Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Occupy Wall Street Movement and the Decline of the Republican Party

Republicans have a hard time accepting responsibility for their blunders. Charles Krauthammer, for example, is still trying to justify the war in Iraq years after it became obvious that the war was a perpetrated fraud, a war that was utterly unnecessary and irrelevant to the capture of Osama bin Laden and the dismantling of al Qaida. The United States wasted hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq, with billions quite often unaccounted for. That does not include the ultimate cost of the war.

And Republicans wonder how we got into the deepest economic slump since the 1930s.

Years of deregulation by Republicans and a few of their Democratic friends left the financial sector as about as unregulated as a gambling saloon in 1880s Tombstone, Arizona. The reckless beneficiaries of Republican deregulation were investment bankers on (gasp) Wall Street. Do Republicans really not know what Occupy Wall Street is about? To this day, most of the people responsible for the meltdown have not been held accountable.

The phony rage of the Tea Party movement, largely financed by the 1%, and for the 1%, is largely a resurrection of the John Birch Society (one of the founding members of the John Birch Society is the father of the ultra-conservative billionaire Koch brothers who own Koch Industries). In the 1960s, the John Birchers saw communists under every rock and were radically right wing. Like the John Birchers, the Tea Party folks also have trouble dealing with facts. For example, the debt the U.S. has run up in the last 11 years was not because of welfare, medicare, social security, or student loans. The debt was the result of Republicans refusing to fund two major wars. In twenty of the last thirty years, it has been Republicans not Democrats who have recklessly driven up America's debts. For eight years, Clinton had a surplus. Republicans who consult sources other than Fox News and Rush Limbaugh know this.

Look, I know plenty of hardworking Republicans who vote for Republican politicians—those same Republican politicians are glad to take their votes and money without giving much back. It's a weird world. What people need to remember about the power brokers of the Republican Party is very simple: the Republican Party is the party of bankers and privilege. There aren't that many people who are bankers and who have sweet heart deals courtesy of Congress, state legislatures, and Republican presidents. So in the spirit of P. T. Barnum, Republican leaders cajole a lot of people with odd promises that they half-heartedly keep.

People like Charles Krauthammer work hard to make us miss the obvious. In a recent column, he wrote:
To the villainy-of-the-rich theme emanating from Washington, a child is born: Occupy Wall Street. Starbucks-sipping, Levi’s-clad, iPhone-clutching protesters denounce corporate America even as they weep for Steve Jobs, corporate titan, billionaire eight times over.

These indignant indolents saddled with their $50,000 student loans and English degrees have decided that their lack of gainful employment is rooted in the malice of the millionaires on whose homes they are now marching — to the applause of Democrats suffering acute Tea Party envy and now salivating at the energy these big-government anarchists will presumably give their cause.

Krauthammer lays it on thick—stereotypes, mythologies and all the rest. I'm almost sorry that he doesn't work for our side. Except that over the years he's become a little loose with the facts. It's the only way a conservative can operate these days. There was a time when a conservative could be rigorously factual and argue effectively. William F. Buckley was such a conservative. But Buckley, despite all the debates he so infuriatingly won—at least on debating points—had a weakness, and he knew it. But he exploited the decency of his opponents who either didn't think in certain terms or were too classy in that era to point out the obvious weakness in Buckley's arguments. That the underpinning of Buckley's philosophy was a shameless selfishness. William F. Buckley did not care if the system that so benefited the rich was unfair. He was, however, a little embarrassed by the underpinning of his philosophy. When cornered, he would admit that selfishness was essential to his type of conservatism, but he would say it quietly, in few words and move on quickly. That is the underpinning of the philosophy that dominates the Republican Party. Remember: I'm not talking about Republicans who are farmers, fire fighters and shopkeepers, etc.; I'm talking about high-powered bankers and the privileged, the people who game the system (I'm not talking about George Baily who ran a decent savings and loan; I'm talking about the other guy). The reality is that the Republicans who control the Republican Party care a great deal about the law, as long as it benefits them, and includes a lot of zeroes in the checks they receive.

Krauthammer truly doesn't understand what he's saying. He invokes Steve Jobs, an entrepreneur and job creator (though Jobs loses points in recent years for sending a fair number of jobs overseas). No Democrat I know has a problem with real job creators. Republicans relish creating mythologies about make work projects by Democrats, but Republicans are the ones who create phony jobs for party hacks like 'heckuva job' Michael Brown of Katrina fame and the private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ironic that Krauthammer rails against an English degree. He himself began with a political science degree (though he moved on). That kind of silly name calling doesn't get us anywhere. In any case, isn't name calling an old-fashioned method for changing the subject?

The subject is that Wall Street not only screwed up the economy but no one has been held accountable for the fraud that was committed with the financial derivatives that were based on mortgages and ultimately the fraudulent system of bonuses, commissions, and paybacks for pushing as many home loans on Americans as possible regardless of the creditworthiness of the home owners or the credit worthiness of the banks, investment bankers and mortgage companies peddling the worthless derivatives. The financial collapse did not have to happen. It was not a product of an economic cycle. It was purely a product of lax government control, greed and fraud.

What was pathetic is that in early 2007, when it was clearly possible to do something, reasonably responsible Republicans—who nevertheless bought into the conservative economics of the last 30 years—stood like deer in the headlights, hapless, clueless and incompetent. The Tea Party Republicans are clearly not an improvement.

The people paying for the financial fiasco on Wall Street are not the banks, not the 1%, not the people with privileged government connections, and certainly not the Republican lobbyists doing all they can to protect their wealthy clients. The people paying for the fiasco are the 99% trying to earn a living.

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