It’s essential to understand: the purpose of the scorched-earth campaign waged against Sanders and his supporters by the Democratic establishment and its mouthpieces at "Vox," the "Daily Beast," the "Washington Post," etc., is not merely to prevent a Sanders nomination.
The point is to so tar Sanders supporters with slurs and empty accusations of bigotry as to ensure that they gain no appreciable influence within the party in the future. And the purpose of that is to reassure the donor class that all of the populist talk going on within the party is just that: talk, a way to try and revive the dormant enthusiasm of the 2008 election and secure the presidency.
The attitude of career Democrats is that the left should simultaneously be subject to constant ridicule and marginalization, and yet should be expected to vote in lockstep along party lines with unerring fidelity. That’s the Democrat message to the left: “we get your votes; you get nothing.” And nothing is precisely what we have to show for it.*
It's almost humorous seeing the long-standing apple cart of Neoliberalism upturned, isn't it?
Lloyd Blankfein and His Fellow Masters of the Universe Know that They Don't Need To Ask for a Specific Quid Pro Quo from Hillary Clinton; She Is a Member of Their Elite Neoliberal Economic Club.
As the holder of many different types of SECRET clearances for over 20 years, I was wondering when someone in a position of authority would get around to mentioning the following little item of concern:
The "Washington Post" is reporting . . . that the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of emails during her tenure as Secretary of State. Clinton substituted her own private server in place of the government’s secure system.
. . . when there was even one page or paragraph or sentence that was classified, the entire manual became classified. In other words, the document takes on the classification of its most sensitive part. That is how Mrs. Clinton should have thought about the tens of thousands of State Department emails going over a private server from her home.
My experience was that even those in the lowly trenches took national security seriously. Our pencils were stamped with “Loose lips sink ships.” Overlooking even a small typo in the text of the manuals was grounds for termination. When we left for the day, the manuals were locked in file cabinets with heavy steel bars across the front and impregnable locks. The facility itself was under round-the-clock security.
The idea that a Yale Law School graduate and two-term Senator like Hillary Clinton would not understand the gross negligence involved in transmitting tens of thousands of, at the very least, highly sensitive government communications from a household server raises a host of concerns about what was really going on.
These are the same concerns that have dogged Hillary and Bill Clinton throughout their government careers: that there is one set of rules for the little people and effectively no rules for the Clintons. From the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act to deregulating derivatives to destabilizing Libya, they break a lot of stuff then walk away, leaving the U.S. taxpayer to clean up the mess.
And in the process, they become worth over $100 million – a significant part of which comes from speaking fees from the very Wall Street firms that benefited from Bill Clinton’s mass financial deregulation.
Hillary Clinton’s current lead in the Democratic primary is just as deeply a crisis as Donald Trump’s lead is in the Republican primary. This is what years of tolerating voting for the lesser evil has delivered voters in the United States. The leader in the Democratic primary for U.S. President is under a criminal investigation while the Republican leader is being called a fraud and a con man by his own party.
The "New York Times" editorial board on Tuesday called Trump “a shady, bombastic liar” while the "Los Angeles Times" editorial board wrote yesterday that Trump is “not fit” to be President, calling him “a racist and a bully, a demagogue,” while noting that “He has proposed killing the families of terrorists, a violation of international law so blatant that a former CIA director predicted that U.S. troops would refuse to carry out such an order.”
But no one should view Hillary Clinton as the lesser evil. At this point we don’t know the full range of the FBI’s criminal investigation. Should Hillary become the nominee at the Democratic National Convention in July and then be charged by the FBI before the November election, potentially throwing the election to Trump, that could well render her the greater evil.
This is not a political season to take casually.
I’ve written various generally supportive things about Bernie Sanders, but I hadn’t actually decided whether I preferred him or Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. I’ve been concerned about the electability thing, as well as the effectiveness thing. (I haven’t given money to either candidate because of a promise I made when neither lifted a finger to help Larry Lessig get into the debates.) But I’m voting for Sanders._ _ _ _ _ _ _
Obviously, I prefer Sanders’s positions on the big issues. Government-funded health care for everyone, universal pre-K education, affordable higher education for everyone, mandatory family and medical leave, a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on people like me — what’s not to like? I have concerns about some things around the edges, like ripping up existing trade agreements (I won’t call them free trade agreements, because they are often far from it), but there has not been a serious candidate in my lifetime with such a bold and progressive vision for America.
