PLUTOCRACY: The Useful Idiocy Of The Tea Party

MOTHER JONES: It’s unfathomable why a conservative, but still mainstream, business magazine would publish something so reckless, false, and bigoted? For a clue to the answer, consider a data point from the Congressional Budget Office (PDF). If you are in the bottom 80 percent of American households, you’ve gained essentially no economic ground in the past three decades. Those of you lucky enough to be in the top 20 percent ($100,000+) might be heartened by the trajectory of the red line on the chart at right—but sorry: The vast majority of those gains have actually gone to the top 1 percent (PDF) (average income: $1.9 million). And though the chart doesn’t show this because the line would run off the page, if you’re in the tippy-top 0.1 percent, your gains make the merely filthy rich look like chumps. (Click here to see the change in income distribution. Pour yourself a stiff drink first.]Obama isn’t proposing to radically redistribute these riches, mind you. Sure, he’s advocated letting the Bush tax cuts for the most affluent expire, bringing their tax rate back to where it was under Reagan (PDF). But that’s not why Forbes chose to demonize him; most of even its 5.4 million readers would not be affected. No, the reason Obama is being caricatured as some kind of latter-day Patrice Lumumba is simply that he took office at a dangerous moment for the wealthy and their enablers, coddlers, and bipartisan political minions. faced the kind of backlash that has greeted corporate and political elites in the past when they’ve driven the economy off a cliff. (Consider that the Depression realigned our political tectonics in a way that lasted well into the 1970s.) So, the defenders of the überrich pulled off an amazing bit of jujitsu. Just two years after the collapse, a vast percentage of those who got screwed are mad as hell—not at the bankers who did the screwing, but at a government that was left to clean up the mess. Anxious about feeling squeezed, they rail about being taxed (less, it’s worth recalling, than they were under Bush). Furious about what they have lost, they fume about those who have lost even more. Voila: Anger is not only being deflected away from the top, but deliberately redirected toward the bottom. MORE

RELATED: Consider, in the Socratic tradition, this syllogism. A. Recent polls have found that the economy is uppermost in the minds of voters ahead of the midterm elections. They have also found that many more Americans attribute the dismal economy to the former Bush administration than to the Obama administration. Gallup tells us that 71 percent of all Americans blame Republican policies for the bad economy, while only 48 percent blame the Obama administration. B. Americans dislike congressional Republicans more than congressional Democrats. A recent Washington Post-ABC poll shows that while disapproval of congressional Democrats stands at 61 percent, disapproval of congressional Republicans stands at 67 percent. C. Republicans are heavily tipped to wrest control of one or both houses of Congress from the Democrats in the upcoming midterms. MORE

RELATED: No, the existence of the Tea Party Movement is not “Astroturf” — these are angry voters who are indeed riled up, with a massive assist from the misinformation machine known as the Fox News Channel. What is “Astroturf” — and the worst kind — is the way that this grassroots anger then gets misdirected to do the bidding of the people who’ve actually been creating the root source of that anger by destroying jobs and crushing the middle class in this country. MORE

RELATED: A new Washington Post canvass of hundreds of local tea party groups reveals a different sort of organization, one that is not so much a as a disparate band of vaguely connected gatherings that do surprisingly little to engage in the political process. The results come from a months-long effort by The Post to contact every tea party group in the nation, an unprecedented attempt to understand the network of individuals and organizations at the heart of the nascent movement. Seventy percent of the grass-roots groups said they have not participated in any political campaigning this year. As a whole, they have no official candidate slates, have not rallied behind any particular national leader, have little money on hand, and remain ambivalent about their goals and the political process in general. The findings suggest that the breadth of the tea party may be inflated. The Atlanta-based Tea Party Patriots, for example, says it has a listing of more than 2,300 local groups, but The Post was unable to identify anywhere near that many, despite help from the organization and independent research. In all, The Post identified more than 1,400 possible groups and was able to verify and reach 647 of them. Each answered a lengthy questionnaire about their beliefs, members and goals. The Post tried calling the others as many as six times. It is unclear whether they are just hard to reach or don’t exist. Many of the groups that were interviewed claim hundreds of members and some boast thousands, but most said they have fewer than 50. A number of them appear to be limited to family or friends – the Northern Connecticut Patriots, for instance, counts seven members; the Southeast Wyoming Tea Party Patriots has one. MORE

RELATED: BP and several other big European companies are funding the midterm election campaigns of Tea Party favourites who deny the existence of global warming or oppose Barack Obama’s energy agenda, the Guardian has learned. An analysis of campaign finance by Climate Action Network Europe (Cane) found nearly 80% of campaign donations from a number of major European firms were directed towards senators who blocked action on climate change. These included incumbents who have been embraced by the Tea Party such as Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, and the notorious climate change denier James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma. The report, released tomorrow, used information on the Open database to track what it called a co-ordinated attempt by some of Europe’s biggest polluters to influence the US midterms. It said: “The European companies are funding almost exclusively Senate candidates who have been in their opposition to comprehensive climate policy in the US and candidates who actively deny the scientific consensus that climate change is happening and is caused by people.” MORE

RELATED: It wasn’t until August, as the deadline approached for third-party candidates to file their nominating papers, that Jim Schneller says he began to realize he was an unwitting conspirator in a Machiavellian political ploy hatched by Delaware County Democrats. The plan was simple: Gather enough signatures to secure Schneller’s spot on the 7th Congressional District ballot so he could serve as a spoiler candidate, splitting the conservative vote with Republican former U.S. Attorney Pat Meehan and propelling Democratic state Rep. Bryan Lentz to Washington. Except that no one told Schneller, 54, an unemployed right-wing activist from the Main Line, that he was the bait to lure voters away from Meehan, he says. He just thought that the “volunteers” who hit the streets for him were being helpful. “I’m a victim,” Schneller now admits. “I’m a victim of conspiracy.” Initially, the Democrats involved had said they helped Schneller, an anti-Obama “birther,” in the spirit of inclusiveness, not to cut into Meehan’s vote count in one of the nation’s most competitive congressional races. But transcripts of Commonwealth Court depositions reviewed by the Daily News point to an organized effort among Democratic leaders and committee people…MORE

UPDATE: The basic facts are undisputed: on 15 April 2004 Ilario Pantano, then a second lieutenant with the US marines, stopped and detained two Iraqi men in a car near Falluja. The Iraqis were unarmed and the car found to be empty of weapons. Pantano ordered the two men to search the car for a second time and then, with no other US soldiers in view, unloaded a magazine of his M16A4 automatic rifle into them, before reloading and blasting a second magazine at them – some 60 rounds in total. Over the corpses, he left a placard inscribed with the marine motto: “No better friend, No worse enemy.” Six years later Pantano is on the verge of a stunning electoral victory that could send him to the US Congress in Washington. He is standing as Republican candidate in North Carolina’s 7th congressional district, which was last represented by his party in 1871. With the help of the right-wing Tea Party movement, and with the benefit of his image as a war hero acquired from what happened on that fateful day in 2004, he has raised almost $1m in donations and is now level-pegging with his Democratic opponent, Mike McIntyre. MORE

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *