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Why President Hillary Clinton Will Need Bernie's "Political Revolution" to Get Anything Done

By       Message Robert B. Reich       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   7 comments

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Reprinted from Robert Reich Blog


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It looks increasingly likely that Hillary Clinton, a self-described "progressive who likes to get things done," will have her chance starting next January. But how much that's progressive will she actually be able to get done?

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The Senate may flip to the Democrats but there's almost no way Democrats will get the 60 votes they need to stop Republicans from filibustering everything she says she wants to do.

She's unlikely to have a typical presidential honeymoon because she won't be riding a wave of hope and enthusiasm that typically accompanies a new president into office. She's already more distrusted by the public than any major candidate in recent history. On Election Day many Americans will be choosing which candidate they loathe the least.

She hasn't established a powerful mandate for what she wants to get done. Her policy proposals are admirably detailed but cover so much ground that even her most ardent supporters don't have a clear picture of what she stands for. And she's had to spend more time on the campaign trail attacking Trump's outrage du jour than building a case for a few big ideas.

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To say nothing of the moneyed interests -- wealthy individuals, big corporations, and Wall Street -- that are more powerful today than at any time since the Gilded Age, and don't want progressive change.

Even if Hillary sincerely intends to raise taxes on rich Americans in order to pay for universal child care, affordable higher education, and infrastructure spending, the moneyed interests have the clout to stop her.

They'll also resist any effort to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour, require employers to offer paid family leave, or push them to share their profits with employees.

The heart of American politics is now a vicious cycle in which big money has enough political influence to get laws and regulations that make big money even bigger, and prevent laws and rules that threaten its wealth and power.

Before Hillary can accomplish anything important, that vicious cycle has to be reversed. But how?

Bear with me a moment for some pertinent history.

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As economist John Kenneth Galbraith noted in the 1950s, a key legacy of the New Deal was creating centers of economic power that offset the power of giant corporations and Wall Street: labor unions, small retail businesses, local banks, and political parties active at the state and local levels.

These alternative power centers supported policies that helped America's vast middle and working classes during the first three decades after World War II -- the largest infrastructure project in American history (the Interstate Highway program), a vast expansion of nearly-free public higher education, Medicare and Medicaid, and, to pay for all this, high taxes on the wealthy. (Between 1946 and 1980, the top marginal tax rate never dipped below 70 percent.)

But over the last three decades, countervailing power has almost vanished from American politics. Labor unions have been decimated. In the 2012 presidential election, the richest 0.01 percent of households gave Democratic candidates more than four times what unions contributed to their campaigns.

Small retailers have been displaced by Walmart and Amazon. Local banks have been absorbed by Wall Street behemoths.

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Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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