Bernie Sanders Dream Team

“Think big, not small”, is what Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential candidate tries to drill into the heads of his huge overflow crowds in the audience, when he gives a rousing speech, rattling away his “issues”. In that context, there have already been some rumors about who should serve in a potential Sanders administration, and I will make a brief list of candidates that should be considered for the important cabinet positions. Note that I did not pay attention to an evenly balanced racial or gender mix, because it is, unfortunately, the case that most progressives tend to be old, white men.

Vice President of the United States: Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren--Official 113th Congressional Portrait--.jpg

Source: Wikipedia

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is the undisputed progressive favorite, and would have received much of the current support going to Sanders had she declared her candidacy. If something happens to Bernie (he is going to be 75 when assuming office), we have to ensure that an equally progressive leader can succeed him.

U.S. Secretary of Treasury: Robert Reich

Robert Reich

Source: UC Berkeley

Former labor secretary, Robert Reich, has cabinet-level experience, and has been cited by Sanders as a desirable cabinet pick. Reich is also a great contemporary writer, and has predicted the decline of low-skilled work in Work of Nations (1991), and explained the current economic crisis in terms of growing inequality, concentration of wealth at the top, a declining middle class, and therefore the need to organize bottom up economics. This time he should lead the Treasury department to ensure that Sanders’ financial priorities are kept straight.

U.S. Secretary of State: Alan Grayson

Alan Grayson Updated Headshot.jpg

Source: Wikipedia

The Florida Congressman has been at the forefront of criticizing the Obama administration for supporting weapons delivery to “moderate” Syrian rebels, fueling further tension in the Middle East, because US weapons inevitably reach the hands of ISIS terrorists. Grayson has also opposed all US interventions, such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. Peaceful US foreign policy, leading by example rather than by force, is precisely the kind of foreign policy leadership that we need.

(I also think that his assistant secretary of state should be Noam Chomsky, political activist and linguist, and lifelong critic of US imperialism. What do you think? )

Source: Wikipedia

Director of the Office of Management and Budget: Joseph Stiglitz

Joseph E. Stiglitz - cropped.jpg

Source: Wikipedia

The Columbia professor, Nobel prize winner, former chief economic advisor to the Clinton administration, and former chief economist of the World Bank has the practical political experience and economic knowledge to manage the finances of the US treasury and calculating its impacts on the working and middle class of this country. Stiglitz has been named by Sanders as a potential cabinet pick, and he certainly has proven his concern for the social problems of our time with his books, e.g. The Price of Inequality (2012)

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman: Paul Krugman

Source: Twitter

Paul Krugman, Princeton professor, Nobel prize winner, and expert on international economics and finance, would be a great pick to succeed Janet Yellen when she completes her term in 2018. Krugman is well known for his liberal rants as a New York Times columnist, which gives him wide circulation and recognition. How can we use the Federal Reserve to benefit ordinary people and not just too-big-to-fail financial institutions. Krugman will not have all the answers, but he will think about the right problems.

U.S. Secretary of Defense: Dennis Kucinich

Denniskucinich1.jpg

Source: Wikipedia

The former Congressman, Dennis Kucinich, ran twice for the Democratic Party ticket, and argued for the creation of a “Department of Peace”. He opposed every single recent US war, and led the impeachment charges against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for misleading the American people to participate in devastating wars. Who could better guard the military than one of the most committed peaceniks? If Sanders wants to shrink military spending, he needs people like Kucinich to man the department.

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency: Bill McKibben

Source: prwatch.org

I have never read anything from Bill McKibben, but he is the first and foremost voice in this country with regard to attacking climate change, the devastating impact on human life, he organized a huge climate march, and lobbied against passage of the Keystone Exxel pipeline. You would want to have the most concerned environmental expert on your team to lead the EPA to help transform our energy economy toward sustainable energy and away from fossil fuel.

U.S. Secretary of Energy: Jan Schakowsky

Janschakowskyemailsmall.jpg

Source: Wikipedia

One of the most progressive voices in Congress, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky sits in the U.S. House Energy Committee, and has been one of the leading advocates of clean energy (solar, wind etc.) initiatives, and reducing the influence and impact of fossil fuel companies. She would be a much needed voice in Sanders’ cabinet.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce: Gar Alperovitz

Source: garalperovitz.com

The former political economy professor of the University of Maryland has been one of the leading voices of worker ownership of companies, which is precisely the initiative that we need to jump-start an economy, which so far only knows how to maximize shareholder value and CEO bonuses, but not worker paychecks and job security. Alperovitz will advocate for policies that make the government favorable to cooperative arrangements within companies. (His friend Richard Wolff, a Marxist economist, arguing in a similar vein, should be one of his paid advisers.)

