Transcript: Thom on 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann', 12 December 2008

Thom argues that the GOP opposed the auto bailout in order to bust the unions.

Thom Hartmann on 'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' with guest host David Shuster, 12 December 2008

[David Shuster]: If the GOP is seen as trying to kill or cripple G.M. and Chrysler in order to punish hundreds of thousands of American workers for supporting Democrats, today's news could represent a sea change, not just for the economy, but for American politics.

Joining us now to weigh in is Air America Radio's Thom Hartmann.

And, Thom, thanks for your time tonight.

[Thom Hartmann]: Hi, David.

[David Shuster]: By telling the industrial Midwest to essentially go to hell, is the GOP making a conscious decision that, "Well, look, we've lost every region of the country but one. So, OK, America, it's 1860 all over again, bring it on"?

[Thom Hartmann]: Well, it's not about north versus south or region versus region; it's really about busting unions, that's the bottom line.

The reality, David, is that if we didn't have a strong organized labor, strong — it's weakened relative to when Reagan came into power - but if there wasn't an organized labor movement in the United States right now, John McCain would probably be president. And this is an opportunity to continue the process that Ronald Reagan began in '81,'82 when he busted PATCO and tried to, you know, blow up another couple million union jobs.

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're going to get power.

[David Shuster]: And as a result then, are the car companies getting unfairly scapegoated to some extent here? I mean, yes, they were slow to respond, but they did respond. And before the restructuring and new cars could on line, weren't they hit by a double whammy - high gas prices and the credit crisis that were actually not free market anomalies but the very predictable result of Republican policies?

[Thom Hartmann]: Well, yes. And the proof of that and, in fact, these Republican policies, this 26, 28-year war on organized labor and basically on the middle class that we've been seeing ever since Reagan here in the United States, and now it's going worldwide, although Margaret Thatcher played her role on that, too, back in the day.

The proof of that is what happened in Sweden this morning. The Swedish legislature appropriated $3.2 billion — if my memory serves me right — which is a lot of money in a little country for a little car industry, to bail out Saab. And, you know, 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 here saw the unionized American auto industry as being weak and like predators, I mean, they're jumping on it. They're going to try to take down the union. This is their opportunity to kill the union.

[David Shuster]: And one of the people in the talks at the Capitol last night was Stephen Feinberg, he's the head of Cerberus hedge fund that owns most of Chrysler. Another big Republican, former Bush treasury secretary, John Snow, is also at Cerberus. Why aren't Republicans demanding that this massive hedge fund put some money into Chrysler? Even if we do end up helping workers, are we basically just propping up yet another rich boy's club?

[Thom Hartmann]: Well, it's, you could argue that, but really, what is going on here has nothing to do with Cerberus, or with Chrysler, or with Ford or G.M., it has to do with trying to get rid of organized labor. And, you know, that's why they're throwing all this effort at it.

And the tragedy is that they're willing to take down not just the direct autoworkers. My dad worked in a tool and die shop in Lansing, Michigan for 40 years. It was, you know, Lansing Tool and Die. It wasn't the Big Three. But I guarantee you, his jobs and all the other people who worked in that tool and die shop depended on the auto industry. There are millions of jobs like that around America and they're all going to go, or many of them are going to go if these companies go down.

And, from the Republican's point of view, the good part about that is that they're union jobs. And maybe those shops will then get picked up by Toyota or Mercedes or something like that. The bad thing for America is, number one, it does away with the union movement, 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.

[David Shuster]: How do we return to an economy that's based on actually making things? 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?

[Thom Hartmann]: David, what he needs to do immediately is read Alexander Hamilton's 1791 Report To Congress On Manufactures. Hamilton laid out this six-step [11-step - ed.] 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 of 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 and industrial economy in the world. We have gone, when Reagan came into office, we were the largest exporter of manufactured goods and the largest importer of raw materials on the planet, and the largest creditor. And 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, 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.

[David Shuster]: Thom Hartmann, Air America Radio host, Thom, thanks for joining us. Good of you to be here.

[Thom Hartmann]: Thanks so much, David.

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