Macro Tsimmis

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I Say “Tea Party,” You Say “Z Party”

Posted by intelledgement on Mon, 21 Nov 11

…But We Know We Need Each Other

“All of the Occupy movements start with the premise that we all owe them everything. They take over a public park they didn’t pay for, to go nearby to use bathrooms they didn’t pay for, to beg for food from places they don’t want to pay for, to obstruct those who are going to work to pay the taxes to sustain the bathrooms and sustain the park so they can self-righteously explain that they are the paragons of virtue to which we owe everything. Now that is a pretty good symptom of how much the left has collapsed as a moral system in this country, and why you need to reassert something as simple as saying to them,  ‘Go get a job, right after you take a bath!‘”

—Newt Gingrich, Thanksgiving Family Forum (skip to 1:10)

“…[T]he Tea Party Movement leveraged all of middle America’s greatest fears to fuel a movement that whispered a little too loudly about the POTUS’ being a black man for the racists among us; gave rise to ‘birther’ claims for the paranoid conspiracy lovers out there; shouted threats of retribution for immigrants stealing our plush jobs flipping burgers and trimming hedges to satisfy the anti-immigration set; and called for punishment at the alter and in the law for those with alternative lifestyles to the delight of the religiously righteous and homophobes alike.  Some sensed that this new movement was less about government spending and frustration with ineffective government, and more about racism and white anger at losing power and preference. Others charged that it was yet another example of rich, educated and powerful forces manipulating populist anger and fears so average Americans would do their dirty work, even if it was contrary to their own self-interests….”

— E Gray, Blogger

Yeah, yeah…and then there are the charts detailing the differences, such as this one lambasting the OWS crowd and this one which is putatively even-handed but subtly leans against the Tea Party (utilizing a color scheme that favors the OWS folks and overstating public support for OWS).

So, yes, there are discernable and material differences between Tea Partiers and the denizens of Zuccotti Park. The “Z Partiers” are younger; the Tea Partiers are richer. The Z Partiers are likely to favor increased taxes on the rich; the Tea Partiers overwhelmingly want to cut taxes. The Z Partiers are more likely to be unemployed…but because so many Tea Partiers are retired, fewer of them actually have a job.

But all these differences pale in comparison to the huge, critical areas of agreement between Tea Partiers and Z Partiers:

  1. They’ve played the game by the rules
  2. The deck is stacked against them
  3. They are motivated to actively work to fix/change things
  4. The Powers That Be employ undue influence to misappropriate public wealth/resources (e.g., the bailouts)

Consider this tweet of potential interest:

CSFB_elevator Credit Suisse First Boston elevator gossip

#1 Hate the subway; all those rubes reading the Daily News. #2 Yeah? You have more in common with them than the ones not reading ANY paper!

Point being, the Tea Partiers and Z Partiers have both attained a higher level of consciousness than, say, their fellow citizens focused on the antics of Kim Kardashian. They may not be able to explicate the precise whys and wherefores, but they know that somehow, things are not right and they are being ripped off. They both decry the “corporate socialism” that allocates public wealth to benefit private companies (at least in most cases). They both perceive that regulators and elected officials are beholden to special interests to the point that national interests are neglected if not actually violated.

Granted, there is more agreement on the diagnosis of the disease than on what the most efficacious cure should be. Tea Partiers generally believe that there is too much power centralized in Big Government and that weakening the Feds and adopting a more laissez faire approach is the best prescription. Z Partiers are more likely to see government power as critical to leveling the playing field. There is validity to both points of view.

Critics frequently cite the desire to hamstring the Federal government as proof that Tea Partiers are shills or dupes for The Powers That Be, who presumably would benefit from a less effective umpire. But those critics fail to address the insight of the Tea Partiers that the Federal government has essentially been captured by special interests, who invariably twist the rules to come out in their favor. Logically, affording that same government more power and resources—regardless of how many new rules are imposed to mandate “fairness”—is likely to make matters worse.

For their part, the Z Partiers are often castigated for making the central focus of their protest Wall Street instead of Washington. The most vociferous voices tend to belong to apologists for the banks, who blame Federal policies for the financial crisis in general and the housing bubble/mortgage mess in particular, but there are plenty of Big Energy, Big Insurance, and “Defense” associated critics complaining that, for example, our dependence on Middle East oil is purely a function of EPA policy. This criticism ignores the insight of Z Partiers that it is The Powers That Be who spend billions of dollars annually manipulating government to obtain special favors. Protesting against the government in this circumstance is akin to treating the symptoms and ignoring the disease.

You like potato and I like potahto; you like tomato and I like tomahto.

Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto—let’s call the whole thing off.

But oh, if we call the whole thing off, then we must part.

And oh, if we ever part, then that might break my heart.

So if you like pyjamas and I like pyjahmas, I’ll wear pyjamas and give up pyajahmas.

For we know we need each other so we better call the whole off off.

Let’s call the whole thing off.

—George & Ira Gershwin

The Tea Partiers and the Z Partiers may not be aware of it, but they are all singing from the same hymnal. They are, however, most definitely not on the same page…and it would help them both if they could get there. How hard this is to accomplish remains to be seen…but if they can, it would likely go a long way towards persuading a majority of their fellow citizens to join the party and sing along.


