OCCUPY THE TEA PARTY: Taibbi’s warning!


Part 3—Love of profit, love of the tribe: Are Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement in some way “natural allies?” That’s what Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi said, in this recent blog post.

We wouldn’t put it that way ourselves. But there are obvious links between the people who comprise these two movements.

If you doubt that, just consider a well-rendered point in Nicholas Kristof’s new column. In a piece about the Occupy movement, Kristof explains the functioning of the aberration known as “crony capitalism:”
KRISTOF (10/27/11): To put it another way, this is a chance to save capitalism from crony capitalists.

I’m as passionate a believer in capitalism as anyone. My Krzysztofowicz cousins (who didn’t shorten the family name) lived in Poland, and their experience with Communism taught me that the way to raise living standards is capitalism.

But, in recent years, some financiers have chosen to live in a government-backed featherbed. Their platform seems to be socialism for tycoons and capitalism for the rest of us. They’re not evil at all. But when the system allows you more than your fair share, it’s human to grab. That’s what explains featherbedding by both unions and tycoons, and both are impediments to a well-functioning market economy.
Kristof says those grasping financiers are “not evil at all.” We have no idea how he could know such a thing; he is kissing the ass of the upper-class world when he types this instant disclaimer. Strivers like Kristof must do such things to maintain their own high stations. They must also draw instant moral equivalence between grasping tycoons and weak unions.

In these instant scripted asides, Kristof maintains his viability within the system. But as he explains those tycoons’ conduct, he paints a very basic portrait. This is what he says:

It’s human nature to grab too much—if you’re allowed to do so!

It’s human nature to grab too much! Everyone understands this fact; everybody in Occupy Wall Street, everyone in the Tea Party movement. In fact, everyone on the face of the earth understands Kristof’s basic concept:

It’s human nature to grab what you can. Left alone, many high rollers will overreach. This is why we need regulation.

Tycoons need regulation! Everyone in each of these movements understands this bone-simple fact. Such basic facts provide the basis for creating a movement which might merge the energies of the full 99 percent—merging those who see social issues one way with those who see them another.

The basic math of the Occupy movement says we’re all in this together. All of us in “the lower 99” are being looted by the top one. This is a powerful, ancient understanding—and it lies at the very heart of Occupy Wall Street’s messaging.

All of us are being looted! Red and blue together! This helps explain why Taibbi said these two groups are “natural allies.” We wouldn’t put it that way ourselves, but we do recommend his basic insight. We also recommend a warning he offered in his post.

According to Taibbi, current conditions could—and should—produce a larger movement. We shouldn’t be locked into “red” and “blue” camps when everyone is getting looted. But for various reasons, many people are comfortable with existing “culture war” battle lines. This led to Taibbi's wide-ranging prediction, one we shouldn’t ignore:
TAIBBI (10/17/11): There is going to be a fusillade of attempts from many different corners to force these demonstrations into the liberal-conservative blue-red narrative.

This will be an effort to transform OWS from a populist and wholly non-partisan protest against bailouts, theft, insider trading, self-dealing, regulatory capture and the market-perverting effect of the Too-Big-To-Fail banks into something a little more familiar and less threatening, i.e. a captive "liberal" uprising that the right will use to whip up support and the Democrats will try to turn into electoral energy for 2012.

Tactically, what we'll see here will be a) people firmly on the traditional Democratic side claiming to speak for OWS, and b) people on the right-Republican side attempting to portray OWS as a puppet of well-known liberals and other Democratic interests.


The Rush Limbaughs of the world are very comfortable with a narrative that has Noam Chomsky, MoveOn and Barack Obama on one side, and the Tea Party and Republican leaders on the other. The rest of the traditional media won't mind that narrative either, if it can get enough "facts" to back it up. They know how to do that story and most of our political media is based upon that Crossfire paradigm of left-vs-right commentary shows and NFL Today-style team-vs-team campaign reporting.

