A couple of years ago the Tea Party movement came to national prominence, and has been instrumental in the election of candidates for local, state, and national office. Generally considered conservative and libertarian, the movement consists primarily of older people with jobs, many of whom own property. People, in other words, with a stake in the system. A true populist uprising, it has been derided by opponents as a front for big business, although there isn’t any credible evidence that this is so.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is composed primarily of the young and disaffected, many of whom don’t have jobs and don’t own property. There is significant evidence that some organizations, such as labor unions, are using the protest as a vehicle to advance their own agendas. There are also credible reports that those same organizations are paying people to attend the protests and busing them in.
Let’s compare and contrast the demands from the two movements, and see who really has the best interests of the country in mind, and the firmer grasp of reality. The Tea Party (TP) platform is here, and the Occupy Wall Street (OWS)platform is here.
TP – Protect Free Markets
History has shown that free markets work extremely well in directing capital and labor to those places where it can be most efficiently employed. Outside of necessary regulation to ensure that all the players are following the same rules, protectionist policies serve only to increase costs and decrease availability. Over time the concentration of resources will change as new technologies become available and government policies evolve. The key is to adapt to the inevitable disruptions, not attempt to control the uncontrollable.
OWS – Restoration Of The Living Wage
And what would that be? The website informs us that would be $20/hr. Wow. A person earning that much is usually competent at some skilled trade and/or has years of experience in their field. So, some high school dropout with no measurable skills is somehow entitled to a pay that someone else has worked years to obtain? I don’t think so.
The demand also states that other nations selling cheap product in the US ” . . . have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages.” Well, yes. And whom is primarily responsible for those regulations in the Western world? I’d like to hear the explanation about how raising wages makes American manufacturing more competitive. The OWS manifesto suggests imposing stiff tariffs on imported goods, in effect penalizing innovation.
TP – Eliminate Excessive Taxes
The Tea Party isn’t calling for the elimination of taxes; most people recognize that some level of taxation is necessary for a functioning society. Many of the folks who make up the Tea Party movement are in the prime earning years of their life, and there is a sense that government at all levels has its hand too deeply in people’s pockets. One doesn’t have to make much money at all before the state and federal income tax bite exceeds 30%, and given the various taxes at all levels, one can be paying 50% of their income in taxes without too much trouble.
OWS – Institute A Single-Payer Health Care System
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the OWS supporters just don’t believe that single-payer increases costs, reduces access, and reduces choice. As I’ve noted before, the only people in favor of state-run health care are those who haven’t had to live with it. There are a number of opportunities to improve our current system, but most of them don’t require massive government programs. In any market where there is massive government intervention, there are serious dislocations caused by artificially increasing costs through the injection of money that wouldn’t ordinarily be in the market, and the complete divorce of price from costs.
TP – Eliminate Deficit Spending
The US federal government alone has tax receipts equal to nearly 50% of the GDP of China, the world’s second-largest economy. Yet the feds are now spending nearly a third more each year than they take in. The vast majority of federal spending is on entitlement programs. We simply cannot afford this. People across the board are going to have to give up on some cherished programs. We can make and manage the choice, or have it made and managed for us.
OWS – One Trillion Dollars In Infrastructure, and One Trillion Dollars In Ecological Restoration.
I’ve put these two demands together, because they both involve spending gargantuan sums of money. I don’t think that the people who came up with these planks, and more importantly, the people who believe in them, have any idea how much money they’re talking about. If memory serves, the so-called ‘stimulus program’ was supposed to go to infrastructure. I believe ‘shovel-ready’ was the term used. It turns out that most of the money went to state and local government to avoid making cuts. A sort of bureaucratic make-work program. Now the money is gone and those same governments are right back where they were two years ago. This is pretty much the definition of waste and fraud.
The purpose of government isn’t to turn the nation into a giant nature preserve. The neopagans don’t seem to realize how expensive environmental regulations really are. Only the richest nations on Earth can even make the attempt to put the natural environment ahead of people. Sure, no one wants dirty air or water, but this is a case where ‘good enough’ is good enough. They should go live in the great majority of the world where it’s a struggle just to survive. They might find that no one gives a damn about the snail darter.