Clinton, by contrast, stands for . . . what again? She is running as the pragmatic defender of the Clinton-Obama status quo — which is to say, slightly to the right of the Nelson Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party. Her message is basically this: I’m the only serious person in this race; it’s me, or the sack of Rome by the barbarians and one thousand years of darkness. And so, the Clinton side’s case boils down to saying, sure, we want the same things Sanders wants (lower inequality, higher wages for working people, affordable health care for everyone), but Sanders’s ideas are naïve, or impractical, or arithmetically challenged, or, worst of all, not acceptable to Paul Ryan.
So let me say a few words about that.
Do you remember Ronald Reagan? (OK, many of you don’t, but bear with me.) He ran for president in 1976 and 1980 promising lots of unrealistic-sounding things. In 1980, he said he was going to increase military spending, make government smaller, cut taxes, and balance the budget. I was eleven years old and I knew that didn’t add up. The Republican Establishment, which was still pretty strong in those days (not the punch line it is today), poked fun at him from every direction. George H. W. Bush called Reagan’s proposals “voodoo economics.” And it was nonsense: you can’t increase spending, cut taxes, and reduce deficits.
But Reagan won, and won, and won again. And even though his numbers didn’t add up, and even though he never had a majority in the House, he made huge gains for his cause. He passed one of the largest tax cuts in history and eventually reduced the top tax rate from 70% to 28%. He accelerated the deregulation movement begun under President Carter and began limiting non-defense discretionary spending; ever since then, increasing spending on domestic priorities has been an uphill struggle.
He increased the size of the military. He never balanced the budget, but that was a feature, not a bug: the deficits he created only helped conservatives in the long term by creating additional pressure to limit and cut entitlement spending.
Reagan was also good for the Republican Party and for the conservative movement. He gave the party an identity it had been lacking since the Eisenhower years, one that appealed to the broad set of constituencies that has given the GOP a majority in the each house of Congress for most of the past twenty-two years. Since Reagan, every Republican presidential candidate (until Trump, perhaps) has had to pledge to continue the Reagan Revolution. No one did a better job (although many conservatives are mad about it) than George W. Bush, who slashed taxes, invaded the Middle East, and ran up deficits even further, creating the increasingly bipartisan clamor to cut Social Security and Medicare.
Now, I’m not predicting that Bernie Sanders will be as successful as Ronald Reagan. My point is just this: it’s the vision that matters, not the fine details of the campaign proposals. I have no problem with “left-leaning economists” or whoever pointing out flaws in Sanders’s proposals. By all means, let’s try to make them better. But if we want to move our party and our country in a certain direction, we have to start off by aiming in that direction.
Real change will take more than one or two presidential terms. Counting from Reagan’s first run, it’s taken the conservatives more than forty years, and they still have a long way to go. And even if Sanders turns out to be Reagan in 1976 rather than Reagan in 1980, it’s still the long-term direction of change that matters.
Step back from the campaign fray for just a moment and consider the enormity of what’s already occurred.
A 74-year-old Jew from Vermont who describes himself as a democratic socialist, who wasn’t even a Democrat until recently, has come within a whisker of beating Hillary Clinton in the Iowa caucus, routed her in the New Hampshire primary, and garnered over 47 percent of the caucus-goers in Nevada, of all places.
And a 69-year-old billionaire who has never held elective office or had anything to do with the Republican Party has taken a commanding lead in the Republican primaries.
Something very big has happened, and it’s not due to Bernie Sanders’ magnetism or Donald Trump’s likeability.
It’s a rebellion against the establishment.
The question is why the establishment has been so slow to see this. A year ago – which now seems like an eternity – it proclaimed Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush shoe-ins.
