Haight-Ashbury Meets Wall Street

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

It is interesting how a dispirit group of malcontents with nothing better to do that hang out on Wall Street all of a sudden are branded by the media as a "national movement."

The "Occupy Wall Street" protest is the latest incarnation of the Haight-Ashbury gang transported from San Francisco to New York. Loosely gathering under a mutual distain for the nation’s financial community, the group appears to be a hybrid between Woodstock and a college political science class. The lawlessness and arrests have it tilting more toward the former.

Since the rise of the Tea party movement two years ago the Leftist news media has been looking for a "spontaneous" citizen movement to counter the conservative wave that has swept the country. Thus, they have seized on "Occupy Wall Street" as a counter to the Tea party. It is nothing of the sort. "Occupy Wall Street" is little more than a group gripe session Astro-turfed by the nation’s labor unions which otherwise have lost their reason for being.

The news media’s handling of "Occupy Wall Street" is vastly different than the coverage given to the Tea party movement during its early days. As public revulsion with the big government policies of the new Obama Administration began to surface, the media at first ignored, and then dismissed the Tea party movement. When the Tea party became too big to ignore it was attacked as a bunch of racist, Right wing nut cases.

And then, the Tea party lifted Scott Brown – a Republican – into the late Teddy Kennedy’s Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat. That began a string of Tea party-inspired electoral victories that culminated in a wave election last November sweeping Republicans into a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

All along the way the Left-leaning news media kept searching for a counter to the Tea party. There was a glimmer of hope as a "coffee party" tried, but failed to gain traction. Now, with President Obama looking like a cross between Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter, desperation has set in as the liberal agenda faces annihilation in 2012.

Enter a small group of dissidents who decided it would be easier to stage a sit-in on Wall Street than actually go out, get an education and look for jobs. Before long they were joined by the professional protest elements of the Democratic Party’s ultra-Left wing. Dressed as zombies, spouting rhetoric calling for a "change in America’s cosmic consciousness" (don’t ask me what that means), and egged on – in some cases even paid by – union organizers, "Occupy Wall Street" has been built-up by the media as a supposed spontaneous outpouring of Plebian anger aimed at the rich in America.

Now "Occupy Wall Street" protestors are digging in for months of demonstration. Assumedly during those months they won’t be looking for jobs. Tea party activists don’t do that because they actually go to work. And when they aren’t working, the Tea party is busy engaging in the type of political activism – registering voters, learning about the issues, working on campaigns – that actually does bring about real change.

And that is why "Occupy Wall Street" will fail while the Tea party will continue to succeed. This odd-ball collection of anti-war activists, environmental extremists and socialists will never jell because their stock in trade is protest and bluster, not actual work and activism.

Had these protestors approached the situation in a more mature way they might have made a valid point. In fact, they might even have common cause on a number of issues with the Tea party. After all, the Toxic Asset Relief Program (TARP) and subsequent Obama "stimulus" – both of which were massive transfers of taxpayer dollars to the special interests "Occupy Wall Street" is protesting – are also reviled by many in the Tea party movement. The lingering economic recession and unacceptably high national unemployment rate concerns all Americans, regardless of their political persuasion.

The difference, however, comes in the solution. "Occupy Wall Street" seeks the soft Socialist "cure" of redistributing wealth. The Tea party wants to empower individuals to create more wealth. A glance over the pond at Greece and many European nations tells us the redistributionist approach will not work. A look back at the history of our own nation demonstrates an economy based on growth and opportunity results in a higher standard of living for all.

While "Occupy Wall Street" fills the media’s need to cover something other than the Tea party, its patchwork collection of economic and political goals can never and will never work. But, the protesters’ efforts have not been in vain. At least they have really good costumes ready for Halloween.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is [email protected].)

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