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Hey, Hillary Episode 1: Your biggest donors are hurting us

Google Pittsburgh in Bakery Square, East Liberty.

This is the first in a series as I try to catch Hillary up to what has happened in the last 7 years.

Back when she suspended her campaign in 2008, I thought her presidential hopes were finished. 2008 was her best year in terms of what she might have accomplished. After the financial collapse, there was an opportunity for a disciplined and knowledgeable president to force rehab on the malefactors of great wealth. Well, that didn’t happen. Instead, the malefactors recruited someone more pliable and easily dismissed. I’ll never forget the passages in Ron Suskind’s book, Confidence Men,  where he recounts the meetings Obama had with Tim Geithner, Larry Summers and Christy Romer. Obama would make an executive decision and Geithner would essentially blow him off and nothing would get done.

Anyway, what I could see happening after Obama won is that the bad deals on the financial clean-up and healthcare reform would get concretized. The changes to the workforce brought on by the massive layoffs and restructurings would lead to a different kind, but by no means better, kind of work environment for working people. And that’s pretty much what’s happened. Now, you could say that she’s working with what she’s got and I agree. In these circumstances, given what she’s got to work with, her policies are going to have to be more modest than the opportunities that might have presented themselves in 2008 would have created.

But if all you’re planning to do as president is tweak what is a sucky situation and slightly improve the status quo, then what’s the point of running? No, seriously. Wouldn’t that just make you Babysitter in Charge instead of a president? Oh, sure, Hillary would be a great babysitter, one of the best. No one is going to complain about her protecting us. By the way, that doesn’t mean she is a “hawk”, whatever that means. There are shades of gray. You don’t have to be one thing or the other. And she’ll probably be really good on infrastructure projects, especially broadband. That right there would be a not insignificant legacy. However, for working people who have been so busy trying to keep their heads above water that they are only now realizing how far out to see they have been dragged in terms of work security and income stability, that’s not going to be enough.

Hillary, you need to talk to your donors. Because right now, they can do whatever stupid shareholder value, McKinsey generated idea that pops into their heads and it’s going to hurt them. It is time that someone sat them down and told them that just because they are hiring people in India, or bugging out of NJ and we all need to adjust, doesn’t mean they’re going to save money in the end. In fact, they could be making their problems much, much worse.

Let’s take the latest examples of really stupid ideas in big pharma. It’s now more like, little disconnected, distributed pharma in a  very expensive part of the country. One of the latest Nature Alerts featured an article about the shortage of space in the Boston biotech belt and that the price of land in Cambridge Massachusetts is too expensive for new startups. In short, there’s very little land but big companies keep firing their R&D staff in Connecticut and New Jersey to relocate there. Now, the little start up companies to which we are all told we will find our pot of gold can no longer afford the cost of business there.

And we haven’t heard yet from the hapless souls who manage to get an invitation to work in Cambridge. Go read Derek Lowe’s comment sections on the latest relocation scheme to Cambridge of the virology division of BMS from Wallingford, CT. First, it should be noted that the business people are mostly keeping their jobs and relocating to a different site in CT. But by our calculations, the R&D staff is facing almost a 50% cut in personnel and the “lucky” ones will be relocated to… you guessed it. Cambridge. There’s a lot of anger and bitterness there. Housing prices are astronomical unless you live far from the city. If you live far from the city, your commute is long. Then there is the uprooting of families and finding new schools. Then, when they get there, there’s no guarantee that the job will be available for long. They will be expected to be ready to jump to a new job every couple of years.

And for what? What in God’s green earth would make all these companies decide that it HAS to be Cambridge or they aren’t truly living??

We have no f^&*ing idea.

Harvard is there and so is MIT. Ok, fine. But it’s not like there’s going to be a smorgasbord of people trading industry shattering techniques. Hell no. We all have secrecy agreements. You can’t just talk about what you’re doing over sushi with people from other companies or academic groups. Even 15 years ago the ACS meetings were becoming less and less useful and informative because presentations contained almost no relevant information, structures or data. It’s all protected by lawyers. So, the idea that Cambridge is some kind of hot bed of new open source learnings is just stupid. Do not let them tell you otherwise.

