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Transcript: Thom Hartmann asks Dale Robertson, founder of teaparty.org, what is going on in the tea party movement. 08 Feb '10.
Thom Hartmann: You know, in 1935 Sinclair Lewis wrote a book called “It Can't Happen Here.” He said “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag carrying a cross.” What’s going on in American politics right now? Are we seeing a rise, a populist uprising, a revolt? A genuine grassroots revolt on the right, and frankly on the left as well? In different forms, in various ways. Or are we seeing things that are being pushed by elites on both sides frankly, for particular agendas?
Wall Street Republicans, this today in the news, Wall Street Republicans have created a new organization that is called the American Action Network. And this is what the New York Times quotes them as saying their organization is for. "The group aims to “develop and market conservative ideas…hoping to capitalize on the fundraising and electioneering possibilities opened up by a recent Supreme Court ruling".” Now that corporations can give unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns or make political campaigns happen. The organization is headed up by Robert K. Steel, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs and CEO of Wachovia bank. The number two guy is Kenneth Langone, the founder of Home Depot and an investment banker. Number three guy: Ed Gillespie, a lobbyist and former chair of the RNC. And number four, Fred Malek of Thayer Capital Partners, another billionaire.
And so we’ve got this, and then at the same time over on the tea party side, the astroturfing stuff. This is fascinating. "Our Country Deserves Better", one of the groups behind one of the factions of the tea party movement, "(OCDB) spent around $1.33 million from July through November". It’s a political action committee. It was created by Russo, Marsh, a Republican PR firm in Washington, DC. And the site was registered by Sal Russo in July of 2008 just as the whole tea party thing was started. And actually they’ve pulled 857 thousand dollars of that money back to themselves. They’re doing very well, thank you very much.
Freedom Works, an organization run by Dick Armey, another funder of the tea party movement. And Freedom Works, Don’t Go, Americans For Prosperity, all of these pushing the agenda of, frankly, very, very large corporations and very wealthy people in America. They’re saying cut taxes on the super rich and, you know, tort reform, make it impossible to sue a company if it screws you or hurts you or harms you or kills you and let's cut regulations on Dow Chemical. I don’t get it.
Dale Robertson is the head of TeaParty.org, another faction. And I don’t know Dale if you’re involved with any of these guys that I was just mentioning, TeaParty.org is your website and in fact you claim that you are the founder of the modern day Tea Party Movement. You’re one of several who are claiming that distinction. Dale, welcome to our show.
Dale Robertson: Well it’s a pleasure to be here and so I understand what you’re saying, I have the same problem with those same organizations that I’ve been doing at least a year prior to that and the last year they basically pulled in a lot of money to take over this movement. And in particular, I was in Houston, and a Republican group took all the donations and I lost my house out of it, so…
Thom Hartmann: Ouch.
Dale Robertson: So it’s been very painful for me.
Thom Hartmann: So you’re one of the guys, you know, ‘cause I’ve been saying on this program for some time, I think the tea party movement has fractured into several pieces. There’s the fat cats who are exploiting the average person, and I just went through that list. And then there’s a lot of average people who are just scared that they’re gonna lose their jobs, they’re gonna lose their homes, and something is wrong in DC, they’re not sure exactly what, some simple answers are being offered to them by politicians and PR firms and they’re hanging on to them. Some of them may even be good solutions. And they’re mad as hell. And there’s a lot of Americans who are mad as hell and they’re getting out there. Were you involved with this thing that happened in Nashville this weekend?
Dale Robertson: No, but I think is another timber of Republicans trying to take over the movement. They’ve done a great job of attacking me and trying to make me be a racist. I was wondering why. I mean I’m not a racist. I mean I have, I expect to have a black son-in-law in my family. But they try to do that because they don’t want a leader, only leader they want to provide to you is Sarah Palin which just seems to be a very supportive Republican Party. And I’m non partisan. I think that this is a non partisan movement, I’ve suffered just like those people that come to these events. I’ve lost my house, I’ve lost a job prior to this, and just to have them jump in to say they’re the tea party and collect all the donations. And I did everything I could to stop ‘em. I mean I acquired a bunch of URLs to prevent the Republican Party taking over the movement. And they continue to gain support because they mimic and they misdirect the people to wind up supporting them. So they don’t want a leader. They want somebody that supports their agenda.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. A friend of mine here at Clear Channel sent me a note, he said, “Insert name here,” that would be you know some tea party leader, not yourself, “wants to congratulate the wealthiest one percent of America for successfully convincing the low income working class tea partiers that lowering the taxes on millionaires and billionaires is in the best interest of the tea partier, universal healthcare is bad and that if you work hard and believe in the American dream anything is possible. Bravo, slave masters, bravo.” Does that make sense to you?
