Thoroughly Unprepared: How Bernie Sanders Flunked the Test on His Own Signature Issues of Banks and Trade

Thoroughly Unprepared: How Bernie Sanders Flunked the Test on His Own Signature Issues of Banks and Trade

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Bernie Sanders had an interview with the New York Daily News.

It went so badly that even the usually fawning main stream media is beginning to notice. And not a moment too soon. When it comes to a multitude of issues - just about any issue, realy - Bernie Sanders fell apart when pushed for details. He seemed to have rehearsed his "revolution" talking point quite well, and he got is campaign stump speech down. But he fell flat on issue after issue when it came to a mastery of the details.

Here at TPV, we will break the wide ranging interview into sections, and cover a part at a time as a series. As Trevor has already written, Bernie Sanders showed the colors of a campaign that was never prepared to elect a president.

For this article, let's discuss two of those issues, international trade and the country's financial system. Sanders has made ardent opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement negotiated by President Obama the centerpiece of his trade agenda, and if there is one issue with which Sanders is identified, it's Wall Street and its follies. It seemed fitting to take a dive into those issues first.

In both cases, Sen. Sanders was quick to trot out talking points to outline what he opposes, but was woefully ignorant of realities and specifics of what he proposes.

Trade: The Trans-Pacific Partnership Has Everything Bernie Wants, Making His Opposition Confounding.

The first thing to notice in the interview on Sanders' position on trade was his unequivocal statement that he is, in fact, not an isolationist. "I'm not anti-trade. We live in a global economy, we need trade," Sanders said. But he believes that trade should be fair. Great. Who could disagree with that?

Just what is his plan to make trade fair?

Sanders: [...] So I think we need trade. But I think it should be based on fair trade policies. No, I don't think it is appropriate for trade policies to say that you can move to a country where wages are abysmal, where there are no environmental regulations, where workers can't form unions. That's not the kind of trade agreement that I will support.
Daily News: So how would you stop that?
Sanders: I will stop it by renegotiating all of the trade agreements that we have. And by establishing principles that says that what fair trade is about is you are going to take into consideration the wages being paid to workers in other countries. And the environmental standards that exist.

If this sounds familiar to the reader, it should. Taking wages and environmental standards into account is exactly what resulted in the renegotiation of NAFTA under President Obama. The result of that renegotiation is known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

That's right. It is hardly ever covered with this perspective, but the TPP countries encompass NAFTA countries (and add a few more in the Asia Pacific and South and Central America), and TPP renegotiates NAFTA for the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  We have covered TPP extensively here on TPV, and on both the rights of workers and the environment, TPP is far and away the most progressive trade agreement ever sought.

The TPP not only explicitly makes the International Labor Organization's conventions on the rights of working people (including the right to organize and a ban on forced labor) governing law in all participating countries, labor unions in one country would actually be able to enforce these standards in other participating countries. What's more, it actually requires participating countries to have laws governing minimum wages.

Likewise, TPP imposes some of the most advanced environmental standards as core parts of the agreement to be implemented by all countries in TPP. Among these are the enforcement of all multilateral environmental agreements (such as the Climate Change pacts that President Obama has led around the world -- including the Paris Agreement), protection of biodiversity in both wildlife and marine life, protection of the ozone layer, and it prohibits countries from weakening their environmental regulations in order to attract investment.

To top it all off, the much-criticized Dispute Settlement process in TPP actually elevates labor rights and environmental regulations above corporate privileges, and prohibits legal action on the sole basis that a corporation lost profit because of a regulation.

If Bernie Sanders is to be believed on his own concerns about trade agreements prior to the TPP, he should be jumping for joy for the President's leadership in finally achieving what he and much of the Left have always said they wanted.

Unless of course, Bernie Sanders is either badly misinformed - and intentionally so at that, since the text of TPP is available in public - or simply wants to use tradephobia as a Left-friendly form of xenophobic racket.

But if you think Bernie Sanders has trouble taking 'Yes' for an answer on trade, you have no idea the length he goes to in order to wrap himself into a pretzel on the economy in general and the financial system in particular.

