By Ronald W. Dixon – February 15, 2020
Earlier this year, I published a long blog post detailing the many reasons why I would not vote for former Vice President Joe Biden if he became the Democratic nominee. Unfortunately, many of the other candidates vying for the nomination are almost as deplorable as Biden, and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is no exception.
Buttigieg does not have the same level of experience as Biden, but what little we know about him shows that he failed as a small-town mayor and is willing to flip-flop, take money from the wealthy, and outright lie in order to attract supporters, and if he were to nab the nomination, I would be unable to support him because 1) I would not really know for certain what he truly stands for entering the general election, 2) he is prone to flip-flopping under the influence of special interests, whereby making any of his campaign promises illegitimate, 3) what little experience he has gained was fraught with controversy, 4) many of his ideologically-consistent views and proposals are deeply troubling and hardly progressive, and 5) he has demonstrated a sheer lack of ethical backbone and no interest in being truthful with the American people.
As I did in my thorough analysis of Biden’s record, I will present my arguments in the form of an alphabetized list. Feel free to use the search function (CTRL + F) to locate a specific topic.
If you have any suggested additions or revisions, please feel free to let me know! Otherwise, on with the list:
Austerity: Buttigieg has signaled his support for austerity measures aimed to reduce the deficit. His rhetoric, though, virtually mirrors what we see from neo-liberal “deficit hawks” who go after social safety net programs while giving tax breaks to the rich and further bloating the military. Buttigieg notes that his austerity advocacy is “not fashionable in progressive circles”, but the reason austerity is not “fashionable” with us is because it is based on conservative economic theories that 1) fly in the face of basic macroeconomics, where the government investing in programs and efforts that help the American people would make our country more fiscally solvent in the long-term, 2) have consistently failed the middle and lower classes, originating with President Reagan’s “trickle-down” policies, and 3) harm the bulk of the American people while simultaneously benefiting the rich and doing nothing to address the debt without sado-masochistically harming the most disadvantaged members of society.
Billionaire Support: Buttigieg receives donations from 40 billionaires and their spouses, much larger than the zero billionaires who donate to Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Whereas Sanders actively rejects money from billionaires, Buttigieg welcomes them with open arms, drinking alcohol with them in the wine caves of the rich and powerful as they advise him on policies that would benefit the elite at the expense of the American people.
Bulldozing Homes in Black and Latinx Communities: Mayor Buttigieg’s administration implemented a program which heavily pressured poor, disproportionately African American and Latinx homeowners to vacate their properties so the city could bulldoze them in an attempt to gentrify these portions of the city. Specifically, Buttigieg’s municipal government employees would threaten community members whose homes were placed on the demolition list with hefty fines and penalties for violating city codes, hoping that they would give-up so the city could tear down their homes. While some homeowners eventually received support to help bring their homes up to code, many homes were still demolished under Buttigieg’s watch.
Called Striking Workers “Social Justice Warriors”: In his memoir, Buttigieg referred to striking food workers at Harvard as “social justice warriors”, a right-wing term universally used as a pejorative against progressives, usually feminists specifically.
Campaign Doesn’t Offer Health Insurance: Whereas the Bernie Sanders campaign for president offers their employees comprehensive health insurance, including access to mental healthcare, as well a union contract, the Pete Buttigieg campaign does not offer health insurance at all, instead providing employees with a stipend to buy their own insurance off of the Obamacare exchanges. In contrast, even Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign offered it’s employees health insurance.
Conflict of Interests: In 2010, while running for the Indiana State Treasurer’s office, Buttigieg said that he would not take money from banks that would do business in his office because it would create a conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest. Later on in the interview, he swore to not take any bank contributions. He later flip-flopped, accepting millions of dollars in campaign contributions from Wall Street and even hiring a Goldman Sachs executive as his national policy director.
