Saturday, January 30, 2016

Bernie is not just talking about Hillary being in on the take which her campaign calls an attack ad. They all do it.

Both Parties Agree: Selling Out Is Worth It

 01/29/2016 01:16 pm ET | Updated 1 hour ago
  • Michael WinshipSenior writer, Former senior writing fellow, Demos. President, Writers Guild of America, East.
Pity poor Washington. No doubt breaking the hearts of elected and appointed government officials, their staffs and hangers-on, the Open Secrets blog at the Center for Responsive Politics reports that the "influence industry appears to be contracting, and the trend continued in 2015."
But before you shed a single poignant tear, like Iron Eyes Cody in those old "Keep America Beautiful" TV spots, kindly note that the money spent on lobbying merely slipped from $3.24 billion in 2014 to $3.2 billion. That's still an awful lot of lettuce, more than enough to spread the corporate love around big time, cash on the barrelhead for votes, deregulation, tax breaks, insider information and other assorted favors. Nor is it even counting campaign contributions.
Those who are wearing their money belts just a teeny bit tighter include the top 10 spenders of lobbying dollars in our nation's capital. But again, we're only talking about a shift from $323.7 million in 2014 to just under $282 million.
Coming in at first and second were the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Realtors, followed by the American Medical Association, Boeing and General Electric. For many of the top 10, their big push on Capitol Hill last year was for the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, which greases the wheels with loans and credit lines for the overseas purchase of US goods and services.
The bank has been a scourge of right-wing members of Congress, who dislike anything that smacks of the foreign. They blocked the renewal of its charter when it ran out at the end of June. But lo and behold, the fix was in. The lobbyists went into hyperdrive, cash flowed and the bank's charter renewal magically appeared in the highway bill. Abracadabra -- money talks.
In Washington, it not only talks, it bellows like a bull. In fact, despite the slight decrease in spending, overall, the "top lobby firms are riding high," according to the congressional newspaper The Hill, even as they "enter an election year where the 'establishment' is under attack.
"Most of K Street's 20 largest firms by revenue saw their advocacy fees rise in 2015, with some getting an extra boost from the flurry of legislating at the end of the year."
Biggest of all the influence mills is Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, co-founded back in 1945 by former Democratic National Committee Chair Robert Strauss, the godfather of inside the Beltway wheeler-dealers, and the man who famously explained the boom in the lobbying business to journalist Robert Kaiser with these simple words: "There's just so damn much money in it."
As Bill Moyers and I wrote in September 2014, "Akin Gump handles Beltway business for everyone from Amazon and AT&T to UPS and the US Chamber of Commerce (ah, that champion of the people!), along the way making generous campaign contributions - hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth -- to candidates of both parties."
The Hill reports Akin Gump earned more than $39 million last year, "a nearly 11 percent increase over 2014."
The newspaper continued, "Akin Gump benefitted from a slate of prominent new hires, most recently bringing on former Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.)."
Yes, feel the gusting breeze and hear the rush of the revolving door, so much a staple of Washington and the lobbying trade they should have them on sale at the local Home Depot. It rotates between public service and private profit, scooping up in its swirl the expertise and influence of former officials and putting them in the lucrative service of big business. Republicans and Democrats alike, few are resistant to its spin.
"Members of Congress now make $174,000 a year -- not a bad living," Lee Drutman writes at Vox. "But usually they can at least quintuple that salary by switching over to lobbying once they retire. And many of them do just that."
Kay Hagan served only a single term in the US Senate but as the Politico Influenceblog reported, during that time "... She served on the committees for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP); Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs; Armed Services; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. She chaired the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee." Those assignments made her a prime prospect for recruitment.
Yet as intrepid journalist Lee Fang wrote at The Intercept, Akin Gump is "an odd perch" for the former senator who was defeated for re-election in 2014, and not just because the firm's US Chamber of Commerce client spent millions attacking Hagan and supporting her victorious opponent, Thom Tillis.
"After losing her seat, Hagan said in speeches that the biggest problem in America today is the dominance of big money, noting that the wealthy and special interests have come to control the political process through lobbyists and Super PACs. 'We have got to get the obscene money out of politics, and I think that would change politics,' Hagan told the Rotary Club of Greensboro last year."
Getting rid of the money certainly would change politics, but apparently the definition of what an obscene amount is depends on who's receiving what from whom and when. "Coming here feels like a very natural fit," Hagan said in an Akin Gump press release.
Other recently defeated Senate Democrats haven't been thrown into any great moral quandary either. As The Hill reported, last February, "Arkansas's Mark Pryor landed at Venable... while Alaska's Mark Begich went to Brownstein Hyatt Farber & Schreck in April. In May, Louisiana's Mary Landrieu went to Van Ness Feldman and began working for energy clients."
Among Kay Hagan's colleagues at Akin Gump are former Republican Senator John Sununu and ex-GOP Congressman Bill Paxon. So the lobbying racket is one part of Washington life that continues to pay little heed to party lines or past professions of purity. In other words, like the world's other oldest profession, show me the money and I'm all yours.

