Transcript: Thom Hartmann asks Chris Hedges, have we witnessed the 'Death of the Liberal Class'? 9 Nov '10
Transcript: Thom Hartmann asks Chris Hedges, have we witnessed the 'Death of the Liberal Class'? 9 Nov '10
Thom Hartmann: Welcome back, six minutes past the hour, Thom Hartmann here with you. And I am honored and pleased to have with me in the studio Chris Hedges. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the author of a new book, “Death of the Liberal Class.” And, “liberal is conceded too much to the power elite,” he writes on the back. “The tragedy of the liberal class and the institutions it controls is that it succumbed to opportunism and finally to fear. Liberals abrogated their moral role.” Chris, you’ve got a lot of liberals really P.O.ed at you.
Chris Hedges: Well they’ve betrayed the very values they should have been out there fighting to defend. And we got a glimpse of the consequences of that Tuesday when we began to empower the lunatic fringe of the Republican party.
Thom Hartmann: Are you suggesting that Obama was a liberal?
Chris Hedges: No. I’m suggesting that Obama portrayed himself like Bill Clinton and others as a liberal. And yet didn’t do anything to promote core liberal values.
Thom Hartmann: Could that be because he wasn’t a liberal, because he was a centrist?
Chris Hedges: Well the, the pillars of the liberal establishment, the Democratic party, the press, universities, liberal religious institutions, labor unions, have all walked away from the very tenants of liberalism. So that you’re right, that what is defined as liberalism within American society in fact is, bears very little, there’s very little difference between that and what we see within the neo-con movement. I mean the policies of the Bush administration are not significantly different from the policies of the Barack Obama administration.
Thom Hartmann: Right, and in your book you chronicle this in excruciating detail. And you know reading the first few chapters one gets a feeling of you know as, I call myself a liberal, of almost like holy cow what have we done, you know, almost despair. And yet at the end of the book, your very last chapter of the book, I have it here in front of me, and I found this really interesting. Because I know when I was writing “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight” which is about peak oil and the end of civilization and the destruction of America. I was so depressed, writing the first third of that book that I got physically sick. And I had to find how can we find some hope in this. And I suspect that you are grappling with something very similar in this book. Because at the end you say you know the indifference to the plight of others and the cult of self is what the corporate state seeks to instill in us. The state appeals to pleasure as well as fear to crush compassion. We will have to continue to fight the mechanisms of that dominant culture, if for no other reason than to preserve, through even small tiny acts, our common humanity. And basically your call for action at the end of the book is Ghandian it seems. Is defiance. Can you translate that into behavior?
Chris Hedges: Well it’s the difference between rebellion and revolution. Revolution is about recreating or reconfiguring power. Rebellion is about a constant kind of antagonism to power. And the tragedy of the collapse of liberals institutions and the liberal ethic is that it has terminated the mechanisms within governance by which the suffering and injustices that are visited on Americans can be redressed. That, closing that safety valve in essence. Has ossified and killed the democratic state. You know we saw with for instance with the New Deal. The through labor unions, independent press, a progressive wing of the democratic party with the collapse of capitalism, an ability within the power structure to redress the wrongs that have been committed against the American working class. We saw it again with the civil rights movement. Now that mechanism doesn’t work. And Barack Obama’s two years in office I think have illustrated that, in depressing detail. So I think now in essence what we’ve undergone is a kind of coup d'état in slow motion, a corporate coup d'état in slow motion, and they’ve won. And now, and confronting that stark reality is important because it’s only then that we can begin to talk about hope. And ways to respond and ways to rebel.
Thom Hartmann: I find a tremendous echo of your writing in Oswald Spengler’s book from 1928, I’m forgetting the title of the book.
Chris Hedges: The decline and fall of the West?
Thom Hartmann: The decline and fall of the West, that’s right.
Chris Hedges: He was a fascist though.
Thom Hartmann: Well he was, he was…
Chris Hedges: a sympathizer with the fascists.
Thom Hartmann: I’d say he was a plutocrat. He believed that there should be a ruling elite. But nonetheless, I mean we can criticize Marx for his prescriptions but his analysis I think in Das Kapital was accurate.
Chris Hedges: Right.