Environment: Given the impact that climate change has already had on our lives, and given the fact that the lack of immediate action will result in an utter catastrophe for human civilization, presidential candidates need to push for environmental plans that seek to immediately mitigate and reverse climate change. Whereas Sanders’ Green New Deal plan calls for $16 trillion worth of investments that would lead us to a future where renewable energies are the norm while reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2030, the Buttigieg plan would only invest about $2 trillion and reach the same emissions goal by 2050. Given how we are already beyond the “point of no return”, according to some environmental experts, such a milquetoast plan is far too inadequate to address the global challenges of climate change.
Felon Voting: Buttigieg argued during a CNN townhall that incarcerated felons should not have voting rights, a stark contrast the Bernie Sanders’ view that felons are still citizens who ought to be able to engage in the democratic process.
Healthcare: Prior to running for president, and even during the early days of his campaign, Buttigieg touted a Medicare for All, universal healthcare approach to solving the international disgrace that is our current system of allowing private insurance companies to gatekeep essential healthcare access. While he previously supported healthcare as a human right, which can only be achieved through a universal healthcare system, Buttigieg now supports what he calls “Medicare for All Who Want It”, a neo-liberal program which doesn’t guarantee healthcare at all. Instead, it provides a “public option” that still requires patients to deal with co-pays, deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, co-insurance, in-network availability, and all of the other problems associated with private insurance…except replacing the insurance company with the government. In contrast, a true universal healthcare program makes surprise bills and upfront costs relics of the past, instead allowing you to go to the doctor in exchange for slightly higher taxes, a system that would save us all money.
What makes Buttigieg’s plan even more egregious, though, is that he would implement a “supercharged” version of the previous Obamacare tax penalty, which would automatically enroll people into the public option if they don’t have insurance and then, likely during tax season, retroactively charge them for premiums. Whereas the Affordable Care Act charged an annual fine equal to the greater of $695 or 2.5 percent of their income (before it was ruled unconstitutional), ButtigiegCare could stick those who already couldn’t afford insurance (public or private) with more than $7,000 in fines. A universal healthcare system, meanwhile, would not include any fines; you simply receive healthcare and pay a modest tax on earned income, a tax that’d be far less than what most Americans pay for premiums, let alone co-pays, deductibles, and other surprise medical bills.
Another challenge that the Buttigieg plan would face is that it assumes that it has the capacity to automatically enroll low-income members, who would receive free or low-cost insurance, depending on their financial situation. Whereas a true universal healthcare plan would be free to anyone who visits a doctor’s office or hospital, Buttigieg’s alternative assumes that the government knows every single individual’s financial situation in real-time or that our bureaucracy is large enough to be able to identify all of these individuals, particularly those who never register or apply for other government benefits, such as housing support or Medicaid.
The Buttigieg plan is also the textbook definition of a neo-liberal farce; instead of providing healthcare as a public good, the poor must go out of their way to prove that they are poor enough to receive this service, a screening process which will needlessly expand our bureaucracy and allow millions of Americans to slip through the cracks, an outcome that would be all but impossible under a true universal healthcare system. And how do you even begin going about the process of continuously auditing the citizenry to ensure that their income matches how much they should pay? The plan is needlessly convoluted and neo-liberal beyond repair.
Unfortunately, this is one of the many examples where Buttigieg originally took the progressive position (universal healthcare) and then took a sharp-right turn after receiving large contributions from Wall Street, even going as far as to outright lie about his consistency on the issue. Buttigieg has allowed the rich to ethically compromise him through his recent opposition to a true universal healthcare system, a program which would save lives and encourage us to actually receive the care that we need.
As a side note: Buttigieg recently argued in a tweet that a true universal healthcare system would take away health insurance from union workers who already have decent insurance coverage. Unfortunately, Buttigieg’s weaponization of unions in his crusade against universal healthcare is fallacious and offensive to actual union organizations and negotiators. First, not all union employees have good insurance. Second, the ones who do generally only have it because the union fought vigorously for it, at the expense of other benefits, such as pay increases, investments in their retirement plans, paid parental leave, and student loan debt forgiveness. Third, a universal healthcare program would free unions to negotiate for the above benefits and more without having to disproportionately focus on the employers’ attempts to push insurance costs onto their workers. Fourth, union plans, while generally superior to most other plans, are worse than universal healthcare, which provides all services with no costs in exchange for a modest tax. Even the best insurance plans come with the price of lower wages and/or higher deductibles. Fifth, most Americans are not unionized, so this debate completely and totally ignores their needs.
