Monday, October 31, 2011

tea party Outreach to Occupy Wall Street

A guest at our Halloween party Friday night (not pictured, but that's your author on the right) had attended some of the Occupy San Diego events, and said that the press image of the movement distorted what they are trying to achieve. No surprise there, as I have seen the tea party movement's principles and activities similarly distorted. She said that the movement has serious demands that are the result of government enriching particular companies through undue influence. Further, she stated that one of the demands of the group is to prevent a revolving door between corporate lobbying and government. She also said that the Iraq war was the result of weapons contractors being highly placed in the Bush administration, a point on which I disagree. However, we had many points of agreement, but disagree fundamentally on what is to be done about government regulatory and tax policies, as well as subsidies and bailouts that enrich the privileged elite with the connections to benefit. The occupy movement seems to believe that we can build "good government" free from the influence of the wealthy and powerful, which will then regulate the activities of that group for the greater good of all Americans.

I fundamentally disagree that this goal is possible. What then is to be done? The fundamental problem is that the wealthy, and especially those in the financial sector, have benefited from government subsidies, bailouts and implicit guarantees. They make risky bets, knowing that the taxpayers will be on the hook to bail them out, while they still walk away rich. The only solution is to attack the source of the problem, which is to allow banks and other financial firms to fail. Further, we must ban subsidies and pork barrel projects. We must press for transparent and simple regulation that applies evenly to all businesses. To protect ourselves from financial meltdown from "too big to fail" we must enforce ever higher capital reserve requirements for ever larger firms, rather than execrable and impenetrable regulation like the 2319 page Dodd Frank bill.

The occupy movement targets the outrageous outcome of taxpayers bailing out the already wealthy. But there movement is being hampered by other deficiencies, and they could learn from the tea party movement. But I think they could get more traction and even tea party support if they made a few changes. On the other hand, the tea party should be thanking them for protesting the problem of crony capitalism. Crony capitalism and corporate welfare are a twin cancer on America, depleting our ability to grow the economy in a just way. However, the occupy movement is not getting the traction it deserves due to a number of distractions.
  • It seems that #occupy is protesting all wealth, not just the unearned wealth. Americans think that Steve Jobs, for example, deserved to keep the wealth he earned, Wall Street bankers with implicit guarantees from Uncle Sam, not so much.
  • Too many socialists in the movement call for the collapse of capitalism. The tea party purged racists from its movement, occupiers should purge the anarchists and socialists from theirs. (Yeah, I'm comparing socialism to racism. Various forms of socialism, such as national socialism and communism, have killed far more people than racism ever did. If you don't like the comparison, you're reading the wrong blog.)
  • The occupy movement is perceived as trashy, as in literally leaving trash in its wake. Be model citizens, and the 99% of the public that isn't protesting might take #occupy more seriously. It leaves the impression that you are spoiled children, not adults taking responsibility for changing the republic.
Taking a look at this Occupy Wall Street web site, I can find common cause with some of their complaints, such as:
  • They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
  • They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
But some of the complaints seem shear fantasy:
  • They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
Really? How are you able to publish your manifesto, and how am I able to read it?

So I will end with what I told our young guest, Friday.
It's the crony not the capitalism and its the corporate welfare not the corporation that are causing the problems in America today. You complain about money in politics, but after forty years of successive reforms, nothing has been done to stop it. At the end of the day, you never will because the rich have freedom of speech as well. The situation is like what Steve Forbes described. You have vermin in your kitchen. So you set traps, put out poison, and plug up the holes, but somehow the vermin keep coming back. That's because you have to stop keeping the cake under the kitchen sink! The cake is the largesse shelled out by government through crony capitalism and a regulatory excess that favors some businesses over others. The only way to get the money out of politics, is to get politics out of the business of dispensing money.
So how about it occupiers? Could we agree on ending all corporate subsidies, loans and tax loopholes as our common platform? Could we ask for a ban on government giving tax dollars to favored groups? Could we ask for regulatory simplicity, not complexity? Could ask for an end to "too big to fail?" I look forward to your response.


  1. I found Pipi Longstocking (the OWS guest occupier's costume)to be unlike most OWS participants, whereby an intelligent and civil discussion Occupied the Bdaddy jacuzzi. Hopefully she can bring back the thoughtful discussion to her fellow occupiers. Somehow I feel it would be much like discussing geology at a creation science event. The people have chosen sides and somehow they will resist logic fearing it will diminish their core principles. They need some leadership other than the SEIU and anarchist types. Thanks, Pipi for listening!

  2. I think the best that we can do is be the warning that they are being exploited. The Tea Party could not be used as the bottom up threat requiring top down force against the public because we were civil and nonviolent. The Tea Party stands as an example that opposition to big government is not cause for public fear.

    As John Lennon wrote in the song Revolution, "when you talk about destruction, don't ya know that you can count me out." A good message for the occupation forces.

    However, we run the risk of allowing the Tea Party example to be smeared if it is associated with Occupy violence and mayhem. If that connection is established, progressives will claim the "moderate" position by triangulating between the "left wing violent" extreme and the "right wing terrorists" extreme.

  3. Thumbs way up on the Indiana Jones costume. I have nothing but contempt for OWS, which I do not think wish to be reasonable. But you are far nicer than I.

  4. Anyone willing to demonstrate side-by-side with a "F*ck Capitalism" sign, is no friend.

  5. Thank you for commenting. I understand your distrust of OWS, and certainly if there is an equivalence suggested, that is not helpful. However, we need to be building political alliances around issues that we can all agree on. I hope to use the legitimate complaints of OWS to do so.