Thom Hartmann: Spengler’s analysis, he said you know that society is ossifying, is rigidifying when it becomes a caricature of itself. Particular when a politics becomes a caricature of itself.
Chris Hedges: Political theater.
Thom Hartmann: Political theater, exactly. And in his book he didn’t actually even have that much of a hopeful call for action, but we went through that. I mean he wrote that in ’28, a year before the crash, and then the crash happened and Americans woke up. Ravi Batra just recently, well it was a couple years ago, wrote a book called “The Coming Golden Age,” as I recall the title [The New Golden Age: The Coming Revolution against Political Corruption and Economic Chaos - ed]. The Southern Methodist University economist, and New York Times bestselling author. In which he suggests that there’s going to be this god awful crash, in fact we had him on the show a couple days ago, it’s going to get a lot worse than it is. And that that’s going to produce such revulsion at the corruption of politics that Americans are going to wake up and take back over. Are you that optimistic, Chris Hedges?
Chris Hedges: Well, we certainly are flirting with the possibility of collapse. What did we just do, print 600 billion dollars which we passed up to Wall Street which they’re now using to, not to lend, I mean that was the idea, to Americans in need, but to speculate in the world currency market.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Lending is actually in today’s Financial Times, small business lending is actually down.
Chris Hedges: Right. So yeah we’re playing a very, very dangerous game. We’ve hollowed out our manufacturing sector, we believe money is real. Emil Zolo wrote a great novel about that called “Money” in the end of the 19th century. These speculative bubbles we’ve seen throughout history collapse and burst. And pillaging the treasury and using the Fed to reinflate this bubble has been a disastrous policy. So yes we are, and then just let’s not forget the environmental degradation which we refused to confront at Copenhagen…
Thom Hartmann: But all of that was happening in the ‘20s too. I mean you had the rise of the Robber Barons, and…
Chris Hedges: Yeah, right. And so yes we are flirting with collapse. I would disagree with him in this sense, that we don’t have the movements and the organizations that we had, certainly before World War I and the aftermath of World War I, the lobblies, the CIO, radical publications like Masses or Appeal to Reason. We had mechanisms by which to fight back. These have been complete decimated. In large part with the collaboration of the liberal class itself. And so we not only lack the mechanisms with which to respond from the left, but we lack the vocabulary even to discuss what’s happening. And my fear is that we can hold off these proto-fascist movements as long as there is stability. They need a crisis in order to come to power. But should we descend into a period of crisis, then I think the back lash will be a right wing backlash. And I think it will have the character of the kind of irrationality that typifies those who have gathered around the tea party movement.
Thom Hartmann: This is, this has been one of my great concerns, another book I wrote about it, but it’s that you know the great depression hit the United States and Germany at the same time and we had FDR and they had Hitler. And they had, and he had spent the better part of a decade building what we might call a tea party movement, the brown shirts, who were all volunteers, this wasn’t the government, they were all private citizens. And are we, are we seeing right now, constructed with the money of oil billionaires from Texas, the seeds of a proto-fascist movement. We’ll get into this in a little more detail and what we can do about it and how these liberal institutions have become hollowed out and what we might be able to do about that with Chris Hedges. His new book, “Death of the Liberal Class.” Chris Hedges here on the Thom Hartmann Program. Stick around. We’ll be right back and we’ll be taking your calls for Chris by the way at 866-987-THOM.
Thom Hartmann: Welcome back, Thom Hartmann here with you, 20 minutes past the hour. Chris Hedges our guest. His book, “Death of the Liberal Class,” and we were just talking, Chris about the liberal class, the death of, I would say the death of the pseudo-liberal class, the death of the neo-, not even neo-liberal. And my point was that you’re not going to see Ann Goodman for example on Meet the Press, you probably won’t see Katrina vanden Heuvel on Meet the Press, some of the real people who are out there speaking the unpleasant truths. Instead you get kind of middle wishy-washy mushy and that’s the liberal class that you’re attacking.
Chris Hedges: Right. Well these people control what are traditionally liberal institutions. And you’re right, they don’t have any adherence to liberal values. So you correctly point out that they are not, by definition, liberals. But they are presented to the mainstream society as liberals and they control the institutions that traditionally have defended liberal values.
Thom Hartmann: Right. And in fact they’re presented to us by Fox News as Communists.