TP – Eliminate the National Debt, Eliminate Deficit Spending. and Reduce The Size Of Government
For the first time since becoming a world power in the mid 19th century, the US has had its credit rating reduced. This is due in large part a result of our massive national debt, now approaching 100% of our GDP. In a very few years the interest payments alone will approach $1 trillion dollars annually. This is money we can’t defer; it has to be paid. Potential lenders and current creditors are understandably nervous about our will and ability to meet our obligations. A nation that is beholden to others to the extent the US is, is not in any way secure. If the OWS crowd is upset over the perceived control of their lives by multi-national corporations, they’re remarkably silent on the very real possibility of having their lives controlled by foreign states.
OWS – Guaranteed Living Wage Regardless of Occupation, and Free College Education
The main purpose of gaining an education is to improve one’s ability to earn a living. If a certain wage is guaranteed, what’ the purpose of going to school? The OWS crowd seems unaware of the effect of wages on prices. If a fixed wage was implemented, it wouldn’t take long at all for prices to rise proportionally, and then we’d be right back where we are now. The laws of economics are as immutable as the laws of physics.
There are societies where college education is offered free or at greatly reduced prices. It’s not really free, as the money has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is usually in the form of increased taxes. It’s also true that the value of a thing is proportional to the cost. As is evident in education, public housing, and health care, if a service or product is offered at minimal cost, the beneficiaries generally hold it in low esteem.
The OWS folks don’t seem to make the connection between supply and demand. As we’ve already seen in this country, if everyone has a college education, the value is discounted, and many jobs that could be done perfectly well without a degree will demand one. There’s those pesky economic laws again. This situation would, and in fact has, work to the disadvantage of those without a degree. For people who are always shouting about how they want to help ‘the little guy’ they sure spend a lot of energy working to that groups detriment.
TP – Promote Civic Responsibility and Believe in the People
Even those media outlets hostile to the Tea Party note that demonstrators are well-behaved and clean up after themselves. They peaceably assemble, make their point, and leave. In contrast, demonstrations attended by those on the left tend to be violently hostile to those that disagree with them, leave the grounds trashed, and illegally occupy public spaces.
OWS – Open Borders Migration
While the Tea Party trusts in people to generally behave themselves, they also recognize that people are not inherently good. People also want to belong to a group and to believe in something larger than themselves. In current society these fundamental needs are satisfied at the meta level by the nation-state. There are reasons we don’t have a one-world government. It’s likely that proponents of open borders believe that if everyone was allowed unfettered access to the US, we’d all just get along and everyone would have a high standard of living.
One problem is that most people attracted to US society aren’t going to be bringing a higher standard of living with them. Quite the opposite. There’s nothing wrong with being poor, but the wholesale importation of poverty isn’t beneficial to a society. I wonder if the open borders folks have tried walking across the border and living somewhere else. I’ve got news for people that style themselves as ‘citizens of the world’: the world doesn’t want you.
TP – Abide By The US Constitution
The US Constitution was written with one purpose in mind: to protect the individual from the tyranny of the state. As such, it’s without peer, and a model for the rest of the world. Because those on the left worship at the Statist altar, the Constitution represents a threat to them.
OWS – Eliminate Fossil Fuel and Bring Alternative Energy Up To Energy Demands
It’s axiomatic that people who propose the elimination of fossil fuels have no clue how to do that. By that I mean a workable, cost-effective plan to achieve their goal. About the only real alternative to hydrocarbons is geothermal power generation, and that can only be implemented in very few places. If the progressives were really concerned about environmental protection rather than posturing, they’d be supporting nuclear power. Of course, they also want to decommission all US nuclear power plants. No word on how they plan to replace the 20% of the US electricity generation nuclear represents. Any successful society requires constant, reliable power generation, and so-called ‘alternative energy’ can’t provide that, and isn’t going to.
Now that we’ve had the opportunity to watch the Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street crowds in action, it’s pretty plain who the adults and who the whiny, spoiled children are. One group is aware of and accepts human foibles while looking for effective ways to manage them, and the other group, while probably aware of those foibles, blithely ignores them in search of some unobtainable fantasy. I much prefer the thinkers over the feelers.