‘Progressive’ is as Progressives don’t


In his book, “Profiles in Corruption,” Peter Schweizer documents abuses of power among key national Democratic politicians. He calls them “progressives,” but the targets also include those who are generally considered “moderate” among those on the Left. Even so, his focus is motivated by their common desire to greatly expand the size and scope of government. Of course, all of this is meant to improve the world, at least as long as it’s run by elites like them.

The book’s title is a spoof of John F. Kennedy’s famous book, “Profiles in Courage.” In contrast to the selfless and courageous service that could make government more effective, Schweizer is asking what our most avid big-government politicians have done with the power they wield. Quite reasonably, he notes that their checkered pasts make it problematic to honor their passion to wield even more power.

Schweizer’s decision to ignore Republicans serves to narrow the field, but otherwise it’s an unfortunate choice. It leads to the perception that he’s a partisan hack. And certainly one could do a similar book on Republicans, motivated by their exaggerated or hypocritical claims to be “conservative” — fiscally or otherwise. Surely, he missed bigger fish in the GOP to describe smaller fish among the Democrats. Still, the book is worth a read, as far as it goes.

Whatever biases he might have, Schweizer certainly seems thorough — with 90 pages of endnotes. And apparently he’s accurate. Although his reports are blistering, I only see a few partisan rebuttals on-line rather than a parade of lawsuits accusing him of libel. (My only critique was his characterization of Elizabeth Warren on bankruptcy law. After reading and writing about her three books on public policy, I’m deeply troubled by her staggering hypocrisy on policy. Schweizer’s criticism there, however, seems unwarranted.)

Early in the book, Schweizer takes a brief poke at the media. But his entire book is an indirect indictment of their failure to report on such things. He talks about Hillary Clinton (and the Clinton Foundation) in his introduction. And he provides smaller chapters on Eric Garcetti (mayor of Los Angeles) and Sherrod Brown (senator from Ohio and a potential choice for vice president) to fill out the book. But his top targets are six of the most prominent candidates for President in the current primary season.

Schweizer critiques Kamala Harris and Cory Booker for campaign-finance shenanigans. He criticizes Harris and Amy Klobuchar for selective enforcement of laws when they served as district attorneys — especially Harris, for the apparent connections to donor interests. (He also tags Klobuchar for her trouble with high levels of staff turnover.) He underlines how massive corruption continued unabated in Newark under Booker — as well as his unseemly connections to Mercury Public Affairs and the Mueller investigation. And he details a staggering array of corrupt dealings in the Biden family — with son Hunter (in tandem with Devon Archer), sister Valerie, son-in-law Howard Krein and brothers James and Frank.

(Along the way, Schweizer also provides a variety of interesting biographical nuggets: Harris is a mix of Jamaican and Indian ancestry, with the latter influencing her religious beliefs. And she had an affair with Willie Brown — a prominent California politician, 31 years her senior — who helped to advance her career. Cory Booker has been active in and influenced by Judaism. And he is descended from slaves and slave-owners, making his argument for reparations seem especially strange.)

Schweizer describes Warren’s use of “Native American” to advance her career, as well as her lucrative corporate consulting and the political connections she used to profit her daughter and son-in-law. He points to Bernie Sanders for evasion of campaign finance information and enriching his family (girlfriend and then wife, Jane — as well as her daughter Carina and son David). Schweizer also discusses at length the unfortunate tenure of Sanders’ wife as president of now-defunct Burlington College. And ironically, given their rhetoric, Schweizer notes that Sanders had few investments in “socially responsible” funds, while Warren had none.

Even though all of these politicians frequently talk about income and wealth inequality, they are part of the top tier in terms of income and wealth. More important, they’re part of “the 1 percent” in terms of power. It seems naïve and damaging to give them even more weight. Schweizer makes clear that their use of power has been abusive, corrupt and regressive — rather than admirable, conscientious or “progressive”.

D. Eric Schansberg is professor of economics at Indiana University Southeast, adjunct scholar for the Indiana Policy Review Foundation and author of “Turn Neither to the Right not Left: A Thinking Christian’s Guide to Politics and Public Policy.”

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