The very thin skin of Elizabeth Warren
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) is shaping up as a left-wing dream alternative to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race. Warren says she has no plans to run (which won’t matter if she changes her mind, of course) but Democrats uneasy about Clinton apparently think she’d enter the race with most of Clinton’s advantages, obviously including the “historic female candidate” merit badge, but less baggage.
Anyone who believes this is dramatically underestimating how weird and ridiculous Warren will appear to an electorate outside of Massachusetts, especially given her propensity to make false claims of American Indian heritage to game the racial spoils system. She’s also the intellectual godmother of Barack Obama’s “You didn’t build that!” speech from last year, having become a left-wing YouTube darling by advancing the theory that every nickel of private-sector wealth is the rightful property of the State, because nobody could possibly run any business operation without the vital services provided by government, such as the roads leading into their parking lots. For this reason, no Evil Rich private-sector businessman has any moral standing to object to any tax increase, because the State can reclaim whatever portion of its rightful property it deems necessary to care for the social needs of the Sainted Middle Class and Deserving Poor.
I rather doubt Americans coming out of Barack Obama’s endless recession are going to be hungry for more statist rhetoric, or eager to enjoy the next exciting adventure of the ideology that gave us ObamaCare, but we shall see.
Meanwhile, the other big problem dogging Warren is that she has a very thin skin. Her hard-left wing seeks to consolidate its grip on the Democrat Party, and she’s got an Obama level of comfort with using government power to suppress dissent. That’s something else I don’t think Americans will want to see more of in 2016.
Warren’s ire has been focused into a bit of blue-on-blue fury against a group called Third Way, whose president Jon Cowan and senior VP Jim Kessler wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed critical of the “economic populism” of Sen. Warren and New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio:
The political problems of liberal populism are bad enough. Worse are the actual policies proposed by left-wing populists. The movement relies on a potent “we can have it all” fantasy that goes something like this: If we force the wealthy to pay higher taxes (there are 300,000 tax filers who earn more than $1 million), close a few corporate tax loopholes, and break up some big banks then—presto!—we can pay for, and even expand, existing entitlements. Meanwhile, we can invest more deeply in K-12 education, infrastructure, health research, clean energy and more.
Cowan and Kessler really got on Warren’s nerves by daring to touch the third rail of American politics:
Social Security is exhibit A of this populist political and economic fantasy. A growing cascade of baby boomers will be retiring in the coming years, and the Social Security formula increases their initial benefits faster than inflation. The problem is that since 2010 Social Security payouts to seniors have exceeded payroll taxes collected from workers. This imbalance widens inexorably until it devours the entire Social Security Trust Fund in 2031, according to the Congressional Budget Office. At that point, benefits would have to be slashed by about 23%.
Undeterred by this undebatable solvency crisis, Sen. Warren wants to increase benefits to all seniors, including billionaires, and to pay for them by increasing taxes on working people and their employers. Her approach requires a $750 billion tax hike over the next 10 years that hits mostly Millennials and Gen Xers, plus another $750 billion tax on the businesses that employ them.
Even more reckless is the populists’ staunch refusal to address the coming Medicare crisis. In 2030, a typical couple reaching the eligibility age of 65 will have paid $180,000 in lifetime Medicare taxes but will get back $664,000 in benefits. Given that this disparity will be completely unaffordable, Sen. Warren and her acolytes are irresponsibly pushing off budget decisions that will guarantee huge benefit cuts and further tax hikes for Gen Xers and Millennials in a few decades.
You mean the deficit unicorns chained up in the basement of the Treasury won’t be able to poop out rainbow Skittles and dollar bills forever? Heresy! Speak not to socialists of the day their bills will come due, for they will have long since retired to palatial estates by then, offering no refunds to those trapped in the bleak ruins of their false promises and forgotten talking points. The doctrinaire collectivists angling for control of the post-Obama Democrat Party think such criticism sounds positively… Republican.
Which means Third Way is going to get treated like a pack of Republicans by hard-left Democrats, who demanded that gubernatorial candidate Allyson Y. Schwartz of Pennsylvania – who had nothing to do with the WSJ op-ed, and in fact strongly denounced it – resign her post as honorary co-chairwoman of Third Way. The Washington Times surveyed the political fallout:
The squabble marks the beginning of a fight over the direction of his party as it prepares for the 2016 elections and a new leader.
“This is the latest in a series of situations that are going to play out in the weeks and months to come as Democrats struggle to figure out how to move forward in the post-Obama era,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist. “What is definitely going on is the left sees an opening given the current political dynamic for them to try to assert some sort of control on the Democratic Party.”