What nobody is comfortable with is a movement in which virtually the entire spectrum of middle class and poor Americans is on the same page, railing against incestuous political and financial corruption on Wall Street and in Washington. The reality is that Occupy Wall Street and the millions of middle Americans who make up the Tea Party are natural allies and should be on the same page about most of the key issues, and that's a story our media won't want to or know how to handle.
According to Taibbi, the traditional media are most comfortable with the red/blue story. More significantly, he says that some warriors on both the red and blue sides will want to maintain that way of seeing the world.

Taibbi cites Rush Limbaugh by name. For ourselves, we’ve been struck by the tribal reactions of Digby.

Are these movements “natural allies?” We’d say that construct is a bit strong. But current conditions give progressives a chance to do something liberals have long avoided. Progressives have the chance to inform the full electorate about the way the world has been working, about the way the top one percent have been looting everyone else.

Tea party folk have been looted too. They pay way too much for their health care too, just like Occupy folk. Their wages have stagnated just like those of their more liberal brethren. Their politicians are getting purchased, just like those on the blue side—if not more.

As Occupy Wall Street helps focus attention on the looting that has transpired, true progressives would work very hard to build understandings within all our tribes—those of the right, left and center (so-called).

But here’s something else about human nature: Some people dearly love the tribe. Some people love the tribe too much, just the way some tycoons dearly love their profits.

Digby has made some perfectly valid points about the obvious differences between these two movements. But, good lord almighty and land o Goshen! How some of us do love the tribe!

Tomorrow: What Digby has said, right and wrong

For part 4 of this series: Click here.


  1. How long must we wait for David in Cal to weigh in? Do we suppose he is an "inequality denier" as well as a "global warming denier"? Which Heritage Fdn talking points is he likely to recite? In discussing the CBO report, you don't imagine he would actually admit that he and his fellow-travelers revel in our increasing inequality and declining mobility, true to the gospel of mother Rand?

    The take-downs of Paul Ryan's lame speech on this topic are widespread, so no point to add another. But how will the GOPers and the apologists for the 1% spin the findings: the top 1% are getting vastly more wealthy while the bottom 80% are losing ground, and mobility in the US is now lower than in Canada and most of Western Europe. Davy, Davy, what say you?

  2. BillNRoc said...

    "But how will the GOPers and the apologists for the 1% spin the findings: the top 1% are getting vastly more wealthy while the bottom 80% are losing ground, and mobility in the US is now lower than in Canada and most of Western Europe. "

    You don't have to look any farther than yesterday to find posts extolling the age of the robber barons and monopolists as some kind of zenith of american economic life.

  3. Prediction:

    If he shows in this thread, David-in-CA will stick to the "tribe" issue. He'll praise Bob for identifying and bemoaning liberals who are too tribal. Divid-in-CA will likely even acknowledge that some in the right-wing tribe are also too close-minded and eager to demonize liberals. But he'll point out the he isn't a member of that tribe, he's above it.

    David-in-CA is a slippery troll indeed, friends!

    But let's suppose our troll acknowledges the growth of inequality -- on what will he blame it? What will he suggest is the answer for it?

    I'm sure everyone wants to hear -- After all, David-in-CA is a Very Smart Fellow. There is little he doesn't know.

  4. So it's as if the Nazis had invaded the US at the height of the civil war. Both Blue and Gray would have stopped fighting each other to fight the new common enemy. If you're given a bucket and told to drain the swamp, but find yourself surrounded by alligators, that becomes your primary problem.

    Mr Somerby you've been saying all week you'd post about Digby. At least post a link.

  5. So now we're to believe that blogger Digby is somehow the moral equivalent of master propagandist Limbaugh?

    While I agree all "tribes" ought to be reaching out to each other, seeking common ground for the good of all, it seems one "tribe" has decided seeking common ground is weakness and they're involved in a war to destroy the other "tribe" at any cost. They believe nothing less than the future of western civilization hangs in the balance.

