The Phony Campaign

2020-02-02 Update

Need a reason to get stinking drunk? Our phony update this week should do the trick, but just in case, it's also Groundhog Day. Nothing says "Have another glass of wine" more than Groundhog Day, amirite?

Oh, and also the Super Bowl. I have $20 on the 49ers against the spread. The nice thing about sports betting is that both winning and losing provides an additional drinking excuse.

But on to our normal Sunday featurette. Both Mayor Pete and Senator Liz dropped below our inclusion threshold (restored to 2% win probability). Liz is just barely under, at 1.9% as I type, but rules is rules.

Mayor Pete, in contrast, dropped all the way down to 0.9%. Below Hillary (1.1%).

So on the diversity watch: our current slate is 100% white, 100% male, 100% straight (as far as I know), 100% septuagenarian.

And, hey 50% Jewish, 25% Catholic, and 25% Presbyterian. At least technically. I don't know how seriously any of them take their religion.

But our phony leader is unchallenged:

Candidate WinProb Change
Donald Trump 54.9% +1.4% 1,870,000 -70,000
Bernie Sanders 16.2% +0.1% 557,000 +76,000
Joe Biden 12.2% -0.9% 510,000 +1,000
Michael Bloomberg 7.4% +0.3% 99,600 +12,800

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

This week, we concentrate on Bernie:

  • At his New York Times perch, Bret Stephens asks Anyone but Trump? Not So Fast. But an alternate headline could have been: "President Bernie? President Liz? Are You Kidding?"

    Bret is a proud never-Trumper, but he disdains the argument that either Liz or Bernie would be obviously preferable. Because:

    […] the argument understates the radicalism of what Sanders and Warren propose. Theirs is not a painless policy massage in the direction of a kinder, gentler economy. It’s a frontal and highhanded assault on American capitalism. If it succeeded, it would entail devastating dislocations to millions of workers lasting for years. If it failed, it would have devastating effects on the country lasting for decades.

    How devastating? In October, Brian Riedl of the Manhattan Institute tallied the costs of Mr. Sanders’s policy goals. By his calculations, the federal government would double in size. Half the American work force would be employed by the government, Mr. Riedl writes. Government spending as a percent of G.D.P. would rise to 70 percent (in Sweden, it’s less than 50 percent). The 15.3 percent payroll tax would hit 27.2 percent to help pay for Medicare for All. Total additional outlays would reach $97.5 trillion on top of the nearly $90 trillion the federal, state and local governments are projected to spend over the next decade.

    At least Sanders is honest enough to call this what it is: socialism. Warren’s terminology is less forthright. Her ambition is no less breathtaking.

    Bernie (however) is not honest enough to get nailed down on numbers:

    Norah O’Donnell, anchor for CBS News: “You don’t know how much your plan costs?”

    Mr. Sanders: “You don’t know. Nobody knows. This is impossible to predict.”

    Ms. O’Donnell: “You’re going to propose a plan to the American people, and you’re not going to tell them how much it costs?”

    Mr. Sanders: “Of course, I will. Do you know exactly what health care costs will be, one minute, in the next ten years if we do nothing? It will be a lot more expensive than a Medicare for all single-payer system.”

    "I was told there would be no math."

  • Bulwark-based Trump-hater Richard North Patterson is also dismayed about Bernie: This Is How Trump Would Destroy Bernie Sanders. His article is very, very long. But here he discusses Bernie's "organizer-in-chief" vision for "rallying the American people" behind his proposals, once he's in:

    This turbocharged populist presidency […] will stampede the previously adamantine Republican majority leader into compliance: “That’s how change comes about: you make an offer to Mitch McConnell that he cannot refuse, and that is that the American people want to move in a different direction.”

    Put more starkly, Sanders proposes to effect this sea change by summoning from scratch a movement unprecedented in our political history: a permanent mass mobilization of a militant majority of voters—most of whom were previously passive observers—reanimated as unremitting progressive political activists bent on compelling a recalcitrant Congress to enact the Sanders agenda through an exponential expansion of governmental power.

    The anti-gravitational grandiosity of this vision raises fundamental questions about its honesty and practicability, the danger that inflamed expectations will breed further alienation and, not least, Sanders’ own grasp of observable reality.

    I can see why Trump wants to run against Bernie.

  • But to paint Bernie as an inflexible socialist ideologue with beliefs cast in stone… that's not quite right either. As Alex Griswold at the Free Beacon points out, he can adjust in at least one area: Sanders Says He Held Hawkish Immigration Views '250 Years Ago' (It Was 2015).