Monday, January 25, 2016

170 Top Economists Endorse Bernie Sanders Saying Clinton Falls Short of What is Needed

170 of the nation’s top economists have released a letter endorsing Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s plan to reform Wall Street.

A letter signed by 170 economists including former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, University of Texas Professor James K. Galbraith, Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC., Brad Miller, former U.S. Congressman from North Carolina, and William K. Black, University of Missouri-Kansas City endorsed the Sanders plan to reform Wall Street.

The economists wrote:

In our view, Sanders’ plan for comprehensive financial reform is critical for avoiding another ‘too-big-to-fail’ financial crisis. The Senator is correct that the biggest banks must be broken up and that a new 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act, separating investment from commercial banking, must be enacted.

Wall Street’s largest banks are now far bigger than they were before the crisis, and they still have every incentive to take excessive risks. No major Wall Street executive has been indicted for the fraudulent behavior that led up to the 2008 crash, and fines imposed on the banks have been only a fraction of the banks’ potential gains. In addition, the banks and their lobbyists have succeeded in watering down the Dodd-Frank reform legislation, and the financial institutions that pose the greatest risk to our economy have still not devised sufficient “living wills” for winding down their operations in the event of another crisis. 

Secretary Hillary Clinton’s more modest proposals do not go far enough. They call for a bit more oversight and a few new charges on shadow banking activity, but they leave intact the titanic financial conglomerates that practice most shadow banking. As a result, her plan does not adequately reduce the serious risks our financial system poses to the American economy and to individual Americans. Given the size and political power of Wall Street, her proposals would only invite more dilution and finagle.

The only way to contain Wall Street’s excesses is with reforms sufficiently bold and public they can’t be watered down. That’s why we support Senator Sanders’s plans for busting up the biggest banks and resurrecting a modernized version of Glass-Steagall.

Both campaigns are rolling out endorsements on a daily basis, but the anger over Wall Street crashing the US economy and walking away with a slap on the wrist is one of the main drivers behind the popularity of Sen. Sanders.

Bernie Sanders has been on a crusade for years to reform Wall Street, and the success of his campaign is the worst nightmare of the country’s greedy big banks. The reality is that little has changed since the Great Recession. The big banks got bailed out and learned the wrong lesson from the recession. Wall Street feels bulletproof.

If the American people want to protect themselves from another economic collapse, it will take real reforms like those that are being proposed by Sen. Sanders.

