Bernie’s Movement (And Why Krugman & Co. Don't Get It)

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Bernie’s Movement (And Why Krugman & Co. Don't Get It)

Bernie Sanders spoke to packed crowd, which included these enthusiastic supporterss, at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. (Photo: US News & World)

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman on Friday warned Bernie supporters that change doesn’t happen with “transformative rhetoric” but with “political pragmatism” – “accepting half loaves as being better than none.” He writes that it’s dangerous to prefer “happy dreams (by which he means Bernie) to hard thinking about means and ends (meaning Hillary).”

Political “pragmatism” may require accepting “half loaves” – but the full loaf has to be large and bold enough in the first place to make the half loaf meaningful.

Krugman doesn’t get it. I’ve been in and around Washington for almost fifty years, including a stint in the cabinet, and I’ve learned that real change happens only when a substantial share of the American public is mobilized, organized, energized, and determined to make it happen. 

Political “pragmatism” may require accepting “half loaves” – but the full loaf has to be large and bold enough in the first place to make the half loaf meaningful. That’s why the movement must aim high – toward a single-payer universal health, free public higher education, and busting up the biggest banks, for example. 

But not even a half loaf is possible unless or until we wrest back power from the executives of large corporations, Wall Street bankers, and billionaires who now control the whole bakery. Which means getting big money out of politics and severing the link between wealth and political power – the central goal of the movement Bernie is advancing.

Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Robert Reich, is the Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations, Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary INEQUALITY FOR ALL.

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