Before I try to answer this question, I apologize for my absence from this blog for the last few weeks. My father was in the hospital which required that my attention be directed first and foremost toward him. Now that he is back home and improving, I can deal with other issues like the one in the title of this piece.
The short answer to the question in the title is that the Democratic establishment’s support of incremental change has maintained the status quo and done very little for most Americans over the last 30 or more years. According to Slate.com, income for the top 20 percent of Americans has increased since the 1970s while income for the bottom 80 percent declined. In the 1970s the top 1 percent received 8 percent of total income while by 2007 they were receiving 18 percent. Now it’s an even greater amount. During the same period income for the bottom 20 percent had decreased 30 percent.
As I point out in my book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America, “between 2009 and 2012 the incomes of top 1 percent of citizens climbed 31.4 percent — or 95 percent of the total gain –while incomes of the other 99 percent grew only .4 percent.”
Since members of the Democratic establishment, for the most part, are in the top 20 percent which have seen their incomes increase over these last 30 years, they don’t feel an urgency for bold initiatives like Sen. Sanders proposes to reorder a system that has served them well. Like Secretary Clinton, they are fine with incrementalism. While many of them recognize various degrees of unfairness in the status quo, they don’t want to rock the boat too much for fear it might spring a leak or even capsize, causing significant harm to their relatively safe positions.
As Brent Budowsky writes for The Hill, it is Sanders’ growing popularity that seems to have ignited the establishment’s backlash against him: “Virtually the entire Washington and Wall Street establishments are now in a state of panic about the possibility of a [Sanders] victory in the Iowa Democratic caucus next Monday,” Budowsky writes. “What the insider Washington Democratic establishment fails to understand is that the issues Sanders raises have great appeal to the broad nation.” Moreover, the establishment’s pushback exposes their lack of conviction for a truly fair and just society.
The great majority of Americans who represent “the broad nation” and are on the lower decks of our economic ship feel they are in danger of drowning as their financial boat takes on more water. Incrementalism will not save them or their children. Sen. Sanders’s calls for strong measures to redirect America’s economic and social policies gives them hope that they can yet land on solid ground.
In case you missed it, a few days ago 170 of America’s leading economists endorsed Sen. Sanders’ plan to reform Wall Street. Here’s some of what they said:
In our view, Sanders’ plan for comprehensive financial reform is critical for avoiding another ‘too-big-to-fail’ financial crisis. The Senator is correct that the biggest banks must be broken up and that a new 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act, separating investment from commercial banking, must be enacted….The only way to contain Wall Street’s excesses is with reforms sufficiently bold and public they can’t be watered down. That’s why we support Senator Sanders’s plans for busting up the biggest banks and resurrecting a modernized version of Glass-Steagall.
In addition, these leading economists noted: Secretary Hillary Clinton’s more modest proposals do not go far enough. They call for a bit more oversight and a few new charges on shadow banking activity, but they leave intact the titanic financial conglomerates that practice most shadow banking. As a result, her plan does not adequately reduce the serious risks our financial system poses to the American economy and to individual Americans. Given the size and political power of Wall Street, her proposals would only invite more dilution and finagle. (See http://www.politicususa.com/2016/01/14/170-economists-bernie-sanders-plan-reform-wall-st-rein-greed.html)
These economists couldn’t be more clear. If Americans do not want to risk another financial crisis like the 2008 meltdown, the candidate that will provide the best protection against such a calamity is Sen. Sanders. And the reason is quite obvious. Unlike Secretary Clinton, Sen. Sanders is not tied to Wall Street. Many of Hillary Clinton’s biggest donors are investment bankers. She cannot both satisfy their interests and safeguard the American people at the same time. When a future President Clinton is dealing with critical financial issues facing our nation, can we trust her to make decisions that are in the public’s best interests over those that favor the Big Money that helped her get elected, and she will need for her re-election?
We all know the answer to that question. Hillary Clinton is part of the Establishment that uses its money and influence to get what it wants from Washington at the expense of the American people. Her Wall Street reform proposals don’t go far enough because she cannot afford to bite the hand that feeds her. But, we, the people, cannot afford more establishment politics that serve Big Money and provide little benefit for the rest of us. We need the strong leadership that Sen. Sanders offers on this and many other issues. And, we will only get that leadership if we all go out and work to ensure his election.
For more on the problem of Big Money in politics, visit http://www.breakingbigmoneysgrip.com and read Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America.