170 economists agree that Bernie Sanders is the candidate who will hold Wall Street accountable.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Trump says he could openly shoot people and not lose any voters

What Trump said here, and the type of remark and activity that the retail media love to cover, points to the large class of rednecks, and poorly educated haters that fill this country, and are most likely to vote.  This is from the 

Trump Claims He Could Shoot Someone And Not Lose Voters


 01/23/2016 02:44 pm ET | Updated 18 hours ago
Donald Trump suggested he could shoot someone in a crowded area and still keep voters, speaking at a rally in Iowa Saturday.
Multiple reporters, including ones from CNN and CBS, quickly picked up Trump's remarks. 
"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue, shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters," Trump said. 
The Trump campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.
The specter of violence at a Trump rally is hardly new.
At a November rally in Alabama, at least six white attendeespunched and kicked a black protester, CNN reported. 
Less than a month later, at a rally in Las Vegas, multiple protesters were escorted from the audience as a cacophony of Trump supporters shouted out phrases including "He's a Muslim," "Sieg heil" and "Light the motherfucker on fire," according to NBC News. 
Last August, two white men who allegedly beat a homeless Hispanic man cited Donald Trump's rhetoric as their motive.
“Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported,” Scott Leader, one of the men, allegedly told the police.
When asked about the alleged beating, Trump said that his followers are "very passionate." 

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Ralph Nader on the Press--Huffingtonpost

The Devastating Cost of Monetized Elections
01/21/2016 05:34 pm ET | Updated 19 hours ago
Corporatized and commercialized elections reach a point where they stand outside and erode our democracy. Every four years the presidential and Congressional elections become more of a marketplace where the wealthy paymasters turn a civic process into a spectacle of vacuous rhetorical contests, distraction and stupefaction.

The civic minds of the people are sidelined by the monetized minds of a corrupted commercial media, political consultants, pundits and the purveyors of an ever-more dictatorial corporate state.
The dominance of influence money by the plutocracy and now big business PACs, such as that of the super-rich Koch brothers is just the beginning. The monetized minds don't just rely on their "quid pro quo" checkbooks. They foster gerrymandering electoral districts so that politicians indentured to them pick the voters instead of a legitimate congressional district's voters picking a candidate. And the debates now are more ratings inventory for Big Media than a discussion of major issues which remain off the table.

Presidential debates are controlled by a Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) -- a private corporation -- created by the Republican and Democratic parties and funded by beer, auto, telephone and other corporations whose patronage includes lavish hospitality suites. Thus, through the cover of CPD, the two big parties control the number of debates, who is invited to participate and which reporters ask the questions before an approved audience.

This year, the monetized minds went further. Now a commercial cable or network television company decides the formats and who is in tier one, tier two or not included at all. The Big Media sponsors (Fox, CNN, NBC and others) decided that Mark Everson, who dropped out in November, and was the first candidate to go to all of Iowa's 99 counties, should be excluded from the competition because he does not have a PAC sponsor and hasn't raised enough money. Yet he is the only Republican presidential candidate with executive branch experience. Under George W. Bush, he was head of the IRS and Deputy Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Monetizing elections has predictable consequences. The ditto-head reporters, obsessed with tactics and gaffes, never ask about corporate crime, corporate welfare, the American Empire with its un-auditable Defense Department, the over $300 billion a year in computerized billing fraud in the health care industry, or why corporations are given free exploitation of our public property - such as gold and silver mines on public land , the public airwaves and the trillions of dollars of federal research given away to big business in such industries as the drug, aerospace, computer, biotech and information companies.

Commercializing elections leads to an astonishing similarity among reporters traveling with candidates or those asking questions during so-called debates.

For example, Donald Trump always brags about his business prowess as an asset for his presidential run to "make America great again" but is not pressed by reporters to voluntarily release his thousands of pages of annual tax returns to see whether his boasts are justified.

The pretentious Marco Rubio, fresh from the Florida legislature and now an absentee U.S. Senator still getting his pay, repeatedly flaunts his difficult previous experience with student loans and living paycheck to paycheck. No reporter asks why then he is opposed to raising the inflation-gutted minimum wage and has no proposal to deal with the massive yoke of $1.3 trillion in student loans, with very high interest rates.

The brazen PAC-created Senator Ted Cruz now tells his audiences that the time for rhetoric is over, and that the focus should be on a candidate's record. Meanwhile, he gets away without having to explain one of the zaniest, hateful, corporatist, empty presences in the U.S. Senate.