    After the disaster of the 2008 elections conservatives had a choice to make: move to the center or move further to the right.

    That choice has been made and all the Digby's in the world won't tip the scales in any meaningful way.

    Reaching out is an admirable thing but its a waste of time if there is no one there to meet you half way!!

  6. Mike's Garden Blog said...

    "Mr Somerby you've been saying all week you'd post about Digby. At least post a link."

    I'm not Mr Somerby but here's the link anyway:


  7. "Kristof says those grasping financiers are 'not evil at all.' We have no idea how he could know such a thing; he is kissing the ass of the upper-class world when he types this instant disclaimer."

    I think actually Kristof was trying to make a Bob Somerby-esque point here; i.e. don't judge an entire class of people by the actions of some. There's no reason to think that the people who go into finance or banking are more less evil than the people who into any other industry. What matters for the rest of us are the incentives that face those individuals once they get there....

    "Tycoons need regulation! Everyone in each of these movements understands this bone-simple fact."

    The second sentence is false. People in the tea party movement are more likely to believe that regulation itself can be the problem - that the regulatory function of government is inevitably co-opted by the rich and powerful.

    The OWS movement people are more likely to see the need for regulations as outweighing potential drawbacks.

  8. Although I agree that crony capitalism is a problem, I see it differently. Bob Somerby says:

    It’s human nature to grab what you can. Left alone, many high rollers will overreach. This is why we need regulation.

    Tycoons need regulation! Everyone in each of these movements understands this bone-simple fact.

    Let's take this one piece at a time:

    It’s human nature to grab what you can. I agree. And, this principle applies to politicians, regulators, and non-profit organizations just as much as it does to businesses.

    Left alone, many high rollers will overreach. When a corporation can make money by giving legal donations to politicians in exchange for favors, then the system has encouraged behavior that's not in society's benefit. I think that's what Bob means by "overreach".

    However, in my view, the main culprit is government. Businesses can only trade donations for favors if politicians and regulators connive with them.

    And, it's government whose behavior is more improper. When a business seeks special favors in exchange for legal politician donations, it's doing its job, since it represents stockholders' interests. But, when government officials provide those favors, they're traitors. They were elected or appointed to represent the public interest.

    It's noteworthy the Kristof's column on crony capitalism never mentioned the Obama Administration -- the ones who approved the special favors to various financial institutions, to Solyndra, etc. In most of these cases, the money went to Obama's financial supports. IMHO the Obama Administration deserves the most blame for today's rampant crony capitalism.

    An even uglier side of crony capitalism is the unjust prosecution of Gibson Guitars. Henry E. Juszkiewicz, Gibson’s Chief Executive Officer, is a donor to a couple of Republican politicians. Gibson Guitar was raided allegedly because they use East Indian Rosewood in India, which is supposedly prohibited by some obscure regulation. One of Gibson’s leading competitors is C.F. Martin & Company. The C.E.O., Chris Martin IV, is a long-time Democratic supporter. C.F. Martin was not raided, even though several of their guitars contain East Indian Rosewood.

    This is the Chicago way. To do business in Chicago, a company has to stay on the good side of the perpetual Democratic machine. The Chicago machine helps their friends and attacks their enemies. (Chicago isn't the only area that works this way. I lived in suburban Philadelphia where the same principle applied, but the misbehaving pols were Republicans. I mention Chicago, because that's where Obama's from and presumably where he learned this style of governance.)

    This is why we need regulation.

    Tycoons need regulation!

    I see it the other way 'round. The more power government has, the more opportunities there are for government to help their friends and hinder their enemies. Or, if we do need more regulations, the new regulations should be aimed at government employees.

    Everyone in each of these movements understands this bone-simple fact. No, I don't understand it the way Bob does. I think many Tea Party supporters would see it my way.

