Glass-Steagall highlights Democratic differences

From left, Democratic presidential candidates Jim Webb, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee on the debate stage on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2015, in Las Vegas.

The first Democratic debate featured numerous topics, but economic policies set the candidates apart. Economic issues like Glass-Steagall and trade agreements have separated the two big contenders for the Democratic nomination.

The economy is a major issue that has Democrats split. On one side are Democrats such as Obama and Clinton. They have a more Neo-liberal view of economics compared to progressives and they support free-trade agreements.

On the other side are members like Bernie Sanders and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). They support breaking up the big banks, stronger regulations and favor fair trade over free trade.

While the economy continues to show growth and falling unemployment, the American people do not feel much better off. This conundrum baffles many in the New Left, politics which are characterized by identity politics or are class-based.

Enter Bernie Sanders. While Hillary speaks in generalities and has the presumptive nominee aura, Bernie Sanders contrasts these specific policies and underdog appeal.

The main issue for Sanders is the widening income inequality that is holding back America. A quick look at the Bernie Sanders Facebook page shows quotes from Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower.

Sanders harkens back to these leaders as they enacted policies that lowered income inequality and and expanded prosperity for the American people. FDR’s New Deal policies, in fact, helped usher a generation of economic prosperity after the Second World War.

Through the internet, Sanders has been educating voters about the prosperity of the New Deal Era and contrasting it with the growing inequality of the reigning political-economic philosophy (1980-present).

When they speak and debate, Hillary Clinton appears to more stagnant and status quo, where five percent unemployment is considered an economy fixed. Sanders sounds like the glory days of New Deal era, where five percent unemployment was considered failure and two percent was considered success.

The economic platform of Sanders sounds straight from the New Deal Era. His support for massive infrastructure development reminds me of FDR’s WPA and Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway act, the act that created the interstate highway system which brings many students to Valparaiso.

His support for unions and fair trade are in contrast with the lukewarm relations with labor and free trade support from many in today’s Democratic party. His commitment to sustainable energy reminds me of the commitment to science during the 1960s that put a man on the moon.

Hillary Clinton’s economic platform is harder to define and may appear not much different from Obama and the status quo. Sen. Sanders successfully defines himself as a different candidate, and this appeals to many Americans who want to see a difference in policy.

A poignant example of the difference between Sanders and Clinton is over the Glass-Steagall Act. The act was a Great Depression Era law that prevented commercial and investment banks from being one entity.

The purpose was to safeguard the local, commercial banks from the riskier Wall Street investment banks. The law was on the books for over sixty years until its repeal under President Bill Clinton. Sen. Sanders supports its restoration, while Hillary Clinton does not. Hillary Clinton says her plan will reign in Wall Street more effectively than Sanders, but I did not hear much detail on the matter at the debate.

The debate stage featured five candidates, but only two that stood out. Hillary Clinton represented the status quo of the Democratic Party and the New Left. This was displayed by Hillary Clinton’s response to what would make her different than a third term of Obama. Her response was basically, she would be the first woman president and that would be a big difference. I did not hear any real elaboration of her different policies.

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, struck me as what the Democratic Party was when it was at its apex under the New Deal Era. Sanders’ hope and definable policies reminded me of Franklin Roosevelt.

Hillary may end up winning the nomination, but she will not be able to ignore the Bernie supporters that want meaningful change in America, not the status quo.

As an Old Left/New Deal Democrat, I support Bernie Sanders and the chance that his candidacy has to restore the Democratic Party back to what it used to be: the party of the hard working American.

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Hunter Balczo at torchnews@valpo.edu.


Last Tuesday, the first of six Democratic presidential debates was held in Las Vegas. Center stage stood heir apparent Hillary Clinton. To the left, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Jim Webb. To the right, Govs. Martin O’Malley and Lincoln Chafee.

Going into the debate, national polling suggested Clinton held as much as a 23 percent lead over self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist Sanders, who, in turn, led the rest of the field by a similar margin. The democratic remainder accounted for a mere 2.4 percent combined, making this debate a crucial event for Chaffee, O’Malley and Webb.

Other than take subtle digs at Clinton’s recent scandals, Chaffee made no waves in his frankly forgettable nine minutes and eleven seconds.

Jim Webb had a decent showing, remaining calm in the din. In a shocking monologue, Webb strayed from the party line on gun control. By the end of the night, pundits from the left and right were saying he had proved himself to be a calm, collected and, indeed, viable candidate…for the Republican party.

Left as contenders are establishment candidate Clinton, radical Sanders and darkhorse O’Malley, who spent a good deal of the debate patting each other on the back. Sanders had his best moment of the night while commiserating with Clinton saying, “the American people are sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails!”

O’Malley consistently praised the quality of candidates on stage, painting them as compassionate problem solvers against a backdrop of race baiting, misogynistic Republican demagogues (i.e., Donald Trump).

The night's most exciting moment came in the form of a three-way duel over a little-known financial regulation, Glass-Steagall. Glass-Steagall refers to four provisions of the U.S. Banking Act of 1933 which, in essence, used the trust-busting logic pioneered by Theodore Roosevelt to separate the commercial and investment banking sectors under his distant cousin, Franklin D. Roosevelt.

While enforcement of these mammoth provisions dwindled in the post-war years, it was not repealed until late in the Bill Clinton administration.

The repeal was a key sticking point for Sanders who, as second in line and a self-proclaimed Socialist, found in Glass-Steagall an opportunity to nail Clinton to the cross of corporate cronyism.

His true colors were on full display as he bemoaned the “greed and illegal behavior of Wall Street, where fraud is a business model,” and that “Congress does not regulate Wall Street, Wall Street Regulates Congress,” harkening back to the cacophonous populist tirade which stifled any meaningful dialogue in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Clinton defended her position in brilliant political fashion. Sanders attacked her for being soft on financial monopoly because her husband was instrumental in repealing Glass-Steagall. Rather than defend her position, she opened up war on a new front, pedaling her model for reining in the maniacal corporate-financial beast.

Put simply, Clinton wants to “rein in and stop this risk,” a strategy which, among other things, includes putting executives she deems responsible in jail. Really? What is the statute of limitations on pursuing “illegal behavior” from 2008?

Limited to a few soundbites near the end of discussion on this topic, Gov. O’Malley sounded the most logical and articulate. The first to really delve into statistics on the issue, O’Malley said since the repeal of Glass-Steagall, big banks have grown from controlling 15 percent of gross domestic product to 65 percent of GDP.

In this particular exchange, O’Malley joined Sanders on Clinton’s political left flank, the same position President Barack Obama beat her from in 2008, not a good omen for the Democratic frontrunner.

What we see in this election is nothing short of a monumental realignment of partisan politics. The Democratic field is a living, breathing hyperbole of the rich, white Republican stereotype. The Republican field contains some of the “political elite,” but also a healthy dose of outsiders and lesser-knows.

Although harsh or bombastic at times, Republican candidates are engaging with full vigor the issues of immigration, religious freedom, unemployment and economic growth. Gallup tells us 46 percent of people polled identify these as the most important issues facing the country.

Democrats, the self-proclaimed party of the people, would rather pay homage to party loyalty than debate salient issues. For the first time in a long time, the obviously uncharismatic, disengaged, wonkish, over-your-head talking party is the Democrats. Have fun living in the arguments of the 1930s. This time Republicans are, dare I say it, more “progressive.”

The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch. Contact Jacob Schlosser at torchnews@valpo.edu.

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