The monetized minds running our elections also make sure that our civic culture and its many intelligent civic advocacy groups are sidelined when it comes to informing the voters about important issues. This is just about the most amazing exclusion of them all. Non-partisan civic leaders and specialists, people who know the most about energy, the environment, the health industry, about militarism abroad and public budget abuses at home, about taxation and electoral reforms, about law enforcement regarding corporate crime and the prison industrial complex are rarely given voice by the media, including PBS and NPR.

Look at the Sunday morning network news shows. Pundits and politicians fill the stages. The real experts don't get interviewed; they have trouble getting into the op-ed pages of the print media and are rarely drawn on by the candidates who are too busy dialing for commercial dollars that conflict with seeking out those who work with facts, for truth and justice.

Consequently, shorn of any participating civic culture, the political culture is ready for hijacking by the commercial interests and the corporate state.

The politicians ride merrily on a torrent of words and opinions without having to explain their record, so often different or at odds with what they are bloviating. Hillary Clinton gets away with her illegal war on Libya (against the advice of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates) and the resultant chaotic bloodshed spilling over into other African countries.

None of the candidates are asked whom they would consider as their White House advisors and cabinet secretaries. This information would give voters an idea of the likelihood of broken promises.
In 2008 Barack Obama campaigned repeatedly for "hope and change." Then after his election, he gathered for a surprise photo opportunity with Clinton retreads like the bailout, self-enrichment banker, Robert Rubin, and others known for anything but "hope and change."

Voters, you can change all this rancid defilement of our Republic and its democratic dreams. Do your homework on the parties and the candidates, form informal groups to demand debates and agendas that you preside over, push for more choices on the ballot, make votes count over money. The internet can help speed up such efforts.

You outnumber the politicos and their entourages everywhere. You are the ones who keep paying the price for letting politics remain a deadly form of distracting entertainment with a mainstream media obsessed with the horse race rather than the human race.

Wall Street Loves Hillary, but Bernie, Not So Much.

Why Wall Street Gives Millions to Hillary (As a Former Goldman Sachs Banker, I Say Bernie Has It Right)
01/22/2016 08:27 am ET | Updated 22 hours ago
  • John R. TalbottBestselling author of Survival Investing: How to Prosper Amid Thieving Banks and Corrupt Governments and professor of finance at S P Jain School of Global Management
Raghuram Rajan, now the head of India's central bank, once wrote an academic paper blaming the financial crisis on poor people. Just yesterday, Bill Clinton placed blame for the crisis on our government. Anyone who has seen the Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job knows full well that the crisis was caused by our banks.

Banks lent trillions of dollars to home buyers on too loose of terms knowing that they could turn the resulting junk mortgages into AAA securities through the alchemy of CDOs and securitization and thus generate hundreds of billions of profit and leave the resulting mortgage mess to their investing clients.

But the financial crisis is behind us, right? Why would Wall Street shower Hillary Clinton with millions of dollars in speaking fees and tens of millions in campaign contributions?
I think it is an insurance policy. Wall Street wants a friend in the White House to protect the status quo, and if they can't get a Republican elected, Hillary is the next best thing. I think they need a friend in government because the industry could not survive an investigation into how they actually make their profits.

Wall Street doesn't want you to know how they make their money. A brief review of how Wall Street bankers earn their outrageous fees and bonuses will highlight why they don't want to see a reformer like Bernie Sanders succeed.

Advising people on where they invest their money is one of Wall Street's biggest businesses. Actively managed mutual funds can charge 2% per year for this advice. But, Nobel Prize winner Eugene Fama has shown empirically that these mutual funds do no better with their stock picking than throwing darts at a stock page.

If you pay your Wall Street advisor 2 percent per year for fairly worthless advice, by the time you retire in 30 years, he will end up with almost half of your savings. No wonder the bankers' boats are bigger than the clients' boats in Sag Harbor.

Or you can give your money to a hedge fund that typically charges even more, 1.5 percent per year plus 20 percent of the upside. Again, empirical academic studies have shown that on average, hedge funds do not outperform the general market.