At the end of the day, Buttigieg needs to stop weaponizing unions in his corporatist attacks against Bernie Sanders and Medicare for All.
Higher Education: Buttigieg slammed universal higher education in a campaign ad because it would benefit the children of rich parents. In reality, though, public goods ought to be available for everyone. Otherwise, you require recipients of these programs and services to prove that they have less means than the wealthy while the rich kids are, by and large, more likely to go to expensive private schools anyway. By the neo-liberal logic proposed by Buttigieg, we ought to means test K-12 education, which we clearly will not do because education is a public good. Additionally, Buttigieg is opposed to universal student debt cancellation, a plan that Sanders touts on the campaign trail.
Immigration: During the first Democratic debate, Buttigieg voiced the opinion that the federal government should decriminalize illegal border crossings. Specifically, after raising his hand when the question was asked of all of the candidates whether they support decriminalizing illegal border crossings and making them civil offenses, Buttigieg said the following:
Let’s remember, that’s not just a theoretical exercise. That criminalization, that is the basis for family separation. You do away with that, it’s no longer possible. Of course it wouldn’t be possible anyway in my presidency, because it is dead wrong.
During the second Democratic debate, however, when challenged on his views concerning border crossings, he flip-flopped, declaring that “illegally crossing the border will still be illegal,” brushing off the debate over “the finer points of which parts of this ought to be handled by civil law and which parts ought to be handled by criminal law”. He later said that it should remain criminalized when “fraud is involved”.
Instead of holding a consistently progressive view that supports immigrants fleeing their native countries who have personally witnessed the failures of our broken immigration system while simultaneously dealing with life-or-death situations that forced them to escape to the United States in the first place, a qualified progressive candidate should stand firm in their support for immigrants, not waiver at the slightest bit of pushback, as Buttigieg has done.
McKinsey & Company: Shortly after graduating from Oxford University, Buttigieg decided to accept a consulting position at McKinsey & Company, a “cult-like management consulting firm” which has been involved in, among other things, advising companies to perform mass layoffs to save money, dealings with authoritarian governments, such as China and Saudi Arabia, and working with Purdue Pharma, the ones who predatorily went after chronic pain patients and got many Americans addicted to OxyContin. In his auto-biography, he argued that he joined the company to gain real-world experience, a faulty argument, given the fact that a graduate of an elite university would have been able to find employment at an ethical business or organization relatively easily. Instead of admitting regret for working for such a large corporation, he said that it was an “intellectually informing experience.” He also downplayed his experience, noting that he merely worked on PowerPoint presentations, even though one of his projects involved working on a contract in Afghanistan that explored how best to extract natural resources. When it suits him, though, he will positively tout his McKinsey experience, declaring that “I cut my teeth in the business community” while working for the firm.
Mischaracterizing Support for the Douglas Plan: In response to Buttigieg’s persistent near zero percent support among the African American community, his campaign unveiled the “Douglas Plan for Black America”. In an attempt to make Buttigieg look good with black voters, his campaign published a letter allegedly signed by over 400 prominent South Carolina supporters, with African American leaders highlighted near the top of the letter. The problem, though, was that many of them were not Buttigieg supporters; the campaign sent a letter to these leaders asking them to opt-out of having their name included on the press release, so many of those listed did not expressly give any consent for their names to be used. It also turns out that approximately half of those listed on the letter are white people, some were repeats, and many did not live in South Carolina at all. There was even a Bernie Sanders surrogate listed. To make matters even worse, one of the stock images used to promote the plan was taken in Kenya.
