The Tea Party and the Occupy Movement: two sides of the same coin but only the former really gets it.

The Tea Party and the Occupy movement are in many ways working on the same problem from opposite ends. Big government and big, bailout dependent business are just two sides of a corporatist coin.

An occupier of DC takes on a Tea Party activist.
John Phelan
On 17 October 2011 23:23

My mother always used to tell me that what was sauce for the goose was sauce for the gander. Apparently not. Many of the same people who get swivel eyed about Tea Party rallies are running out of laudatory epithets for the various ‘Occupy’ protests.   

Back in January it only took a pair of crosshairs on a web page for New York Times columnist Paul Krugman to deduce that the Tea Party were behind the horrific shooting of Gabrielle Giffords.

But when a speaker at Occupy Los Angeles steps forward to say that “the bourgeoisie won’t go without violent means” Krugman purrs that we are “seeing the rise of a popular movement that, unlike the Tea Party, is angry at the right people”.

Krugman is wrong is to paint the two movements as diametrically opposed. In fact, there is much common ground between Occupy and the Tea Party.

Both groups are angry with the vast transfer of wealth from individual citizens to banks.

When the Tea Party movement got going nearly two and a half years ago its protestors, according to CNN, were out to protest against “excessive government spending and bailouts”.

Now we have Occupy Wall Street protesting “against bank bailouts, corporate greed, and the unchecked power of Wall Street in Washington”.

Both groups see people like former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson bailing out his former employers Goldman Sachs to the tune of $12.9 billion of taxpayers’ money and are justifiably outraged. The only difference is that while the Tea Party focuses its anger on the politicians who are so free with taxpayers money, the Occupy movement focus theirs on the banks who received it.

They are in many ways working on the same problem from opposite ends. Big government and big, bailout dependent business are just two sides of a corporatist coin.

There are differences though. Whereas the opposition of the Tea Party to Federal bailouts is part of a more general belief in lower government spending, the Occupy movement has no problems with massive government per se; they are just opposed to this government spending.

The Tea Party want less Federal spending full stop. The Occupy movement want more Federal spending on them. The Tea Party, in other words, is more ideologically coherent.

And its incoherence compared to the Tea Party means that the Occupy movement is unlikely to be as successful.

The Tea Party can state clearly that they are for smaller government. Occupy Wall Street is forced to come out with confusing statements like “It’s not about ‘small government’ or ‘big government’. It’s about who controls the government”.

The Occupy movement may well win support as long as its sticks to vague statements having a go at bankers, but if it settles on a list of demands including, as one suggests, “Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end” and “Open borders migration”, it is hard to see others coming along for the journey.

Even though it’s early days, tactically it is unlikely that the Occupy movement will match the effectiveness of the Tea Party.

By working hard within the political system the Tea Party have reshaped American politics, reenergised the Republican Party and won control of Congress in less than three years. It is difficult to see how the Occupy movement expects to achieve whatever its aims are by mildly inconveniencing a few bankers and tourists.

And let’s not forget, the Tea Party were doing this first. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then the Tea Partiers can look at the Occupy movement and feel rather pleased with themselves.

But let’s end on a note of harmony. In 2008 candidate Obama received more funding from Wall Street than anywhere else, nearly twice as much as John McCain and he is still desperately schmoozing them.

One Wall Street Occupier rails that “Right now the 99% can’t participate, except through ‘representatives’ who are bought and paid for ahead of time. Time to shift the power! Time to take this country back from the 1%!”

If this angry protestor wants to stick it to the bankers’ candidate he too will be voting against Obama in November 2012.

John Phelan is a Contributing Editor for The Commentator and a Fellow at the Cobden Centre. He has also written for City AM and Conservative Home and he blogs at The Boy Phelan.

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