It’s not even like you even have to BE in Cambridge if by some weird chance you can actually share information. The internet makes location irrelevant. In fact, some of these companies farm out so much of their work to other companies that there’s no need for them to be in the same place geographically. Hey, if they want to break up their infinitely configurable corporate lab space and inefficiently run their research by having lab rats negotiate contracts with outside companies, complete with secrecy agreements so that they can become lightweight organizations free from the constraints of employees to whom they are obligated, let them do it and waste their money and talent. But in that case, they’d be saving a lot of money by relocating to Detroit.

And while we’re at it, why is it that the R&D people are the ones that have to make all the sacrifices? Why can’t an MBA who is after all just a bean counter live in a rust belt city? Aren’t they costing valuable office space for the shareholders if they’re located in Cambridge? I mean, if the almighty dollar is the reason why we are reconfiguring pharma, shouldn’t we eliminate the costs of things that don’t actually contribute to the discovery of drugs? If I were a shareholder, I’d want to know why the cubes have to be in an expensive high rise facing the Charles River. It’s not like an accountant or marketing person will have any reason to hob nob with the PhD superstars at Harvard so why are they there? Can’t we find plenty of English speaking MBAs in Hyderabad?

Speaking of rust belt cities, Pittsburgh, for example, offers a lot of culture and plenty of affordable housing for working people. We are not located in East Jabip, most people have all their teeth and this city has one of the most literate populations in the country thanks to Andrew Carnegie’s magnificent libraries. This is a great place to live and work with public transportation, a thriving university center with Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh at the center. There’s plenty to do here from an outdoor perspective and free jazz every Tuesday in Katz Plaza downtown. And we have internet. We even have our own Google headquarters. Why Cambridge? Or why not Cincinnati? I only ask.

But nooooo. They’re all going to squeeze themselves into a shoebox or run themselves off a cliff like lemmings. In the process, they’re uprooting a lot of scientists or just plain ruining their careers, and setting back drug discovery by decades. Somewhere on Derek’s comments section a commenter noted that drug discovery requires Leonardos not Mozarts. That’s because it takes a very long time to learn to be a drug hunter. There are software moguls who think they can speed it up by applying something like Agile principles and maybe they can have a minor effect on the middle layer of research. That is, the layer between routine analysis and project team level collaboration. There is a sweet spot consisting of protein groups and crystallography groups that might be amenable to that kind of intervention. But, in most cases, they’re already there. They’ve figured it out and work as a team and they don’t need no stinking software guy telling them how to do it.

The rest of the time, research just needs to grind through it, one cell assay at a time. It’s aggravating to the shareholders who have the attention span of a newt. Ok fine, Ditch the shareholders. No, seriously, they don’t seem to have any appreciation for this stuff. Outsourcing doesn’t make the process go faster, in fact it can cost money and time in the end. What looks like a sure fire way to cut costs and put money in the shareholders’ pockets just doesn’t in the end.

So, Hillary, the next time you meet with these guys, and they are almost always guys, ask them why they are doing what they’re doing. Does it really make sense from a business perspective? Is cutting R&D really the only thing these toadstools can think of doing to increase shareholder value? Aren’t there better ways to cut costs? Or is there a hierarchy of costs to cut that have nothing to do with actual productivity? Are these titans of industry deliberately overlooking the obvious in order to appeal to their MBA culture of smartness? What is the long term strategy or is there even a long term strategy? Is all this pain on the R&D side really necessary? And how does that result in new drugs? Is relocation to certain areas of the country really about costs and collaboration, or is it really about egos and classism? And ask to see the numbers. Tell them you’ll wait until they find them.

Someone needs to start asking these uncomfortable questions and getting straight answers. Because if you want to be the next president and champion for us, you’ve got to start getting the executive class to explain how their McKinsey generated restructurings actually work in the shareholders’ favor. I’m not seeing how it provides value over what we had when the industry was working through new technology but still producing blockbusters. Call me extremely skeptical.

Someone needs to start holding these people accountable for the havoc they are creating. If you’re not going to do it, don’t be surprised if the country doesn’t get all excited about your campaign. Do you really want to be another British Labour party politician?

Next week, does contracting everything out really work?