Chris Hedges: Well Fox couldn’t be happier. Because the ineffectiveness of the Obama administration, they get to tag him, they don’t even call him a socialist. I mean a liberal, they call him a socialist.
Thom Hartmann: And a Fascist in the same breath.
Chris Hedges: Right. And what it does is, in essence, discredit the left.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Because the left is nothing.
Chris Hedges: So it serves their interests.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Well said. Jerry in New Leipzig, North Dakota. Jerry you are on the air with Chris Hedges.
Jerry: Hi Chris and Thom. I was a type of secret police officer for many federal and state agencies. And I feel we were a fascist nation since at least the 1980s.
Thom Hartmann: Chris, your take on the growth of the Fascist state?
Chris Hedges: Well the rise of the surveillance state, I mean look the rise of the corporate state always means the rise of the security or surveillance state which has just exploded since 9-11. And it’s very frightening. And the fact that we, that Democrats have refused to restore Habeus Corpus, the fact that it is now legal for an American citizen to be condemned to death, to be target for assassination…
Thom Hartmann: Without benefit of trial.
Chris Hedges: Yeah. And that evidence is never made public, those charges are never made public, and that. Now all of that is…
Thom Hartmann: Posse Comitatus is gone.
Chris Hedges: All of that is relatively benign as long as we remain in a period of stability. But imagine a period of instability, the kinds of tools that are in the hands of the state to repress dissent. It is absolutely terrifying.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah, I agree. Carrie in Riverside, California. Carrie, you’re on with Chris Hedges.
Carrie:Hi. I am right with this topic, it’s very, it’s very important. One thing I don’t understand is this last election, they were using the same voting machines, Diebold and ES&S, that were proven rigged over god knows how many elections, and I don’t understand why nobody in the administration or anything was concerned about this. It’s like all of a sudden we trust these guys?
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. And in fact Carrie, and Chris, the only group that has been recently speaking out against electronic voting machines are Republicans. Because I think finally our hackers figured out how to hack them. But you know, riff a little bit about political theater.
Chris Hedges: Well that’s what it’s become.
Thom Hartmann: Because that’s what it is.
Chris Hedges: It’s all about personal narrative, it’s all about very sophisticated advertising techniques, so that we confuse how we are made to feel with knowledge. That’s how Barack Obama got elected.
Thom Hartmann: I think he was a national Rorschach test. I think progressives projected their best, their greatest hopes on him, conservatives projected their greatest fears on him, and he was just a national Rorschach test.
Chris Hedges: Yep. He was a brand. He functioned as a brand.
Thom Hartmann: Yep. And now he’s got to govern.
Chris Hedges: Well what’s fascinating is that I think actually what we’re seeing now is that the forces, the corporate forces, and remember his biggest bundler was Goldman Sachs, that used him as a brand, to continue the hollowing out of the country and the, you know the malfeasants by the criminal class on Wall Street has rejected him. I think what we’re seeing is they’re crumpling up and throwing Barack Obama away because they don’t need him anymore.
Thom Hartmann: So he has a choice. He can continue to try and play Bill Clinton for the next two years and end up a one term president, possibly even by dirty tricks like you know Jimmy Carter with Iranian hostages and Bill Case you know organizing. Or he can play FDR, he can take names and kick ass, he can really get energized, but right now he is in India selling the military hardware and he’s going to South Korea …
Chris Hedges: With 200 CEOs and business people.
Thom Hartmann: Right, yeah.
Chris Hedges: I mean let’s be pretty clear.
Thom Hartmann: The head of Wal-Mart who wants to open stores there. And then he’s going to South Korea to try and cut the second largest trade deal since NAFTA.
Chris Hedges: I think it’s pretty clear what side he’s chosen and it’s not the side of the American people.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. It’s, that’s, it’s tragic. Mike in Columbia, Missouri. You’re on the air with Chris Hedges, author of “Death of the Liberal Class.”
Mike: Hi Chris and Thom, this is for both of you. Remember when we had a real movement in the late ‘60s, the radical left, they despised the liberals. And I wanted to ask you something, Thom, when you were with SDS were you one of the guys who spelled America with a K or were you less radical?
Thom Hartmann: Yes, I did. And we’ll leave the reminisces from the ‘60s at that. But Chris, I’m guessing you’re old enough to remember that era.