7 Responses to “I Say “Tea Party,” You Say “Z Party””

  1. kansantrue said

    Hmm… I am not sure I agree even with the major points of agreement, as the approaches and methodologies (due largely in part to a difference in demographics and organization) differ too vastly for me to accept even simple points of congruence. Perhaps in another 6 months I’ll be able to see the similarities. The “Z Party” is still a rabble to me, much like the Tea Party was in its early months.

    “For their part, the Z Partiers are often castigated for making the central focus of their protest Wall Street instead of Washington… This criticism ignores the insight of Z Partiers that it is The Powers That Be who spend billions of dollars annually manipulating government to obtain special favors. Protesting against the government in this circumstance is akin to treating the symptoms and ignoring the disease.”

    The disease would be that people bribe people and that people accept bribes? It’s unfortunately legal in our system to basically bribe the government, which is, in my view, the government’s fault for both allowing its representatives and groups to accept money, and the government’s fault for making it legal to lobby like so. You can’t stop corporations from giving money to whom they like for what they like without the legislation (much as you can’t prevent private individuals from doing the same). Certainly a 2-sided problem, but a problem that must be solved on the level of government legislation, because it won’t be stopped on the corporate level.

    • I agree that both movements are immature and when and whether they may coalesce is anyone’s guess. Hope springs eternal.

      The main similarities are that they arose from the same conditions and generally share objections to the same circumstances, although many details are different, and mos def the desired remedies vary.

      As for the focus of the protests, an important insight of the Z Party is that conventional political machinations cannot produce useful solutions because both major parties are compromised and there is no effective difference between them. In any event, there are much deeper issues than the legal bribes you cite; those are one of many symptoms of the Deep Capture, not the cause of it. In cases where there are rules (e.g., insider trading, naked short selling, mark-to-market accounting) the rules are blatantly ignored when in the interests of the malefactors to do so and then either retroactively changed…or not, depending (arguably) on whether enough fuss has been made about it.

      You might find this essay elucidating with respect to the question of how and whether reform of the existing system is feasible.

      • kansantrue said

        Protesting at the people/groups/corporations who cause the problem is not going to help anything without forming a method or mechanism to stop them: in other words, straight-up protest is quite useless and aimless, but focused boycotts, letters of complaints, meetings, and proposals for new legislation etc. would do much more. The point I am making is simply that the change is not going to come about internally, which is what many of the OWS people I spoke to thought could mysteriously happen if they protested long enough.

        A lot of people have characterized the OWS “general attitudes” as in this article, but whoever does that, imo, is basically imposing what they think OWS should be all about on top of a group of individuals, most of whom have no sense of how a mass movement can effectively be used to change things. My notes from three different cities’ movements indicate that the way OWS is portrayed media-wise is highly dependent on who is talking loudest at any particular moment, not on the generalized thoughts and opinions. Several people I spoke with actually don’t think the “deck is stacked” against them by the system–they’re literally just protesting corporate lawlessness, i.e., the light penalties and inability to discover corporate wrongdoing (or individual wrongdoing in a corporation).

        There is practically no way to stop insider trading, much like the most stringent laws and penalties are unlikely to prevent murderers and serial killers. Requiring greater transparency on financial matters (via legislation) might be a more productive means of regulation, as conscientious shareholders and consumers should have the means and ability to be whistleblowers immediately when they see a problem. This all being said, I have never been a fan of huge amounts of regulation, so I think legislation is the wrong way to go about fixing the stated problems.

      • No argument about the maturity level of either movement; there’s a long way to go. But this is a movie, not a photograph, and the vectors are promising.

        I believe that some ground rules/actions are needed to address “commons” issues in general—and financial services in particular—but I generally agree with the thrust of your argumentI that it is not feasible to “control” the economy. I do believe that a better-educated and engaged citizenry—and more democracy—would be a plus; this goes hand-in-hand with the transparency you espouse…and is one reason why I am so enthusiastic to see the Tea Party and Z Party movements developing.

        I appreciate the Z Party insight that getting engaged in the political process at this point is a fool’s errand—there is no effective difference between the two parties and both are in thrall to TPTB. In this light, the Z Party’s focus on Wall Street makes good sense. But I also think the Tea Party impulse to strip power from the central government—because concentrated power is intrinsically a magnet to special interests—is on target. Pulling more power back to local governments is pro-democratic and increases the incentives for individual citizens to get involved because they can exert more control over their lives. Truly free markets dovetail perfectly with this.

        Ironically, the Z Party, which is still infatuated with Elizabeth Warren-style central regulatory solutions, has done more to experiment with decentralized power and local democratic processes than the Tea Party…who are talking the decentralization talk but not so much walking the walk.

        Bottom line: there are many ways this could play out for our Republic, from fascism and dissolution to a glorious marriage of advanced tech, free markets, and democratic principles to afford folks more control over their own lives than ever. If the fusion of these two movements works just right, it could greatly enhance the odds in favor of the latter.

  2. Pertinent observation by Alan Grayson—who is running to regain the seat in Congress he lost in 2010—about the need to raise people’s consciousness:

    Ordinary people have to get involved. As soon as ordinary people leave the field, they leave the field to special interests, corporate interests, people who have nothing at stake except what’s good for them. So ordinary people have to get involved. As long as we have more people watching college football games than we do presidential debates, things are not going to get better. But when ordinary people get involved, then America will get better.

  3. Heh, we recall Karl Hess as the author of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 acceptance speech, but it turns out he anticipated not just the Tea Party but the OWS movement as well.

  4. Here is a pertinent graphic:

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