Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Obama both right and wrong about Tea Party / Occupy Wall Street comparison (but mostly wrong)

President Obama, who has become a target of the Occupy Wall Street protests sweeping the country, today embraced the economic frustration voiced on the streets and said in an exclusive interview with ABC News that his vision for the U.S. economic system is best suited to resolve protesters' concerns.

"I understand the frustrations being expressed in those protests," Obama told ABC News senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper in the interview to air this evening on ABC News "Nightline" from Jamestown, N.C.

"In some ways, they're not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party. Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren't looking out for them," he said.

Not that different? Huh. Well, sure, superficially they're somewhat the same -- or, that is, if you look at them superficially. Both are, supposedly, grassroots movements expressing populist frustrations directed at the establishment, whether political or economic.

But the Tea Party has been bankrolled by the establishment, and specifically by conservative organizations with a partisan agenda, hence the ease with with with the Tea Party and the Republican Party have basically co-opted each other. While efforts have been made to make it appear as if the Tea Party, or the various groups that loosely make it up, are independent, the truth is quite different. Meanwhile, the Occupy Wall Street movement is truly populist and anti-establishmentarian. Democrats are more or less aligning themselves with its interests and objectives, more less than more, but it's clearly not a partisan tool, or a movement with decidedly partisan aims, partly because the Democratic Party is in bed with Big Finance as well, if not necessarily to the degree the GOP is.

The Occupy Wall Street movement can't just be dismissed, as much as various elites (political, media, etc.) tried to initially. The reason is that it reflects genuine discontent with the system, with the elites that control the U.S. economy and allow the 1% to control the 99%. The Tea Party reflects discontent as well, but it's a libertarian, anti-government discontent that implicitly and effectively enables these elites to keep doing what they're doing. Not all Tea Partiers may understand this, but their "hands off my money" agenda would allow those in the private sector with power to accumulate even more power by removing the one institution that actually tries to, or at least has the power to, keep those elites in check, namely, the federal government. Sure, you can pay less in taxes to a skeleton government, but then what? Then the elites have you even more firmly by the balls.

It doesn't help that Obama has been a president for Wall Street, bailing out the big banks and surrounding himself with a Goldman Sachs economic braintrust. And his policies thus far have been directed not at the 99% but at protecting the 1%, whatever his occasionally populist rhetoric. This is one of the great disappointments of his presidency. He may be more centrist technocrat than change-we-can-believe-in progressive, and may have been so all along (even if so many of his supporters misunderstood him), but nonetheless the fact that he has focused his priorities on the elites of credit and capital over the people who have been severely abused by those elites is beyond even what most cynics, justifiably or not, expected.

It's all well and good that the president understands the frustrations that people are expressing, but... so what? What is needed is action, and he has shown himself unwilling to do what needs to be done to fix a system that is sick at its core, that enhances the plutocracy of the few while leaving the many to suffer at their hands.

Obama said the most important thing he can do as president is express solidarity with the protesters and redouble his commitment to achieving what he described as a more egalitarian society.

Then fucking do it, Mr. President. And show you mean it. You have history on your side, and votes to win, and the men and women occupying Wall Street, unlike the Teabaggers, seek to rescue America from those who would destroy it.

Labels: , , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home