Understanding OWS: part 1
It is increasingly diificult to ascertain the true goals of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement. Comparisons have been made to the Tea Party. As best I can now tell, the whole thing was basically instigated by a renegade Canadian advertising company that extols and anti-consumerism agenda who previous claim to fame was a campaign called “Turn Your TV Off” Day. Regardless, the protests are certainly gaining their fair share of airplay on the news almost daily and the most liberal of liberals seem to think that the great economic revolution is in the air. What complicates everything is the lack of focus in the movement. Once I seem to get a handle on it, I see the OWS folks in Philadelphia protesting alleged police brutality in Boston…in front of the Philadelphia Police headquarters. Or, their ill-fated attempt to take over the FREE National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
I find it weird that polls show that Americans “agree” with the movement while revealing that the same public, like me, is confused about their goals beyond some amorphous, populist uprising against Wall Street corporate interests. Even the polls themselves are confusing. For example, Gallup tells us that 22% of respondents agree with OWS while Time magazine polls say the figure is 54%. Personally, I would go with the Gallup findings since they are also determined that despite a 22% agreement rate, 63% of respondents said they did not know the goals or agenda of that which they agree with in the first place. In short, they agree with some unknown—just something.
Regarding those comparisons to the Tea Party, which started as a grassroots effort to reign in a profligate government growing even bigger under Obama, some polls tell us that OWS, despite the vast majority of people not even knowing what it is all about, is more popular than the Tea Party movement. That is not surprising in light of the demonization of the Tea Party at the hands of the liberal press and the Democratic Party. If we take OWS at their face and moniker, they are allegedly protesting Wall Street/banking/finance “greed” at the expense of the average Joe middle class person. However, those same polls indicate that 30% of Americans point their finger at Wall Street while double that number- 64%- blame Washington and government. The Tea Party did not take out their anger at Wall Street, but on Washington which is probably why, despite the alleged death knell of the Tea Party being tolled in the media, the basic tenets of the Tea Party will outlive yet another liberal-inspired, populist movement.
Then we have a President who sides with OWS and their alleged anger, angst and frustrations. However, the protests of the Tea Party were not understood and heeded by that same President. Remember that the Tea Party was first a grassroots movement against TARP which directly benefitted Wall Street which is where the convergence with OWS begins and ends. The Tea Party hardened with the Obama “stimulus that solved nothing while sending the country deeper into debt. The final straw was Obamacare which only correctly demonstrated to the majority of Americans- Tea Party or not- that Obama was determined to expand the role of government despite the costs in furtherance of his liberal agenda.
Along the way, he failed to heed the warning signs starting in 2009 when a Republican won the Governorship in Virginia. That same year, a Republican defeated an incumbent Democratic Governor in New Jersey- a strong blue state. Then came the election of Scott Brown followed by the historic 2010 midterm elections which were, despite any official poll, a very strong statement against the Obama/liberal agenda. Republicans gained control of the House. If not for some missteps and some rather dubious choices of candidates, the GOP failed to take the Senate not because of their political positions, but because of the politicians themselves. Trust me- if a Tea Party backed candidate is not going to win in a red state like West Virginia, they have even less of a chance in Delaware, or a purple state like Colorado. In fact, the political clout of the Tea Party in getting candidates elected is mixed at best. There are the success stories like Rand Paul and Marco Rubio, but there are the equally dismal examples of Christine O’Donnell and John Raese- where defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory.
The major goal of the Tea Party is smaller government through reduced spending, less regulation and less centralization of government in Washington. It does not call for a return to the Articles of Confederation. Compare this with the goal of OWS, wich is exactly what? A look at the protests thus far reveal not only anger at the banking industry, but tirades for immigration reform, against capital punishment, against police brutality, against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, for wealth redistribution to address economic inequality, women’s rights, the effect of money in politics, relief of student debt, etc. In other words, every worn out liberal mantra since the beginning of time. It i strange with these tangential issues, Obama’s performance has not been exactly stellar. For example, his heralded overhaul of student loan programs has people protesting their student debt. Frank-Dodd legislation, which he now vociferously defends, was supposed to address the very issues that now allegedly inspire OWS. He hails his signature legislative achievement- Obamacare- while premiums for those with insurance soar while not too many additional Americans have been insured and whose financial projections of “savings” are now called into question almost daily (thank you Paul Ryan for first pointing this out).
Instead, with OWS, we have a “movement” whose anger, angst and frustration is becoming directed at everything and anything and everyone. We also have a President anxious to survive politically latching onto the same and lending it credence. Of course, unlike the Tea Party protesters, the demonstrations will die once the first blizzard hits New York City and probably move to warmer climes and convert to immigration marches and the like.
So it would seem a daunting task to attempt to educate any OWS supporter on the facts especially since many out there protesting are unaware of what they are protesting against. That stands in stark contrast with a clear agenda. As far as I can tell, OWS wants greater government involvement while the Tea Party wants government to get out of the way- a smaller, more intelligent government (the latter being precluded by the presence of the Obama Administration in particular and Democrats in general). At the very least, the two movements can agree on two things. First, both oppose the bailouts of big banks (now institutionalized through Frank-Dodd, incidentally), but that OWS supports the bailout of practically everything else. The second is the obvious disparity in income between the haves and the have nots and not so have nots: the purported 99% versus the 1%. However, instead of the Tea Party members bemoaning their station in life and begrudging those who were more successful than they- and success is a relative thing- the Tea Party is actually more inclusive. It is akin to the old adage: give a fish and eat for a day (OWS), or teach them to fish and eat for a lifetime (Tea Party). There is another difference- Tea Party protesters do not smell like spoiled hummus in the middle of July. In any case, I think the movement can be dissected into five general areas that I shall muse upon in parts 2-6- the housing crisis, politics and money and the belief Obama is on their side, that Iraq created the alleged Clinton surpluses to disappear, the future of social safety nets (like Medicare and Social Security), and income disparities and inequalities and the OWS solution- raising taxes on the rich.