Transcript: Thom Hartmann: The Big Picture: Is the Era of Big Gov over & the Era of Hostage Taking here? 4 August '11

In 1996 - President Bill Clinton said this:

The era of big government is over.

He was right - and today - the Era of Hostage Government begins.

Since President Obama gave in to the demands of Republican hostage takers during the debt-limit debate - Republicans will use the same, “give us what we want or we’ll pull the trigger” tactic over and over and over again.

And Republicans didn't waste any time taking their next hostages - 74,000 construction workers and FAA employees - who are out of a job because Speaker of the House John Boehner shut down Congress and left town without funding the FAA - the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Republican demands here are pretty clear - the Senate better pass an anti-union provision in the FAA funding bill - or they’ll keep 100,000 FAA and construction workers from getting a paycheck.

Now today it looks like Harry Reid has negotiated with the hostage takers for a short-term fix, but these Republican hostage takers have basically just dragged the hostage in from front of the house into the back room for a month or so.

And this is just the beginning - on the horizon are a number of other potential hostage scenarios.

For example, circle September 30th on your calendar - because a few weeks after Congress returns from its vacation - the federal gas tax expires.

This 18-cent tax is critical to funding $42 billion worth of highway construction projects all around the country that hundreds of thousands of construction workers depend upon to support their families. These aren't even government employees. These are people who work for companies who do the work for government.

But the Republican “tax-master” Grover Norquist has already mounted his opposition to the extension of the gas tax, telling Politico this week:

[Americans for Tax Reform] has always supported the idea of ending the federal tax on gas and having states pay for their own roads.

And since Republicans go along with whatever Norquist says - then expect those hundreds of thousands of workers to be the next hostages for the Republicans who will demand the tax be eliminated - or demand something else in return for its extension.

Oh - and that does not mean you’ll be paying 18-cents less for gas if the tax expires.

As we’re learning with the airlines right now - when the government isn’t collecting taxes - corporations don’t pass the savings on to consumers like us - they pocket the savings for more profits.

Expect oil corporations to do the same thing in this hostage crisis if they get the gas tax cut.

Then at the end of September - there’s another budget fight coming up.

The 2011 fiscal year ends in October - and Congress will need to figure out a way to keep the government funded beyond that month.

A looming government shut-down is the perfect scenario for Republicans to take their next hostage - 800,000 government workers who will be out of work if the government gets shut down.

And considering that Republicans nearly shut down the government back in April over just Planned Parenthood funding - there’s no telling what their demands will be this time around.

And then at the end of the year - it just gets better and better, right, or worse and worse - the extension of emergency unemployment benefits expires.

This is another potential hostage crisis that President Obama frankly could have averted last year - but instead of demanding a 2-year extension of unemployment benefits for a 2-year extension of the Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires - President Obama was willing to settle for a one-year extension of unemployment benefits - thus clearing the way for a Christmas-time showdown when the Republicans Party I think we can pretty safely predict is going to again hold millions of desperate and unemployed Americans hostage over part two of this infamous debt ceiling crisis - a manufactured crisis at that.

This is what we're all facing in the coming months - all because President Obama refuses to fight the hostage-takers.

And if he doesn't figure out a new strategy soon - then our economy - and his presidency are going to be in big trouble.

So, I suggest he take a look at what Harry Truman did back in 1948.

The year before - in 1947 Republicans swept into office - it's actually the election of '46 but '47 they came into office - and seized control of both the Senate and the House for the first time in years.

And the Republican plan was all too familiar - do nothing - and sabotage President Truman. This was their strategy.

So President Truman kicked their asses - calling the 80th Congress the "do-nothing Congress".

Instead of negotiating with the Republican hostage-takers in 1948 - Truman fought them - take a look at his famous 1948 Democratic Convention speech:

These benefits have been spread to all the people, because it is the business of the Democratic Party to see that the people get a fair share of these things. This last, worst 80th Congress proved just the opposite for the Republicans. ...

I would like to say a word or two now on what I think the Republican philosophy is; ... Ever since its inception, that party has been under the control of special privilege; and they have completely proved it in the 80th Congress...

Congress has still done nothing. ...

I shall ask for adequate and decent laws for displaced persons in place of this anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic law which this 80th Congress passed.

And Truman was just getting warmed up....

You know what they've done to the Labor Department? They have simply torn it up. There's only one bureau left that is functioning, and they cut the appropriation on that so it can hardly function.

I recommended an increase in the minimum wage. What did I get? Nothing. ...

I have discussed a number of these failures of the Republican 80th Congress. And every one of them is important. ...

By indirection, this 80th Congress has tried to sabotage the power policies which the United States has pursued for 14 years. ...

we can save this country from a continuation of the 80th Congress, and from misrule from now on.

I must have your help. You must get in and push, and win this election. The country can't afford another Republican Congress.

Are you taking notes Mr. President Obama?

Truman's decision to fight back in 1948 - what you just saw - led to huge Democratic victories in the next election - he so completely crushed them that Republicans didn't control the House of Representatives again for 46 years.

So no matter how bad things are right now - they can be turned around - just like they were turned around in 1948 - but it's going to require a fight.

Your dreams, Mr. President, of a post-partisan presidency are dead - but progressive change is still alive... and we're waiting for you.

Time to put on the gloves and knock the Republicans right out of Congress in 2012.

That's The Big Picture.

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Paul Hawken, coauthor of Natural Capitalism and author of The Ecology of Commerce
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