11 Responses

  1. I agree with you that Obama missed a crucial opportunity to potentially restructure the business/labor equation in this country. Franklin Roosevelt had the will and courage to take advantage of the fear and anguish wrought by the Great Depression, to do things that could never have been done in more economically normal times. And of course he had a mandate to do them, and a mostly favorable Congress. The Supreme Court was a serious problem with their “violates the freedom to contract” decisions; but he did something which the NY Times of today would have called for impeachment for doing–threatening to pack the Supreme Court. He failed in the attempt, but the threat, and the bad publicity the Court was getting, compelled some of the worst Justices to retire. And then he had a clear road to do more for working people than had ever been done in the hundred preceding years.

    Seventy years or so later, Obama had the opportunity to virtually force the banks to do business differently. And he might have been able to substantially raise the corporate tax rate, and thus balance the budget in one fell swoop. And to put serious pressure on corporations to be more worker-friendly and consumer oriented. But he had no great interest in doing any of that; and as you say, he handpicked economic advisors who were very much pro-bank and pro-Wall Street. So he gave a few nice speeches; got a stimulus passed; wasted all of his mandate on a pretty weak health care reform bill; and that was that. And you may well be right in your sense that Obama was gifted with the nomination by the DNC because the corporate powers wanted him and not Hillary. Another very important opportunity lost.

    But here we are. I have always been very confident that Hillary is a good deal more economically liberal than the left wing of the Democratic Party thinks she is. I think that she is the closest to a New Deal Democrat than we have seen in quite a while. I guess I should say, “an electable New Deal Democrat.” Because obviously the other Democratic candidates have no credible chance of being elected, which is not stopping the Left from doing their usual fantasizing , and their infantile efforts to derogate the Clintons at every opportunity.

    The realities are that Hillary has to win; she is the last best hope, in my view. Lose this election, and we’ll all likely burn up in a few decades. Today in Los Angeles, it feels like it’s 95 degrees. I remember that late June used to be very pleasant, maybe high 70’s. The string of 90-plus degree days seems to now be the default, after we get the few days of pleasant weather every once in a while. The only person who has the intelligence and the cachet to actually try to force some changes in fuel emission standards, and related things which might curb global warming, is Hillary.

    And the only person who can at least have a chance to get Citizens United reversed by a more favorable Supreme Court, is Hillary. Now, obviously, she is going to need a better Congress, after Obama could not avoid having his party end up ten seats worse in the Senate than when he was elected, and fifty or so seats worse in the House. It is crucial that Hillary win by enough of a percentage to draw in some Congressional seats, maybe at least get the Senate back.

    These points may seem obvious, but I think they get obscured, particularly by the virtually insane capacity of the media to focus on comparative trivialities. In 1988, the media apparently thought that the three most important issues of the time were Willie Horton, Boston Harbor, and flag burning. In 2004, it was John Kerry’s war record. I’m sure they’ll try to do something like that again; they can’t help it, and they want the ratings that come with an “exciting horse race.” So we have to fight the media as well as the Republicans.

    This may seem like a lot of paragraphs to lead up to the conclusion, but it’s well to always be fullly aware of what is at stake. So, as much as I would like to see Hillary undertake some kind of FDR-like revamping of our entire economic system, I unfortunately think that this is very unrealistic. She will have to work by degrees now, as she does not have the “benefit” of having the corporations set back on their heels as they were eight years ago, fearing for their own survival. I just don’t think that trying to put pressure on big business and her corporate donors at this point, is a fruitful way to proceed, not until she can get elected. But if she can somehow find a voter-friendly way to push for corporate reform, and still bring in enough money to fight the truly evil Kochs and their allies, I would be all for it.

    • Yes, unfortunately you have to use the system in order to change or beat the system.

  2. Totally agree William and whats with this WSJ push for Biden. With all do respect to his family’s recent loss, nothong says change like a 70ish, balding, white guy.

    • The push for Biden is because he’s the only one that appeals to any of Hillary’s voters in the primaries and they are hoping to take enough away from her so that another candidate can get the nomination. Salon of all things had a good article on this calling Bernie a wine rack candidate and Hillary a beer rack candidate and basically Bernie’s supporters are the Obots minus African Americans with HIllary hauling it in with everybody else. Biden is the only other candidate that would be considered beer rack and could compete with HIllary for voters.

