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Power Sheet: Democrats Unveil a Business-Hostile Platform

The last-minute timing of Bernie Sanders’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton yesterday, less than two weeks before the convention, was predictable. Only after the platform committee had finished its work over the weekend, and Sanders had wrung as many concessions as possible from the Clinton forces, did he finally say, “I intend to do everything I can to make certain she will be the next president of the United States.” The result is what the committee’s chairman, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, rightly called “by far the most progressive platform that this party has seen in multiple generations.” That means, among other things, the most anti-business platform, and business leaders will want to study it.

The platform won’t be final until the convention votes on it, and for now the only version publicly available is dated July 1, so it doesn’t reflect the changes made last weekend. Further, the nominee doesn’t always hew to the platform. Still, as the formal statement of the party’s positions, it’s instructive.

Positions of particular interest to business leaders:

-It explicitly calls for a $15 federal minimum wage, indexed to inflation, even for tipped workers. In addition, “Democrats will make it easier for workers, public and private, to exercise their right to organize, and join unions.” The platform would also mandate at least 12 weeks of paid family or medical leave nationally.

-The party would “claw back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.” It doesn’t say how.

-“Democrats will fight against the greed and recklessness of Wall Street.” The virulence of the language is noteworthy. There’s more: “Democrats believe that no bank can be too big to fail and no executive too powerful to jail.” New regulation of financial services would be considerable. Most significantly, the platform calls for a financial transactions tax “to curb excessive speculation and high-frequency trading;” financial services firms would be required to make loans “more affordable” for small and medium-sized businesses; and such firms would be prohibited from choosing the credit rating agencies that rate their products.

-The platform calls for taxing U.S. companies’ foreign profits immediately so that companies “can no longer escape paying their fair share of United States taxes by stashing profits abroad.” This would be a monumental change in corporate tax policy. The platform is silent on what would become of cash currently “stashed” abroad.

The Sanders forces tried and failed to win explicit opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, though Clinton has said she opposes it, after having supported it as Secretary of State. They also failed to get endorsement of a carbon tax but did get language calling for pricing of greenhouse gases; the Clinton campaign quickly announced that this wasn’t part of her climate plan.

In tone and in details, the Democratic platform is a remarkably business-hostile document by the standards of either party. How does the Republicans’ platform compare? Their platform committee just began deliberations on Monday. We’ll analyze the result soon.

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