The interview got off to a bad start. After reading a couple of lines from my article Hartmann asked, “You don’t really believe that do you?” I responded that I never write anything I don’t believe. (I can’t imagine why I would.)
It was Hartmann’s idea to have me on his show. I was, in other words, his guest. We’ve never met. What is the point of starting a conversation with an insult? It violates basic rules of common courtesy. Before allowing me to say a word Hartmann resorted to personal attack and essentially accused me of being dishonest and insincere. Assuming that someone would say or write what they don’t believe says more about him than me.
For the interview that lasted about ten minutes I doubt that I was given more than two minutes to talk. Most of the time was spent with Hartmann reading statistics from articles correlating human happiness with income equality.
In her email inviting me to be a guest on the show, Hartmann’s producer wrote, “In the interest of full disclosure, our politics lean left, however, we promise a polite, respectful and above all a fair discussion of the issues only.” Their disclosure might have been full, but it was not particularly honest. Saying their politics “lean left” is a bit of an understatement. I think it would be more accurate to say they toppled into the left abyss long ago. Hartmann apparently makes promises with no intention of keeping them.
Based on how the interview was conducted, Hartmann was not the least bit interested in anything I might have to say. Frankly, I am still somewhat confused as to why he wanted me on his show. He could have taken issue with what I wrote in my article without having me on the phone.
One thing I will give Hartmann credit for — he is completely up-front about how high he wants tax rates to go. He says he wants the top federal income tax rate to be at least 70 percent. Very few Democrats will ever actually admit what their wishes really are in that regard. For purposes of public consumption, they usually say they only want rates on “millionaires and billionaires” to go up “a tiny bit.” (Repeal the Bush tax cuts, for example.) Robert Reich is the only other prominent liberal I have seen admit he wants rates to go to 70 percent.
Hartmann argues that virtually everything was much better in the 1950s when the top rate was 70 percent. Furthermore, he seems convinced that it was, in fact, those high rates that created an earthly paradise. I did get the opportunity to say, because of all the tax shelters and loopholes then, hardly anyone actually paid that rate on very much of their income.
My brief conservation with Hartmann convinced me more than ever of something I said in my “Inequality in Perspective” article — for many liberals economic equality is the Holy Grail, and the sine qua non.
At my age I am long past being naïve. I am never the least bit surprised by the insulting and disrespectful ways liberals relate to conservatives. Liberalism is intellectually bankrupt. It cannot be defended using logic and evidence. Personal attack and insults are all they’ve got.
Conservative talk shows are vastly more popular than liberal talk shows. There are many explanations why, but I’m convinced an important one is simply the difference in politeness and respect shown to callers and guests. Very few people enjoy listening to someone being rude and insulting. Irrelevant personal attack is not particularly interesting. Liberal talk show hosts seem to be tone deaf and are incapable of hearing how they sound to most people, not just conservatives. I’m not advising them to change. In fact, I hope they keep it up. I’ll probably continue to accept invitations to be on their shows. In a perverse sort of way, it’s kind of fun.
◼ Progressive Rudeness December 20, 2011
Ron Ross Ph.D. is a former economics professor and author of The Unbeatable Market. Ron resides in Arcata, California and is a founder of Premier Financial Group, a wealth management firm located in Eureka, California. He is a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.