Both had all the advantages – deep bases of funders, well-established networks of political insiders, experienced political advisors, all the name recognition you could want.
But even now that Bush is out and Hillary is still leading but vulnerable, the establishment still doesn’t see what’s occurred. They explain everything by pointing to weaknesses: Bush, they now say, “never connected” and Hillary “has a trust problem.”
A respected political insider recently told me most Americans are largely content.
“The economy is in good shape,” he said. “Most Americans are better off than they’ve been in years. The problem has been the major candidates themselves.”
I beg to differ.
Economic indicators may be up but they don’t reflect the economic insecurity most Americans still feel, nor the seeming arbitrariness and unfairness they experience.
Nor do the major indicators show the linkages Americans see between wealth and power, crony capitalism, declining real wages, soaring CEO pay, and a billionaire class that’s turning our democracy into an oligarchy.
Median family income lower now than it was sixteen years ago, adjusted for inflation.
Most economic gains, meanwhile, have gone to the top.
These gains have translated into political power to rig the system with bank bailouts, corporate subsidies, special tax loopholes, trade deals, and increasing market power – all of which have further pushed down wages pulled up profits.
Those at the very top of the top have rigged the system even more thoroughly. Since 1995, the average income tax rate for the 400 top-earning Americans has plummeted from 30 percent to 17 percent.
Our super-perceptive reporter at Sardonicky has the rest of this campaign fathomed:
Fresh off her shallow victories in Southern states, which no Democrat could ever hope to win in a general election, the Empress-in-Waiting is contemptuously pivoting away from the Bernie Sanders threat (which she has a very hard time countering, simply on grounds of his ethics, and her lack thereof). She is choosing to largely ignore her flush-with-cash, still strong social democrat opponent. She is passing Go on her monopoly board and taking the fight directly to Donald Trump's Boardwalk.
Trump is Hillary's dream opponent. Never mind that he has a pretty good chance of beating her in the general, and a not-so-good chance of beating Bernie. He is a made-to-order identity politics enemy for her. If Bernie is the chick magnet currently
attracting the majority of the young female votes Hillary thinks she's entitled to, then Trump represents the opposite, repellent pole.
The sooner that Trump can pivot from attacking Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and begin making crude sexist remarks about Hillary, the sooner (she hopes) she can triangulate, the sooner that swarms of XX chromosomes will start circling her wagon in solidarity. Whatever liberal appeal that the Clintons are able to boast about has been historically and mainly grounded in the many unfounded right-wing attacks against them.
Hillary is anxious to get past the very real threat of democratic socialism, and right into the nitty gritty of Republican misogyny. She is anxious to contrast her socially responsible, pro-market neoliberalism with Trump's fascism and crude bathroom jokes. She is anxious to transform her public persona from the global femme fatale who makes a mess out of everything she touches, to the damsel in distress who nonetheless bravely fights back against the Trumpian goon squad. Despite her strength, she still needs our help! Cry for her, America!
If we won't vote for her because we don't like her, really like her, then maybe we'll vote for her simply because we're scared to death of Donald Trump. Maybe we'll be so shocked and appalled at Trump's brand of organized crime, we'll forget about Hillary's speeches to Goldman Sachs and the little calling cards she is rumored to distribute to all her donors.
Despite the fact that less than a third of the delegates have been selected in the Democratic primaries, despite the fact that she faces more debate confrontations with Bernie Sanders in the coming days, Hillary - with much media help - is again prematurely crowning herself the Democratic nominee.
Pick your daily meme out of the corporate media hat: "her path is wide - Bernie's is narrow." She has the "Firewall" and the super-delegates - "The New York Times" and other suspects have reduced The Bern to a misshapen snowman token melting down somewhere
in the Great Whitey White North.
And definitely, feel the guilt. If you can't or won't feel the guilt, a new brand of Hillary Lit has been created just for you. These screeds, often written in true confessions mode, are by and about women who have suddenly seen the light about their addiction to Bernie. They are bravely kicking the Sanders habit, checking themselves into neoliberal rehab, and getting clean for Hillary. If they can do it, you can do it. Put the Us back in Uterus! See here for a choice example of the genre, and do check in at "Salon," "The Guardian" and "Daily Kos" on any given day for the latest advice and tips in Bernie recovery self-help.
