Saturday, October 08, 2011

Occupy Wall Street - Quiz

By: By PETER CATAPANO New York Times

All of a sudden everybody’s got an opinion.

Last week, amid loud complaints that the Occupy Wall Street protests were being unfairly ignored by the media and the nation’s politicians, the media and the nation’s politicians started paying attention. And so the gnat-like media buzz of late September quickly became the barking dog of October, and now — well the whole thing has gone completely honey badger. The honey badger, as you may know, is known for its relentless nature, and in this case seems to have dragged an elephant into the room. Thus it has become a matter that politicians, including several presidential candidates, and public figures of all species could no longer ignore. In the past few days, they have stepped up and made their views known.

Want to know who said what this week about the protests? Here’s a little Occupy Wall Street quiz.

1. “I for one am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country.”

2. “I think it expresses the frustration the American people feel.”

3. “They blame, with some justification, the problems in the financial sector for getting us into this mess, and they’re dissatisfied with the policy response here in Washington. And at some level, I can’t blame them.”

4. “Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself!”

5. “We are the 1 percent.”

6. “God bless them for their spontaneity. It’s young, it’s spontaneous, it’s focused and it’s going to be effective.”

7. “This is like the Tea Party — only it’s real. By the time this is over, it will make the Tea Party look like … a tea party.”

8. “I think it’s dangerous, this class warfare.”

9. “What they’re trying to do is take away the jobs of people working in the city, take away the tax base that we have.”

10. “I’m very, very understanding of where they’re coming from.”

(Answers: 1. Eric Cantor, House Majority Leader 2. President Barack Obama 3. Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve 4. Herman Cain, Republican presidential candidate 5. Signs taped to the windows on the eighth floor of Chicago’s Board of Trade building. 6. Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader 7. Russ Feingold, former Democratic senator 8. Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate 9. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg 10. Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts)

If you look at the results, you’ll see a sort of historically familiar pattern: Democrats sympathizing with the protestors, Republicans railing against them and Michael Bloomberg worrying about his city’s tax base.

As The Hill and many other outlets reported, and our little quiz shows, the week brought a torrent of quips from congressional Democrats in support of the protestors, and another torrent from the right that vilified them. So is this turning into yet another red and blue battleground? Another gridiron for the clear cut ideological split between the two parties?

It’s complicated.

The Times’s Mark Landler considered specifically the political implications for the president, who can now see the protests from his front door. Opportunity or threat? Like I said, it’s complicated:

Anti-Wall Street protesters marched past the gates of the White House on Thursday, bringing their message of economic injustice to the capital and posing an opportunity, but also a threat, to President Obama, who presents himself as a fervent defender of the middle class. …

To hear some Democratic analysts tell it, the mushrooming protests could be the start of a populist movement on the left that counterbalances the surge of the Tea Party on the right, and closes what some Democrats fear is an “enthusiasm gap” between their party and Republicans in the 2012 election.

But that assumes the president is able to win the support of these insurgents, rather than be shunned by them.

Mr. Obama, in a series of recent hard-edged speeches around the country, has channeled many of the grievances of the movement known as Occupy Wall Street deepening economic inequity, a tax code that gives breaks to the wealthy and corporate interests and banks that profit from hidden consumer fees.

Yet the president also oversaw a bailout of those banks, appointed a Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, who is viewed by the protesters as a shill for Wall Street and pushed a reform of the financial industry that many in the movement condemn as shamefully inadequate in curbing its excesses.

Like Landler, Josh Kraushaar at National Journal also notes Obama’s newfound “populist” stance, and deems it a risky tactic for the president’s re-election:

Liberals have long argued that a message calling for the wealthy to pay their fair share is broadly popular—and indeed, most polls show voters support abstract proposals calling for higher taxes on the rich. But it’s rarely worked in practice. If taxes were raised as part of a comprehensive economic plan raising revenues and cutting spending, that’s one thing. As part of a political argument designed to mobilize the base for his reelection campaign, it’s bound to be received less warmly.

Others have identified Geithner as a flashpoint figure, the key player in Obama’s administration who would serve as a target for Republicans and protestors alike:

Joseph Cannon at his blog Cannonfire poses this challenge: “If you are part of the movement, ask yourself: Do you truly want to gain power — to get things done — or do you just want to complain? In my experience, most leftwingers tend to view the exercise of power as a form of bad taste. Yes, power does corrupt — but without it, what can be accomplished?” Then: “I propose that the OWS forces make a muscle and land a solid initial punch, aimed at a specific target. Timothy Geithner. The Secretary of the Treasury must go.”

Among his six reasons for the wisdom of this tactic, are these two:

Forcing Obama to take an unwelcome step establishes once and for all that the OWS movement is not a stalking horse for the Obama campaign. It says to the world: “We don’t work for this president. Either he starts working for us, or we’ll find someone who will.” …

Demanding that Obama fire Geithner forces the president to make a choice. Right now, he’s trying to square the circle, solidifying the base while asking the Wall Streeters for cash. Obama can have one or the other but not both.

Not surprisingly, many on the right squirmed to find the Tea Party drawn into the discussion. Among them was Donald Douglas at American Power, who wrote, “The comparison between Occupy Wall Street and the tea parties is bogus, of course.” He continued:

And it’s frankly obscene that folks think Obama should benefit politically from these protests. The White House has been in bed with Wall Street. The dilemma for the Democrats is how they can channel the protests against the Republicans without getting caught up in a generalized anti-government tsunami in 2012. As was clear at the press conference yesterday, the president will basically lie through his teeth, blaming the economic crisis on his predecessor and waging a morally bankrupt class war on the high-income earners.

Rich Lowry at National Review also scoffs at the comparison: “The Tea Party had such an impact because it had a better claim on the middle of America than its adversaries. It wrapped itself in our history and patriotic trappings. It plugged in to the political system and changed the course of the country in the 2010 elections. The Left went from denying it, to ridiculing it, to envying it.

“Occupy Wall Street is not a real answer. It is both more self-involved and more ambitious than the Tea Party. It represents an ill-defined, free-floating radicalism. Its fuzzy endpoint is a “revolution” no one can precisely describe, but the thrust of which is overturning our system of capitalism as we know it.”

The president wasn’t the only one getting called out by commentators for their positions on the protests. Of the many who came forward this week, Cantor came under particular scrutiny. Steve Benen at Political Animal offered a withering view of Cantor’s “mob” statement:

At this point two years ago, Republicans quickly became outraged if Democrats dared to criticize so-called “Tea Party” activists. After all, how could Dems have the audacity to disparage law-abiding Americans speaking out against abuses that offend them? How could Democrats have the gall to condemn sincere patriots who want to have their voices heard?

Two years later, Cantor is entirely comfortable chastising Americans who disagree with his failed, regressive economic vision as a “mob.” How tolerant of him.

by: By PETER CATAPANO New York Times
7 Oct 2011

But just as important is this notion that progressive activists are “pitting of Americans against Americans.” I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but I suspect the oft-confused Majority Leader believes it’s divisive to support economic justice, to demand tax fairness, and to expect responsible corporate conduct.

The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn had a relatively circumspect view of the protests and the ensuing political turf battles — probably a reasonable reaction, given that the movement is likely to be around for a while. Cohn writes, “This movement could run out of gas or take what I would consider a wrong turn. It could, for example, inflame tensions between blue collar and white collar Americans, rather than improving solidarity between them. It could also become captive to its fringe elements. For now, though, I’m happy to see people getting organized to promote a left-of-center economic agenda, however vague its agenda — and however uncertain its future.”
 The Movement:  Occupy Wall St.
Occupy Together
Twitter: @occupywallst

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