    In an interview transcript released on [January 13], New York Times editor Nick Fox asked Sanders if he still believed that foreign workers depress wages for Americans. "No," Sanders responded. "That's what I said on the Lou Dobbs show 250 years ago, right?"

    Sanders made that argument in 2015 on at least two occasions. "What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy," Sanders said in a Vox interview. "Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them. I don't believe in that. I think we have to raise wages in this country."

    Whoa, he sounded almost like Trump there. Can't have that.

  • At Reason, Peter Suderman says what should be obvious to anyone not devoted to fantasy economics: Bernie Sanders’ Wealth Tax Would Be Bad For Workers. Even if it worked as advertised, which it would not:

    Strictly speaking, the Sanders wealth tax would be paid only by a relatively small number of wealthy families and individuals. But that doesn't necessarily reveal the full extent of the tax's impact on the broader economy. And according to a recent study by former Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Holtz-Eakin and Gordon Gray, both of whom are now affiliated with the conservative policy organization American Action Forum (AAF), the effects of a wealth tax would extend throughout the economy, reducing the supply of capital and decreasing investment, which would negatively impact worker pay. 

    Sanders' wealth tax would cost workers about $1.6 trillion over a decade, they estimate. Over time, as the impact of the tax grew, workers would end up implicitly shouldering about 63 percent of the burden. The wealthy would indeed have less wealth, but workers would come out behind as well. Sanders, the champion of the working class, would effectively be taxing the working class he claims he wants to support. 

    Also there's the minor problem that a wealth tax that destroys wealth is unsustainable nearly by definition.

  • At the Free Beacon, Andrew Kugle notes MSNBC anchor Chris Matthews proposing a religious test for public office: Sanders Is No 'Good Samaritan'.

    "Suppose you're lying on the road hurt, maybe you've had something happen to you, you fainted, whatever happened, which of the candidates would stop their car and get out and help you?" Matthews asked during Morning Joe. "You have your candidate, I think. I'm not sure about all of them. I think Biden wins that one pretty easily, Elizabeth maybe. I don't think Bernie wins it. Do you honestly think Bernie would stop and help you? I'm not sure.

    "I know these are tough questions, they cut to the gut, but they are the question you have to ask about. Will this person help me when I need them? Because the rest is BS. It is all speech writing," Matthews added.

    I'm not sure which I find more bizarre: (a) Chris Matthews thinking he can get inside candidates' heads; or (b) Chris Matthews thinking this is an important insight; or (c) Chris Matthews (somehow) equating private compassion with presidential qualities.

    For aren't we all lying in the road hurt, in a very real sense?

    Um, no.

  • Bryan Caplan does the math: Is Bernie Sanders a Crypto-Communist? A Bayesian Analysis.

    The word “crypto-communist” has a paranoid, McCarthyite connotation.  But during the Cold War, numerous communist intellectuals and politicians deliberately concealed their commitment to Marxism-Leninism.  Why?  To be more successful intellectuals and politicians.  A few crypto-communists even managed to become national leaders.  Fidel Castro gained power in 1959, but only announced his communism in 1961.  Nelson Mandela presented himself as a reasonable democratic reformer.  Yet after his death, the African National Congress openly admittedly that Mandela had been on the politburo of the South African Communist Party for decades.  Ho Chi Minh joined the Communist Party in 1920, but in 1945 he loudly posed as a moderate democratic reformer – famously quoting the U.S. Declaration of Independence to charm the West.  Juan Negrin, last prime minister of Republican Spain, was also very likely a crypto-communist.

    Which brings me to my question: What about Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders?  Is he a crypto-communist?  Sanders has sent decades worth of frightening signals – praising Soviet bloc regimes, honeymooning in the Soviet Union, and such.  Indeed, he’s said and done almost exactly what you would expect a sincere Marxist-Leninist who wanted to be a U.S. Senator would say and do.  Note, moreover, that Sanders came of political age during the 60s and 70s, when communism made a big comeback in the U.S. radical left.

    Spoiler: Bryan puts the probability at 15.8%. Not crazy high, but high enough to worry.

  • And the Daily Wire notes an interesting tweet: Photo Shows How Bernie’s Campaign Tries To Downplay To Voters That He’s Socialist. And via the magic of Twitter embedding:

    A Google search reveals that this "Affirm/Answer/Redirect" thing is a standard Jedi mind trick pushed by labor organizers.

    But note the utter condescension of the argument. The only reason people don't like socialism is because it's "scary"? Assume your target finds the term "intimidating"? Because it's "unfamiliar"?

    Yes, these folks really think their target audience is frightened, ignorant, and easily intimidated.

Last Modified 2020-02-03 4:28 AM EDT