Chris Hedges: I was a little younger but you know, I’m pretty critical of the ‘60s in my book. Because it severed the connection with labor in the United States. Labor, the AFLCIO, kind of came, a bullwark in terms of supporting the war, supporting Nixon…
Thom Hartmann: You’re right.
Chris Hedges: Denouncing the hippies. And you know the feelings of the SDS were returned.
Thom Hartmann: Well SDS didn’t start as an anti-war movement. You know the Port Huron statement was all about peace or was about justice, social justice.
Chris Hedges: But by the end…
Thom Hartmann: By the end it was a full blown anti-war movement.
Chris Hedges: Yeah, and it also held up the north Vietnamese as sort of liberation movement around the developing world as something to emulate and it had an open disdain for labor. And I think you know that’s a fault of both sides. Because labor had been purged and careerists had used the with hunts of anti-communism to push out people with broad social visions and moral autonomy, you know the last real figure on the political establishment with maybe the exception of George McGovern, Henry Wallace, to stand up to the permanent war economy and the military. All of these people became black sheep and pariahs. And liberals colluded in that. They rigorously within the universities, within the ACLU, they carried out witch hunts. And that’s what we’ve ended up with, a liberal class that is careerist.
Thom Hartmann: And, so I guess we have to reform the liberal class to begin. Chris Hedges, his book, “Death of th Liberal Class.” Very provocative thinking. Chris can you stick around for another 15 minutes?
Chris Hedges: Yeah, yeah.
Thom Hartmann: Okay great. Let’s continue this conversation. We’re going to take a break here for a few minutes. We’ll be right back. 27 minutes past the hour.
Thom Hartmann: No, no, no, lead me to the left, please. Welcome back Thom Hartmann here with you. 34 minutes past the hour. Chris Hedges in the studio with us. “The Death of the Liberal Class,” his new book. As it says on the front of the book, “Winner of the Pullitzer Prize,” that’s no small honor. And I’m honored to have you in the studio with me Chris.
Chris Hedges: Thanks.
Thom Hartmann: I genuinely am. Let’s hear from some of our listeners here. Kelly in Omaha, Nebraska has a question for you. Kelly you’re on the air.
Kelly: Hi. I’d like to know, or hear Mr. Hedges’ views on atheism.
Thom Hartmann: Okay. Atheism, sir?
Chris Hedges: Well…
Thom Hartmann: We’ve had this conversation before.
Chris Hedges: I am a seminary graduate, grew up in the church, my father was a Presbyterian minister. I, I have a respect for authentic religious belief. I, you know he was raised in that Christian anarchist tradition of Dorothy Day and the Berrigans and William Sloane Coffin. And it’s a tradition that I embrace and celebrate. I don’t consider myself particularly religious, I do find the assault by the so-called new atheists, people like Dawkins and Dennett and Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, to be childish, repugnant, insulting, demeaning, and I think that they, and I’ve debated Hitchens and Harris, that they replicate the self-aggrandized men, and even the fundamentalist mindset of the Christian fundamentalists they attacked, externalizing evil, justifying the imperial wars in the Middle East, because, instead of Islam being a religion of Satan it’s a form of barbarism and language is, and violence is the only language these people understand. In find that they replicate much of the mindset of Christian fundamentalists in the language of scientific rationalism. That said, I am a huge fan of Camus, who would be considered an atheist. And I also am very acutely aware…
Thom Hartmann: He would also be considered suicidal.
Chris Hedges: Yeah. He, you know all of the…
Thom Hartmann: He was very bleak.
Chris Hedges: All of the great reformers like Spinoza, even Luther, were not only condemned as heretics but condemned as atheists, so the, I wrote a book called “I Don't Believe in Atheists,” attacking these people after I debated them. And the London review of Books identified me as a non-believer. I don’t like labels too much. But I’m not really to dismiss. And I think at our peril we dismiss great religious thought because it struggles to grapple with those non-rational forces of grief, beauty, the search for meaning or the struggle with our own mortality that make a complete life, just as great artists do.
