Transcript: Thom Hartmann & Lee Fang: Latest on the war on democracy... deregulation. 23 August '11
Thom Hartmann: Lee Fang is with us right now, with the Center for American Progress, ThinkProgress.org is their website. And Lee’s Twitter is @LHFang, Fang is spelled F-A-N-G. Lee, welcome back to the program.
Lee Fang: Hey Thom, good to be with you.
Thom Hartmann: You know, it’s hard to know where to start. You write so prolifically for the Center for American Progress’s Think Progress blog and you cover so many stories. But let’s start with this "Businessman Behind Effort To Dismantle Health Care Hints At Campaign Against Federal Banking Regulation". First of all, who is this guy?
Lee Fang: Well this guy that we’re talking about, Leo Linbeck. He’s a big businessman down in Houston, he is the heir to one of Houston’s oldest and largest family fortunes, a big construction company called Linbeck construction that builds houses and real estate all over Texas since the ‘50s. So he has inherited wealth but he is incredibly ideological. He has joined different tort reforms and limited government conservative groups. His latest group launched in January is called the Healthcare Compact. It’s a pretty radical idea that, if enough states pass this law and congress enables it, it basically unravels health reform by moving the affordable care act as well as Medicare, Medicaid and other federally funded healthcare programs, to the states with no strings attached. That means that same money that would normally go to Medicare and other entitlement programs would be given to governors like Texas governor Rick Perry and he could use that money however he wished. He wouldn’t even have to use it on healthcare.
Thom Hartmann: Amazing. So it’s like block grants for anything you want. And that’s truly astounding. I’m assuming he’s a tenther then, that he’s using the tenth amendment as his rationale?
Lee Fang: Yeah. He’s using the tenth amendment. He’s also making this kind of almost neo kind of confederate colonial argument that the federal government can’t and would never have the power to create these programs in the first place and that the only constitutional option would be to have states working together in an interstate compact. What’s interesting here is that Linbeck is actually a prolific commenter on a message board. And we’ve been reporting on his new group, the Healthcare Compact, but in the posting recently on this message board that he uses he hinted that this is just the first step. Next year he plans to unveil a new project to push this same type of thing on banking regulation, to move the SEC, the CFTC, all these banking regulators, to the state level.
Thom Hartmann: Amazing. Amazing. And then also the New Hampshire, the sponsor of the New Hampshire Minimum Wage Restriction Law, tell me about this. State representative Carol McGuire, what’s she up to?
Lee Fang: Well Carol McGuire is part of this group called the Free State Movement, this libertarian enclave in New Hampshire. And they have their own lawmakers in the state house. Well since the republicans took over in 2010, these kind of radical libertarians now have a lot of power. And McGuire is one of their leaders and she just recently passed a bill that restricts New Hampshire’s minimum wage to whatever the federal minimum actually is. So it can never go higher. Governor Lynch, a democrat, vetoed this legislation, however about a month ago republicans overrode his veto and the law went into place this weekend. And the law basically just restricts the minimum wage to $7.25, even if the legislature wants to increase it. Now McGuire, herself, is a radical. This isn’t as far as she would like. She would actually like to get rid of the entire minimum wage, and in comments we posted yesterday, she basically said that the minimum wage is too good and that young people don’t deserve it. I mean those were her exact words and reasoning, in this type of legislation.
Thom Hartmann: Right. And does, has anybody informed her that probably the majority of people working at the minimum wage in America are not young people?
Lee Fang: I don’t think she’s been aware of this because, or if she is she is not acknowledging it. Because she is constantly just saying that this discriminates against 16 year olds trying to get a summer job even though that doesn’t reflect reality.
Thom Hartmann: She is living in the ‘50s.
Lee Fang: Well you know the ‘50s had a higher minimum wage rate, or at least the ‘60s did, when adjusted for inflation.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah it was about a third higher than it is now, or two thirds something like that, substantially higher?
Lee Fang: But that’s way too high for McGuire.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. A strategic question. You talk about her as being one of these radical libertarians. The libertarian movement is growing like crazy. Ron Paul raised 1.6 million dollars, I believe, over a million dollars, you know, in a money bomb over the weekend. At the same time, the tea party movement, which seemed to integrate fairly well with the libertarian movement, seems to be collapsing under it’s own inertia because it had so aggressively aligned it with and infiltrated the Republican party, and now they’re discovering that the Republicans just basically viewed them as useful idiots, used them to get elected, and now they’re moving forward with an agenda to privatize Medicare and kill off social security, and most of those tea partiers were people in their 50s and 60s who, you know, were looking forward to that social security or Medicare. And so I’m wondering, is there a schism coming, you know. How do these three moving pieces fit, I guess is the real question. And what is this going to mean for electoral politics in 2012? If I can ask you play analyst for a minute. And if you’re not comfortable with that you’d prefer to just play reporter, that’s fine, tell me.
Lee Fang: Well, you know, I think we shouldn’t miss the ball here. There’s another actual factor here. Back in 2007 when Governor Lynch, the democrat, wanted to increase the minimum wage and really fought to keep New Hampshire competitive with the other New England states that were raising their minimum wage at the time, the key force fighting back against Governor Lynch, mind you this was back when the libertarian movement hadn’t really ignited like it has today, the New Hampshire lodging restaurant and vacation lobby that has lots of minimum wage workers fought tooth and nail against him and they lost. So maybe, I mean this term sounds derogatory, but a lot of these libertarians and tea party politicians, they seize the headlines and they’re very interesting to watch, just in terms of politics, but they could just be useful idiots here for a larger lobbying agenda.
Thom Hartmann: Or maybe very smart useful paid off politicians.
Lee Fang: That too.
Thom Hartmann: Yeah. Amazing. Lee Fang with the Center for American Progress' ThinkProgress blog, one of the best investigative reporters in America right now. You and Matt Taibbi, I think you guys are spectacular. Lee, thanks a lot for dropping by.
Lee Fang: Thank you Thom, I really appreciate it.
Thom Hartmann: Good talking with you. ThinkProgress.org, by the way.
Transcribed by Suzanne Roberts, Portland Psychology Clinic.