      • If anyone but Hillary is nominated, the Republicans will win the White House. The endlessly self-indulgent group of self-styled liberal Democrats who think it is hip and clever to support Sanders or O’Malley or even Biden, will just be handing the White House back to the Republicans, along with every other branch of government they already control.

        Sanders would win perhaps five states if he were the nominee. Biden woluld make a better showing, but he is not a national candidate, as should have been proven the last time he ran for President. The Republican billlionaire-fueled machine would trounce him pretty handily. Maybe the Democratic Left really doesn’t care much about real issues, or anything more than stroking their narcissistic egos. A recent poll which shows Sanders only behind Hillary by eight points in New Hampshire attests to this. Sanders is another McGovern debacle waiting to happen. But, hey, then we can support Warren in 2020! She may lose to incumbent President Jeb Bush, but at least the Salon types can feel virtuous about it, in the midst of the dystopia they will have helped create.

        • Sanders is claiming specific pro-USian policies, including
          1. anti-TPP Oligopolist Industry Welfare Queen/Rigged Trade agreement (unlike Hillary’s long verbal non-answer on TPP
          2. Medicare For All
          3. Public Education extended to free tuition for BS, AS, or 2-yr trade school students
          4. $15 minimum wage

          Aside: this agenda helps all 99%er USians, including the 99%ers subset of women slightly more than the overall 99%er group, due to pay gap, and the situation where a majority of single parents are women.

          I would say Sanders has a great chance to beat the Repub-Lie-Con candidate.

          Sanders seems genuine, and unlikely to flip-flop from the campaign promises & govern as a right-winger DLC Reagan clone ala Obama or B Clinton. Sanders has like 35+ yrs of consistency in advocating & implementing social democratic policy (ala Scandinavia, aka Civilized nation policy, not Barbaric Reaganomics policy). Obama & B Clinton governed like Reagan, Sanders would govern like FD Roosevelt.

          BTW, look at interest in the Sanders campaign, he just had 10K people at an event in Madison, trouncing the trivial numbers of people interested in the R or other D candidates’ events.

          Hillary is a lawyer, and from her media interviews does not appear to be sub-median IQ, as say Bush43 or Sarah Palin or Louie Gomert do. Thus Hillary must understand how the TPP has Unconsitutional provisions, such as the ISDS kangaroo court staffed by rotating corporate lawyers as judges, which can force governments to change pro worker/enviornment/health laws or pay extortionate penalties for “reduction in future expected profits”. In other words, the Stupid vs Evil question is clear in her case (hint: same answer as fellow lawyer 0bama). Hillary supporters should consider Hillary’s TPP position as a great litmus test to gauge if Hillary is earnest and supports pro-USian ppl policy in the FD Roosevelt tradition, or if she is another 0bama/Reagan right-wing corporate tool.

        • I doubt the Reptilian wing of the Property Party (h/t Gore Vidal) will win the White House again for quite a while.

          The Malefactors of Great Wealth engineered the Reptilian “winning” of the White House in 2000, and maybe 2004 as well.

          I suspect the howling, catastrophic incompetence of the Chimperial Cheney @$$ministration shocked a significant proportion of the MOGW awake, and that group decided their actual self-interest lay in getting the Reptilians out of the WH and the Dinocrats in, lest the crazy Reptilians ruin everything. (To be sure, some of the MOGW–the Koch brothers, to name only two examples–still truly seem to believe the same wacky ideologies their pet media operatives feed the rubes. Those are the MOGWs who still finance the Reptilians.)

          The long campaign of the Democratic Leadership Council and other Big Business front groups had successfully neutralized the actual economically-democratic elements in the DP, converting it into merely the sane wing of the Property Party. Hence, the MOGW could switch to the Dinocrats safely; they only needed a sufficiently tractable Dinocratic nominee.

          If not so, then why did the MOGW order their operatives in the Dinocratic wing of the Property Party to rig the nomination of 2008 so that the more tractable Obama won, instead of just letting the Dinocratic nomination take its natural course, and then engineering a McCain victory over Obama or Clinton in the general election?

