In this month’s episode of Rep. Walter Jones’s (R-NC) TV show, Washington Watch, Jones hosted Dick Armey, former House Majority Leader and current chairman of the right-wing astroturf group FreedomWorks. About halfway through their conversation, Jones suggests that President Obama could have benefited from taking several months off in the beginning of his presidency to study public policy with “experts.” Armey disagrees, saying that Obama has no interest in “understanding of how the world really works” and warning that Obama “may be the greatest economic illiterate of any president of modern time”:
JONES: I was hoping that Mr. Obama…would say to the American people, “You know, these problems…are so complex that I’m going to take the first two or three months, I’m going to bring in certain people from different parts of the country who are experts with this and this and that. And then I’m going to try to come back to you the American people the first of April with some ideas and plans for this country.” … I wish he had just maybe taken a little bit of time and try to analyze some of these deep seeded problems. [...]
ARMEY: I think with this president its even worse than that. He is more interested in income redistribution than he is in prosperity. … He’s got a whimsical notion of how things ought to turn out. Without any understanding. Economics is a very deep and complex discipline of understanding and I’m afraid we have a president right now who may be the greatest economic illiterate of any president of modern time. Not that he’s not capable of understanding. But I don’t believe he cares to understand.
Armey’s own views on the economic crisis are often dictated by his lobbying interests. He has been a vocal critic of the Bush administration’s creation of the toxic asset relief program (TARP) in his capacity at FreedomWorks. But despite that, Armey’s lobbying firm DLA Piper has represented several of the greatest beneficiaries of TARP and other government interventions in the last year: AIG and Merrill Lynch. As Pat Garofalo writes, “it’s a safe bet that DLA Piper wasn’t enlisted to push for tougher regulations or more stringent capital requirements.”
As the Obama administration works to devise effective and nuanced regulations to prevent a financial crisis like that of last fall’s from recurring, Armey is advocating more of the same tired deregulation ideas that set the American economy up for failure in the first place. “We want to end burdensome government regulation and rely on the marketplace as an efficient regulator of business activity,” Armey’s FreedomWorks website states.