The Occupy Movement, The Tea Party, and Healthcare

DrRich | November 28th, 2011 - 2:22 pm


Some of DrRich’s conservative friends become quite exercised when they hear news commentators in the major media favorably contrasting the Occupy Wall Street movement with the Tea Party.

The Tea Party, the news readers intone, is a phony “movement” dreamed up by the Koch brothers to embarrass our first black president and to consolidate their own wealth, for which they recruited hordes of superstitious, back-woods, gun-toting, ignorant, NASCAR-loving, Bible-thumping, bigoted Ma and Pa Kettles to gather on the Mall, along with their Fox News cheerleaders and their country music stars, in a futile attempt to intimidate the enlightened leaders of the Democratic party into abandoning their program of good works. The Occupy Movement, in contrast, is a spontaneous uprising of innocent and right-thinking citizens against the tyranny of the Republican-controlled Wall Street fat-cat oligarchy, and their noble efforts have been explicitly blessed by such luminaries as Obama, Biden, and Pelosi.

Conservative Americans have a different perspective: The Tea Party was a completely spontaneous expression of public disapproval of a federal government run amok, and its gatherings are notable for its respectful, clean, polite, hard-working, law-abiding participants. The Occupy Movement, in contrast, is a contrived, Soros-funded attempt to undermine the American system, and, as one might expect from such a travesty, the Occupadoes are filthy, lawless, selfish, lazy and unappreciative of the blessings of America, which they themselves (judging from their smartphones and college degrees) have demonstrably received.

What conservatives and progressives seem to agree upon, in the matter of the Tea Party vs. the Occupy Movement, is that one is disruptive and disreputable, while the other is enlightened and constructive. They simply differ on is which is which.

For the benefit of his readers, DrRich would like to point out that, despite the foregoing, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street actually have a fundamental similarity between them. They are both middle class movements which are motivated by a conviction that the American system is moving in the wrong direction, that a major feature of that “wrong direction” is that an elite few have gained power that has enabled them to block the upward mobility that is supposed to be a part of the American compact, and that a fundamental change is in order. The solutions they advocate are very different from one another, of course, but their problem statements are very similar. And, most significantly, they both arise from the middle class.

At least since around 1500 AD (since the time when we can say that a middle class was present in most Western societies) the true revolutions – rapid, fundamental changes in the political system (not merely in who is leading the political system, but in the system itself) – have come to pass only when the middle class has finally become sufficiently aroused to demand (or at least tolerate) radical change. The American revolution, the French revolution, the Cromwell revolution (and the subsequent restoration), the Iranian revolution, the Nazi takeover of Germany, the fall of the USSR, various Mexican and South American revolutions, and virtually every revolutionary political upheaval one can think of in the last 500 years occurred only when the middle class had finally had it.

Political leaders instinctively understand that they can treat the poor and downtrodden as badly as they want to, and they will never rise up. (This is where John Brown got it wrong.) And so, from the political standpoint, while it might be worthwhile stirring up the emotions of the poor (at least in a democracy), in general the actual needs of the poor can be safely ignored.

But the needs of the middle class must be seen to, at all costs.

This is why Democrats (and their supporters in the media) were so unreasonably critical of the Tea party movement when it first presented itself, painting it as violent, unAmerican and racist, despite the fact that no objective evidence supported any of these charges. They were frightened nearly unto death by the implications of such a widespread middle-class expression of dissatisfaction with the direction the country is going – a direction that had been manifest for decades, but which was greatly accelerated during the first years of the Obama Presidency.

And it explains why Republicans were so quick to identify with the Tea Party (even though the mainstream Republican party is actually quite suspicious of it).

And so, when the Occupy movement finally appeared – a different middle-class movement sporting a redistributive agenda that is in line with major elements of the Democratic party – our Democrat leaders could not contain their delight. This, despite the rather odious and “non-traditional” behavior of the Occupadoes, including their public defecation, urination, fornication, rapine, drug use, property destruction, &c, that, in more normal times, would have politicians of both parties lining up to vilify them. Democrats reassure themselves that, while the Occupadoes might be dirtbags, if we play our cards right they can become OUR dirtbags.

Smart politicians in both political parties recognize the potential for real revolution in both of these movements – to reiterate, that both arise out of the middle class, and both are demanding fundamental change – and they understand the need to co-opt the one, and suppress the other.

And so the battle lines are drawn. The Tea Party agenda, which is often unfairly summarized in diminished form as “smaller government and lower taxes,” actually is fighting to restore the Great American Experiment, as articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, whereby the autonomy of the individual is paramount. Under the GAE, the chief job of the government is to protect the citizenry from foreign aggressors, to grease the skids of a free economy, and to allow free Americans to strive as they will, and in doing so, the government may utilize only its very few, explicitly enumerated powers, and otherwise must stay out of the way.

In contrast, the agenda of the Occupy Movement is a levelling one. The fruits of America should be distributed equitably, so that there are no longer haves and have nots. Obviously, the only entity that can accomplish this feat is a strong, all-powerful Central Authority, which can confiscate the property of the “greedy” and award it to the “deserving.” Fundamentally this means that all property, in fact, is the government’s. To the Occupy supporters, while few of them will come out and say so, the Constitution is not a sacred document, but rather is an unfortunate and obsolete impediment to progress, a document that must be undermined and replaced.

To brush off either of these movements would be a mistake. Each of them is firmly grounded in the middle class; each of them discern a fundamental problem with the American system that can no longer be ignored; and each of them have already taken to the streets demanding that solutions cannot wait, and that action must be taken now.

