Mike Kueber's Blog

October 22, 2011

Comparing the Occupy Wall Street movement to the TEA Party movement

There is an effort in the media to characterize the Occupy Wall Street movement as a political counter-weight to the TEA Party movement.  An article in today’s New York Times is typical of that effort.

According to the article in the NY Times, the two movements share traits:

  • They emerged out of nowhere but quickly became potent political forces, driven by anxiety about the economy, a belief that big institutions favor the reckless over the hard-working, grievances that are inchoate and even contradictory, and an insistence that they are “leaderless.” “End the Fed” signs — and even some of those yellow Gadsden flags — have found a place at Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street protests alike.

The article thought the major difference between the two movements was substantive – i.e., where to place the blame:

  • While Occupy forces find fault in the banks and super-rich, the Tea Party movement blames the government for the economic calamity brought on by the mortgage crisis, and sees the wealthy as job creators who will lift the country out of its economic malaise. To them, the solution is less regulation of banks, not more.

Of course, this sort of article infuriates Tea Party partisans because for months they had to fight to earn credibility and legitimacy from the media, and now the media appears to be quickly handing over similar bona fides to a decidedly non-mainstream, unaccomplished movement.  What fair-minded person would conclude that Occupy Wall Street, like the TEA Party, was a “potent political force”?  Are you kidding?

The TEA Party is generally considered to be the dominant factor in one of the most important off-year elections.  What has the Occupy movement accomplished?

I recently heard Al Sharpton claim that the Occupy movement deserved great credit for succeeding in getting the conversation in Washington away from the debt/deficit and towards job creation.  I doubt that is true (and I certainly hope it isn’t), but it shows how hard the anti-TEA Party pundits are working to build up the bona fides of their protest organ.

All of this reminds me of the effort a few years ago to create liberal/progressive talk radio to provide a political counter-weight against Limbaugh, Hannity et al.  The most famous of these was called Air America, which brought us Ed Schultz and Rachel Maddow.  After six years (2004-2010), however, Air America went broke and filed for bankruptcy because there weren’t enough listeners.

From a non-partisan perspective, it would be nice if the left develops a movement that is similar to the TEA Party in terms of energy and idealism.  But America is not well-served by the media or anyone else granting bona fides to a group that has not yet earned them.


October 12, 2011

Who comprises the Occupy Wall Street movement?

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 8:51 pm
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Until today, I had heard no hard numbers of who comprises the Occupy Wall Street movement.  But based on news reports and the punditry, I’ve assumed that the Occupy Wall Street movement is about as far left as the TEA Party movement is far right.  Today, however, I heard hard numbers that suggest the Occupy Wall Steet partisans will be significantly less pragmatic than the TEA Party partisans.

According to New York magazine, it asked the Occupy Wall Street people to rank themselves on a scale of liberalism:

  • Not liberal at all: 6%
  • Liberal but fairly mainstream (e.g., Barack Obama): 3%
  • Strongly liberal (e.g., Paul Krugman): 12%
  • Fed up with Democrats, believe country needs overhaul (e.g., Ralph Nader): 41%
  • Convinced the U.S. government is no better than, say, Al Qaeda (e.g., Noam Chomsky): 34%

Wow!  Eighty-seven percent think Obama is too conservative, even though there is no serious thought of anyone challenging Obama from the left in the Democratic primary.  These Wall Street people seem to be way left of the Democratic mainstream, and I didn’t think there were many of such people in America.  But I could be wrong because I am getting retired and don’t interact with the world as much as I used to.  Instead I rely almost exclusively on the mainstream media for my second-hand information.  There could be something going on, and I may be one of the last to learn of it.


October 9, 2011

The Wall Street movement takes shape

Filed under: Economics,Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 3:48 pm
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The Sunday talk shows spend an inordinate amount of time this morning trying to figure out the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Conservatives generally see the movement as a cynical gathering of scheming liberals who were disillusioned by President Obama’s ineffectiveness, whereas liberals see it as a spontaneous outburst of idealistic citizens who were shocked that America had become a government of the feckless, by the corrupted, for the connected.