Opportunity Zones: Buttigieg has praised the concept of “opportunity zones”, where the wealthy develop unused or unoccupied land tax-free. While Buttigieg supports such programs for allegedly benefiting municipalities, what they actually do is gentrify communities, giving tax breaks to build luxury condos that only benefit the wealthy while displacing poor, disproportionately minority residents from their homes. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, has criticized the concept of opportunity zones, which are one of the many regressive fixtures of President Trump’s 2017 tax law, and progressives in Congress are fighting to get rid of this opportunity zone program altogether.
Praise for the Tea Party: During Buttigieg’s failed run for Indiana State Treasurer in 2010, he attended a conservative event to try and win their support. During his speech, he praised the Tea Party, insisting that they are “motivated by real concerns about the direction of our government.” The Tea Party is a Koch-funded, racist organization that helped to societally legitimize the bigotry that they kept closeted until Barack Obama became president.
Racially Profiling Black Journalists: During a New Hampshire rally, Jamal Jones, a progressive African American video journalist, had his press credentials physically yanked away by a Buttigieg campaign staffer who was previously stalking him. When a colleague of his, Jordan Chariton, confronted a staffer about the incident, she said that it was because he was being “disruptive”. When Jordan pressed further, asking how interviewing those waiting in line to attend the event was “disruptive”, and asked if this is how the campaign treats the press, the staffer walked away.
South Bend Police Department Controversy: As Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Buttigieg fired the city’s first African American police chief, Darryl Boykins, for exposing racism within the department by recording racist conversations between other police officers. Boykins was later reinstated, but in a demoted position. He received a $50,000 settlement with the city after he sued for racial discrimination. Additionally, Karen DePaepe, a city official who listened to the recordings and preserved the most damning conversations, was also fired by Buttigieg, and she also won a lawsuit against the city, costing municipal taxpayers $235,000. Buttigieg has refused to release the tapes to the public.
Supreme Court and Electoral College Reforms: At the start of his presidential campaign, Buttigieg called for abolishing the Electoral College and increasing the number of Supreme Court Justices, along with other reforms to the nation’s highest courts. After his financial bundlers told the campaign that these two issues were not popular, though, Buttigieg dropped these ideas from his campaign, thus further showing the impact that special interests have had on his candidacy.
Trade: During the Iowa democratic debate, Buttigieg indicated that he supports the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA), Trump’s take on the failed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that offers very little improvements while still allowing large corporations to focus on profits over the well-beings of their employees. The new deal also fails to implement any job creation requirements, and it has no language that addresses climate change at all. Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, opposes Trump’s trade agreement.
Universal Childcare: Unlike Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg opposes funding universal childcare, instead allowing parents to apply for tax credits, a complex process which would require parents to 1) either learn the tax code or seek help from a preparer, 2) have the means to pay for the childcare until they receive the yearly credit, and 3) even know about the credit in the first place, as opposed to the benefit being made universal for all parents with young children.
As this article has demonstrated, Buttigieg is not fighting for the best interests of the American people. Indeed, when considering the fact that he has been ethically compromised by the rich, has a failed history as Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, regularly deploys conservative talking points, and actively fights against progressive policies that would actually universally benefit the American people, and, instead, backs neo-liberal alternatives that would do little to reverse climate change, reduce wealth disparities, achieve true universal healthcare, make education a public good, and mitigate the power that the rich and powerful have over our country, we ought to come to the conclusion that Buttigieg should not be the one to challenge Trump this November. We simply cannot afford more of the same, and I would much rather have a progressive rematch in 2024 than being forced to defend Buttigieg’s mediocre first term as president against a conservative insurgent.
A Buttigieg presidency would fail to resolve the underlying symptoms that led us to Trump, and anointing him as the standard-bearer for the party would either make it more likely for Trump to win re-election or, in the long-term, allow an even more reactionary Republican to beat the Democrats in 2024 or 2028. Only Bernie Sanders brings the systematic reforms, the “revolution”, that we need to address widespread inequality and clean-up the federal government. Anything less only allows these problems to continue festering, regardless of which party is in power.
Therefore, I cannot, in good conscience, support Buttigieg if he wins the Democratic nomination. Alternatively, like I said if Biden were to get the nomination, I would likely vote for the Green Party candidate.