Thom Hartmann: I, brilliantly said. And I would add I frequently have this debate with these guys and assert to them that they are promoting a religion themselves. It’s a belief system that is without substance or validation as my belief that there’s something out there although I’m not an anthropomorphic religious person, I don’t envision a guy with an old beard and all. But I do think that there is, for many people, an experience that they’ve had that’s transcendental and that this was what animated the transcendentalists, for example, I mean you know Emerson wrote about it brilliantly in particular. That leads to, depending on set and setting, to paraphrase Timothy Leary, that leads to a religious world view or a religious set of language to identify for lack of anything else. But I wonder sometimes if the people who identify themselves as purely atheist lack that transcendental experience or if they have genuinely channeled it into, I know Carl Sagan I had a long interview with his wife. He aggressively asserted his atheism and yet he, every time he looked in a telescope it took his breath away and his heart started beating harder.
Chris Hedges: You can come to that, outside of religious structures or religious institutions. But what it boils down to is honoring the sacred. And that’s what we’re not doing in a commodity culture.
Thom Hartmann: Especially in Gaia.
Chris Hedges: Well yes, when you commodify everything, including the natural environment, as you point out, then you, it has no intrinsic value. It has a value only in terms of the profit it can produce and so you exploit it until exhaustion or collapse. And that’s what these corporate entities are doing. And they seek to inculcate within the culture that inability to recognize and cherish the sacred and when you don’t do that these societies cannibalize themselves until they die.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. And over and over and over again it seems. Mark in Portland, you’re on the air with Chris Hedges.
Mark: Hi there, Chris and Thom. My question, I just heard a report something to the effect of basically, quote, companies may now be ready to hire and they are optimistic about growth. And my question for Chris is though there’s you know maybe no direct coordination between these corporations, do you see them fostering this job, or hiring, kind of as to validate their rights after this last election? I mean do you ever see them …
Thom Hartmann: Do you see a conspiracy between the business community and the Republican party to make the Republicans look good post election, is that essentially it?
Mark: Yeah, and I’m not a, I don’t believe in conspiracy theories I just believe that there’s opportunities that people take advantage of.
Thom Hartmann: Sure.
Chris Hedges: Well I mean let’s be very clear that they, we have sort of Potemkin statistics, like we can just take unemployment as a good example. Reagan included air force, marine, navy, army, service personnel to reduce unemployment by 2%. Clinton removed 5 million people from the unemployment rolls because they had stopped looking for work. If you count people who have part time jobs, most people at Wal-Mart work about 28 hours a week, with their wages putting them still below the poverty line. When you throw all those people in, as the Los Angeles Times pointed out a few weeks ago, our unemployment rate is not 10%, but somewhere between 17 and 20%. That’s a sixth of the American work force. And with 21 million unemployed, most of those people long term unemployed, it’s pretty clear that those jobs are not coming back. The destruction of our manufacturing base has been catastrophic. And ..
Thom Hartmann: But it’s been the result of very specific trade policies …
Chris Hedges: Yes it has.
Thom Hartmann: …which could be changed, and even without an act of Congress. I mean George Bush backed us out of, was it the ABM treaty? It was one of the treaties with Russia that had to do with missiles and nukes simply by unsigning it. And President Obama could do the same thing with GATT, NAFTA, all of these things and boom just like that go back to the same tariffs that we had in 1980, the day Reagan came into office, which was an average of 20%, 21% tariffs in the United States, and that would rebalance that playing field, as it were, and you would see American factories coming back to life the next week.
Chris Hedges: Well that’s what, that is what has to happen.
Thom Hartmann: And he campaigned on that by the way.
Chris Hedges: Yeah. That’s what has to happen. We have to re-infranchise a dispossessed working class back into the economy. And if we don’t do that, our democracy is doomed. That really is the engine that will save us.
Thom Hartmann: I absolutely agree. And to take it even a step further, in “Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith talked about how real wealth in a nation is only produced by two things. The application of labor to natural resources, in other words, making things.
Chris Hedges: Right.
