Thom Hartmann demonstrates his brilliant ability to weave together history and current events.
On Dailykos, Liberalthinking posted an excellent discussion of the Hartmann interview:
Appearing on Countdown (yesterday with David Shuster), Thom Hartmann eloquently defended the American workers, calling Republican blockage of help for the auto industry an attempt by them to break the unions and reminding us that our perilous economic situation is the direct result of Reaganomics.
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I’m behind on my podcasts of Thom Hartmann’s show on Air America Radio, so I didn’t know in advance that he was to appear on Countdown. It was a pleasant surprise because he has an enormous command of history and a habit of presenting well-reasoned, concise arguments for progressive causes. (His recent program on education presented about six compelling reasons why vouchers are a terrible idea; and his riff on Horace Mann’s crusade to bring German-style education to the States made me cringe.) Without the lance-corporals of the extreme right to interrupt him, he explored the motives of the Republicans in torpedoing Christmas this year for auto workers (as well as Chanukah and several other cherished holidays), winding up with a compelling argument for what Obama should have on his stack of reading material if he’s going to get the American economy back on track.
Shuster asked if today’s battle was a regional squabble, but Hartmann replied that “it’s really about busting unions.” He said that without the unions, McCain would have probably won. Busting the unions is a long-time Republican goal:
The Republicans see the union movement as not only a natural constituency of the Democratic Party, but also as one of the major—actually, the only large major organized relatively-progressive movement in the United States. And, they need to get rid of that if they are going to get power.
Next question: This isn’t just bad management, didn’t the industry get hit with a “double-whammy—high gas prices and the credit crisis, that were actually not free-market anomalies, but the very predictable result of Republican policy?” Yes, replied Hartmann, and the proof:
The Swedish legislature appropriated $3.2 billion (if my memory serves me right), which is a lot of money in a little country with a little car industry, to bail out Saab. And this is happening all over the world. Honda and Toyota in Japan are cutting back on their production, as well as in the United States. So, the Republicans saw, here, the unionized American auto industry as being weak, and, like predators, they’re jumping on it, they’re going to try to take down the union. This is their opportunity to kill the union.
Why is this a bad thing for America?
Number one, it does away with the union movement and, number two, all the profits from those companies then go to countries outside the United States. So, it’s a slow bleeding of the country.
The key exchange came at the end:
Shuster: How do we return to a country that’s based on actually making things [what I call “wealth-creating jobs”]? I mean, what does President-Elect Obama need to do when he gets in office to wean our economy off of these made up financial games and get back to real manufacturing?
Hartmann: David, what he needs to do immediately is read Alexander Hamilton’s 1791 report to Congress on manufacturers. Hamilton laid out this six-step plan to build an industrial economy in the United States. And, we followed it. Congress actually put it into place in 1792 and it stood until Ronald Reagan came along and started deconstructing this, followed by George Herbert Walker Bush, Bill Clinton and George Bush, now, and the legislatures, mostly pushed by the Republicans, taking this thing apart. I mean, you could argue that some it started with Taft-Hartley. But, basically, the Founders laid this thing out; they had it figured out. And, it worked. We built the biggest industrial infrastructure, industrial economy in the world. We have gone—when Reagan came into office we were the largest exporter of manufacturing goods and the largest importer of raw materials on the planet. And, the largest creditor—more people owed us money than anybody else in the world. Now, just 28 years later, we’re the largest importer of finished goods, manufactured goods; the largest exporter of raw materials—which is kind of the definition of a third-world nation—and we’re the most in-debt of any country in the world. This is the absolute consequence of Reaganomics.
While I’m not sure I agree with the entire scope of Hamilton’s report to Congress, it does remind us that the Founders were concerned about defending the country, and they were fully prepared to use economic policies to do so. One of the key questions of the day was how to prevent the country from being divided up by foreign powers. (I’m pretty sure they would be perplexed and horrified by members of the Senate voting for policies that may well benefit foreign multinational companies over domestic ones.) The world has changed significantly since 1791, so an expansionist policy based on increasing population through immigration is right out, as far as I’m concerned. Also, the Democratic-Republicans were probably right in suggesting that direct subsidies to companies would lead to corruption. However, the same objective can probably be reached by underwriting research, as we currently do through both government programs and aid to colleges and universities.
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