In 2016, we learned that the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton Campaign, even before the primary season began, conspired to sabotage the campaign of her leading opponent for the presidential nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The conspiracy, that ranged from obtaining campaign debate questions in advance for Clinton and front-loading primaries in states where she could pile up an imposing lead to getting a complicit liberal media to count pledged but unelected and legally uncommitted “super delegates” as being already in Clinton’s delegate total (making the Sanders campaign appear quixotic) and also to plant ill-documented and speciously argued hit pieces in news media (including the NY Times and Washington Post) willing to support the effort.
Now, as Sanders’ campaign appears to be steadily gaining on the favored establishment candidates, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, this corrupt effort to sabotage the Democrats’ most progressive and most electable candidate, Sanders, is starting up again.
Case in point: an opinion article by Antony Davies and James R Harrigan that ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer’s opinion section today under the headline “Wage hypocrisy by Sanders?” The gist of the two author’s argument is that Sanders, who is calling on the campaign trail for a $15/hour federal minimum wage, is a “hypocrite” because he’s only paying his own campaign staff a minimum salary of…$36,000 a year. Now that might seem pretty decent compensation for people many of whom would probably be doing their campaign jobs for free if need be (as many do on such campaigns), but Davies and Harrigan, while calculating accurately that for a 40-hour workweek such a salary works out to $17/hr, add, “as is common for campaign workers, and salaried employees more generally, these workers almost always work more than 40 hours per week.” They add, with no evidence to prove people are doing it, “For a campaign worker who clocks 50 to 60 hours, $36,000 a year hits between $11 and $13 per hour.”
Gee. That sounds terrible, except for the fact that this is a political campaign, not a grinding, demoralizing desk job in a windowless office of some corporate hive. But more importantly and to the point, most Americans who slave away at salaried jobs and who earn more than $23,660 a year (the current federal minimum wage over 52 weeks) simply don’t get overtime, and under federal employment law such as it is, have no right to claim it.
But here’s the real problem with this article: The authors don’t identify themselves as libertarian ideologues engaged in a long-term obsessive attack on Sanders and other self-described socialists. As a pair, they have a long back-list of articles going back over a year specifically targeting Sanders’ progressive economic ideas with headlines like:
“Paying Teachers What They are Worth” (an attack on Sanders’ call for higher pay for teachers that ends up to be an attack on teachers unions and job tenure)
“The Real Story Behind Amazon’s Taxes” (an attack on Sanders’ criticizing Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos paying no federal tax, which turns out to be an attack on Social Security and that falsely claims Sanders backed laws that allow Amazon and other companies and their owners to dodge taxes by deducting their losses and investments in prior years from current income.)
“The Billionaires versus the Politicians” (This is an attack on Elizabeth Warren, Sanders and AOC for calling for taxing the wealth of the nation’s hundreds of billionaires and multimillionaires. The two authors argue that billionaires “earned” their wealth, ignoring the reality that many, like billionaire poseur Donald Trump inherited it and expect to expect to pass their hoard on to their offspring, and then conclude, “So ask yourself, who represents the bigger threat? The 584 billionaires who offer us things in exchange for our money, and whom we can walk away from at any time by shopping elsewhere? Or the 535 representatives and senators who take our money by threat of force?”)
And so on…
I have no objection to such political hacks writing such screeds, but they should be honest about their real identities and agendas, instead of posing as neutral academics. In Davies’ and Harrigan’s case, they are clearly hiding who they are from their readers, and perhaps their inattentive editors too.
In the Inquirer commentary, they are self-identified in their bios this way:
Anthony Davies: Associate. Professor of economics at Duquesne University.
James R. Harrigan: teaches in the Department of Political Economy and Moral (?!) Science at the University of Arizona (apparently Harrigan isn’t even a professor or perhaps even a lecturer).
Left unsaid: both are involved in a significant way with the Atlanta-based conservative/libertarian think tank called the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), where Davies is Milton Friedman Fellow (a position named in honor of the father of “free-market” economics), and Harrigan is F.A. Hayek Distinguished Fellow ( a position named in honor of the Anglo-Austrian free-market advocate who was the patron saint of both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.)
Why do these authors allow their works to be published in the mass media without identifying themselves in a relevant way so readers can judge the veracity of their opinions?
