Friday, November 11, 2011

Can Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Get Along?

Can Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party Get Along?:

My old buddy Mort Mather is a great organic gardener and we usually almost always agree on politics, but in his recent post he wonders whether the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement could get along and agree on a few things. I doubt it.

Example: A constitutional amendment putting some limits on congress is a possibility that both TP and OWS people could support.

I'm afraid Mort would have to be a lot more specific on what limits to put on congress. Later in the post, he suggests that term limits might be one such point of agreement. I doubt that because many liberals, like me, don't like term limits. If I managed to get someone I like in congress, who I think does a good job, then why in the hell would I agree to some Teabagger demand that that person be automatically disqualified after a certain amount of time. If I had Sherrod Brown as my Senator, or Bernie Sanders, or Al Franken, why would I want to give that up? Well, I wouldn't.

Mort also suggests that we take Warren Buffet's advice on the budget, and "... pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election." Well, if I was a teabagger with Ron Paul as my representative, why would I want to replace him because a bunch of other freewheeleers were spending money like drunken sailors (cough, George Bush). But my big problem with this one is that as a progressive, I would actually like to see a bigger budget deficit right now.

The federal government can currently borrow money at negative interest rates. Rich people are practically begging the government to take their money and invest it in infrastructure and people. It would actually be cheaper to do it now, borrowing at negative interest, than to do it later with tax dollars. Thousands of construction workers are out of work, and materials for infrastructure are really cheap right now. And yet, because the right wing has dominated economic and monetary policy debates since Reagan, we are all talking about reducing the deficit. Despite the fact that conservatives cannot show us one example of austerity pulling a nation out of a recession, that's where we are.

I'm reading The End of Loser Liberalism by Dean Baker right now. It's an eye opening experience to learn that because of the way Fed directors are appointed, the central bank is essentially run by a bunch of bankers who want to protect rich people's money. They do this by ignoring their dual mandate to keep inflation and unemployment low. They only care about inflation. Right now we have 2% inflation and 9% unemployment, and the Fed is fiddling around with little quantitative easing programs that won't make much difference, despite the howling lies from the right that they're going to create runaway inflation. If inflation expectations of bond traders was high, they wouldn't be buying bonds at extremely low interest rates. If inflation was 9% and unemployment was at 2%, the fed would be slamming on the breaks by raising rates. So why aren't they pushing on the gas now?

Baker mentions plenty of other things liberals could demand that would help us out, but none of his ideas are anything the Tea Party would be interested in. For example, the Treasury Department could take steps to lower the value of the dollar. A weaker dollar would make our products cheaper overseas and would lead to the creation of millions of good manufacturing jobs here in America. But a lower dollar would make imports more expensive and rich people hate that idea because they'd have to pay more for their imported cars and European vacations. And Tea Party types would see the price of cheap crap from China go up at the Wal Mart.

Well, because they're run by bankers who have convinced people like the Tea Party (mostly well-off white people) that inflation, not unemployment, is their enemy. And now, thanks to people like Dean Baker, the left is starting to learn that these bankers are not interested in helping the vast majority of Americans who's incomes stopped going up with their productivity, starting when Ronald Reagan won the Presidency.

Ultimately, the reason the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement won't work together is that they agree on basically nothing. The Tea Party is mostly an astroturfed group of well-off white people who are extremely religious, want to force women to have their rapists babies, don't believe in global warming or evolution, and who think corporations suffer from the weight of too many restrictive regulations (like not polluting the air and water). They want to eliminate the EPA, and the Education Department, and the Department of Energy. In short, they're just Republicans too embarrassed after 8 years of George Bush to admit that they're Republicans. The Occupy Movement wants government to work for the people and not corporations.

Hell, even on the subject of getting money out of politics, the two sides couldn't be further apart. The Tea Party is run by the junction of corporate money and politics, while the Occupy Movement is all about ending that junction. So, sorry Mort. While, as usual, your heart's in the right place, I won't hold my breath for any kind of agreement between the Teabaggers and the Occupiers. But I will give you one small, shining ray of hope. Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul have a bill to audit the Fed. While Paul would like to get rid of the Fed altogether, and Sanders would rather see it follow the dual mandate and help the unemployed, they at least both agree that we should be looking into what they've been doing in secret. And that, at least, is a start.

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