Revival

March 8, 2020

by Steve Stofka

A heartfelt endorsement by veteran S. Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn ignited a outpouring of voter support for Joe Biden in that state’s primary a week ago. Mr. Biden rode that momentum into Super Tuesday a few days later and the campaign that was on life support became the leading candidate in the Democratic race.

The following day the stock market rallied a whopping 4%. Big investors know that Mr. Biden will not make life difficult for them. He is old school. He knows that there are two sets of rules and the rich write the rules. Mr. Sanders makes Wall St. uncomfortable because he also knows that there are two sets of rules. He wants to write a new rule book where the rich don’t write the rules. That’s bad for rich people. Here’s why.

Bernie Sanders is often branded as a socialist. He brands himself with the qualifier Democratic Socialist. As the Wall St. Journal’s Richard Rubin pointed out this week, Mr. Sanders is not proposing a European model of socialism (Rubin, 2020). Those progressive systems are funded by a regressive sales tax called a VAT (Wallop, 2010). This tax burden falls mostly on middle class and working families. Mr. Sander’s plan funds progressive programs with progressive taxes falling mostly on the wealthy. That ain’t socialism. We need a naming contest for a system where the wealthy do extra to help the community. Four syllables or less. I’d suggest Neighborism based on the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” with Jimmy Stewart. What’s your suggestion?

Last month President Trump launched a political tweet missile at the Supreme Court (Baker, 2020). This past week Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer hand carried his warning to the steps of the Supreme Court. He was part of a protest regarding a current course case that tests the court’s earlier decisions beginning with Roe v. Wade almost fifty years ago. Chief Justice John Roberts has admonished President Trump, Mr. Schumer and others that they should not threaten the Supreme Court. Mr. Schumer says he regrets his remarks (Pecorin, 2020). President Trump last apologized for his remarks when he was in the first grade.

The high court’s Bush v. Gore decision chose the outcome of the 2000 Presidential election and tarnished the court’s reputation as an objective body. Since the beginning of his tenure as Chief Justice in 2005, Mr. Roberts has tried to resuscitate the court’s reputation. In this age, tarnished reputations stay tarnished.

Was the court ever impartial? Over a hundred years ago, Albert Einstein sparked a revolution in physics with a set of mathematical equations which showed that impartiality was impossible. Our observations and conclusions are based on our frame of reference. In the past century an overwhelming body of evidence has substantiated Einstein’s claims.

A central proposition in physics has spread to the humanities. Is this a “hey man, everything is relative” moment? No. Understanding an argument’s frame of reference takes time and research. Most of us are too pressed for time and tend to discard arguments that we don’t instinctively like. Chief Justice Roberts maintains that the members of the high court are not prone to this common human fallibility. Do they cast aside the ideological framing they have formed during their life and career and reach a deliberative decision that fully balances all the considerations of a case before the court? No, of course not. Mr. Roberts is still living in a Newtonian world of imagined impartial justice. Perhaps he should remove his robe while shaving and see the man reflected in his mirror.

A long time ago, my sales manager said to me, “Either you believe in your own b.s. or someone else’s b.s. Wouldn’t you rather own it?” This week Mr. Biden looked like a man who owns someone else’s b.s. – that of Jim Clyburn and the folks in S. Carolina who gave Mr. Biden a sense of confidence. His walk up the stairs to a stage platform has grown more vigorous since Super Tuesday. His voice projects with a confidence and assuredness that I didn’t hear just two weeks ago. He no longer sounds like a frail man. I’m still not convinced he owns his b.s., but he may get there in the next few months.

Mr. Sanders, on the other hand, is a man who has owned what he says for decades. As an Independent, he has played a minor role in the Democratic political hierarchy despite his many years in the Senate. Will voters choose the man of measured manner, Mr. Biden, or put their money on the impassioned and principled Mr. Sanders?

I wish my teachers had told me that I needed to be 70+ to run for President. We have too many old people in Congress. I thought so when I was young. I think so today. Yes, old people have experience, sagacity and some have a more measured temperament. The age of the people we send to represent us in Washington does not reflect us.

The Congressional Research Service recently computed the average age of the House at nearly 58 years; of the Senate, 62 years (Manning, 2018). According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. population – including children – has a median age of 38 (2019). If we take out the 25% of the population under 18, a reasonable estimate of the median age of adults might be an age of 50, ten years younger than the current average age of the members of Congress.

Patrick Leahy, the other Senator from Vermont, has held his seat for almost half a century. They come to Washington and die in Washington. They believe that they have earned an objective wisdom through their long service in their seats. To paraphrase Socrates, the man who thinks he is wise is a danger to himself and others. Step aside. Let the young blood walk the halls and make a different set of mistakes than the ones you once made. Let go. Our country will be better for it.

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Baker, P. (2020, February 25). Trump, in India, Demands Two Liberal Justices Recuse Themselves From His Cases. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/25/us/politics/trump-supreme-court.html

Manning, J. (CRS). (2018, December 20). Membership of the 115th Congress: A Profile. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from https://www.senate.gov/CRSpubs/b8f6293e-c235-40fd-b895-6474d0f8e809.pdf

Pecorin, A., et al. (2020, March 5). Schumer says he regrets comments Chief Justice Roberts called ‘dangerous’ threats. ABC News. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/chief-justice-john-roberts-calls-sen-chuck-schumer/story?id=69396928

Photo by Louis Velazquez on Unsplash

Rubin, R. (2020, March 6). Bernie Sanders’s Tax Plan Would Be Biggest Expansion of Taxation Since World War II. Wall St. Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/sanders-plan-would-hoist-taxes-11583449105 (paywall).

U.S. Census Bureau. (2019, July 16). Median Age Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2019/06/median-age-does-not-tell-the-whole-story.html

Wallop, H. (2010, April 13). General Election 2010: a brief history of the Value Added Tax. The Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/election-2010/7582869/VAT-a-brief-history.html

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