Actually that question answers itself.
Perhaps more important, why do publications like the Philadelphia Inquirer and others that run or give free or perhaps paid space or air time to the anti-Sanders and anti-socialist screeds of these two peddlers of reaction allow them to hide behind bland academic titles and affiliations? (To be fair, the bio paragraph below the article also mentions that the two men “host the weekly podcast ‘Words and Numbers’,” but since it’s a print paper, there’s no link and few would bother to look the site up. Nor is it mentioned that the podcast is a production of FEE.)
The answer to their deception of course is that the goal is to use propaganda, instead of reason and full laying out of the facts, to try and undermine the sound reform ideas of Sanders, AOC and others trying to bring the US into the 21st century with the kind of tax policies, health care programs, retirement systems and education systems that work perfectly well in places like Europe, instead of allowing the country to slip where it appears headed right now back into the Dickensian darkness of unregulated capitalism, desperate, impoverished workers and rapine environmental degradation.
So is this all part of a new attack campaign on Sanders perhaps, or let’s say probably, based on prior history, orchestrated by the DNC and its favored candidates’ campaigns? Well, it certainly looks that way. On July 19, the Washington Post ran an article saying Sanders employees were demanding wages to match his call for a $15/hr minimum wage. The same day, the three clowns on Fox&Friends were gleefully yucking up the pay scale Sanders is offering his “impoverished” campaign workers, calling it hypocritical. How does a such simultaneous attack happen? Usually we eventually find out some publicist, in this case no doubt from the DNC or one of Sanders’ primary rivals, is pushing the story.
Left unsaid is that Sanders’ $15/hr wage bill in the Senate, on which he is basing his campaign proposal, does not raise the national minimum wage to $15 immediately on passage. Rather, it raises it from the current $7.25 an hour,(where it’s been stuck since 2009!), in increments, only reaching $15 an hour in 2024. His bill, which is being blocked from consideration in the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, calls for the minimum wage to be increased to $8.55 an hour immediately after becoming law, and then to $9.85 after a year, continuing upward until hitting $15, after which its level would be increased automatically to account for inflation, as with Social Security benefits.
So really, Sanders is already paying his campaign staff at a rate that’s 75% higher than what they’d get during the current campaign if Congress were to pass, and Trump sign his national minimum wage bill.
Also left unsaid is that what Sanders has done, in allowing his campaign workers to form a union, and being willing to negotiate with them, and in offering to pay them a living wage significantly higher than minimum wage in a field — political campaign work — where exploitation of willing and dedicated staff is the norm. Sanders should at least be complimented for making an effort to be fair, not subjected to special criticism as these writers and media outlets are doing.
Getting information about the pay on various campaigns is difficult, but these reporters aren’t even trying. I took a quick look and discovered plenty.
Trump’s campaign in 2016, for example, didn’t hire campaign workers itself but hired outside contractors, who typically pay low wages–a tactic he’s likely to adopt this campaign season too. Glassdoor, the website that collects information on what various jobs and careers pay and on individual employers and working conditions, reports that typical pay for campaign field organizers, usually the bottom job in a campaign, are paying $33,000 a year (a bit lower than what Sanders is reportedly paying), but adds that many campaigns start their field organizers off as unpaid volunteers. This reality should be averaged into their annual pay as a zero, which would bring their total pay down substantially. Elizabeth Warren, Sanders’ main competitor for the progressive Democratic vote this year, is according to a recent article in the Daily Beast being slammed by many of her own campaign workers, for putting them to work on “Elizabeth Warren Fellowships.” These, we’re told, are often unpaid, and fellows are required to sign “non-disclosure agreements” barring them from complaining about their compensation and working conditions.
Personally, I think all this reporting on what campaign workers are earning is kind of silly. There’s wa-a-a-a-ay too much money in US politics, and it would be far better if private donations to all campaigns were outlawed and if campaign workers were all volunteers working because they believed in a candidate, but as long as we have the grossly corrupted political system that we have, at least we can demand that the media covering elections apply the standard of fairness and equal treatment to that coverage, instead of deciding, like sharks or wolves, to operate in packs and to target certain campaigns for hit jobs, to favor others, ignoring their flaws and lies, and to ignore others altogether, which is the norm these days.