Friday, April 16, 2021
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Why I Am Supporting Mark Herring for AG

A recent Not Larry Sabato story on fundraising in the Democratic AG race prompted me to think out loud about the Attorney General's race.  

First, let me start by expressing a bias -- I am really tired of Democrats running for Attorney General as though the Attorney General is the top prosecutor in the state.  I am tired of it for three reasons:

1.  It isn't true.  The United States Attorney General is the top federal prosecutor; our federal criminal system puts the Attorney General in charge of every United States Attorney everywhere in the country.  That is not the deal in Virginia, where prosecutorial powers are primarily given to the local Commonwealth's Attorneys, with no supervision from Richmond.

Our Attorney General's prosecutorial powers are laid out in just one section of the Virginia Code -- Va. Code section 2.2-511(A), which sets out 14 specific instances in which the Attorney General can prosecute.  Six of those require the concurrence of the local Commonwealth's Attorney.  In all other cases, the Code says, the AG only gets involved in criminal cases on appeal.  Most of what the Attorney General does is to run a large law firm (the AG's office) that handles mainly civil cases.

2.  In the long run, it's really bad politics.  Republicans have been arguing since at least Richard Nixon's time that they are the party that is "tough on crime."  When we campaign for AG within that frame, we are fighting on Republican turf.  So not only are we at a competitive disadvantage, but this sort of campaign guarantees that no one ever argues to the public for smarter, rather than just tougher, criminal laws.  When we fight the battle on Republican terms, we enshrine that prosecutorial view of the office in the public consciousness.  

We’ve got it all wrong…

Conventional economic wisdom is that the reason why we do not have economic growth is that we do not have enough private (non-governmental) investment.  Under this "conventional wisdom", we need to encourage "job creators" by reducing taxes on them, not by encouraging consumption.  A brief digression here -- those seeking to reduce taxes on job creators ought to want to reduce payroll taxes on the employers, not on the employees (as Obama has done).

The "conventional wisdom", combined with electoral realities driven by this conventional wisdom, has led everyone from Tea Party Republicans to Bill Clinton (much as I admire Bill Clinton, he's wrong on this one) to embrace the idea that the cure for our economic ills is to extend the Bush tax cuts to encourage private investment.  

The problem, as economic historian James Livingston discusses in his new book Against Thrift, is that it is based on a flawed assumption.  The reality is that the United States has not had net private investment since 1919.  For the last 90+ years, our economic growth has been driven by government investment and private consumption enabled by income redistribution programs like Social Security.

Citing such diverse economic thinkers as Karl Marx, John Maynard Keynes, Milton Friedman, Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, Livingston notes that the problem of the last century has been surplus capital, not a lack of capital.  Greenspan, among others, has noted that since the Bush tax cuts -- supposedly needed to stimulate investment -- industry has re-invested less than its retained earnings.  If that money isn't being re-invested in the business, where is it going?  Into housing bubbles, or into investment in Collateralized Debt Obligations and Credit Default Swaps, and other things that the investors didn't even understand.  

How Newt Gingrich is like Walt Whitman

From Song of Myself:

I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself;
And what I assume you shall assume...

I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware, and by the far the largest to me, and that is myself...

What blurt is this about virtue and about vice?
Evil propels me, and reform of evil propels me-I stand indifferent...

I dote on myself - there is that lot of me, and all so luscious...

O I am wonderful!


Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself.  (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric yaws over the roofs of the world.

Talk amongst yourselves.

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