Thom Hartmann: The example was a stick on the ground it has no intrinsic value although it may have some natural value, but when it’s carved into an axe handle it has value that might last several generations. And so the more we make things, the wealthier we become as a society. And since we stopped making things we have become impoverished. Since, you know, Reaganomics and Clintonomics have destroyed this country and hollowed it out. You know, I’m explicitly calling for a reversal of all these insane trade policies. Do you, in the context of your new book, “Death of the Liberal Class,” Chris Hedges, I find interestingly a surprising number of people in the liberal class agreeing with that position but afraid to talk about it out loud. Particularly politicians who won’t come on our program, that say oh yeah I’m with you but I won’t talk about it. And an astounding number of tea party members and even a couple of the leaders of the tea party, not the official front group guys but the people who have kind of risen up through the ranks, we had Mark Williams on our TV show last night, you know the former president of the Tea Party Express, he’s like totally with you and all of my guys are. So maybe there’s some hope.
Chris Hedges: Well there is. I think the populous has woken up. Including people who had invested a lot of hope in Barack Obama. The problem is the mechanisms of government are so corrupted that the needs and concerns of citizens are irrelevant. We saw it with the so-called health care reform bill. You know, none of the bailouts or stimulus packages were supported across the political spectrum. I remember that first bailout, 700 billion dollars constituent calls left to right were 100 to 1 against it. Impassioned speeches by …
Thom Hartmann: Well it’s because of right wing talk radio.
Chris Hedges: …house democrats and it passes anyway, it passes anyway. FISA reform act.
Thom Hartmann: Oh you’re talking about the bank bail out.
Chris Hedges: I’m talking about the first bank bail out which was opposed by everybody.
Thom Hartmann: Right, right.
Chris Hedges: And so I think that we have to swallow the very hard reality that the corporate state is so entrenched and the political class has essentially functioned as courtiers, hedonists of power. Including Obama, that while the citizenry wakes up and while the citizenry begins to understand, the demands and needs of the citizenry are not addressed by the corporate Leviathan that controls power.
Thom Hartmann: And we’ve been there before. We were there in the Harding and, or Harding Coolidge and Hoover administrations.
Chris Hedges: With the difference that in by the turn of the century, of the early 20th century, we had very powerful progressive and socialist movements that on the eve of World War I were terrifying the power elite.
Thom Hartmann: Can you stick around a little longer?
Chris Hedges: Yeah.
Thom Hartmann: It’s very rare that I have an opportunity to really dig into topics with a guest, you know just beyond the surface sparring. I’m finding it fascinating and I hope you are as well. And I hope you are as well, Chris. Chris Hedges with us, his book, “Death of the Liberal Class,” stick around, we’ll be right back.
Thom Hartmann: Spoken like a true Canadian. Leonard Cohen there, singing "Democracy is Coming". Sometimes irony gets away with me. David in Keane, New Hampshire. David, thank you for listening and or watching, Chris Hedges, you are on the air with Chris. David? David in Keane? Okay, no David. Let’s go to Todd in Miami, Florida. Hey Todd, you’re on the air with Chris Hedges.
Todd:Hi gentlemen. I was reading in yesterday’s New York Times or it might have been this morning about mini flash crashes. You know we had the big flash crash in May and now they’re still experiencing that. And I got to wondering myself, you know if I walk into a market and pick up an apple that’s listed at you know 30 cents, by the time I walk to the cash register to pay for the apple and leave, it’s still 30 cents. But stock prices, in that time, can change so rapidly, depending on the volume that’s selling. What would really hurt if the stock market was only open one day a week? And you know the prices were what the prices are and everybody has one full day to make trades at today’s stock price and if you don’t like it come back next week.
Thom Hartmann: Chris your thoughts?
Chris Hedges: Well I’d never thought about that. Look, the stock market is gambling, that’s all it is. And you know like many people I have like a small retirement account and I got a call the other day and they said well here’s a really great investment, you bet that the Euro and the Mexican Peso will rise against the dollar over a period and it’s a 16% return, that’s not investment.
Thom Hartmann: It’s betting.
Chris Hedges: It’s betting and that’s all we’re doing.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah.
Chris Hedges: And societies that attempt to produce wealth through gambling, through a bubble economy, through casino capitalism, do crash. And I read that article, it was in today’s Financial Times. And it’s fascinating because it is a kind of, this was about a stock price that in a matter of seconds dropped 90%. And I think it is a sign as to how volatile and fragile this system is and how quickly it could collapse.
Thom Hartmann: Well it’s because since ’99 with the end of Glass-Steagall when the Gramm-Leach-Bliley was passed, the banks could do what they call proprietary trading, they could gamble in the back room with their investors’ money. And they’re doing it, and they’re doing it now with computers that can process a thousand transactions a second.