U.S. Trade Representative: Thom Hartmann

Source: Facebook

The leading progressive radio talkshow host has been a consistent voice condemning US free trade agreements which lead to the loss of jobs for American manufacturing workers. The issue is not trade itself, but the fact that workers in the US tend to be on the losing side of the bargain and it is about time to reverse these disastrous corporate-friendly trade policies.

U.S. Secretary of Labor: Kshama Sawant

Source: Seattle Globalist

The former computer engineer grew up in India, studied economics in the US, became a convinced socialist and became city councilor in Seattle. She led the charge for a $15 minimum wage in Seattle and won that battle. There are real rumblings in the country, and she has the capacity to push for a $15 minimum wage nationwide. She is, therefore, an indispensable ally to Sanders’ campaign.

U.S. Attorney General: Jesse Jackson

Jesse Jackson 2013.jpg

Source: Wikipedia

The lifelong civil rights activist and two-time presidential candidate has always fought for economic and racial justice, which given the tumultuous times in which we live is precisely the voice that we need in the Justice Department. How can we deal with police brutality in majority poor and African American neighborhoods? How can we prevent another Baltimore riot? How can we tackle racism, discrimination and lack of opportunity, the “margin of despair” as Jackson used to say during his presidential race.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services: Walter Tsou

Source: Green Shadow Cabinet

I have met the former president of the American Public Health Association and former health commissioner of Philadelphia. This trained doctor has been a consistent voice for implementing a single payer health care plan. Some students in the audience asked him what the impact of Obamacare was going to be. “It will be a disaster. Premiums will continue to increase, and many people will still have no health insurance.” And he is right!

U.S. Secretary of Education: Diane Ravitch

Source: dianeravitch.com

I have not read much from Diane Ravitch, educational expert at New York University and former assistant secretary of education, but she made herself known in her blogs denouncing the No Child Left Behind Act, and all attempts to use standardized tests to put pressure on teachers to increase their “performance”, as if school were a simple commodity. She attacks attempts toward school privatization. She blames poverty for poor school performance. I hope she would back Sanders’ proposal for tuition-free college.

U.S. Secretary of Transport: Peter DiFazio

Source: Wikipedia

Congressman Peter DiFazio is the ranking member of the transportation committee in the House of Representatives (and otherwise a fiery progressive politician, who opposed Bush tax cuts and wars), and would be the right kind of person to oversee the huge infrastructure bill ($1 trillion) that the Sanders administration would push for.

U.S. Secretary of Interior: Raul Grijalva

Gijalva113.jpg

Source: Wikipedia

Congressman Raul Grijalva is the ranking member of the Committee on Natural Resources in the House of Representatives. He co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which was first led and co-founded by none other than Bernie Sanders. During his committee work he has pushed for strong federal oversight over oil companies following the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010. He pushed for the creation of a National Landscape Conservation System. He was a candidate of the Interior Secretary position during the Obama administration, but was passed over for nomination due to his skepticism of further approving offshore oil drilling operations (which the Obama administration strongly favored). This is exactly the kind of voice that a Sanders administration needs.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Corrine Brown

Corrinebrown.jpeg

Source: Wikipedia

Congresswoman Brown is the ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee has been a tireless advocate for veterans, lobbying for grants on behalf of homeless veterans, gender-specific services at VA hospitals, and a shortening of VA hospital wait times, among many other issues affecting veterans.

U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Chaka Fattah

Chaka fattah.jpg

Source: Wikipedia

I attended a brief speech that Congressman Chaka Fattah gave to community college students in Philadelphia. Fattah has been a staunch supporter of legislation favoring college access, youth mentoring, manufacturing trade assistance, programs to protect homeowners from losing their homes resulting from default, and loans to cooperative businesses, which are exactly the kind of initiatives that we need.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: Yoko Ono

Yokoono2.jpg

Source: Wikipedia

Who would be better suited to represent US interests in the United Nations than Yoko Ono, artist, musician and lifelong peace activist?

