Former President Bill Clinton mused Friday that supporters of Bernie Sanders believe shooting people who work on Wall Street would help cure the economic imbalances that have animated the Vermont senator's presidential campaign.Shoot every third person on Wall Street? I think a lot of Americans these days believe that might be a pretty good idea. And not just on the left -- as Dave Weigel wrote in January, that anger shows up on the right as well:
"I think it's fine that all these young students have been so enthusiastic for her opponent and say, 'It's all good, just shoot every third person on Wall Street and everything will be fine,'" Clinton told a small afternoon audience in Washington Heights.
At the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition convention, the name “Barack Obama” drew immediate grimaces and groans. Only two other words came close to matching that reaction.Of course, conservatives tend to see Wall Street as being in a liberal conspiracy with a big-government Establishment; the solutions proposed by Wall Street-bashing politicians on the right tend to involve, like conservative solutions to everything, less government.
“If we go someplace and order dinner for $15, and we don’t pay, we get a criminal record,” said Sarah Pawlikowski, a tea party activist from Columbia. “Why is Wall Street treated any different?”
“I think a lot of people should have gone to jail,” said Cooper Wellons, a local land developer. “If I’d have done some of the things they did on Wall Street, I’d have gone to jail.”
Eight years after the start of the Great Recession, and seven years since the Troubled Asset Relief Program was implemented, the anger at major financial institutions has only grown -- in both parties....
In 2013, a Reuters-Ipsos poll of more than 1,400 Americans found that just 22 percent approved of TARP -- years after the banks had been stabilized. Last year, when Lake Research Partners polled on behalf of the progressive Americans for Financial Reform, it found 70 percent agreeing with the statement that “most people on Wall Street would be willing to break the law if they believed they could make a lot of money and get away with it.”
But the anger is there. It's across the political spectrum. So forget what Bill Clinton personally believes -- why does he think sticking up for Wall Street is smart politics at this moment in time?
It's often said that left and right partisans are doing a really terrible thing these days by gravitating toward media sources that reinforce their political beliefs. Confirmation bias, we're told, leads liberals and conservatives to believe reporting and commentary that affirms their beliefs.
But why wouldn't this also apply to someone like Bill Clinton, who's centrist with a hint of liberalism? He formed his belief system a long time ago: On economics, don't be a passionate defender of old-fashioned New Deal/Great Society liberalism. Leaven that tradition with a lot of support for corporatism without abandoning it altogether -- do that and you'll win back moderate whites while retaining the loyalties of liberals and non-whites. This worked for him in the '90s. His wife is running on a modified version of it now.
Hillary's platform, as a result, is pragmatic, but it's dispiriting. And it completely overlooks a rage that's become utterly mainstream.
I assume Bill Clinton is still a voracious consumer of the news -- but I strongly suspect that he limits himself to a narrow spectrum of sources that are right down the middle. I bet, in his news world, the economy is recovering nicely, people have it pretty good right now, and significant discontent is limited to "angry voices on the left and right." All that anger, in his view, is stirred up up by mirror-image ideological media outlets at the extremes.
If I'm right about this, Bill Clinton's media diet tells him what he wants to believe. He completely misses rising anger at Wall Street. He's stuck in the same idea bubble he's been in for decades.