          • To attempt to answer your last question, I think that it was pretty clear that Hillary would have won a general election in 2008 quite easily, as the polls were showing her running ahead of anything Obama might do as a general election candidate. Obama was barely winning the general election, until the housing bubble finally collapsed around September of 2008

            Actually, I attribute Obama’s being handed the Democratic nomination not nearly as much to the corporate interests as to a bunch of smug and self-righteous people who have been inhabiting the left wing of the Democratic Party for decades now. These are not New Deal type progressives, or classic liberals, they are mostly people who live in some kind of fantasy world, desperately searching for some projective idealized figure to adore. Some of them once flirted with John Anderson; then there was Gary Hart; Wesley Clark; anyone whom they could imagine was not business as usual. They wanted anyone but Hillary, for reasons I can never really fathom, since Hillary’s voting record was more consistently liberal than Obama’s, in his brief year or two in the Senate. But somehow he was imagined to be some ideal mixture of JFK and MLK and RFK. Maureen Dowd called him “a shining knight,” based on her fantasies, and ongoing hatred of all things Clinton.

            Axelrod was smart enough to take advantage of the bogus caucus system to pile up delegate margins in deep Red states, while Hillary won almost all of the primaries in major states. Then Donna Brazile, for obvious reasons, fixed things so that districts with high ethnic minority representations actually got more delegates than the other ones. She and the DNC didn’t call it this, of course; they called it “apportioning more delegates to districts which had a higher percentage of Democratic votes in the general elections of 2004.” Of course that meant districts dominated by Black voters. And finally, she managed to disenfranchise the voters of Michigan and Florida because they had the audacity to move their primaries up a week or so. Brazile and Dean, someone who never liked the Clintons (the Clintons favored Tom Vilsack for DNC Chairman) somehow tthought that defeating them by taking away Hillary’s huge potential margins n those two states would be preferable to actually acting in a democratic fashion with their own constituencies. But it was all rationalzed because of the fantasy projections of Obama and the sanctimony of believing that electing a Black President was a paramount goal for this country which trumped every other consideration.

            And so they did; and then many on the Left were inevitably disillusioned by his administration. So now they champion Sanders or Warren, even though neither has any chance whatsoever of winning a national election, and indeed would bury the party nationally. And then they would just find another fantasy candidate. Maybe Ralph Nader could run again for them, or George Clooney. The bitter irony, of course, is that Hillary is not a corporatist, she is not “in the middle,” she is a liberal Democrat who yet is smart enough to be pragmatic. She is not perfect, no one is, but she is the best candidate I’ve seen in many years. But I actually believe that some Democrats, perhaps deluded by playing too many virtual reality games, or watching faux political TV dramas, think that defeating Hillary in the primaries, or just damaging her, is somehow a good thing. My mother, a lifelong Roosevelt and Stevenson and Eugene McCarthy Democrat, always said that the Democratic Party had a death wish. As awful as the Republicans are, they have enough realism and pragmatism to get behind their best candidates, and not try to defeat them for “ideological impurities,” like the Jacobins who executed them all, and ended up with Napoleon and then the Bourbons again.

        • I wrote a replying comment yesterday, but it never posted, not sure why it was not posted.

          William, why do you assume that Sanders could not defeat a Republican, especially this current batch, that is unlikely to elect a charismatic, non-insane candidate, and almost certain to not advocate policies that have majoritarian USian support.

          The right-wing beltway CorporateMedia fraudulently Sanders as extreme left. Sanders’ policies have majoritarian USian support, e.g. Sanders adheres to the spirit of democracy. Thus Sanders has centrist policies in terms of actual USian people’s policy preferences.

          I would highlight these 4 policies, that have clear majority support among USians:

          1. anti-TPP Rigged Trade/Oligopolist Welfare agreement, whose heinous provisions include the non-Constitutional ISDS Corporate Kangaroo court that is above the actual US courts, is staffed by “judges” who are revolving-door corporate lawyers, & can extort taxpayer money for “projected reductions in future profits” (so much for the notion that capitalism involves risk).

          2. Medicare For All

          3. $15 minimum wage

          4. free tuition for any 4-yr or 2-yr college or trade school student.

          Sanders, or any politician that genuinely supports these 4 policies, would have a great chance to win the election, including defeating any Repub-Lie-Con from their Clown Car.

          BTW, Sanders got 10K voters at a campaign event in Madison, WI (no huge Megacity), a level of enthusiasm none of the R or other D candidates have been able to show.