Of course, each year, some hedge funds report unusually good performance. This might be due to luck, but the fact that the same hedge fund names keep showing up at the top of the rankings suggests something else is going on.

The top 25 superstar hedge fund managers earn about $1 billion per year each personally. And, thanks to the carried interest rule, they pay lower tax rates on this windfall than a teacher making $30,000 a year.

Americans like to think that we are a meritocracy and if someone can create billions of profits they deserve a big pay day.

But that presumes these hedge fund managers are playing fairly and by the rules. Their very performance violates everything modern finance professionals know about the efficiency of markets. How do they do it? I think it is a combination of insider trading, market manipulation and high frequency or very fast trading that allows them to see your orders before placing theirs.

I say "I think" because I can't prove it. Why? Because these folks have contributed millions to your congressmen to make sure that hedge funds remain unregulated and do not have to file detailed financial reports with the SEC.

Another Wall Street business that remains highly unregulated is the $690 trillion derivatives market. Bankers believe that the derivatives market makes the world safer because it allows people to share risk. What they don't see is the enormous domino effect caused by interlocking derivatives as one side of each derivative contract fails during a financial crisis. Interlocking derivatives assures that when one major bank gets in trouble, the entire global financial system is threatened.
Anyone, like Hillary Clinton, who thinks Dodd-Frank solved all the problems of the last financial crisis has a big surprise coming.

Banks are still highly leveraged with enormous debt on their balance sheets. They even ignore more than half their assets in calculating their leverage under their risk-weighted asset approach.
If a bank is leveraged 30 to 1, which means it funds itself with $30 of debt and deposits for every one real dollar of equity capital raised from shareholders, then to remain solvent, bankers have to make 30 good loans for every one bad loan. I never met a banker who could make five loans without one getting into trouble.

Banks are bigger and more concentrated than ever. Bernie says he wants to break up the banks. Not just because they are too big to fail, but because they have gotten to be too big to manage.

I think breaking up the banks is a great idea. And I think it will unlock huge untapped value inside these monolithic institutions. If JP Morgan broke into twenty banks, JP Morgan Asia, JP Morgan Europe, JP Morgan Hi-Tech, etc., I am fairly certain the sum of the new entities' share values would far exceed the value of the old JP Morgan.

Banks not only caused the most recent global financial crisis, they have had their hands in every recession, crisis and depression you can think of.

The great depression of 1929 could not have happened without the crazy margin lending of the banks to stock speculators. The farm crisis of the 1980s was caused by banks overly-aggressive lending to farmers. The commercial real estate bust in 1990 was preceded by no-money-down bank loans to real estate developers. Japan's 1994 collapse was fully funded by the dramatic growth of bank lending to corporations and real estate speculators. The high-tech crash of 2000 was caused by bankers willingness to let their research analysts profit from investment banking business they generated. The housing crash of 2007 was preceded by a housing bubble created by bankers willing to do stupid, no down payment, no job, no documents, no proof of income mortgage loans for 99 percent of the value of a home. Why would a buyer care what price he was paying for a house -- it wasn't his money, it was the bank's.

Why is it that the banking industry keeps getting in trouble? Why, in retrospect, do they seem to keep doing stupid loose lending? And why must they be more highly regulated than other industries, a concept completely lost on Hillary and the Republicans?

It is because, like the properly regulated insurance industry, banks deal in very long-life maturity assets and liabilities. Banks can mis-price risk and do stupid lending for a long time, and it appears profitable, until a recession hits and the true cost of all the bad loans they have amassed hits the fan.

This is why government reform and regulation is required in the banking industry. Because, if one bank does stupid loose lending, all their competitors have to join them or else watch their market shares immediately head to zero. This is what the ex-CEO of Citibank was referring to before the crisis when he said, If the music is playing, you have to keep dancing.

Bernie Sanders understands that Wall Street needs to be regulated, for its own good, but also for the economic health of the country. And that is why Wall Street will spend millions on Hillary in her attempt to keep the status quo.

