Bernie’s Tune

Much has been made of the ‘fact’ that the top 20 donors to the Sanders campaign are all unions and the top 20 donors to the Clinton campaign are corporations or law firms. This is probably true as far as it goes. Various leftish wing sites go on to explore that the corporations give far more money to Clinton than the unions can supposedly afford to give to Sanders.

Information such as this fits nicely into the idea that Sanders is a left wing candidate who will, at a minimum, help to define Clinton’s somewhat obscure politics. The problem is that these statistics are only a small piece of the byzantine campaign finance puzzle. The same unions that have donated to Sanders have also given to Clinton and in larger amounts. (I parsed through the top 10 of Sander’s list and found only one union, The National Education Association, that wasn’t on Clinton’s list) The reason these unions don’t appear in Clinton’s top 20 is that other corporations have given her even more.

The easiest way to view this information is here, but if one wanted, one could find the same information with more difficulty on the official US government election site that lists campaign filings.

Sanders’ has campaigned using his support from unions as positive evidence of his socialist credentials. The idea that labor unions represent the ‘people’ is an old one in US left wing politics. It is occasionally even true. More often, unions have acted to erect racial, age, educational and other barriers to entry into the job market. As the list of donors to Mr. Sanders demonstrates, many unions represent highly paid professionals such as aeronautical workers.

Further only 11% of Americans belong to a union, and of these over half work for the government. Any gains made by unions are thereby directly passed on to the public in the form of higher taxes, not terrible in itself, but should taxpayers be stuck funding salaries like the one for the head of the largest public sector labor union, AFSCME, last reported at over $350,000, plus benefits and ‘reimbursements,’ including a fully funded retirement? The same union had at least 26 officers with salaries in excess of $200,000. Not exactly working class salaries.

So why is Sanders opposing Clinton? He has certainly expressed his support of unions. But has he suggested a way in which unions can help the United States’ increasingly poor working class? His state, Vermont, has the second lowest percentage of non-whites in the country (under 4%). Does he have any experience or understanding of the problems of immigrants, non-English speakers and African Americans? I hear from him only a slight variation on the platitudes offered by Mrs. Clinton, and no plans for dealing with the poor, minorities, working class or underclass.

My suspicion is that Sanders has a few motivations. He has enjoyed a large and loyal following, and perhaps, like the Clintons before him, he will morph his popularity into large speaker’s fees after the primaries. Also, Mrs. Clinton is a notoriously bad candidate. As long as she is enjoying the friendly fire of Mr. Sanders, she is able to establish her candidacy without the many serious questions about her own honesty and the purity of the Clinton foundation. It is difficult for me to believe that Mr. Sanders is a serious candidate against Mrs. Clinton when he refuses to raise her most serious weaknesses as a candidate and as a president.

Eve Mykytyn graduated from Boston University School of Law and was admitted to bar of the state of New York. Read other articles by Eve.