third parties in the USA, they would probably be one.

The Liberal Party of Canada has, as part of its platform, things that are not necessarily part of a liberal repertoire. However, since they are the Liberal Party of Canada they have plenty of say so. The Liberal Party platform includes:

-A commitment to multilateral free trade agreements.

-A commitment to international peacekeeping.

-A legalized commitment to a very limited, defined, constrained type of ethnocultural multiculturalism.

-A legalized commitment to official bilingualism.

-A commitment to high immigration levels, with a focus on economic immigration, and provincial participation in selection.

-A commitment to recognition of the grievances of Canada’s indigenous peoples, and negotiations on a “nation to nation” basis.

-A commitment to managed agricultural supplies.

-Economic stability as a strong, strong priority, with freedom of competition curtailed in some cases, if it has to be.

-Using government-owned companies to accomplish certain economic and social objectives.

-A commitment to nation wide standards of medical, educational and social services, expressed in part by transfer payments from the wealthier provinces to the poorer ones.

Most or all provincial governments accept some of these principles, as well as the commitment to a comprehensive social safety net, expressed by government enacted social programmes.

You Need Political Parties, Not A Bunch of People Shouting

What political party would be prepared to advocate this in the USA, to the extent it is applicable? And, you need a political party, not a bunch of individuals and groups grandstanding, blogging, expressing passionate views, decrying enemies, etc.

At the United States federal level, that political party would have to commit itself to a “core” standard liberal programme, basically a capitalist social democracy with social justice created via social programmes. Then they would have a menu of alternatives like the above and would have to choose some. It wouldn’t be much different at the state level.

The Supreme Court Would Have A Field Day

The default position of the United States Constitution is that powers not specified as federal belong to the states. The Canadian Constitution is the reverse. Canadian law and cultures don’t have the same concept of society being subservient to the untrammelled rights of the individual. A federal or state political party that tried to approximate Canadian liberalism would face a barrage of lawsuits and court challenges. The decisions would establish how far American liberalism could go, without constitutional amendments. This would play out over time as standards are established by legal precedent.

So, Liberal America Takes Charge

Say, for example, revulsion against the excesses and failures of the Trump Administration opens a window of liberal opportunity. The Sanders faction and its allies take over the Democratic Party at the federal and most state levels. This liberalized Democratic Party continues much of the Sanders platform, with some add ons. The Democratic Party wins the Presidency and one or both houses of Congress. Similar things happen at the state level.

Various permutations and constitutions could arise. Here is just one scenario:

We’re Broke

The new Democratic administrations look at the books and choke a little bit. They are taking over after a Trump administration that wasn’t fiscally conservative. Rather, the Trump Administration made deep tax cuts without creating countervailing sources of government revenues. (Except tariffs, which are a tax paid by American consumers and consumers to the United States Government. In Canada, the federal government at one point was virtually addicted to these tariffs.) They have to do the same exercise that new administrations in Canada customarily do. That is, announce a fiscal crisis, blame it entirely on the previous administration, and use it to justify cancelling their campaign promises.

Then the new administration looks for spending freezes and cuts that won’t cause a public uproar. The go-to is freezing civil service salaries and reducing the civil service by attrition . (Civil services have unions and contracts with the governments. You can’t just fire people.) Then, the new administration looks to creep taxes up. Start with higher “sin taxes”, liquor, tobacco, and in Canada as of October 17, weed. Then, raise the gas tax a few cents. Raise income taxes on higher income people. Reduce tax rebates. Look for ways to tax Internet-base transactions.

Some of the Social Programmes Are Already There

The USA is far from being without some social programming. That’s what social security and medicare are about. The new Liberal governments will have to squeeze out enough money to augment them and make them more universal. Social security benefits get raised but people may have to pay more payroll taxes until they retire. Obamacare gets expanded. However, the new Democratic federal administration hits a medical wall. The American medical system is among the most costly in the developed world, without producing population wide superlative results. In Canada, doctors bill the provincial health insurance plans. Hospitals are controlled by the provincial governments. Canadian citizens and permanent residents don’t get hospital bills. The hospitals get provincial government support and also bill the provincial medical plans fee for service, for services covered by those plans. (Many Canadians buy supplementary coverage from private health insurance plans, or their employers provide it.) This system is cheaper, although you don’t get many celebrity millionaire doctors. Those new Liberal governments either need to procrastinate or bite a very hard bullet.

