So I don’t usually write outright political posts, but I think it’s important to start thinking now about how things are going to be set up for the country (and, by extension, our industry) in 2020.
The goal here is to cut through a lot of the cloud around what people think makes a good, electable, charismatic candidate for president. Instead, I want to try to reframe the very dry, textbook policy decisions into a new context of being sexier for the American voter. Especially for the artist as voter. It wont be easy.
A lot of the conjecture around who makes a quality candidate, to beat Donald Trump in the general election, centers around who is whipping up the largest amount of money around them. It’s usually about who is able to generate the greatest amount of buzz and name recognition. And I get it…you need money to hire people and get the word out in the primary and general elections, so that more people can know who’s box to check. That process and conjecture never sat right with me, though.
One podcast I like to listen to is called Pod Save America, and it’s a political show featuring the bantering of Obama era aides Tommy Vitor, Dan Pffeifer, and Jon(s) Lovett and Favreau. They rage about the inequities that conservative politics foster in the system; brought to light by topics in the news. They make no pretense of objectivity, often calling themselves partisan hacks, and asking leading questions to each other, and their interviewees; like “How worried should we be that…” or “AG Barr did such-and-such, how skeptical should we be of…”. They also go hilariously off topic in many of their ad spots, which, ironically, make them quite interesting to listen to.
But the main reason I like listening to this panel of folks, is because of their ideas around political motivation, and purity of purpose. These people are advocates of running for office, not because you can, but because you have a compelling reason driving you. Dan Pffeifer, apart from being hilarious, particularly brings all of his political analyses back to one mantra — Have compelling reasons to run, have answers for how you are going to implement those changes, and don’t water those reasons down to appeal to the middle-of-the-road electorate. That personally resonates with me.
If those are the stipulations for whom people should be voting, then there appears to be only one candidate who fits the bill — Senator Elizabeth Warren.
The first thing I like about Senator Warren, is her breadth of experience in different fields. Growing up in a family that wasn’t particularly well-off, she had direct experience with the hardships of the lower-middle class; especially with all of the difficulty that comes with a medical trauma in the family. Due to her father’s heart attack, the greater amount of Elizabeth’s childhood was marked by the family’s struggle to pay for the medical expenses that came about as a result. He had to take a pay cut, in order to do work that was less strenuous, and the debt obligations compounded with the decreased income into a vicious cycle. A cycle with which many middle and lower class families are familiar today. This hardship set Warren to work, and serious study, at an uncommonly early age.
She started out as a public school teacher, working primarily with children with disabilities. After getting a degree in speech pathology, and a second J.D. law degree, she returned to teaching, in a professorial capacity, at several universities across the nation (including Harvard, as a tenured professor).
Along with her teaching, she was valued as a policy advisor on several large oversight committees, and was often cited within her primary field of specialty in bankruptcy and commercial law. It turns out that this was the perfect combination of aspects that later helped her oversee TARP (the program that helped pull the U.S. back from the 2007 Mortgage Backed Securities crisis). Her colleagues often looked to her to help mitigate and explain the effects of the recession on individual companies and industrial sectors within the economy. She was also one of the most vocal critics of how the quantitative easing ( the release of public funds for the stabilization of markets) essentially vindicated the actions of the larger corporate players involved, while leaving Americans to take the brunt of the cost. The result was a long period of unprecedented recession, one from which some of our European counterparts still have not recovered.
So: a teacher, a lawyer, a policy advisor, and a legislator. This is the natural career trajectory of someone who has the drive to construct a well-thought-out platform of ideas; coupled with the capability to flesh those ideas out with actual solutions. A strategy for implementing changes.
So what are her ideas, and are they attractive to artists?
Despite currently being one of the more liberal candidates in the gamut of Democratic hopefuls, Warren began as a registered Republican. The reason for that, is also one of the most defining characteristics of her platform. She is pro-market.
Senator Warren describes herself as a “Democratic Capitalist”. But with the advent of Bernie Sanders, and the Democratic Socialist movement, what does this differentiation entail?
Democratic Capitalism is the belief in the system of free markets, but melded with the principle social tenets of the Democratic party. It is the belief that for a strong free-market economy to work, it has to be well-regulated, and held accountable to the constituency that maintains it. It is a moral capitalism. This platform maintains that most of the problems arising from the American model, aren’t necessarily tied to the perceived/actual growth or decline of the economy, but of the policies around that growth or decline. This means that there has to be a large change to the structure of how government interacts with business. That exactly what Elizabeth Warren intends to do.
Her most sweeping changes to policy, and the ones around which Warren centers her campaign, involve political corruption counter-measures.
What does she want to do?
Enact a set of anti-corruption political reforms, so that Politicians are held more accountable to constituencies than to special and corporate interests.
How does she plan to do it?
- Close loopholes with respect to lobbyist registration. this makes sure that everyone is able to see what a particular actors intentions are, and for whose interest they are working. It also ensures that foreign governments are banned from hiring lobbyists, and that there is enough scrutiny on these lobbyists to prevent them from moving in and out of government jobs.
- Make senators and congressmen/women unable to trade stocks while in office. If a legislator has consideration in a company over which they have regulatory influence, then that is an inherent conflict of interest.
- Prevent senators and representatives from becoming lobbyists after retiring.
- Reform code of ethics for Supreme Court justices, removing judicial process from political process. This ensures that people receive more fair rulings.
- Federal candidates in office would be required to release their tax returns. This is especially important, because it speaks to the character of the candidate in how they conduct their finances, and to the content of their character.
This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the planned changes of a possible Warren administration. You can view the whole, detailed list of her main issues here.
One policy that resonates with a lot of artists here in NYC, is the investment her administration would make in housing; to try to bring down rents by 10 percent. This provision is one of the many that would be covered by an “Ultra Millionaires Tax”; a tax that targets only the wealthiest Americans. It imposes a zero percent additional tax burden to all households who make less than 50 million dollars in a year (which comprises 99.9% of Americans), a 2% annual tax on households with a net worth between $50 million and $1 billion, and a 1% addition annual billionaire surtax. Though it applies to so few American families, this policy would produce $2.75 trillion in additional tax revenue over ten years.
The changes that come about from these types of policies benefit middle and lower middle class American citizens, and that is by design. That lifestyle of the lower middle class, though it no longer is representative of her current situation, is always fresh in the back of her mind. It should be the same for most performing artists, as we (for the most part) comprise the lower end of the economic spectrum, but often have to rely on markets and entrepreneurship to earn a living.
If you are an artist who struggles with the demands of daily living, working several jobs in order to support your main ambition, I think a vote for Elizabeth Warren is the most accurate vote that you can cast in favor of your best interests.
Here policies are precise, and she has metered out a strategy for implementing each of them. Because of this thoughtful attention to policy detail, she currently stands alone in the field of her peers; seldom few of whom have even metered out many key issues.
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