And then there are those self-professed die-hard Bernie supporters prematurely urging us to pivot to Hillary in the event that Bernie doesn't win the nomination. We are supposed to pick the Goldwater Girl lest we get another Nixon Guy. Remember McGovern like you Remember The Maine.
The "New York Times" has published a letter to the editor with that message, and is taking the rare step of inviting reader comments to reader commentary. Because if the pundits can't convince us (and they can't), maybe our peers can. In a very polite and gentle manner, of course.
Another stale trope is a lot meaner: if you don't support Hillary, then it automatically follows that you are an inhumane closet Trumpian. Every time you so much as mention her emails or her secret speeches at Goldman Sachs, Tinkerbell dies and another zombie Trump voter is created. Plus, you are a Hater. At the very worst, you are a purist Hater addicted to pure Bernie smack.
. . . She's at that delicate point in primary season where she doesn't want to alienate Bernie supporters by criticizing Bernie too harshly. So she's playing the Trump fear card against us.
She is appealing to fear, because her pro-corporation policies themselves have no appeal whatsoever.
Better to suffer in dribs and drabs under a Clinton restoration than to die quickly under a Trump regime.
. . . Only the Establishment is surprised that global financialized capitalism has provoked such a blue-collar backlash in the paradoxical person of a billionaire demagogue.
Read the entire fabulous essay here.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
Political events are now moving at runaway train speed.
Today, we hear the neocons are threatening Trump with jumping to his best girlfriend, Hillary (no nicknames right now, but they will be coming up soon), if he doesn't straighten up and fly right (i.e., retract all his loose lipping about the Disaster of the Iraq War, foreign policy/strategy blatant lies from the Bush-Cheneyites, talking to Putin as an ally about continuing to bomb ISIS, perhaps in tandem, not to mention how dare he want to treat the Israeli/Palestinian negotiations as a neutral party, and outing Obama's bombing of Libya as giving ISIS/Daesh a red carpet to victory).
. . . in "Politico" today, Michael Crowley writes that the “Neocons Declare War on Trump.” How do they propose to prosecute their war? As usual, with their well-known bravery. They are planning a mass exodus from the Republican Party to support their sister-in-arms Hillary Clinton, who as president plans to change the official motto of the United States from “In God We Trust” to “We Came, We Saw, He Died.”
Tomorrow the neocons plan to launch their version of a nuclear missile – the dreaded “strongly-worded letter” – to warn Republican voters that if they continue to flirt with the foreign policy apostate Trump, the neocons will take their toys and go home to the Democratic Party. Republican voters at that point are supposed to wail and gnash their teeth at the prospect of supporting a party without bloodsucking neocons calling the shots.
Leading the strongly-worded letter campaign is Dov Zakheim, who as George W. Bush’s Comptroller of the Pentagon somehow lost track of a trillion or so dollars. It’s a safe bet Zakheim is not spending his retirement from government service in a double-wide trailer somewhere.
Top military officers will retire, screams Zakheim, if under Trump the US abandons the neocon vision of “American exceptionalism.” Perhaps so. And what would they do without enormously well-paid positions in the military-industrial complex to retire to?
The neocons are gambling that the American voter’s fury at Washington does not extend to their foreign policy adventurism. They are gambling that another PNAC-style harshly-worded letter will awaken America from its temporary dalliance and shock it back into its abusive relationship with the soft-skinned and well-perfumed keyboard warriors who eagerly send America’s sons and daughters to be slaughtered in wars that achieve nothing but the ascendance of new “bad guys” used to justify ever-more wars. And all of it pays very nicely for them.
Will voters again try to kick that football? Or will they kick the neocons instead?
And, gee, if we didn't know that Donald Trump will say or do anything to advance his personal desires . . . we might be able to believe that at least some of the above is solid truth.
What we know is that both ruling groups are more than willing to sacrifice the safety, health and welfare of the American citizens for their own aggrandizement.
