Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Occupy Wall Street is not the Tea Party of the left

What it portends is actually much more serious than the Tea Party, and it will not be co-opted by the Democratic party the way the Tea Party was by the Republicans.

Let's first examine what the Tea Party actually is, at its core: it is the resurgence of anti-federalism.  This has been discussed at length in other areas.  They've done a rather effective job of dictating to the Republican party how business is (or rather, is not) going to be conducted in Washington.  The Tea Party is not interested in finding better ways for Washington to do business.  They are interested in stopping business.  They view any action on the part of the federal government as an infringement of liberty.  It should be noted that they are not "Constitutionalists" as they like to present themselves.  Their views are more in line with a re-establishment of the Articles of Confederacy.  They are not a conservative movement.  They are retrogressive.  At a minimum, they want to roll back the New Deal.  They are all but openly campaigning on this.

I do not believe that the Tea Party have any use for the religious right, except as a way of gathering votes for their party.  And pro-corporate conservatives are fine with them, as long as they don't expand the reach of the federal government.  Their interests happen to align, since it's the federal government telling religious conservatives that they can't force kids to pray in public schools and telling corporations that they can't dump toxic sludge in the water at will.  The Tea Partiers generally oppose the federal government on principle.

To be sure, this is a radical position at this point in our history, but it's the latest incarnation of a very old debate, and they've been successfully brought back into the Republican party fold.  Republicans call themselves "Tea Party conservatives" as a way of hitching a ride on the latest fad.  Neo-conservatives and religious conservatives are not true Tea Partiers, because the Tea Party, it bears pointing out again, is not a conservative movement.  It is retrogressive and anti-federalist, but in the end, they're happy to fall back in line with the Republican party as long as they promise to cut spending and never raise taxes.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is something else entirely: it is the natural blowback from the Tea Party's anti-federalist policies and President Obama's attempts to appease them.  If the Tea Party are the philosophical heirs of Patrick Henry (who, aside from his famous "Give me liberty, or give me death" quote, was a staunch anti-federalist and opponent of the Constitution). then the Occupy Wall Street movement are the philosophical heirs of Huey P. Long.

The key planks of the Share Our Wealth platform included:
  1. No person would be allowed to accumulate a personal net worth of more than 300 times the average family fortune, which would limit personal assets to between $5 million and $8 million. A graduated capital levy tax would be assessed on all persons with a net worth exceeding $1 million.
  2. Annual incomes would be limited to $1 million and inheritances would be capped at $5 million.
  3. Every family was to be furnished with a homestead allowance of not less than one-third the average family wealth of the country. Every family was to be guaranteed an annual family income of at least $2,000 to $2,500, or not less than one-third of the average annual family income in the United States. Yearly income, however, cannot exceed more than 300 times the size of the average family income.
  4. An old-age pension would be made available for all persons over 60.
  5. To balance agricultural production, the government would preserve/store surplus goods, abolishing the practice of destroying surplus food and other necessities due to lack of purchasing power.
  6. Veterans would be paid what they were owed (a pension and healthcare benefits).
  7. Free education and training for all students to have equal opportunities in all schools, colleges, universities, and other institutions for training in the professions and vocations of life.
  8. The raising of revenue and taxes for the support of this program was to come from the reduction of swollen fortunes from the top, as well as for the support of public works to give employment whenever there may be any slackening necessary in private enterprise.

This was during the Great Depression.  Much of the New Deal was implemented as a way of countering Long's populist appeal.  They were also a way to circumvent a communist revolution.  They were effective.  By establishing a social safety net and building a strong middle class, it minimized the number of disaffected people who could push for a communist revolution.  The Tea Party wants to smash all of that in the middle of one of the worst economic conditions since they were implemented in the first place.

What the Occupy movement is demanding is, essentially, a certain amount of wealth redistribution.  Not a lot, but some.  That's what the New Deal was.  The government ignores that sentiment at its peril.  If the injustices of wealth distribution in this country are not addressed, and indeed, the social safety nets put in place generations ago are stripped away as the Tea Party would like, then the Occupy movement's position is going to become increasingly radicalized.  It is going to become violent.  There will be some within the movement who will conclude that protests are not enough.

The Democrats are embracing the movement because they believe that this will be a chance for them to reignite their base.  They misread the mood.  These protests are not going to conduct get out the vote drives for Obama and congressional Democrats.  They did that in 2008.  They already got Obama elected.  Now they've come to demand the change they were promised, and they're not going away until they get it.

And Republicans need to understand that there's more at stake here than whether or not Obama wins re-election.  They need to address the real problems Americans are facing, or they're going to have some real problems of their own.

In short: the Tea Party is an anti-federalist Get Out The Vote drive for the Republican party.

The Occupy movement is the birth pangs of a revolution.  The Republicans recognize this and are scared to death of it.  But their response is all wrong.  They think they can ridicule it away.  They can't.  They need to address the concerns before it gets out of hand.

I say this as a patriot who loves his country: politicians in Washington, please pull your heads out of your asses.  Your employers are pissed.  Do something to calm them down, before this gets ugly.

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