Chris Hedges: Right.
Thom Hartmann: And so they make money on mills rather than pennies and I think the solution is to go back to what we had from 1935 until 1964 which was a securities transaction excise tax, STET.
Chris Hedges: Well I think we should go back to the 17th century in Europe when speculators were hung. Haha.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. There you go. Haha. You remember Lincoln’s famous quote about that, about the gold speculators?
Chris Hedges: No, no.
Thom Hartmann: He said I would like to see all these gold speculators taken out and shot. ["I wish every one of them had his devilish head shot off" - ed. And you know it’s like, I used it as an epigraph for a chapter in one of my books. Lincoln was very, very unhappy with what was being done with gold. Joe, in Stow, Ohio. Hey Joe, welcome to the program.
Joe: Hello. It’s a great, great guest, what a program.
Thom Hartmann: I agree.
Joe: I have one question with just a little bit of just very brief background. The question is, we’ve identified the problems, or Chris has identified the problems in terms of corporate infiltration of democratic liberal policies. But the question is, what is the best way to move forward for these next two years? If the corporatocracy has infiltrated and it was pretty obvious with Obama, is it best to start now to move progressive with authentic progressism or is it best to just bite the bullet and hope that the democrats may throw some crumbs our way?
Thom Hartmann: Excellent question.
Chris Hedges: Well I think the democrats have sort of wiped their feet on our face once too often. I think the failure on progressives who should have held fast to the interests of the working class was to continue to support the democratic party after the passage of NAFTA.
Thom Hartmann: Well I think there’s been this continuous hope, and I confess to being one of the cheerleaders for it. That we may, we, progressives, may be able to do what the Republicans did in the ‘70s. I you know I was 13 years old in 1964, I went door to door for Barry Goldwater with my dad who was very active in the Republican party, died a Republican. He was a good man, and he was an Eisenhower Republican. I mean he would be horrified about by what is going on right now if he was still around. And I mean two years later I was being arrested in East Lansing and being gassed in anti-war riots, or 3 years later. But the, I remember that time, and it seems, well I’ve forgotten my thought. Oh, now I know. And I remember how devastated, how gutted my dad was, and his friends, by Goldwater’s loss. I mean they were convinced the Republican party was dead. And then after Nixon, I mean they were really convinced it was dead. And what happened was the people who really believed themselves to be conservatives said screw this, we’re going to infiltrate this party and take it over. And if you wanted to take over NBC you can’t do that. You’ve got to have a couple hundred billion bucks.
Chris Hedges: Yeah, but let’s not forget that they had big bucks to do it. They were bank rolled by the business round table, by all sorts of corporations. And we don’t have those kind of backers. That’s why Air America just coupled with bad management. Doesn’t exist.
Thom Hartmann: Let me tell you about it. Haha. Having been on Air America for three years, I could tell you a story or two.
Chris Hedges: There you go, the competence of the liberal class.
Thom Hartmann: But you know keep, but really, the story of Air America is that they lost 14 to 17 million dollars in six years and while Rupert Murdoch lost 100 million dollars a year for five years on Fox News.
Chris Hedges: Well there you go.
Thom Hartmann: And you know to claim that there’s you know, Sean Hannity lost that company 500 million dollars and nobody calls him a loser. It’s about who’s got the deep pockets. And this kind of takes us to the conversation I had with Ralph Nader a couple weeks ago. He says only the super rich are going to save us. And I’m like what, you want dueling plutocrats?
Chris Hedges: Well I love Ralph and I actually waded through the book. But I asked him, when has the oligarchic or the plutocracy ever stepped in to save a citizen, give me an example, in American history. And he sort of had to really reach.
Thom Hartmann: Or in world history.
Chris Hedges: In world history, yeah world history, exactly.
Thom Hartmann: I mean you know, it’s, Louis XIV didn’t exactly say gee, I think I’ll just head down to the prison now. Chris Hedges. His book, “Death of the Liberal Class.” Brilliant. Check it out. It’s well worth the read, depressing as it may be. Chris, thanks so much for being with us.
Chris Hedges: Thanks Thom.
Thom Hartmann: And don’t forget, democracy begins with you. Get out there and get active. Tag, you’re it.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.