Dale Robertson: Right. Oh, it makes sense to me completely. I think that, you know, I’ve got a solution for healthcare, I’ve worked with a bunch of doctors, and the goal is to provide a health savings account and using those to fund a healthcare network that’s not controlled by the government but using the free market forces to drive the price down. ‘Cause I think we should provide healthcare to people but not the way the government…
Thom Hartmann: But what is a free market force, Dale?
Dale Robertson: Well, basically, a lot of the healthcare industries right now are being funded by the politicians…
Thom Hartmann: No they’re not, they’re, you know Stephen Helmsey is making 700 million dollars over the last 5 years as CEO of United Healthcare because he’s taking our money, people who have health insurance through United Healthcare, he’s taking our money and denying us benefits and sticking that money in his own pocket. It’s got nothing to do with government.
Dale Robertson: Well, the government, right now, healthcare, they want to take 1/6 of the economy, now I don’t agree with the Republicans' solution because it’s the same thing. And that money gets channeled through these corporations and gets a kick back so these people get funding for their campaigns to run for office. I call...
Thom Hartmann: Well that’s happening on the Republican side, virtually 100% and it’s happening on the Democratic side probably 20 or 30%, the conservadems, and I agree with you. But here’s my concern. I mean you’ve got companies like United Healthcare where you’ve got a CEO who’s taking 100 million dollar a year salary and stock options and everything else. You’ve got the company then pays dividends to all their wealthy investors who pay a maximum 15% income tax, ‘cause that was the last Bush tax cut, that if you make your living sitting on your butt around the pool you pay a maximum 15% income tax on dividends and interest rather than what working people pay, up to 36% I think it is now.
Dale Robertson: Right.
Thom Hartmann: Whereas Medicare, we do have a single payer healthcare system in the United States, it’s called Medicare. Medicare operates on a 3% overhead. They’re not, you know, they’re not, they don’t have private jets with gold plated faucets in the bathrooms, they don’t have big corporate headquarters. They don’t have lobbyists running around, swarming around. I don’t get why, as a conservative, you wouldn’t look at this and say, 'you know, our government run police departments are pretty efficient. I don’t think I want a private corporation doing that. Our government run fire departments are pretty efficient, I don’t want a corporation doing that. Why not have the government just write the checks?' I don’t want the government to own the hospitals or employ the doctors like they do in England, but why not have a single payer healthcare system? It cuts out all the middle men and it saves us a fortune.
Dale Robertson: Yeah, but you can have a single payer healthcare system without the government involvement. You can say look…
Thom Hartmann: But who’s going to be involved. Somebody has to fill that…
Dale Robertson: My solution is that a health savings account is a health savings co-op, okay, which the American people would own a part.
Thom Hartmann: So you want to do it like credit unions.
Dale Robertson: Like a credit union, correct.
Thom Hartmann: Have the people do it. Okay, well if you can set that up nationally, you’d have enough people that you could spread the risk around, but then what happens if the national board decides, you know, like the Red Cross, 'let’s pay our CEO 500 thousand dollars a year'.
Dale Robertson: Well, I think that's, I wouldn’t agree with that and I don’t think the co-op would agree with that because all the American people would own that and they would have an input as far as the leader getting paid that much money.
Thom Hartmann: Right now nobody in Medicare is making 500 thousand dollars a year.
Dale Robertson: Right.
Thom Hartmann: We’ve already got a system in place. Why not use it?
Dale Robertson: ‘Cause it’s inefficient though.
Thom Hartmann: No, it’s very efficient. It’s more efficient than any of the private for profit companies.
Dale Robertson: I don’t think…
Thom Hartmann: But this is just one insight. But Dale, I’m pleased to hear that you’re pushing back on the GOP attempts to take over the tea party. Dale Robertson, we’ll talk again. I want to get you back. TeaParty.org is the website. Thanks for dropping by Dale.
Dale Robertson: Great, have a great day.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.