Then, The Really Hard Part Begins

I believe these new American Liberal administrations would stumble over the a la carte parts of liberalism. Canada got through the stumbling stage a long time ago. The Liberal Party of Canada decided on the menu options a long time ago, and stuck with them.

In the United States, developing that stock Liberal platform will cause pain. A lot of Americans who present themselves as progressives will be very disappointed. However, the liberalized Democratic Parties of the USA will have to reach out to swing voters or else get another Trump-type, rewave.

No Open Border

You can’t maintain bearable labour market conditions for your less-skilled workers unless you keep your borders under control. Maybe you even construct parts of the Trumpian wall. You enhance investigations and prosecutions against those who illegally hire undocumented workers. You shift the focus of legal immigration quotas away from family members and specified nations, to skilled worker and business immigration. Maybe states get invited to use their local labour market expertise and participate more aggressively in selection. Some legitimate labour needs get supplied by legal temporary Work Permit programmes. Canada has one for seasonal agricultural workers.

Eat Multilateral Trade

The Trump Administration is doing the American people a great service by showing them that economic nationalism doesn’t work. Trade wars aren’t good and easy to win at all. The trade struggles become protracted, America’s trade rivals take reprisals against working class Americans and farmers, unite against the USA and look to do business with each other. Average Americans get hurt, badly.

The new federal Democratic Administration folds down the trade disputes, returns trade discussions to professional negotiators and diplomatic interchanges, and accepts that multilateral trade agreements will stay a fact of American political life and sometimes, the USA will lose.

A Little Bit of Multiculturalism And That’s It

Race isn’t the same as ethnicity. The USA has been somewhat successful at integrating various races into American culture, at least enough.

However Spanish has emerged a de facto second language in the Southwest and a few major cities in other regions. The federal Democratic Party discusses the situation with the state governments. The probable result? English gets declared the sole official, national language of the USA. Areas with sufficiently large Spanish speaking populations get legislative guarantees of a limited range of Spanish-language services, maybe including school bilingualism, the publication of Spanish-language versions of some municipal, state and federal laws, bilingual signage at some federal buildings, and that’s it and that’s all.

Spreading False News and Incitement

Canada has worked at enforcing against this for a long time. Yes, Canadians have freedom of speech but not freedom of threatening behaviour. So, if you want to express your views that us Jews are out to replace you, you can. However, creating false facts like the Jewish replacement plan and saying, we are acting in self-defence so let’s go get “em”, is hate speech that incites to violence and, at least, discrimination. The federal and state Democratic Parties enact laws that criminalize that behaviour. Then they fight it out in the Supreme Court.

The Right to Bear Arms

This right is in the United States Constitution. Nowhere enough states will agree to a constitutional change that eliminates the Second Amendment. BULLSHIT The liberalized Democratic Parties of the USA don’t even waste effort at trying. The better effort is to increase school security and increase pre-sale checks on gun buyers. You can’t win them all.

I could go on and on with this list.

Learn To Love Your Bureaucracy, Tough Love

In Canada the Liberal Parties have to work really hard to keep their bureaucrats on the level. There is a saying here, “The pigs are always at the trough.” English-speaking Canadians are generally adverse to public displays of emotion. However a hot news story about public servants behaving badly, will justify throwing a total fit at your local sports bar. Liberal governments have to reply heavily on social programmes and strict law enforcement. Never assume that your civil servants will be competent, place the public interest over their careers or do the right thing.

So, that’s your Liberal, quasi-Canadian, America. Disbursements, taxes, functioning bureaucracies, realism, national humility, you can’t win ’em all and nobody even gets a full win, eat the hit and move on, there’s no free lunch. If you need passion and victory, look for it in a sports competition or in your romantic life.