Felicia Muftic: The Wall Street-Wal-Mart disconnect
October 11, 2011
In the past weeks, the angry Left began a revolt and it is spreading. Occupy Wall Street has the potential to counterbalance and even overwhelm the power of the Tea Party. While both of these populist movements share anger, a feeling that they have lost control of their destinies, and were born in raucous demonstrations, there are some profound differences.
How presidential and congressional contenders tap into the anger could determine the outcome of 2012. Riding the tiger of populist anger may be an opportunity to score some political points, but there are dangers too.
Peggy Noonan, columnist for the Wall Street Journal, wrote last week that she sees a “new convergence of thought among Democrats and Republicans who are not in Washington and not part of the political matrix. They are in agreement about our essential problems and priorities, that the economy comes first, all other crises … come second.”
She had watched two focus groups of “Wal-Mart” moms, middle and working class women in Indiana and Florida, who related their personal and economic pain and fear of layoffs and foreclosures, who just wanted someone to “fix it,” and sadly concluded that those in Washington “won’t care till they’re affected.”
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor dismissed the demonstrators as a “mob.” He may regret his words some day. The demonstrators are a manifestation of wider unrest, an unrest described by Noonan that goes beyond the parks occupied by demonstrators. The Wal-Mart moms may never join the demonstrators, but they may express their shared anger at the ballot box.
The 2012 winners will be those who have conveyed that they, too, “feel the pain” of the Wal-Mart moms and their “fixit plan” contains enough hope it will work.
The difference between the Tea Party and the president lies in the “fix it.” The new movement has not yet focused on the “fix it” part. It needs to do so if it is to spread beyond the demonstrators and encompass the broader population.
The Wal-mart moms’ anger is not so much directed at the president, according to Noonan’s observation, but at resentment of Wall Street and being suckered in by bankers to go into debt. They blame both parties in Congress.
I noted in Noonan’s reporting the women were not demanding the Tea Party platform of lower taxes and shrinking the federal government, either. The Tea Party anger and fanatical single-minded dedication to anti-tax libertarianism and states rights were turn offs to some in 2010 and in Colorado, support of their anointed GOP Senate candidate proved toxic. The Democrat, Michael Bennett, won. With GOP presidential candidates trying to pass the Tea Party litmus tests, riding that tiger could eventually hurt them in critical swing states, especially if the Occupy Wall Street movement broadens its base.
The President does not need to become the demonstrators’ spokesperson, but expressing empathy with all of those struggling in the economy and also reminding us of his policies that contrast with the GOP’s, could give focus to some constructive action both the Wal-Mart moms and the demonstrators angry could support.
The GOP’s obstructing his jobs bill , their mantra of “kill Dodd-Frank (Wall Street reform),” and tagging Obama’s “tax fairness” as “class warfare” only adds fuel to the new movement’s fire.
The President has a strong case to make. Independent experts interviewed on Sunday TV talk agreed that the jobs act would create more jobs and even be insurance against a double dip recession.
Obama signed legislation that addressed Wall Street greed. Killing reform would allow Wall Street to revert to practices that caused the 2008 crash … the banks too big to fail, of turning a blind eye to predatory lending, of lowered standards for capital requirements or down payments, or obscure, unregulated investments. Those kinds of practices caused the speculative bubble that led to the Great Recession, the biggest jobs killer since the Great Depression.
For more commentary, go to http://www.mufticforum.com
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