And it's not even money that matters to them.
And maybe worse.
After all, we know where Hillary and Bill live and how they threw their daughter, Chelsea, a 3-million-dollar wedding to the son of two very wealthy Congressional representatives in 2010, after enriching themselves with many millions of dollars by giving speeches to/working for the financial institutions that violated financial fraud laws and caused the 2008 Bank(er) Bailout Bapalooza to blow up, and, therefore, we have to wonder why they, and Donald Trump, who lives all over the world in multi-million-dollar palaces, would want to live in the dingy, small personal quarters of the White House. We know Hill and Bill, and certainly "The Don," won't be there much. It's kind of sad, isn't it, that when millions of citizens are one paycheck from being homeless that the White House will be empty most of the time. (And certainly won't have any citizen representation.)
Do take a look at one of The Donald's houses below (you've already been treated to too many of the Clintons' already):
Now, if you haven't before, try to imagine how much trouble this country is in if Bernie Sanders doesn't win the Presidency (and have a battalion of protectors around him at all times).
. . . when you dig into the numbers the remaining Republican candidates have proffered in their economic proposals, none of them can hold the title of moderate or populist. Every single one is an extremist. All have put forward relatively detailed plans, and while they all have their quirks, the numbers are strikingly similar — and substantial.
Every single candidate gives a huge gift to the wealthy and a meager one to the less fortunate. Trump doesn't go after the "hedge-fund guys" all that hard, it turns out. Nearly 40 percent of the benefits of his tax package would flow to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans; on the other hand, those in the middle and two bottom-fifths of the income scale would get about 16 percent. The raw dollar amounts are equally eye-popping: Under President Trump, the poorest Americans would see about $200 in tax relief over a decade; the 0.1 percent, richest of the rich, would get more than $1.7 million.
Rubio, the son of a maid and a bartender (as he is wont to mention), looks pretty much the same as the guy who got a $1 million loan from his dad. He would hand more than 40 percent of the benefits of his tax relief to the richest 1 percent of Americans, leaving little for the middle and bottom. That works out to $232 for the poorest, and about $1.1 million for the richest 0.1 percent.
Trump did at least follow through on his promise to include in his plan raising the tax rate on capital gains, or money made from investments rather than through a salary — a means overwhelmingly enjoyed by the rich, although it would still be taxed lower than the highest income bracket. Rubio, though, floats an idea no other Republican has embraced: scrapping the tax on capital gains altogether. All those hedge-fund guys, and every other wealthy person with investments, would receive an enormous handout.
Cruz's tax plan looks a little bit different for deploying what he calls a "business flat tax," which is pretty similar to a European-style value-added tax. But the distribution still ends up skewing toward the rich. With all of his changes taken together, the 1 percent would get a 17 percent boost in their income right out the bat. The poorest, meanwhile, would be only 2.2 percent better off.
Carson takes this repeating script and gives it his own flair. He offers a flat tax, levying a uniform rate on all income, big or small. While the numbers are more bloated, they follow the same pattern: The 1 percent would get two-thirds of the benefits from his plan. At the same time, Carson has been clear that – unlike his rivals – he wants every citizen to owe income taxes, even the most destitute who currently don't pay anything because they make so little. That means that the poorest 40 percent would actually see a tax increase under his plan, while millionaires' burdens would go down. A person in the bottom 20 percent would owe almost $800 more, while someone in the 1 percent would owe about $350,000 less.
Kasich — the supposed rational moderate in the GOP field — hasn't enticed any group to run the numbers on his plan, possibly because he left some key details blank. But the basic building blocks are very similar. In his plan, as with all of his rivals', corporations would face a lower tax rate, as would people who fall in the highest bracket. He would eliminate the estate tax, paid by the wealthiest 0.2 percent when they pass on their inheritances, and lower the capital gains rate — all giveaways to the richest of the rich.