Faith Based Prosecution: Bernie Sanders Has No Idea Under Which Law(s) His Demand for Mass Prosecutions on Wall Street May be Met.

If you wanted to sum up the Sanders campaign in two words, those two words would be "Wall Street." The Sanders campaign and his supporters have consistently bemoaned that not enough bankers have been jailed. Their candidate made the same argument to the New York Daily News, saying if a firm like Goldman Sachs is willing pay a $5 billion settlement, that settlement is proof that there must be some kind of prosecutable criminal offense which the government should be able to go after.

But then, something happened. The Daily News board asked a simple question: Under what law? And Bernie just... collapsed.

Daily News: Okay. But do you have a sense that there is a particular statute or statutes that a prosecutor could have or should have invoked to bring indictments?
Sanders: I suspect that there are. Yes.
Daily News: You believe that? But do you know?
Sanders: I believe that that is the case. Do I have them in front of me, now, legal statutes? No, I don't. But if I would...yeah, that's what I believe, yes. When a company pays a $5 billion fine for doing something that's illegal, yeah, I think we can bring charges against the executives.

Now, I'm glad Sen. Sanders has a sixth sense and all, but here in the United States, the Constitutional guarantee of due process of the law does not allow the President or the Attorney General to prosecute people on the basis of belief. In order to drag people in front of a court and charge them with a crime, one needs two things: facts, and a law (or a set of laws) under which the given facts are evidence of criminal wrongdoing by a particular individual meeting a high legal bar.

But this is telling. Bernie Sanders has built an entire campaign operation and an entire agenda for the highest office in the land based on his disdain for the rich and his belief that banking executives should be prosecuted. Yet, in all this time - in the eight years since the financial collapse or in the one year he has been running for President - Bernie Sanders has not bothered to inform himself on just what criminal statutes a President Sanders' Attorney General could bring charges.

That could be for two non-mutually exclusive reasons. First, the fact is that the predominant cause of the financial crash is legal deregulation, not criminal activity. But more importantly, Bernie Sanders isn't really all that interested in the law or justice. He is interested in exacting revenge, the rule of law be damned. And when all you want is revenge, whether there are legal ways to exact that punishment becomes secondary to the rage justifying the blood thirst.

As some Sanders supporters will point out, however, Bernie did come up with at least one instance of what he described as "fraud" (one assumes criminal fraud rather than civil, since he is interested in jailing rather than fining bankers). And it went like this.

Daily News: What kind of fraudulent activity are you referring to when you say that?
Sanders: ...Selling products to people who you knew could not repay them. Lying to people without allowing them to know that in a year, their interest rates would be off the charts. They would not repay that. Bundling these things. Putting them into packages with good mortgages. That's fraudulent activity.

It should be pointed out that not only - as Sanders admits - has the Obama administration collected history's largest monetary settlements from banks, the Securities misconducts have also been addressed by the Securities and Exchange Commission, with fines, civil litigation and even individual findings of liability against high ranking bank officials.

But a key reason much broader civil litigation (and criminal investigation referrals to the Justice Department) - especially in the case of the sale of the bundled securities packages with bad mortgages and good investments - could not be brought is a federal law known as the Commodities Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which deregulated the over-the-counter sale of just these types of mortgage securities and credit default swaps.

As a member of the US House, Bernie Sanders cast his vote in favor of the CFMA. As such, one could make the argument that Bernie Sanders is at least partially responsible for the "fraud" that he is now bemoaning.


So let's quickly recap. On the two top campaign issues of his choice, Bernie Sanders is poorly informed, badly faltering, and damagingly unqualified to lead. For all the time Sanders has spent campaigning on his opposition to trade and Wall Street, he seems to have spent none actually studying the issues. All it takes, it seems, to have his message come apart is to ask him for the details.

It is not enough to argue that he will have "advisers" to fill in the gap if he becomes president. He has advisers now. He has had them for a year as a presidential candidate, and for almost three decades as a member of Congress who proclaims great interest in these issues.

Bernie Sanders is thoroughly unprepared to be President of the United States.

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