Although both the TEA Party and Wall Street movements arguably sprung to life from spontaneous, decentralized groundswells, they were also both quickly co-opted by the established parties.  The TEA Party and Republican Party might act as if they were independent entities (with the Republican Party playing the “good cop” to the TEA Party’s “bad cop”), but there is no denying that the TEA Party is pushing the Republican agenda while the Wall Street movement is pushing the Democratic agenda.

President Obama has given up on achieving any significant legislation before the 2012 election, and instead is trying to frame the deadlocked
issues in a way favorable to the Democrats.  For now, he is starting class warfare by demonizing the rich.  Not coincidentally, Obama’s stalking horse, the Occupy Wall Street movement, is screaming about “economic justice” for the 99%.

Conversely, the TEA Party, which is the Republican Party’s stalking horse, demonizes most of the federal government and will not consider $1 in additional taxes, even if offset by $10 of expense cuts.  That will enable moderate, “good cop” Republicans like Speaker Boehner to later agree to a compromise that is heavily slanted in favor of cutting government expenditures.

One of the Wall Street movement’s compelling proofs that is currently circulating the internet is a chart revealing that the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay in America is 475:1.  The country with the next highest ratio is Venezuela at 50:1; Japan is at 11:1 and Germany is 12:1.  When I conceded to a friend who posted this chart on my Wall that this was a serious problem in America that should be addressed by getting workers to be more productive, the friend responded by saying increasing worker productivity usually inures to the benefit of the CEO and employer, not the employee.  What do you say to that?  I suspect we have to agree to disagree unless Milton Friedman will agree to arbitrate this issue.

October 5, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street movement

Filed under: Issues,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 4:13 am
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I was one of those guys who were late in arriving at the TEA Party.  In early 2010 a local TEA Party group invited me as a congressional candidate to an event of theirs at the Magic Time Machine in San Antonio.  Although the movement had been in the national media since its seminal event on April 15, 2009, I had only the slightest idea of what the party stood for – Taxed Enough Already.  Because I never refused an opportunity for exposure, I attended the event and was disappointed by the attendees’ anger because I was running on a platform of pragmatism and toning down the rhetoric.  These guys (and a few gals) were into full-throated venting, and I couldn’t imagine them becoming the dominant force in the 2010 elections across the country.

As little as I knew about the TEA Party movement in early 2010, I know even less about the Occupy Wall Street movement today.  Because I spend a lot of time surfing the internet, I have probably been exposed to dozens of news articles on the Wall  Street protests, but I have consistently sailed past the articles and have absorbed nothing about it that wasn’t in the headlines.  Now is a good time to correct that.

According to an article in the New York Times earlier yesterday, the Occupy Wall Street movement consists of a motley assortment of  people who are motivated by a motley assortment of issues, but the unifying  thread is that America’s current economic and political system is no longer Lincoln’s  “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Instead of serving the people, it serves the aristocracy.  Or as Time magazine’s David  Von Drehle opined in November of 2010, America is currently “government of the feckless, by the crooked, for the connected.”  In this regard, the Occupy Wall Street people are closely related to the TEA Party people – i.e., they both want to take America back.  That is quintessential  populism, with the TEA Party movement drawing in right-leaning people while the  Occupy Wall Street movement attracts left-leaning people (including unions).

There are obvious synergies if these two movements can be coordinated into pulling in the same direction.  But keeping the focus on core principles is difficult, as the TEA Party proponents are discovering in trying to keep social  conservatism from intruding on its fiscal undertakings.

Earlier this week, an Ezra Klein column in the Washington Post discussed the corrupting influence of corporate money on politics.  That is an issue near & dear to my heart, and although I believe the Citizens United case was correctly decided in accordance with Free Speech under the Constitution, there are a myriad of things that the combined efforts of populists from the left and right could do to ameliorate the pernicious effect of the holding.

How about this unifying creed from the 60s – Power to the People?