Wall Street Occupiers vs. The Tea Party

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Once again, the left side of the political spectrum can’t market or express itself as well as the right.

In 2009, the right set the Tea Party in motion to respond to TARP, but the left is demonstrating under the label “Occupy Wall Street.” Really?

When we think of occupation, we think of Israel in the West Bank or America in Iraq, not exactly friendly images that motivate us to join.

The occupiers need a catchier name. How about the acronym OWLS?

Owls are considered to be thoughtful and wise, and the identification rivals then name Tea Party.

Some have claimed that though they come from the two ends of the political spectrum, Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party have some concerns in common: complaining about big and wasteful government that bails out large banks while common folks are suffering from over-taxation and low incomes. The Tea Party in its origins blamed Wall Street, too.

Others have reminded us that they have different goals in mind: while the left still believes that government programs can save the country, the right believes that “job creators” will do a much better without any government intervention.

Both sides, though, can collaborate on decreasing regulations that affect us all and benefit banks more than other entrepreneurs.

Just as the right is misguided when wanting to eliminate a government they need for national security, the Owls miss an important point that makes their complaints against Wall Street misdirected.

Remember the story of the scorpion and the frog? The scorpion asks the frog to carry it across a river. The frog is afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues — logically — that if it stung the frog, both would drown. The frog agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, and they sink. When asked why, the scorpion points out that this is its nature, it can’t help being a scorpion (regardless of the illogical action).

Guess what? Wall Street is about greed, it does what it does best when it makes billions of dollars in computerized trading, in hedging its bets, and cornering the markets. Owls can’t change the nature of Wall Street no matter how much they protest. Likewise, the Tea Party can’t change taxes as such, no matter how many pledges they make politicians sign: taxes are needed to run government agencies and provide public goods. Unless you intend on dismantling the U.S., the D.C. vortex needs cash.

So, the right and the left should join forces to reform the country, despite their ideological differences. Since neither side can ever expect to achieve its goals, the process of political transformation could transform the economy as well, and improve our lives in the meantime. Both ends of the spectrum should demand more accountability and personal integrity — most politicians are lawyers or millionaires by training, and as such must have cut corners to achieve successful careers, even if only to make promises they failed to keep. But unlike the scorpion or Wall Street, it’s not in their nature to be corrupt; it’s an acquired taste.

Moreover, both sides want to be heard by politicians. They need to bar lobbyists from financing all elections in America and determining the political agenda of the country. If election-funding reforms keep on failing, and if the Supreme Court’s decision of 2010 to let corporate America enjoy the right to make any contribution to candidates as a protection freedom of speech (like individual citizens), then perhaps eliminating lobbyists would do the trick. Politicians may have to listen to their constituents after all.

Finally, since the right loves the military budget no matter its size and rationale, and since the left wants jobs for the unemployed, let’s turn the military into a welfare agency, with a safety net to the unemployed. Raise the military budget not for tanks and drones, but for jobs for every American, no matter the qualifications. The military has already GED Plus Enlistment Program for those without high-school diploma or GED. Extend this and other programs like this to include jobs for veterans, retraining them for the health care industry, the fastest growing segment of the economy.

If owls drank tea or threw it into harbors, and if tea party goers had owls for pets, maybe we’d have a country that could find solutions to its problems. Protests are important so that politicians can hear the pain of citizens. When politicians are deaf, either supply hearing aids or don’t re-elect them.

Raphael Sassower is professor of philosophy at UCCS and believes in the abundance of our blessings. He can be reached at rsassower@gmail.com Previous articles can be found at sassower.blogspot.com