A Friendly Note to the Tea Party

The truth brings no man a fortune; and it is not the people who hand out embassies, professorships and pensions.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Here are two, related, things that have happened since the early 1970s:

1.) Most people in America have seen sluggish or non-existent income growth.

2.) The wealth of the richest ten percent has rocketed.

These are facts.

These are also facts.

3.) The working majority hasn’t lost out because they’ve been lazy. Productivity per worker has increased steadily. Workers have worked longer hours. Employers have more power to dismiss the people who work for them. They’ve also moved factories and jobs to the developing world to reduce wage costs and increase profits.

4.) Millions no longer belong to unions. This last fact is related to the others.

5.) The benefits of increasing production have flowed to those who own and control large companies, to those who work in finance, and to those who have speculated successfully in real estate and other sectors.

6.) The tax system hasn’t reflected these changes. The tax burden has been reduced for the richest while the costs of education and healthcare for most people have increased.

Again, these are facts.

Anyone who talks about tax, about collective bargaining, or about the economy, without acknowledging these facts is probably trying to change the subject.

That’s just my opinion.

But think about it for a second.

Glenn Beck earned $32 million in 2009. During that time he didn’t mention the growth of income inequality, the ruinous effects of de-industrialization or tax avoidance and evasion by the very rich.

He didn’t ask why the government had bailed out the financial system and stood by while it paid itself vast bonuses.

He didn’t ask why America was paying for a vast military establishment to fight extremism, while selling billions of dollars of weapons to the extremists who run Saudi Arabia.

Sure he put on a great dog-and-pony show about how he was telling the truths that the liberal mainstream media wouldn’t acknowledge. But in fact he had just found another way of ignoring the same topics they’d been busy ignoring for a generation.

Beck didn’t trace the many, clear links between the political and financial establishment, between politicians, big-time donors and organized crime. His whiteboard didn’t connect the dots between George Bush and Enron and the Saudi royal family. He didn’t show how Alan Greenspan and former executives at Goldman Sachs worked happily for both Democrat and Republican administrations.

Instead he told his many viewers and listeners that a shadowy liberal-socialist-Islamist conspiracy was planning to destroy the American way of life. He told them that snooty liberals hated them and thought they were stupid.

That kind of thing can sound pretty persuasive. A few rich liberals do despise working people. More of them are out of touch and patronizing. Plenty of them can seem so, if you have a television network and a take-no-prisoners approach to editing.

Thoroughgoing oligarchs like George Bush can make a better fist of impersonating Joe Average than Al Gore, the awkward and conflicted heir to a political dynasty.

But … but … but …

While it is fun to go along with the idea that the contempt of liberal elites is a big deal, it doesn’t amount to much when compared with the joy of seeing clearly what is happening, right now, across the world.

The people in Egypt didn’t overthrow a dictator because George Soros told them to. The people fighting and dying in Libya right now aren’t the dupes of a liberal-socialist-Islamist conspiracy to bring chaos to the world. The people in Britain and the United States who want the rich and the powerful to pay their taxes aren’t dangerous radicals or idle layabouts.

They, the people in the Middle East as much as the people in your own country, are mostly people like you. They work for a living. They worry about the cost of food and fuel. They worry about whether their children will be ok. They want decent jobs and control over their own lives.

And they are trying to roll back some of the gains the rich have made over the last generation.

They aren’t making millions by occupying banks. They aren’t doing it to get rich. They are doing it to stop the downward slide. If they lose, chances are you’ll lose. If they win, you will probably win.

Perhaps you should join them.

One more thing.

Beware of people who make you feel good.

They are in show business. And show people should be handled with care.

Everyone knows that, right?

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