Now that Bernie Sanders is about to become a footnote to history, let the calculated shift of Hillary Clinton back toward the center begin. If she plays it right, Donald Trump will be a footnote as well.
Well, maybe not. If she sings a more pragmatic tune she may bury him so completely that he will become infamous — he loves fame of any kind – for being the biggest loser in U.S. political history. That would merit more than a footnote.
Clinton is an odds-on favorite to win the general election in November, but a lot of people can’t stand her or Donald Trump. Both have high negatives in the polls. I have talked to a bunch of people since the Trump win in Indiana, and they feel homeless. They have no one they want to vote for.
But Clinton may be able to snag enough of them to lock down a Democratic landslide if she makes pragmatic moves toward the middle.
Here are examples:
Obamacare Rev. 2 –She could rescue the imploding Affordable Care Act (ACA), which did solve part of the access issue, by adopting Value Healthcare, the delivery model that private payers innovated to contain the cost hemorrhage in the nation’s medical bill.
Republicans have blown the opportunity to follow business leaders toward real management of health care costs. Trump’s know-nothing statements on the campaign trail show he will never figure it out.
Health costs are the number one economic issue in the country, and she could fix it with Obamacare Rev. 2. Keep the ACA insurance subsidies, but add to the mix: market dynamics, consumerism, proactive primary care for prevention, individual accountability, value-based purchasing. She could steal what should be GOP stuff. It’s there for the taking.
Such pragmatic problem solving would draw some independents and dyspeptic Republicans to her side.
Revenue Raising and Inequality – At this point, Trump’s platform, which changes by the day, calls for major tax cuts and high spending increases for programs. Deficits will have to rise sharply to accommodate those two ends. That makes him a sitting duck for a fiscally conservative message. Along the way to raising revenues and moving toward a balanced budget, Clinton could solve much of nation’s inequality problem.
Clinton has already called for surtax on incomes over $5 million, which would make patriots of Hollywood stars, Wall Street sharks, over-paid jocks and CEO fat cats. She wants capital gains taxes increased, especially for stock traders and hedge funds. That plays well across the political spectrum.
She could add a minimum corporate income tax to get a fair share from big corporations that use endless loopholes to pay absurdly low taxes. The 28 percent alternative minimum tax (AMT) works for individuals; why not corporations? The corporate AMT should be on all U.S. profits, carefully defined. That would blunt the advantages of moving corporate headquarters to low-tax countries like Ireland.
These reforms could go a long way toward flattening inequality and paying for Clinton’s largesse: higher college subsidies, expansion of ACA access, investments in clean energy subsidies, early childhood education, veterans’ services and infrastructure.
She could come off as the sensible fiscal manager who is willing to push back on her cronies and thereby chip into the centrist voters who don’t like Trump for a long list of reasons.
Immigration – The pragmatic middle ground is to offer work permits, not citizenship, to illegal immigrants. Like most of our immigrant forebears, they came here for work and better lives for their families. Their children would become citizens. Such a compromise would make her base scream, and Trump would scream, too. But she would pick up votes for being even-handed and for solving a problem that demands to be solved.
Trade Policy – Our trade imbalance and loss of manufacturing jobs overseas revolves mostly around our trade deficit with China. She could do what Warren Buffet recommends: cut a bilateral deal that stops the imbalance from getting any larger than it is now. China would have to import more of our goods to get chits to export more to us. That would play well with voters in the middle who don’t want to see trade knee-capped, as Trump proposals would accomplish.
Job Creation and Poverty Reduction – Entrepreneurs are the job creators. Big corporations, real estate developers, and retailers are secondary when it comes to building the job base. Startups that deploy innovative technologies, not politicians, are what make America great. Do whatever it takes to make more parts of the country look like Silicon Valley or Israel, the prosperous startup nation.
Couple that with innovative job training programs in the nation’s pockets of poverty, like the cities of Milwaukee and Beloit and northwestern Wisconsin.
Then adopt sensible programs like the LARC (long acting reversible contraceptives) initiative promoted by the Buffet Foundation in Colorado, where the birth rate for single moms is half of Milwaukee County’s 55 percent. Push free LARCs on a regional basis so the issue of possible discrimination goes away. A birth to a single mom is a guaranty of poverty and other bad outcomes for another generation.
Clinton could make herself palatable to independents and some Republican voters with these kinds of pragmatic answers to our biggest challenges.
The Trump win was an anti-ideology surge. The angry voters have a belly full of ideology from both sides and the resulting gridlock. Out of frustration, they went for Trump even though he has no consistent thoughts on any subject. They want the nation’s problems solved.
Clinton could move into that problem-solving space and give the homeless voters a place to go.
John Torinus is the chairman of Serigraph Inc. in West Bend. He is involved with several business and civic organizations and is the author of “The Company That Solved Health Care.”