On my trip back east last week, I mentioned that I was heading to Philadelphia’s Drinking Liberally with an old high school friend who’d worked in the mortgage industry for most of the past 10 years. We made it down there, met up with Atrios and the rest of their DL crew, and talked a bit about the Big Shitpile, among other things. Over the years, my friend was definitely in the minority as a Democrat in the mortgage industry. In the past, he’s told me stories about meetings where he could do nothing more than shake his head over how much the standard GOP talking points on economic issues were simply treated as a religion there – as a belief system that could not be questioned. He once told me of a conference where a speaker angrily protested against the idea of giving health care to the children of illegal immigrants, as if doing something like that will somehow unravel the delicate balance that keeps our economy going. My friend just got up and checked out the hotel bar.
As we chatted last Tuesday night at Tangiers, we also talked about Jim Cramer, the host of “Mad Money” on CNBC. Networks like CNBC tend to adhere to the free market orthodoxies, and I’ve always assumed that Cramer follows along in that vein. But I shouldn’t have been so sure:
An impassioned and sometimes fiery Jim Cramer, the investing guru and host of CNBC’s “Mad Money,” said Tuesday night that government deregulation was nothing short of a “covert attempt” to eliminate the federal government’s responsibilities to its citizens.
“Do not be fooled by the sirens of laissez faire,” he told a packed audience at Bucknell University’s Weis Center for the Performing Arts in the continuing national speakers series, “The Bucknell Forum: The Citizen & Politics in America.”
“Ever since the (President) Reagan era, our nation has been regressing and repealing years and years worth of safety net and equal economic justice in the name of discrediting and dismantling the federal government’s missions to help solve our nation’s collective domestic woes,” he said. “We call it deregulation … a covert attempt to eliminate the federal government’s domestic responsibilities.”
Before embarking on his talk, titled “The Capitalist Citizen and Democracy,” Cramer warned his audience to not be misled by the persona that hosts his popular CNBC program “Mad Money.”
“This is not a ‘Mad Money’ show, nor is this the man you see at 6 and 11 on TV. This is who I really am. And I’m honored to be given a chance to say who I really am and to give you a talk that is heartfelt and is not about entertainment education or making friends and making money,” said Cramer.
He said that deregulation is the equivalent of saying that “private industry will do it better, that volunteers will do it better, that business if left unfettered will produce so many rich people that they will do it better than the government can.”
Even the best of the nation’s private enterprises, Cramer said, citing companies like Wells Fargo, Pepsi, United Technologies, Google, and Costco, can’t meet those demands.
“You, the next generation of corporate and government leaders, should know and understand the limits of what even the best of capitalism and the marketplace can do to promote the general welfare. As future citizen capitalists you must not embrace the unrequited love of the government of the United States for private enterprise,” he said. “Be wise enough to see that government regulation is a necessary evil.”
Perhaps he should put some of those ideas out there a bit more prominently on his cable show.
I’m not a regular viewer of his show, but his remarks certainly betray the fact that he doesn’t say that stuff on his show because his views are seen as blasphemy within the world of economic cable news. And this trend is certainly parallel to the cable news orthodoxies that still write off those who are too stridently anti-war, even though those people have often been much more accurate in their analyses. Many people see Christianity, or more specifically Evangelicalism, as the religion at the heart of the Republican Party. It’s not, and it’s never really been. The religion at the heart of the Republican Party is the belief that government is at its most responsible when it takes responsibility for nothing and becomes a vessel for the empowerment of big business (even if that involves war). That is the orthodoxy that dare not be questioned. Many people today still buy into the lingering divide from the 60s which paints the counter-culture warrior as the irresponsible counterpart to the Cold Warrior, but today the roles are reversed. Those on the right who still see the current geopolitical reality as being a mirror image of those days are the irresponsible ones, unable to come to grips with the fact that the new orthodoxies that arose in the 80s as America de-regulated and became the sole superpower were not an excuse for us to be absolved of any and all responsibility. And this failure has left us with a number of very big problems that the next President will have to fix.