Recently, I decided to tune in to Russia Today, testing the hypothesis that a news channel funded and run by a foreign government might be more critical, and therefore present a more interesting view, of the US government. That might be the case with RT (they did have Adam Kokesh as an anchor, after all) but within the first 24 hours of watching RT I was introduced to Thom Hartmann, who is billed as “America’s #1 progressive radio host,” and has a show called “The Big Picture.” Almost immediately after I turned on Hartmann’s show, I was pleasantly surprised to see the Libertarian Party’s emblem displayed, and though I have no particular affinity for the LP, I thought there was a possibility that a political view outside of the mainstream might actually be presented. However, Hartmann proclaimed that “libertarian economics” has screwed millennials. This made no sense to me, but I’m open to hearing criticisms of libertarianism and patiently waited for the relevant segment. Here it is, should you care to watch it:
“The deregulation, the privatization, the Iraq”
What struck me at first was how many times Hartmann says “libertarian economics” (12 times in less than 5 minutes) and other phrases he thinks are synonymous (“Reaganomics” he says 3 times and “libertarianism” twice). The reason he does this, of course, is that he really has no idea what “libertarian economics” is; otherwise, he would mention specific policies instead of vague ideas. The most specific he gets is with “the massive tax cuts, the deregulation, the privatization” of Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover (his excessive use of “the” reminds me of Miss South Carolina of 2007). He also mentions “the free trade mantra” which is apparently why millennials don’t have jobs and “deregulation of the stock market” which somehow caused a housing boom and bust. But how has “libertarian economics” screwed millennials the most? Through student loan debt.
That’s right. An industry that was massively subsidized and now effectually monopolized by the federal government is an institution of “libertarian economics.” Upon watching this, the audience feels the urge to check the calendar to make sure it’s not April 1st, to pinch themselves to make sure they aren’t in some Newspeak nightmare, to do anything to gain their own assurance that something so unbelievably stupid could not be said by a serious TV news anchor with the approval of his producers and whomever else helps make this content. And yet Thom Hartmann is completely serious. He puts two and two together: George W. Bush (who bailed out megabanks, created the greatest expansion of the federal government’s role in medical care since the passage of Medicare, and under whose presidency the national debt grew more than all previous presidencies combined) pursued “libertarian economic policies,” and the US has never had student loan debt problems like it does today. Ergo, libertarian economic policies caused the student loan crisis.
Hartmann apparently finds the effort to even do a Google search to check basic historical facts too taxing. Apparently, “the free trade mantra” is part of “libertarian economics,” and yet a cited practitioner, Herbert Hoover, signed what is probably the best known trade barrier (the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act) into federal law, which caused FDR to later pledge to reduce the tariff rates as part of his election campaign. Might FDR be a shill for “libertarian economics” as well?
Ultimately, one must come to the conclusion that Thom Hartmann has an inchoate conception of whatever he thinks he’s referring to with “libertarian economics” (and I doubt he even has a coherent conception of what his own progressivism is, either). By leaving his bogeyman of “libertarian economics” undefined, he can blame for everything. Even ISIS. What a world we live in.