New progressive mantra: Greed is good

I’m old enough to remember when this was considered an indictment of a generation — the Ronald Reagan generation, to be specific:

In 2012, we got plenty of lectures about how the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, was too wealthy to relate to ordinary people. Despite a long track record of philanthropic support, Romney was derided as a One Percenter with no connection to the common person, who ended up being known more for his car elevator than for his work to rescue the Salt Lake Olympics or his desire to succeed at business on his own terms rather than his family’s. The nature of his business, venture capital, came under withering fire for its supposed prioritization of wealth acquisition over production and expansion.

That was then; this is the Hillary Clinton now, according to Matt Bai at Yahoo. Common touch? Who needs it? Bai doesn’t want someone who is the same as the hoi polloi, and suddenly acquisitiveness is a virtue to be praised — except for its potential to make “bad decisions”:

Senator Sanders made this comment while sitting in what CNBC described as a “bistro near the Capitol,” which doesn’t exactly sound like Applebee’s, but you get the point: Clinton is out of touch with regular Americans because she doesn’t buy used cars or stockpile CVS coupons or save up for Disneyland like the rest of us do.

To which I would only ask: why on God’s earth would we want a president like us? …

But if you’re asking me to choose between the self-made man or woman with resentments and identity issues, on one hand, and some arrogant oligarch who serves no financial master and is compelled to seek office mostly by some patronizing sense of altruism on the other (Michael Bloomberg, New York’s former mayor, comes to mind), then I’ll take out-of-touch every time, and so should you.

In fact, if there’s anything voters should fear about Clinton, perhaps, it’s not that she’s rich but that she doesn’t seem to regard herself that way. Having come from modest means and devoted most of their lives to public service, the Clintons seem to spend an awful lot of time these days focused on accumulating money, as if they still don’t have very much of it.

The speeches that have recently netted them $30 million, the foundation that sucks up cash from foreign governments, the first-class tickets for a two-hour flight from New Hampshire to Washington — all of it speaks to some underlying need to live in the rarified world they could only hope to glimpse as career politicians.

Gordon Gekko’s acquisitiveness was probably compensation for social exclusion, too. And?

The “modest means” quality of the Clintons disappeared a long time ago. Both were well-educated, and have spent the last 30-plus years living in taxpayer-funded mansions as governor and President, or in wealthy estates funded in part by taxpayers through generous pensions. Even during the latter period, Hillary got paid decently enough as a Senator and then Secretary of State until 2013. Despite claims to have been “dead broke” at the end of Bill’s presidency, both of them scored multi-million-dollar book deals and had the wherewithal to maintain two upscale residences. At least the “arrogant oligarchs” weren’t still looking for ways to make millions off of their connections to the public trust, which Bai seems to excuse in the Clintons as merely aspirational yearning for a higher station in life.

Don’t be too surprised by progressives looking to excuse what they condemned four years earlier. It’s part of the conundrum of having the Clintons emerge again as the Democratic Party’s establishment choice and the apparent lack of all other options. In my column today for The Fiscal Times, I point out more contradictions raised by yesterday’s news on the correlation between arms sales and the Clinton Foundation, and the pass-through entity used by Bill to keep his consultancy fees under wraps:

Remember when Democrats and progressives complained that George W. Bush was a warmonger, one who partnered with oppressive regimes? Sirota notes that the Clinton Foundation took cash from regimes like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Algeria, and Hamas’s diplomatic ally Qatar while approving large arms sales. The Israelis objected strenuously to a $29 billion arms sale to the Saudis, and even Clinton warned about their lack of cooperation on counterterrorism strategy. Qatari cooperation against terrorism was “considered to be the worst in the region,” Hillary also declared in internal memos exposed by Wikileaks years later.

Proving that news organizations cannot count on a Scoop of the Day with the Clinton beat, the Associated Press followed up later in the day with another revelation about the Clinton family’s finances. Despite claiming to have committed to extraordinary transparency, Hillary’s financial disclosures somehow omitted a shell company used to pay Bill’s consulting fees. The Delaware corporation WJC LLC was launched in 2008, moved to New York in 2009, and returned to Delaware in 2013. It exists as precisely the kind of “pass-through entity” that Democrats criticized when Mitt Romney turned out to have used one for nearly $2 million in capital-venture payments.  …

The legal requirement to prove corruption usually rests on finding explicit quid pro quo arrangements. With the Clintons, we have lots of quid, lots of quo, and two old pros in between it all. Bob McDonnell was convicted of corruption with less evidence of pay-for-play during his term as governor in Virginia. The Clintons sought millions of dollars in donations, speech fees, and consultancies from foreign countries and powerful industrialists and at the same time approved significant financial deals such as Uranium One and hundreds of billions in arms sales. They got rich off the nexus of power and federal authority. Now they want to get their hands on the highest authority in the US to extend their power and exploitation.

Even if prosecutors never make a criminal case against the Clintons for corruption — and it’s impossible to imagine the Obama administration’s Department of Justice taking up the case — that does not let voters off the hook. Do voters want real accountability, checks on power, and national leadership that puts public service ahead of the public trough? Or will they vote for the family that exploits the supposed “military-industrial complex”?

As I mention in the column, it all weirdly parallels the execrable film White House Down, and this rerun is just as bad.