    No doubt Bob Somerby thinks my view is wrong. Maybe it is. Nevertheless, regardless of whether my POV is right or wrong, our opposite points of view mean that the Tea Party and Occupy movements will remain separate and opposed.

  9. David in Caligari's Cabinet: Cheerleader for the 1%!!

  10. Nona Nym, BillNRoc and Anonymous -- If you want to know the libertarian view of inequality, I recommend you spend 9 minutes listenings to this PBS Newshour interview. It'll blow your minds!

  11. The more power government has, the more opportunities there are for government to help their friends and hinder their enemies.
    David, the libertarian-ish mindset repealed Glass Steagall which directly led to the financial implosion of 2008. And you still seem to think regulation is the root cause of the evil?
    Whatever you're smoking, I hope you're sharing with your friends because it is some powerful stuff to so blind you to facts.
    By the way, the Solyndra technology is far superior to that of the flat solar panel technology but no word from you about the lack of regulations (in this case tariffs) that would have prevented a Solyndra demise at the hands of the Chinese who have taken over the manufacture of solar panels.
    (Solyndra's method makes a more efficient power supply vs. the traditional flat panel which degrades over time; more usable surface per panel-you could look it up but to Republicans, everything but everything is political gain or loss- the country be damned so long as the R wins and that is you through and through)

  12. How could someone like Kristof, who regularly advertises his moral concern for the "wretched of the earth," be as big a believer in capitalism as anyone? This is either incoherence, or careerist hedging.

  13. David in Cal: Watched the clip. Sounded like a nice, clear exposition of Libertarianism 101. Didn't blow my mind. It also didn't convince me that going back to the Clinton-era tax rates would thwart innovation or incentives to invest.

    And the Gibson case is much more complex than the cartoon version of jack-booted federal agents victimizing a hard working businessman.


  14. Tom M, I know that some people claim that the repeal of Glass Steagall somehow led to the financial implosion of 2008. However, I've not seen convincing evidence that such is the case.

    Meanwhile, other burdensome regulatory laws have been enacted, such as Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley. I don't know enough to compare these three regulation schemes and their impacts.

    I have a warm spot in my heart for Sarbanes Oxley. It was that law which induced a company to regularly fly me from California to Bermuda as a consulatant, after I had retired from full-time work. I thought some of the SOx provisions were formal requirements that wouldn't have much real world benefit. It seemed to me a rich company could afford to deal with the SOx requirements, but a start-up might find them quite costly.

  15. "supposedly prohibited"?

    Well, we clearly could spend our time, every day, addressing the canards delivered by troll courier.

    The latest canard appears to have many moving parts, many hidden assumptions. Will we be drawn in? Why bother? One may know little about the Gibson guitar case, little too about the Martin guitar non-case. But it hardly matters.

    The canard du jour is produced by David-in-CA as a demonstration of the evils of politicians and regulations. On that score, it wholly fails to deliver. To the extent we were to swallow the ridiculous thing whole, we might ask whether there is any evil of non-regulation -- whether, indeed, some evils of non-regulation might outstrip in scale and kind this tepid offering David-in-CA provides (calling it, hilariously, the "even uglier side of crony capitalism")...

    Tellingly, David-in-CA feels this non-starter can be linked to Barack Obama -- surely this is the type of vile practice Obama would have picked up as a Chicago pol!

    Do we have some kind of duty to address the blithe assumptions, opinions offered as facts, received wisdom and outright falsehoods brought to us each day by David-in-CA? Should we imagine we are engaged in a dialogue with "him" -- if he is, in fact a human being? What kind of delusion would that be? Does the DSM-IV cover it?

    We fall prey to the delusion of such dialogue at our peril. It is a time hole and one that David-in-CA is prepared to dig anew each day, several times a day. So we'll have to just let this continued crap stand, I suppose.

    Perhaps someday our proprietor will see fit to attend to his own commenters as he does those of Digby, et.al. Have we yet had any evidence that Bob Somerby is even _aware_ that he has comments on his very own web site?