Tax cuts don't come for free — not for the poor or the rich. And so each candidate proposes losing significant amounts of revenue in order to hand these favors to the wealthy. Over the next decade, the government would lose $9.6 trillion under President Carson, $9.5 trillion under President Trump, $8.6 trillion under President Cruz, and $6.8 trillion under President Rubio. There is certainly an enormous different between a $9.6 trillion and $6.8 trillion cost, but these figures are unprecedented. Reagan's tax cuts amounted to a loss of 2.1 percent of GDP, while George W. Bush's cost 1.4 percent. On the other hand, Trump's would cost 4 percent, Cruz's 3.6, and Rubio's 2.6.
Kasich's plan throws in an extra dollop of hardheartedness. He promises to balance the budget in eight years, which might sound good if you think the federal government's finances function like a checkbook, but in fact, they don't.
. . . The country currently has a $544 billion deficit; to bring that to zero, particularly while losing so much revenue to tax cuts and implementing his call for a big increase in military spending, all other government programs would have to swallow truly extreme cuts.
Kasich isn't alone in making such a promise, however. Rubio goes even further, calling for an amendment that would require the government to maintain a balanced budget. That would decimate the government's ability to spend more in times of economic turmoil, making recessions longer and deeper, and would force cuts in some parts of the budget if spending has to rise in others — if, for instance, a bunch of people lose their jobs in a recession and file for unemployment insurance at once.
Some of these candidates have actual legislative histories to back up their outrageous proposals, while Trump and Carson so far haven't enacted anything. As governor of Ohio, Kasich pushed through more than $3 billion in tax cuts that helped the wealthy but not anyone else. He also balanced his state's budget without raising new taxes, necessitating huge spending cuts that led to massive layoffs and some cities to actually disincorporate. Rubio and Cruz have spent years in the Senate, and while their proposals haven't become law, Rubio took a colleague's tax-cut package and made it even more costly and beneficial to the rich.
But presidents tend to govern along the lines of the promises they make as candidates. If any of these five men make it to the White House, the economy is in big trouble.
From our seer at "Rolling Stone":
Washington is freaking out about Trump in a way they never did about Bush. Why? Because Bush was their moron, while Trump is his own moron. That's really what it comes down to.
And all of the Beltway's hooting and hollering about how "embarrassing" and "dangerous" Trump is will fall on deaf ears, because as gullible as Americans can be, they're smart enough to remember being told that it was OK to vote for George Bush, a man capable of losing at tic-tac-toe.
We're about to enter a dark period in the history of the American experiment. The Founding Fathers never imagined an electorate raised on Toddlers and Tiaras and Temptation Island. Remember, just a few decades ago, shows like Married With Children and Roseanne were satirical parodies. Now the audience can't even handle that much irony. A lot of American culture is just dumb slobs cheering on other dumb slobs. It was inevitable, once we broke the seal with Bush, that our politics would become the same thing.
Madison and Jefferson never foresaw this situation. They knew there was danger of demagoguery, but they never imagined presidential candidates exchanging "mine's bigger than yours" jokes or doing "let's laugh at the disabled" routines. There's no map in the Constitution to tell us how to get out of where we're going. All we can do now is hold on.
And how did that last Irish election (after the harsh Austerity Assault) go?
Ireland’s economic difficulties had nothing to do with public spending, but were the fallout from private speculators and banks caught in the great 2008 financial meltdown. Rather than making the speculators pay, the then government of Fianna Fail shifted the bank debts to taxpayers. The troika agreed to a $67 billion bailout of the banks, but only if major bondholders were exempted and the government would institute a draconian austerity program. Most Irish voters were unaware of this “trade off” until just before the election.
The Fine Gael/Labour government has long claimed that it had no choice but to apply the austerity formulas and that, in any case, the policies worked, because the economy was recovering. Voters didn’t buy it. The “recovery” has largely been restricted to Dublin — where homelessness in January reached a record high—and the growth was largely a product of falling oil prices and a decline in the value of the euro, rather than the result of austerity.
As Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times put it, “What voters said on Friday is in some ways highly complex, but in relation to the dominant narrative” that austerity is the path to recovery, the Irish said, ‘We don’t believe you.’” The Fine Gael-Labour campaign slogans of “stability” and “all is well” fell flat. The government, O’Toole said, “imagined that it would ride back to power on a feel-good factor, as if people who had been repeatedly beaten should feel good that the beating has stopped.”
