6.02.2009

Democracy now: Senator Sanders in Stowe, 05/31/09

Thesis, antithesis, synthesis: Last week I attended a presentation by David Hale, a native Vermonter who has become a consummate economic insider -- in the course of his presentation, he mentioned how he had recently had a working lunch with Fed chairman Ben Bernake, and had also recently met with both the Canadian and British Finance Ministers. Hale gave a very interesting, erudite and wide ranging presentation; it was much more specific than the recent Van Jones 'green jobs salvation show'. It was, however, undoubtedly an insider's perspective -- he did predict that more regulation of the financial system would be one outcome of the present situation, and was also quite dismissive of the threat of hyperinflation in the United States, despite unprecedented deficits (a write up of the presentation here).

Then on Sunday morning, I went over to attend a 'town meeting' in Stowe held by Senator Bernie Sanders.* I have never been a huge fan of the Senator, although I do have grudging respect for his ability to function outside of the two-party system, because I tend to dislike the choices that the two parties put in front of me at election time. Once, however, I did sit through a speech by Sanders at St. Michael's College, the subject was globalization and trade, and all I remember was that the speech was really just a full-on rant, and was amplified, which was unfortunate, because it was almost uncomfortably loud in the auditorium.

Sunday, thankfully, the Senator was rather more subdued, though it was funny, as an audience member, I could tell that certain subjects were inflammatory... and rhetorical flourishes would rise close to the surface. He did rail against Wall Street, the financial sector and criticized the role of people like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner as close advisors to President Obama. The recent stimulus bill, health care, veterans issues, and the cost of higher education were also topics discussed.

The venue was full and it was mostly a friendly and attentive crowd. I didn't observe any elected local legislators at the venue.

Not everyone drank the kool aid, however: This questioner asserted that debt levels could not be sustained and would trigger a global financial catastrophe in the near future. Sanders replied that "we respectfully disagree."

Another constituent asks a question; most questions were what I would characterize as 'softballs', due to a high percentage of Sanders supporters in the audience. Even so, I do give Sanders credit for hosting these events around Vermont, a pretty tiring way to spend a weekend I would think.

I also think that it is quite ironic that Bernard Sanders, Pat Leahy, and Jim Douglas are all lifetime professional politicians who have little to no experience working outside of government, and I don't think that this is a good thing.

*All I remember from the 1988 Randolph, Vermont Fourth of July celebration is the image of Sanders and a lone volunteer holding up a hand painted sign "Sanders for US House" walking through the field where the festivities were taking place. It was his first campaign for federal office.

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