Fear and Pandering in Las Vegas

Staff Columnist

Democratic debate night in Las Vegas featured a group of elderly white people who seemed angry about the condition of the country, seemingly forgetting their party had owned the presidency for the last seven years.

Each candidate seemed possessed by the fear someone might be promising more free stuff than they are so we are told some of us should be taxed more so that others of us could be given lots more free stuff. They all seemed to adopt the panderers motto, if you rob Peter to pay Paul, you’ll likely get Paul’s vote.

Cynics noted that for a party that makes a big noise about diversity, the crowd on the stage was uniformly white and old. Columnist Erick Erickson made a good point when he noted that “the most diverse thing on stage was the assorted array of liver spots on the candidates.”

Anderson Cooper did a good job as moderator. But, if you watched that exercise you had to note that Cooper stayed away from any questions about foreign policy. Cooper seemed to understand today’s version of the Democratic Party tends to be insular and is far more interested in transgender bathrooms for grade schools, insuring every gay wedding has a cake provided by someone who didn’t want to provide a cake, or insuring that female Georgetown law students have access to free government birth control.

Listening to Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, you had to come to the conclusion that punishing the one percent is a top priority. The principal reason seems to be the one percent has lots of money and it would nice if they could be made to atone for their sins by giving lots of it to other people. All agreed college education should be free. What they really mean, of course, is that the cost should be shifted to the taxpayers. Illegal immigrants, not to be left out, should be eligible for Obamacare and, presumably, they should also be eligible for free college.

We learned President Obama has been inordinately successful in running the economy, maybe as successful as any president we have ever had. Yet, according to the candidates, there’s a growing gap between the wealthy and the middle class, in fact that middle class is disappearing and to fix all this we need a New Deal — a really new, New Deal. I have a question. If the wealth gap has grown, if the middle class is being destroyed, if the only thing that can save us is a new, New Deal, just what has the Obama administration done for the economy in the last six years that merits high praise? Unfortunately, that question was never asked.

Clinton, according to most observers, lapped the field. She, as expected, was polished, erudite and duplicitous. She said during the debate that she had hoped that the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be the gold standard and it grieved her mightily that the agreement reached by the Obama administration fell short of this high standard. But, in her book, she said the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement “was” the gold standard and it “was” possibly her proudest achievement.

You had to wonder what Lincoln Chafee was doing there. He looks a bit like the guy you expect to see on TV reminiscing about 1969 when he caught Jim Morrison and the Doors at the Dinner Key Auditorium where Morrison melted down. In other words, Chafee looked like he belongs in a group of Sanders’ supporters.

But Chafee had one memorable moment when he uttered, “But let me just say this about income inequality. We’ve had a lot of talk over the last few minutes, hours or tens of minutes, but no one is saying how we’re going to fix it.” Then he blew it with “it all started with the Bush tax cuts that favored the wealthy.” Actually, the Bush tax cuts had the highest 10 percent of earners paying a larger share of federal income taxes than before. In other words, Bush made the tax code more progressive.

But Chafee isn’t the only socialist-to-be that’s confused. Bernie Sanders and Hillary got into it when Hillary reminded Bernie that the United States wasn’t Denmark and he responded by defending the Danish economic model. One might wish that the leading socialist minds of this age might make an effort to know what they’re talking about. As Kevin D. Williamson wrote, “Never mind, for the moment, that neither of these batty old geezers has the foggiest idea of what’s going on in Denmark, or in the other Nordic countries.”

The reality is that Denmark and Sweden have been engaged in a long campaign of reforming their welfare state. Denmark’s current prime minister even wrote a book, the title of which translates to “From Social State to Minimal State.”

Sanders was very upset that six big banks have assets equal to 65 percent of our GDP. Again, as Williamson reports, Sanders is out to lunch. Denmark’s largest bank has assets totaling 1.6 times Denmark’s GDP. Still, a fact like this escapes him as he criticizes the American model while praising the Danish. Truth is he’s not very informed about either.

Instead of paraphrasing Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” the title of this column could have been a direct quote. Politicians constant fear that they somehow might be out pandered and that maybe the reason many of the public loath the current political class.

The pander fest in Las Vegas last October 11 will do nothing to change that.

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