Irish voters essentially gave two messages in the last election, one directed at Europe and the other at its own political structure.
About Europe, the voters firmly rejected the increasingly discredited policies of the troika, joining Greek, Spanish and Portuguese voters in saying “enough.” Austerity as a cure for economic crisis, as O’Toole points out, “was not just an Irish story — it was a European narrative.” That narrative is under siege.
About Ireland, voters turned their own political structure upside down. The two parties that have dominated Ireland since the end of the 1922-23 civil war can now claim the allegiance of slightly less than 50 percent of the electorate. This election, as Sinn Fein’s Adams argues, represents “a fundamental realignment of Irish politics.”
Getting rid of the Grifting Old Party!
And it's a guy named "Elmer."
Over the past 15 years, the North Carolina state pension’s funding ratio has deteriorated – falling from 112.8% to 94.8%. The major reasons for the decline — excessive undisclosed fees and wildly speculative hedge and private equity investing — were detailed in my forensic investigation of the almost $100 billion pension in the spring of 2014. Thankfully, for whatever reasons, current North Carolina Treasurer Janet Cowell — having exponentially increased the fees paid to her pals on Wall Street — has decided not to seek reelection.
On March 15th, North Carolinians will head to the polls with a choice between two candidates for State Treasurer in the Democratic primary: CPA and investment manager Ron Elmer, and attorney Dan Blue III.
Ron Elmer’s platform echoes the common sense reforms my forensic investigative report outlined two years ago. Mr. Elmer, a CPA, has committed not only to publishing financial statements for the North Carolina state pension fund for the first time in 15 years, but also an independent audit of the pension for the first time – ever.
Elmer has pledged not to take campaign contributions from Wall Street but his goals are bigger than winning the Treasurer’s race without Wall Street’s money. He plans to end pay-to-play permanently in the Treasurer’s office by firing as many of the external managers as possible, bringing North Carolina’s money home, and managing assets in-house using an indexing strategy. Finally, Elmer plans to replace the widely-criticized “sole-trustee” power of the State Treasurer with a Board of Trustee structure filled with relevant stakeholders – not Wall Streeters.
Thus, the next Treasurer won’t be able to dole out million dollar investment contracts to campaign contributors without the full consent of the Board of Trustees who would have to vote to move investments from in-house management back to the outhouse.
Don’t let Elmer’s plan to manage investments in-house disturb you – he’s done it before. He has previously worked within a corporate pension fund as an internal investment manager. Elmer has managed state pension investments for Georgia and California, but more importantly, Elmer has previously managed a $2 billion stock index fund for the North Carolina pension fund. He has quite literally “done this before” and just wants to “do it across town in the Treasurer’s office and save North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”
North Carolina’s State Treasurer has diverse responsibilities beyond managing the pension investments. But, Elmer seems to have the edge in many facets of the Treasurer’s myriad duties. North Carolina’s Treasurer sits on more boards and commissions than any other elected official.
Elmer likes to point out, “when selecting North Carolina’s next state treasurer, financial experience and expertise should trump political pedigree.” It was no surprise to me that the State Employees Association of North Carolina (SEANC) undertook the most thorough of vetting processes for candidates for state treasurer – a grueling 2-hour Q&A public forum — and ultimately endorsed Elmer as their choice for North Carolina’s next State Treasurer.
. . . North Carolinians have a chance to break the cycle. Let’s hope they understand the past pension looting and seize the opportunity to end it.
March 4, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts
And if true it is damning
The monthly payroll jobs reports have become a bad joke.
No growth in real retail sales, but 55,000 retail trade new jobs in February.
No growth in real consumer income, but 40,000 more waitresses and bartenders.
86,000 new jobs in Education, health services, and social assistance. February is a strange
month to be hiring new teachers. If February brought a quarter million new jobs, how come a
big hike in social assistance jobs?
Manufacturing lost 16,000 jobs.