I am still looking for a U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, but these would be the contours of a Sanders cabinet

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16 Responses to Bernie Sanders Dream Team

  1. Ronald says:

    Chomsky is an anarchist and does not support US imperialism and that includes aparthiedist Israel. Sawant is a revolutionary socialist (Trotskist variety) and would not support US imperialism or Israel. Why do you expect these people to get along with people who support US interventionism and reactionary so-called allies like Israel?

    What’s more, most of the people you cited have no symphathy for socialism. You say social democracy does not go far enougth and is an impossibility in the 21st century and then select people like Sen. Warren. Since when has being an FDR Democrat had anything to do with legitimate socialism?

    Are you even aware that the Seattle Democrats are trying to make it impossible for Sawant to run for re-election because they know she may win again?

    Congressman Fattah is under indictment!

    Your list makes no real sense! I suggest if you really believe in Democratic socialism then you should at the very least examine the platform of the Socialist Party, USA. But that platform clearly states the Democrats are a capitalist party and socialists can not ever support any capitalist party. Unfortunately, the current SP does engage in fusion politics with the Green Party and it too is a party committed to capitalism, although it is reformist and to the left of the Democrats..

    Once more, your support of Sanders does not live up to your original argument for democratic socialism and you are throwing together a list of “likes” without any examination of how their politics would fit a radical socialist (Marxist) re-shaping of our political zeitgeist..

    • Larry Liu says:

      In a very different political world, it would be possible to appoint the left-wing candidates that you desire. But where are these people?

      • Ronald says:

        Although I am critical of Leninism in all of its many varieties, you may just want to examine the Trotskyists. Sawant is a Trotskyist and if you like her then maybe you should welcome some reasonable minded people from her group, Socialist Alternative. I still do not know a whole lot about them other than they seem to be a another Trotskist group. I know that International Socialists Organization (more Trotskyists) has been around quite a few years and were Nader supporters.

  2. PW says:

    Far from being a dream team this is something of a nightmare scenario!

    – Warren would be a good VP pick if she were not needed in the Senate to spearhead the legislative fights Sanders needs to wage in his first two years.

    – Grayson on a personal level is just obnoxious as hell and dead wrong about ISIS and the moderate rebels (fewer than 5% of the U.S./Saudi supplied heavy anti-tank weapons from 2014 onward have fallen into the hands of ISIS or Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra). Grayson’s military isolationism is a non-starter for Sanders who supports a multilateral effort to defeat ISIS.

    – Chomsky, McKibben, and half this list are disqualified because they’ve never served in government before. Someone’s first job in government should not be at the Cabinet level! There would be zero support in Congress for anyone with zero experience in this realm.

    – Sawant would never serve in a Sanders administration since her group, Socialist Alternative (S.A.), does not support Sanders either in the primary against Clinton and will not support him in the general if he beats Clinton (probably her group would say Sanders is leading a “bourgeois government” since he came to power as the titular head of the bourgeois Democratic Party). Plus there’s the matter of S.A.’s adherence to “democratic centralism” which means she couldn’t make any policy independently of her little group’s approval.

    What your list suffers from I think is an excessive or one-sided focus on ideological/policy compatibility with Sanders’ agenda while neglecting issues like experience in government as well as political considerations. You should study Sanders appointments of various heads of departments when he was mayor of Burlington if you want to see what types of people he would pick for what types of jobs. He not only looks at a person’s ideology/political leanings but also their technical expertise, prior experience, and competence.

    • Larry Liu says:

      The list is a suggestion, and not binding for Sanders. I simply pointed out how a world could look like if the people defending the underdogs actually served in power.

      • PW says:

        Fair enough, but I think it would be better to brainstorm actual potential candidates to build up some buzz around our preferred choices. For example, I could see Bill De Blasio or Keith Ellison being actual VP choices.

    • Ronald says:

      P.W. I could not have said it better. You touched on everything wrong with the list and covered Sen. Sanders’ mayorial history and how very different Sawant is. I like Sawant but agree that Democratic Centralism has always been for the birds.

      I still think that Sanders will not succeed because the Democrats will never hand him the nomination. Real Socialists must recognize what an outright capitalist party the Dems are. If they were Reformists in the past they are no longer reformists and will seek the same Wall Street supporters as the GOP. If Nader recognized all of this in the 1990’s and 2000’s then why is it so damn hard to understand nothing has changed.