Christy Setzer, a Democratic consultant, said that “the safety net’s making a comeback.”
“Polls show that not only do Americans want to preserve Social Security, they want to see it expanded — not just in NYC, but in Colorado,” Ms. Setzer said. “That means that moving to the left is a viable position for Democrats in blue and red states alike.”
[...] The Progressive Change Committee, which wants Congress to spend more on Social Security, responded by urging people to call Mrs. Schwartz and warn her that being associated with this “Wall-Street funded group that attacks Elizabeth Warren” is not the way to win the Democratic primary.
Howard Dean’s Democracy for America said Pennsylvanians already have a governor who supports cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits and they don’t need another one.
“If Allyson Schwartz opposes cutting the benefits that seniors and working families rely on and earn with every single paycheck, now is the time for her to say so publicly and resign from her position at Third Way,” said Jim Dean, chairman of the group.
The most left-wing President in generations wasn’t left enough for these people, and they’re not about to let the grinding unemployment and horrific Big Government failure he bestowed upon the Republic stop them from making the case that Leviathan needs to pack on a few more pounds. Dissent and disobedience are still possible, so there is more work for the Left ahead.
Here’s what the Third Way writers were responding to:
Speaking on the floor of the Senate two weeks later [after de Blaiso's election in New York], Mrs. Warren said that if the nation wants a real middle class then Congress must get serious about the nation’s retirement system because more people than ever are on the edge of financial disaster once they retire.
“That is why we should be talking about expanding Social Security benefits, not cutting them,” she said.
Well, at least it’s nice to see liberals drop all pretense that Social Security is some sort of fabulous government-managed investment program, owned by the people who spent a lifetime pumping money into it. For the hard Left, old people are supposed to be pensioners, loyal clients of the absolute State, which supports them as perpetual dependents through the long sunset years made possible by modern medical technology. The average lifespan has vastly increased since the New Deal, which rational people view as a massive demographic problem, but socialists see it as a gateway to invincible political power, harvesting votes from a vast farm of hapless elderly dependents.
It’ll work until the money runs out in a decade or two, and then… off to that fabulous retirement estate, suckers! Liz Warren is a millionaire, just like all the other socialist Men and Women of the People. She won’t be relying on Social Security for her golden years.
Warren jumped in and made a clumsy effort to show Third Way a little of the oppressive government razzle-dazzle that the Tea Party got from Barack Obama’s IRS, as chronicled by Politico:
From a senior DC Republican on Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.): “The normally savvy Liz Warren may have made a rare misstep … in response to … Third Way publishing an op-ed critical of her populist liberal policy positions. Rather than meet the policy arguments head on in the arena of ideas, Warren chose to fire off an intemperate letter to the CEOs of major financial institutions effectively demanding that they disclose all their corporate contributions to policy wonks and think tanks — implying but not saying that they were stealth underwriters of the op-ed objecting to her own views.
“The Warren letter was a mistake for a number of reasons. First, there is absolutely no evidence beyond feverish conspiracy talk that the banks asked Third Way to write an op-ed critical of Warren. Accusing the banks with no evidence puts Warren in the company of Larouche-like quacks. Second, attacking think tank donors makes Warren look like an opponent of a robust stream of idea development and discussion. This is, to say the least, an odd place for a former Harvard Law School professor to be, and will make even the taciturn pundits at AEI and Brookings very uncomfortable.
“Third, Warren’s ‘give me the names’ edict, sounds uncomfortably like the kind of demand that Joe McCarthy would have made in the 1950s. The response that silenced him ironically came from a Massachusetts lawyer, Joseph Welch — who simply looked McCarthy in the eye and said ‘at long last, have you left no sense of decency?’ Indeed.”
Is there anyone who really thinks liberals value “a robust stream of idea development and discussion” any more? They’re all about obedience and submission. They want power, which is diluted by meaningful dissent. They most certainly don’t want to hear anyone linked to Democrat politics puncture the “we can have it all fantasy” that underlies their entire ideology.
That’s what Barack Obama’s Big Lie was all about, remember: promising people they could keep their existing insurance plans, that nothing would change for them at all, while ObamaCare showered benefits on a needy and deserving few. In other words, he was pretending that a compulsory program was voluntary. That’s what the fantasy criticized by Cowan and Kessler boils down to, and it’s the secret liberals absolutely cannot tolerate voters learning about their agenda… not while it’s still possible to vote against them.