Sunday, October 09, 2011

Follow the Money: Occupy Wall Street vs. Tea Bag Stampede by Rodolfo Acuña

Rough Draft
Follow the Money
Occupy Wall Street
Tea Bag Stampede
Rodolfo F. Acuña

One of the most ridiculous comparisons that the pundits have recently made is comparing the Occupy Wall Street movement to the tea party stampede.

An obvious difference is that the Occupy Wall Street movement is much more ideological: most if not all of the participants know what they are for and what they are against.

The core of the tea bag movement just reacts. At first they were reacting to the same things as the wall- street protestors -- the lack of jobs, Wall Street corruption, and that Washington was for sale. This changed as the tea bag movement was quickly coopted to serve the Republican Party that is in the hire of Wall Street.

Unfortunate for democracy, the tea baggers will outlast the Occupy Wall Street movement for the simple reason that the former has money, and in the United States money talks. For example, for years many Americans have talked about the need for a Third Party, an alternative to the Republicans and Democrats. But, as we all know, the odds of a third party surviving are insurmountable, not just because of the legal restrictions but funding as well.

The people with money know that the present system suits their interests; therefore, you don’t find too many of them contributing to Ralph Nader.

You don’t need to be a theoretician to prove this hypothesis, you just have to follow Deep Throat’s advice to “follow the money.”

Kenneth P. Vogel in Politico on October 3, 2011 wrote “Professional tea party cashes in” . Vogel pointed out that groups such as Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, and the Club for Growth, the Leadership Institute and the Tea Party Express raised $79 million last year, which represented a 61 percent increase from their 2009, largely to fund the tea bag movement.

Vogel wrote that the two biggest groups, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, intend to raise to raise and spend $156 million in 2011 and 2012. These groups are heavily endowed by the Koch brothers, and they funnel money to local tea bag groups through disparate fronts.

This is not a grassroots movement, and these so-called non-profits pay their mangers in excess of $300,000 annually, bankrolling cross-country bus tours, mega-rallies, salaries, expenses and the like. Honoraria is spread liberally to speakers’ bureaus that represent stars such as Sarah Palin, who get fat “Defending the American Dream.”

The rank and file tea baggers while not eating at the head table are vital to the movement because they attract “attention and cash.” They fuel conservative activism and create a frenzied hatred of Democrats, government and environmental regulation. Their success has spawned other groups that feed off and fuel the stampede.

By following the money, the agenda of the tea bag movement becomes clear. As mentioned, two of the better known funders of the movement are David and Charles Koch. Only the most politically naïve believe that they give money to the tea baggers or politicos out of the goodness of their heart. They want something in return.

I could only shake my head in disbelief when I read that Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) condemned the Occupy Wall Street movement as “Mobs” and saying that “They're 'Pitting Americans Against Americans'.” This is the same Eric Cantor who recently applauded the tea baggers, saying that they were “fighting on the fighting lines of what we know is a battle for our democracy.” Cantor follows the bidding of Wall Street without question.

Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) use social issues and play to the priorities of social conservatives to keep special interest money flowing into the coffers of the Republican Party.

It is no coincidence that Cantor’s largest contributors come from Wall Street, Insurance which is fighting health care reform, mining and energy companies. They all share in the common objective of weakening government regulation.

Cantor’s largest corporate sponsors include the Travelers Companies, Murray Energy, Goldman Sachs, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Occidental Petroleum, New York Life Insurance and the Altria Group.

Elected in 2000, Cantor by 2004 placed third behind House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) in raking in the money. Among his sponsors was the infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

However, House Speaker John Boehner is king of the mountain. While drawing from the same sectors as Cantor as speaker, he has the task of distributing monies to other bought representatives, so he raises even more money than Cantor.

Among Boehner’s largest corporate sponsors are the investment company Paulson & Co, Moore Capital Management, which would profit handsomely from the privatization of social security, and Swisher International, Cantor Fitzgerald LP, and American Electric Power. Boehner is the darling of the coal industry with more than 10 percent of the $12.5 million Boehner collected from January 1 to June 30, 2011 coming from the coal industry.

Boehner’s top donor is William Koch, the poor brother of David and Charles, who heads Oxbow Corporation—an energy conglomerate of coal, natural gas, steel, and petroleum operations that earn over $4 billion in annual sales. Considering the investors’ outlay in Cantor and Boehner, it is no accident that the Republican controlled House has voted to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions from coal-fired power plants.

As Oxbow spokesman Brad Goldstein has said: “We are a big supporter of John Boehner. We think he's good for business…He looks out for business interests, and he wants to create more jobs for America, while this administration has been rather harsh on the industry.”

In contrast, the Occupy Wall Street movement has no or limited angels. There are allegations that Acorn is funding them, which is ridiculous because Acorn is hardly self-sustaining. Some even blame the Egyptians.

The truth be told, the composition of Occupy Wall Street protestors is much smaller and even less organized. They have travelled to New York, mostly on their own hook. They are from what we once called lower middle class. In contrast to the tea baggers most actually read and are well-educated by national norms. A large sector is composed of recent college graduates who cannot find employment or could not continue their education because of the escalating cost of higher education. They are living the American nightmare of the present generation that is coming to grips with the fact that they won’t have it better than their parents. For once, this generation is feeling what the “Other America” has historically experienced.

Thinking critically they have followed the money and they realize that corporate managers are not “job creators.” They are the culprits who sent jobs overseas and plunged the nation and the rest of the globe into an economic depression. This is the sector that has driven the cost of education beyond their reach. Thus, the Occupy Wall Street protestors have targeted the source of problem, those who control and corrupt elected their representatives.

It would be difficult for money interests to manipulate them. There are similarities to the anti-nuke movement of the 1980s, they are reflective and would smell a rat.

In contrast, the tea baggers react rather than think. Years ago when I was doing my student teaching my college supervisor, Professor Marvin G. Pursinger, told me to watch the TV series Rawhide to be better understand group behavior.

According to Pursinger, changes in the weather made the cattle nervous and lightening would set them off. When this happened, the wranglers had to be careful not to be trampled by the cattle. They had to get out in front of the stampede and give direction to the cattle or be trampled.

In the case of the tea baggers, this is what has happened. Special interests stirred passions that in many instances are very real and they have knowingly stampeded the herd. The Kochs’ and other interests rushed to the head of the stampede and took control. That is why in the end, the cattle will go where they want them to go but in the process will remain cattle to be sold at market.

No comments:

Post a Comment