      • PW says:

        Actually there’s a historical precedent for what Sanders is doing — socialist Upton Sinclair won the DP nomination for California governor in 1934. See http://communiquenewengland.com/2015/08/10/argument-and-analysis-pro-sanders-guest-post-part-ii/

      • Ronald says:

        As I recall, he had left the SP and ran as an FDR Democrat. But he then lost the election to the corporate Republican incumbent Governor because the MGM studios’ director hired actors to frighten California voters into thinking that the state would be swamped by vagrants. So even in the middle of the Great Depression, when the US left had it greatest upsurge, a majority could still be persuaded to vote against their own best interests. In a time when we do not even have a single democratic-socialist newspaper of mass circulation, how do you expect the outcome to be any different?

      • Larry Liu says:

        In the past, the socialists and progressives tended to push the Democratic Party to the left even if they never won an election. The left-wing forces within the Democratic Party can never be underestimated, and I don’t share your pessimism and view that a party system remains stagnant. If structures were stagnant we would still have slavery. I am only pessimistic about the immediate prospects of abolishing capitalism.

    • Ronald says:

      One more though about Chomsky. He is an anarchist! He would never join any organized GOVERNMENT, even of a left variety. He does not actually believe in the state.

      And as to Robert Reich, he is a Keynsian. Remember Mr. Liu started this conversation by saying Keynsian- economics would no longer work in the 21st century because of the decline in the rate of profits by the capitalists That view is entirely correct!

      • Larry Liu says:

        My instinct is split about Keynesianism. On the one hand, it is difficult to imagine a massive increase in the growth rate without another world war. On the other hand, it is the only way of preserving social rights for working people without violating the principles of private property and the capitalist mode of production. I would sign up to the genuinely socialist alternative if we knew how to challenge the logic of the system without repeating the mistakes of Stalinism or Maoism.

      • Ronald says:

        There are alternative visions to Leninism that are worth examining. I would first say that according to F. Engles, Karl Marx was for the administration of things and not people.This means that working people can govern and that we shall govern so as to distribute the goods and services as they are needed. The state ceases to exist as we have known it.

        For various non-stateist views of socialism then examine Daniel DeLeon and the Socialist Labor Party in the US and also the World Socialist Party in the US. The WSP is part of an international tendency on the left that has been around approximately a hundred years and apparently was a rival to the Socialist Party of Eugene Debs. In Canada, they were associated with something called the One Big Union which rivaled the IWW in Canada. I can not recall the major personality they are associated with but they were originally the Workers Socialist Party and had split from the Detroit SP. The SLP is always associated with Daniel DeLeon, who died just before the start of the World War in 1914. They participated with the SP in founding the IWW but later fell out with the IWW.

        Both groups are still around. The SLP has the clearest explanation of what they envision. However, the WSP may be more democratic in practice. They are major starting points for anyone who wishes to read of a socialist philosophy (Marxist) that challenges European social-democracy and all authoritarian ( Leninist) views of socialism. They are now very small but historically significant.

  3. Ronald says:

    As for your post on August 13 regarding the Dems. The Democratic Party is capitalist in nature and can only push further austerity for the working class and not an expansion of the social safety net or social benefits. This is because Keynsian economics will not work and there is an international falling rate of profits even as worker productivity is pushed to through the ceiling. Our problems are not that different from Greece but not as severe.

    Hillary Clinton is the likely candidate of the Democrats because the Wall Street crowd only wants government to rescue them after more of their faulty business practices. It was Bill Clinton who did away with Glass-Steagill and they know they can depend on Hillary not to push for meaningful reform. She thus does not support the $15 minimum wage, she will not raise the cap on income contributions to social security or expand social security or move towards true universal healthcare. When the absolute phony Obama even repealed Frank-Dodd in 2014, you did not hear one word from Hillary about it.

    It is not a question of when we will achieve socialism. It is a question of when we will get serious about building a movement for socialism that challenges these ” two twin parties of capitalism” (Debs). The Sanders campaign will only turn over his voters to Clinton by Summer 2016 and will have done nothing to contribute to a lasting movement for socialism. That is a diversion and a shameful waste of our energy.

    • PW says:

      “The Democratic Party is capitalist in nature and can only push further austerity for the working class and not an expansion of the social safety net or social benefits.”

      Then how do you explain Bill De Blasio’s expansion of pre-K in New York City (an expansion of social benefits) and successive non-austerity city budgets?

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