The Six Principles of the New Populism
by Robert B. Reich
We're five years into a so-called recovery that's been a bonanza for the rich but a bust for the middle class, which is fueling a new populism. "The game is rigged and the American people know that. They get it right down to their toes," says Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Left- and right-wing populists remain deeply divided over the role of government. Even so, the major fault line in American politics seems to be shifting, from Democrat vs. Republican to populist vs. establishment -- those who think the game is rigged vs. those who do the rigging.
The two sides are coming together around six principles:
1. Cut the biggest Wall Street banks down to a size where they're no longer too big to fail.
House Republican David Camp, chairman of the
2. Resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act
Separate investment from commercial banking and thereby preventing companies from gambling with their depositors' money.
3. End corporate welfare
This includes subsidies to big oil, big agribusiness, big pharma, Wall Street and the
4. Stop the
House Republican Justin Amash's amendment that would have defunded NSA programs engaging in bulk-data collection garnered votes from 111 Democrats and 94 Republicans last year, highlighting the new populist divide in both parties. Rand Paul warns: "Your rights, especially your right to privacy, is under assault. ... If you own a cell phone, you're under surveillance."
5. Scale back American interventions overseas.
Populists on the left have long been uncomfortable with American forays overseas. Paul is leaning in the same direction. He also tends toward conspiratorial views about American interventionism, claiming that former Vice President Dick Cheney pushed the Iraq War because of his ties to
6. Oppose trade agreements crafted by big corporations.
Tea partiers continue their battle against establishment Republicans in Republican primaries. But the major test will come in 2016, when both parties pick their presidential candidates.
Cruz and Paul are already vying to take on Republican establishment favorites Jeb Bush or Chris Christie.
Warren says she won't run in the Democratic primaries, presumably against Hillary Clinton, but rumors abound. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders hints he might.
Wall Street and big-business Republicans are already signaling they'd prefer a Democratic establishment candidate over a Republican populist.
Dozens of major
Says a top Republican-leaning Wall Street lawyer: "It's Rand Paul or Ted Cruz versus someone like Elizabeth Warren that would be everybody's worst nightmare."
Everybody on Wall Street and in corporate suites, that is. And the "nightmare" may not occur in 2016.
But if current trends continue, some similar "nightmare" is likely coming within the decade. If the American establishment wants to remain the establishment, it will need to respond to the anxiety that's fueling the new populism rather than fight it.
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"The Six Principles of the New Populism"