The author teaches finance at the SP Jain School of Global Management in Dubai and Singapore and previously worked ten years for Goldman Sachs as an investment banker in New York. He has written nine books on economics and finance that predicted the entire global financial crisis.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wonderful Analysis by Robert Reich on How Democrats have abandoned the Working Class

Who Lost the White Working Class? link to Huffingtonpost article

Posted: Updated: 

Why did the white working class abandon the Democrats?
The conventional answer is Republicans skillfully played the race card.
In the wake of the Civil Rights Act, segregationists like Alabama Governor George C. Wallace led southern whites out of the Democratic Party.
Later, Republicans charged Democrats with coddling black "welfare queens," being soft on black crime ("Willie Horton"), and trying to give jobs to less-qualified blacks over more-qualified whites (the battle over affirmative action).
The bigotry now spewing forth from Donald Trump and several of his Republican rivals is an extension of this old race card, now applied to Mexicans and Muslims -- with much the same effect on the white working class voters, who don't trust Democrats to be as "tough."
All true, but this isn't the whole story. Democrats also abandoned the white working class.
Democrats have occupied the White House for sixteen of the last twenty-four years, and in that time scored some important victories for working families -- the Affordable Care Act, an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Family and Medical Leave Act, for example.
But they've done nothing to change the vicious cycle of wealth and power that has rigged the economy for the benefit of those at the top, and undermined the working class. In some respects, Democrats have been complicit in it.
Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama ardently pushed for free trade agreements, for example, without providing the millions of blue-collar workers who thereby lost their jobs any means of getting new ones that paid at least as well.
They also stood by as corporations hammered trade unions, the backbone of the white working class. Clinton and Obama failed to reform labor laws to impose meaningful penalties on companies that violated them, or enable workers to form unions with a simple up-or-down votes.
I was there. In 1992, Bill Clinton promised such reform but once elected didn't want to spend political capital on it. In 2008, Barack Obama made the same promise (remember the Employee Free Choice Act?) but never acted on it.
Partly as a result, union membership sunk from 22 percent of all workers when Bill Clinton was elected president to fewer than 12 percent today, and the working class lost bargaining leverage to get a share of the economy's gains.
In addition, the Obama administration protected Wall Street from the consequences of the Street's gambling addiction through a giant taxpayer-funded bailout, but let millions of underwater homeowners drown.
Both Clinton and Obama also allowed antitrust enforcement to ossify - with the result that large corporations have grown far larger, and major industries more concentrated.
Finally, they turned their backs on campaign finance reform. In 2008, Obama was the first presidential nominee since Richard Nixon to reject public financing in his primary and general-election campaigns. And he never followed up on his reelection campaign promise to pursue a constitutional amendment overturning "Citizens United v. FEC," the 2010 Supreme Court opinion opening the floodgates to big money in politics.
What happens when you combine freer trade, shrinking unions, Wall Street bailouts, growing corporate market power, and the abandonment of campaign finance reform?
You shift political and economic power to the wealthy, and you shaft the working class.
Why haven't Democrats sought to reverse this power shift? True, they faced increasingly hostile Republican congresses. But they controlled both houses of Congress in the first two years of both Clinton's and Obama's administrations.
In part, it's because Democrats bought the snake oil of the "suburban swing voter" -- so-called "soccer moms" in the 1990s and affluent politically-independent professionals in the 2000s -- who supposedly determine electoral outcomes.
Meanwhile, as early as the 1980s they began drinking from the same campaign funding trough as the Republicans -- big corporations, Wall Street, and the very wealthy.
"Business has to deal with us whether they like it or not, because we're the majority," crowed Democratic representative Tony Coelho, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in the 1980s when Democrats assumed they'd continue to run the House for years.
Coelho's Democrats soon achieved a rough parity with Republicans in contributions from corporate and Wall Street campaign coffers, but the deal proved a Faustian bargain as Democrats become financially dependent on big corporations and the Street.
Nothing in politics is ever final. Democrats could still win back the white working class -- putting together a huge coalition of the working class and poor, of whites, blacks, and Latinos, of everyone who has been shafted by the shift in wealth and power to the top.
This would give Democrats the political clout to restructure the economy -- rather than merely enact palliatives that papered over the increasing concentration of wealth and power in America.
But to do this Democrats would have to stop obsessing over upper-income suburban swing voters, and end their financial dependence on big corporations, Wall Street, and the wealthy.
Will they? That's one of the biggest political unknowns in 2016 and beyond.
ROBERT B. REICH's new book, "Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few," is now out. His film "Inequality for All" is now available on DVD and blu-ray, and on Netflix. Watch the trailer below:

