A very good friend of ours gave us as a Christmas gift Thom Hartmann’s What Would Jefferson Do? A return to Democracy. Those of you in the know, know that Hartmann has a gig on Air America (or at least he used to. Is Air America even around anymore?) and so you are probably wondering just what the angle here is. The angle is that it’s a gift from a friend who was nearly in tears when she presented it to us - you have to respect that type of passion - so of course we are going to read it and filter out as best we can the expected liberal bias.
Reviews thus far (50 pages in): Mixed.
We get some good history concerning Jefferson’s view of democracy and in particular his study of a strain of democracy as practiced by the Saxon tribes of England prior to the Norman conquest in the 11th century. But, as one would expect for a book written by a liberal in 2004, it’s also providing an opportunity to bash Bush.
As a liberal populist, Hartmann goes at lengths decrying what he describes as corporatism – the government cozying up to big business to effectively control the masses. In the following paragraphs, which is very representative of his ideological slant, Hartmann makes the corporatism-fascism nexus (page 22-23):
Beware: Tight control can look very good at first
When Germany faced the last depression, its government turned to a hand-in-glove partnership with corporations (including some American corporations, as has been shown in recent years) to solidify its power over its own people and to wage war on others.
When Benito Mussolini named this new form of corporate/state partnership “fascism” referring to the Roman fasces or bundle of sticks held together with a rope, that was the Caesars’ symbol of power, he said that the bundle represented the police and military powers of the state combined with the economic power of industry. The fascist system was adopted by Italy, Spain, Japan and Germany.
Using Hartmann’s own standards, he shouldn’t be surprised that in 2009, we can effectively substitute “America” for “Germany’ and “recession” for “last depression”.
And this brings us to the larger point: Sure, it was easy to bang on Republicans and Bush back in ’04 if you were a liberal/statist – banging on the other guy when you’re on the outs is to be expected. But how is that first paragraph working out for Hartmann, now?
Whatever dim view Hartmann may have had of Bush and the Republicans, how does the nationalization of the auto industry which included firing the CEO of Chrysler and jobbing the secured creditors in favor of the unions in the bankruptcy cramdown, the crony capitalism of the Environmental-Industrial complex and now the attempted nationalizing of the healthcare industry look through Hartmann’s liberal populist prism?
It can’t look good or else Hartmann is a complete hypocrite. Since the state of the American auto industry is not what it was in ’04, we don’t know how Hartmann would react to the fascist tactics employed by the Obama administration but we have a clue how he feels regarding Big Green and universal healthcare (we cheated and skipped ahead to Hartmann’s to-do list for returning to democracy which is to be totally confused with a liberal policy laundry list).
First on Big Green (p. 245-246):
Use tax incentives and grants to jump-start alternative energy
Jimmy Carter pioneered this during his time in the White House and the alternative energy industry was birthed from his tax cuts, tax credits and grants for solar, wind, water and other power sources.
We’ve seen how this all really works as Big Green is nothing more than crony capitalism dressed-up in the fineries of doing something about our dependence on fossil fuels and doing something about global-warming and of course we now know its all bullshit as it is the politically well-connected that are receiving the benefits of the Environmental-Industrial complex.
How about healthcare?
From p. 227:
Provide health care for all
Insurance companies take between 8 percent and 60 percent (with an average of 15 percent) of the money that flows through them to cover their overhead, administration, and profits.
Aside from the total incoherency of that sentence (how do you “cover” profits?), suffice to say Hartmann is a big fan of the single-payer system of “every other industrialized nation in the world”.
But how does nationalizing the healthcare industry to where the government is dictating the terms of coverage and forcing every single citizen to sign up with a private insurer anything other than the “hand-in-glove partnership with corporations”, Hartmann claims is an anathema to democracy?
We will continue reading the book as it looks like there is some good history but at this point we have to conclude that Thom Hartmann and many of those who bashed Bush for his power grabs but now support Obama's policies are big fat hypocrites.