          • No one can kmow for certain, of course, but that is actually the problem; people can always imagine that their candidate can somehow win. But many things strongly point against Sanders having any chance to win a general election. He would be 74 years old on Election Day. He is essentially an admitted Socialist. I probably favor a kind of Socialist approach to economics, but it is not going to ever win in this country. He is Jewish. I am Jewish; I would love to see a Jewish President at some point. But a 74-year old Jewish Socialist from New York and now Vermont is not going to come close in a general election.

            Sanders’ only appeal is to a certain group of so-called liberal Democrats who simply hate Hillary Clinton, for what reasons I can scarcely understand. They hated her in 2008, cheated her out of the nomination, and thus got Maureen Dowd’s “shining knight,” Obama; the person whom Caroline Kennedy said reminded her of her father in his approach. The end result is that we’ve been absolutely destroyed in the last two off-year elections; the Republicans dominate Congress. If a Republican, any of these candidates, wins the White House, we are going to see a horror show. Every environmental regulation will disappear. Corporate and wealthy person taxes will be slashed. There will be strong and likely successful efforts to essentially end Medicare and Social Security. Various asset bubbles will be created, ending in something worse than the semi-crash of 2008. Global warming will continue unchecked; there will be droughts, fires, floods; and the Republicans, as under GW Bush, will do nothing about them.

            We’ve got a candidate in Hillary Clinton who is essentially on the right side of every issue, except maybe free trade. Sanders says things that sound great, but are absolutely undoable, particularly with the Congress dominated by Tea Party types. As to even getting elected, Sanders might win a few Eastern states, possibly one or two others. He would lose every Southern state, every contested Midwestern state. Please note that in a so-called liberal Midwestern state like Wisconsin, Scott Walker is still governor. In fact, the Republicans have gained such dominance over state legislatures in that region that it is horrifying. Casting around for possible VP choices for Hillary, I find so few good possibilities; there is scarcely a Democratic governor or respected senator out there. Sanders cannot win those states. By the time the Republican money machine finishes with him, he will be seen as a fringe Socialist completely out of touch with the heartland.

            Finally, I have seen Sanders plenty of times on television, though not in this election cycle. After a while, he can become irritating, because he tends to be whiny, and will never concede a point. I am sure he has some skeletons of some sort; in this fantasy infatuation with him by the “anybody but Hillary” wing, no one has bothered to consider that. He will ultimately be hung out to dry, just like McGovern was. And then all the Salon types can watch the Republicans win the White House, add to their margins in the Congress;; and then they can write a whole bunch of articles in the next four years about how the coutnry is lost, and how they will have to move to Costa Rica or Mars. And yet, with every logical fact telling us that supporting Sanders is a virtually sure path to destruction, these anti-Clinton people, the ones who were overjoyed when they took the nomination from her in 2008, just can’t help themselves.

            By the way, after the utter debacle of 1972, do you recall what happened? Not only did we get Nixon, who literally tried to destroy democracy in this country; even when we somehow managed to force him to resign (we had a Democratic Congress then), the left wing of the Democrats was in such disrepute, that we ended up with Jimmy Carter as the nominee, against whom the Republicans were able to successfully run for about 20 years, until Bill Clinton came along. Twenty years of Republican dominance of our political system at this point, and people will literally want to live on Mars. And the Sanders supporters are going to help to make it happen. The Republicans are absolutely gleeful about this, and will do anything they can to stoke those fires. It’s their only chance to win the election this time. When Ted Kennedy ran against incumbent Carter, I was all for it; there was very little to lose and much to gain. This time, this is everything to lose; and nothing to gain, since Hillary is more competent, more knowlegeable, more experienced than Sanders, has far more international status; and is better than Obama in virtually every way.

  3. The right side of every domestic issue, except maybe free trade.

    William left out foreign policy. I doubt anyone of either wing of the Property Party will be allowed to become Preznit without being willing to murder as many swarthy foreigners as necessary to enable the continuing global Empire of Capital. Can HRC break that iron law somehow, dissolve the Empire, and give us back a Republic?

    I say “Empire of Capital” rather than “Empire of the USA” because Capital is Sauron; Uncle Sam is merely the Lord of the Nazgul.

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