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Biden Praises Bernie as Truly Authentic, and Calls Hillary a Newcomer to These Issues

Biden praises Sanders on income inequality, calls Clinton 'relatively new' to the fight

Washington (CNN)Vice President Joe Biden offered effusive praise for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders Monday, lauding Hillary Clinton's chief rival for doing a "heck of a job" on the campaign trail and praising Sanders for offering an authentic voice on income inequality.
And while Biden said Democrats had a slate of "great candidates" running for president, he suggested Clinton was a newcomer to issues like the growing gap between rich and poor.
    "Bernie is speaking to a yearning that is deep and real. And he has credibility on it," Biden said during an interview with CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.
    "It's relatively new for Hillary to talk about that," Biden continued, acknowledging that Clinton has "come forward with some really thoughtful approaches to deal with the issue" of income inequality.
    Full interview part 1: Biden weighs in on 2016 election

    Full interview part 1: Biden weighs in on 2016 election 09:27
    Full interview part 2: Biden on the loss of his son

    Full interview part 2: Biden on the loss of his son07:07
    "Hillary's focus has been other things up to now, and that's been Bernie's -- no one questions Bernie's authenticity on those issues," he said.
    Clinton and Sanders are locked in tight races in both Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the nation's first nominating contests in less than a month's time. That's a distant cry from the start of the race, which saw Clinton an overwhelming favorite among Democrats.
    The tightening in polls prompted Sanders, a Vermont senator who identifies as a Democratic Socialist, to jab at Clinton's campaign as being in "serious trouble" during a campaign stop in Iowa Monday.
    Biden expressed little shock that Sanders was drawing ample support among Democrats, claiming that Sanders' self-identification as a socialist mattered little to his party's voters.
    "If Bernie Sanders never said he was a democratic socialist, based on what he's saying people wouldn't be calling him a democratic socialist," he said, claiming Clinton entered the race with an "awful high bar for her to meet."
    "I never thought she was a prohibitive favorite," he said. "I don't think she ever thought she was a prohibitive favorite. So I think it's, you know, everything's sort of coming down to Earth."
    Sanders has sufficiently come around on the issue of gun control, Biden said, even as the Clinton campaign continued to launch withering criticism of Sanders' past vote allowing legal immunity for gun manufacturers whose products are involved in fatal shootings. President Barack Obama recently wrote in an op-ed he wouldn't campaign for any candidate that doesn't support "common-sense gun reform."
    "What Bernie Sanders has to do is say that the Second Amendment says -- which he has, of late -- the Second Amendment says you can limit who can own a gun, that people who are criminals shouldn't have guns," he said. "People who are schizophrenic and have mental illnesses shouldn't own guns. And he has said that."
    Biden, who spent much of last year contemplating a third presidential bid, announced in October he wouldn't pursue the Democratic nomination, saying window had closed on jumping into the race as he and his family grieved the June death of his eldest son Beau.
    He insisted Monday that was the "absolute right decision for my family" and offered little indication his mind could be changed given outcomes in the upcoming primary season.
    "I don't think there's any door to open," he said when asked if he was closing the door fully on a 2016 bid, adding that even if Sanders ekes out victories in the early voting states, he still confronts an uphill climb to the nomination.
    "Even if Hillary loses votes -- I've thought this through -- it's a long way to go in the nomination," he said, calling Sanders' prospects of winning South Carolina -- which holds its primary after New Hampshire -- "tough sledding."