• After 87 months of Obama, why are young liberals asking for ‘change’?

    Wonder Land Columnist Dan Henninger analyzes the New York primary results. Photo credit: Getty Images.

    With Hillary Clinton and the party machinery back on track to a now-tarnished coronation, it’s worth assessing what Bernie Sanders’s campaign accomplished. I still can’t take the Vermont Socialist himself seriously, not with Larry David as his doppelgänger. But the Sanders phenomenon—embraced by a strong majority of liberals between the ages of 17 and 50—deserves attention.

    Reporters have exhaustively plumbed the habitats and mental states of “the Trump voter.” Sen. Sanders’s supporters, by contrast, have floated through the primaries in a mist of keywords—millennials, college students, young professionals, actresses, “white people.”

    One has to ask: Are they all actually socialists? I doubt it.

    It’s no surprise Donald Trump in his New York victory speech about the “corrupt” Republican Party called Sen. Sanders a fellow “outsider.” The two great disrupters are remarkably similar, a kind of Tweedledon and Tweedleburn on trade and a “system” that’s “broken” and “failing” their supporters.

    If one word attaches to the Sanders camp, it is “change.” But change what?

    This isn’t meant to deride their desire for change, which is undoubtedly authentic, but only to ask how it’s possible that so many under-50 liberals have settled on Bernie Sanders as a change agent after living daily through more than 87 straight months of a Democratic president elected on a platform of “Hope and Change”?

    As to Mrs. Clinton, President Obama’s presumed heir, The Wall Street Journal poll this week finds “just 22% of registered voters give her high marks for being able to bring real change to the country.”

    What, exactly, is Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or even Bernie Sanders supposed to deliver that an infinity of politicians and public officials before them haven’t already delivered?

    If change has any concrete meaning for Sen. Sanders’s supporters, it must have something to do with what the government or public sector does.

    However imperfect, the federal budget embodies what the U.S. government is.

    First the numbers. The 2015 federal budget spent about $3.8 trillion, or 21% of the U.S. economy. Year in and year out, that $3 trillion to $4 trillion underwrites programs.


    As listed at federalsafetynet.com, the programs delivering welfare include: the negative income tax, SNAP (supplemental nutrition), housing assistance, SSI, Pell Grants, TANF (temporary assistance for needy families), child nutrition, Head Start, job training programs, WIC (food for women and children), child care and Liheap (energy subsidies).

    Entitlement programs include Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance and the Affordable Care Act.

    Education: A website called CollegeScholarships.org lists “Grants from the U.S. Government: Free Money from Uncle Sam.”

    Why are 25-year-old liberals crying out for “change,” if you are spending $4 trillion every year on all this stuff? There’s hardly anything significant left to deliver, other than results, so maybe something is wrong with the delivery system.

    Let’s get local. Anyone want to guess what this year’s budget is for New York City’s hapless school system? It is $27.6 billion.

    Writing in the Los Angeles Daily News a few years ago, Tim Ruttentried to discern a total-spending figure for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Answer: No one knows. It’s too big and too complicated: “In all, LAUSD receives money earmarked to aid more than 140 categories of students.”

    This week, the New York Times described the split over Bill and Hillary Clinton between older blacks, who support them, and younger blacks who don’t. Said one new-generation activist from Philadelphia: “We do not believe that freedom for black Americans will come through politicians.”

    The War on Poverty began in 1965. A half-century later, after uncountable trillions spent, you’ve still got Baltimore, Chicago, East Brooklyn and East St. Louis. Who wouldn’t be angry about black lives?

    A $15 minimum wage isn’t change. It’s a fly on the elephant’s back.

    That sound welling out of Sanders rallies is, in no small part, a cri de coeur for accountability. Bernie, a skilled pol, reprogrammed the anger against “corporate greed,” but at least you can show up at a shareholders meeting to gripe. With the public sector, it is impossible to identify who they are, other than “Washington.”

    At least some of Sen. Sanders’s agitated supporters may be starting to recognize that after all these years, the federal government has achieved a steady state of sludge. Hillary Clinton sounds like the most knowledgeable technocrat in America, and none of these young people want much of anything to do with her.

    Sen. Sanders said he was leading a political revolution. But he won’t be its vessel, nor will Mrs. Clinton. It will take someone who can recognize that social change isn’t going to happen until you disaggregate these public blobs. And in the private sector, let young companies have enough capital to breathe.

    Anyone inside Bernie Sanders’s neo-socialist orbit suggesting that less blob and more capital might work better runs the risk of being called a “conservative.”

    So figure out how to rebrand conservatism, liberalism, progressivism and even socialism as something more like them. Maybe they could call it artisanalism.

    Write to henninger@wsj.com


    Posted by Dana West @ 5:43 am for Candidates, Climate Change, Economy, Editorial, Education, Elections, Energy, Immigration, Issues, Jobs, Liberal Logic, National politics, ObamaCare, Taxes, Terrorism, Transportation, War on Women |

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