But the two solutions being demanded by these two movements are not merely different; they are polar opposites, and are deeply irreconcilable.

Our political leaders have likewise taken sides, and the sides being irreconcilable, we can expect no cooperation or compromise between their two camps, at least not until we have another election in which the great, seething, conflicted middle class has an opportunity to say which of the two movements they have now spawned actually holds the key to their hearts.

This is a blog about the American healthcare system, and DrRich has not been bashful about expressing his belief that Obamacare – whatever good elements it may contain – is fundamentally a vehicle for undermining the autonomy of individual Americans, and handing to the government the authority to determine who in this country will get what, when and how. Until the last few months DrRich viewed the fight over Obamacare as the proxy fight for the real, underlying, fundamental question – the question of what kind of country we will be from now on.

But between the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement, DrRich has come to believe we no longer need a proxy. It looks more and more like we will have this fight out in the open, and instead of settling it with the kind of sneaky legislative legerdemain that brought us Obamacare, perhaps it will be decided by an actual election.

But whether it is decided by an election, a coup, or an exhausted capitulation, the fate of American healthcare – and everything else American – will ride on which of these two movements eventually predominates within the middle class.

16 Responses to “The Occupy Movement, The Tea Party, and Healthcare”

  1. Jupe says:

    Shame on you, Dr Rich, for calling us dirty, property destroying, etc.

    What is wrong with you? Or do you know more about Occupy than I do (I, as a firedoglake volunteer blogger and the founder of Occupy Memphis, who was following OWS weeks before the occupation actually began?)

    We have been shot by teargas and rubber bullets protesting the banking cartel that has been in the Clinton, Bush, and Obama admins at the fed reserve, treasury, Goldman, etc. Many are in the hospital, and it’s a wonder nobody’s died yet. I’ve taken my children out to occupy overnight multiple times, and while we ruthlessly enforce “no drugs, no alcohol” it’s still terrifying.
    But I really believe this country is THAT messed up. And I love my country, so it’s worth the risk. I think we’re down to the final hours.

    BTW, I come from the working/lower class, not the middle class. But my parents were middle class, so maybe history still holds true.

    • DrRich says:


      I am certain that Occupy Memphis is a more civilized expression of freedom than is Zuccotti Park, which I visited in late October – and judging from the sights and smells, my description is not far off. (Local hospitals have even identified a disease associated with it – Zuccotti Lung.)

      I am also certain that your group is not engaging in property destruction, unlike Occupy Oakland or Occupy LA.

      Admittedly, any long-term encampment is not going to be pristine. And any encampment that appears to offer food and shelter in any big city will attract its unsavory elements. But even as a former Progressive who, many decades ago, participated in days-long demonstrations involving sleeping under the stars in public places, I found Zuccotti Park pretty disgusting.

      I do not think, if you saw it, you would want to spend the night there with your children.


      • Jupe says:

        I don’t know, literally.
        I wanted to go to NY to OWS, but I literally could not afford it, and became excited when occupations sprung up all over the US.

        If the Zucotti people are not walking to restrooms to poop/pee, then that’s a problem. And I’m not sure it’s true. All I know is that Occupy Memphis enforces a strong ethic of using bathrooms and not using drugs or alcohol, and NOBODY violates it without getting thrown out.

        Also, we took our rules from Zucotti.

  2. “This, despite the rather odious and “non-traditional” behavior of the Occupadoes, including their public defecation, urination, fornication, rapine, drug use, property destruction, &c, that, in more normal times, would have politicians of both parties lining up to vilify them.”

    It was almost breathtaking to note the silence of the politicians and public health officials regarding the conditions of many of the Occupy sites; conditions that wouldn’t be tolerated in normal times. It seems political expediency trumped the public’s health in this case.
    Dr. K

  3. Jupe says:

    How much hate have you ever seen me direct at the Tea Party? None?

    Well the original TP says this about OWS in response:

    …and we did our best to take those ideas to heart.

    • DrRich says:


      I agree that the problem statements expressed by the TP and OWS are strikingly similar. The solutions they propose, however, are different – a restoration of individual freedom vs. government-directed redistribution.

      The former solution proposes to achieve a certain degree of economic parity through the natural economic “churning” that occurs in a free economy. “Winners” and “losers” are not fixed categories, and individuals may often move from one category to the other as they exercise their freedom to strive. Not a perfect solution, clearly, but perhaps the best we can hope for given imperfect human nature.

      The latter solution has been tried many times in the last 150 years, and so far has had very bad results. Mainly, tyranny (though, as we have agreed, it may be soft tyranny), and often, programmed extermination of groups the Central Authority deems to be counterproductive to its goal of a perfect system.

      Progressives, to their credit, are “aiming higher” – that is, they still believe mankind can be perfected. Conservatives (that is, capitalists) have accepted mankind’s inherently fallen state, and have invented the imperfect economic system that suits it best, and that (with some management) can minimize the amount of unavoidable human suffering. Paradise will have to be found elsewhere.


  4. Jupe says:

    Dr Rich,
    The standard of living has been falling for my entire adult life. In my city, many or most don’t have AC during the summer. And we gaze upon those structures that at one time were central heat and air. They look like dinosaur structures.

    This is the reality in post-2008 America. Also, lots of people without power, asking you to nuke food. It’s really odd to be relatively rich in a poor zone.

    It drives home the reality that the primary burden of caring for the destitute falls upon the simply poor.

    How often do you have kids begging for bread, or asking to use your oven or microwave?

    • Jupe,

      “The standard of living has been falling for my entire adult life. In my city, many or most don’t have AC during the summer. And we gaze upon those structures that at one time were central heat and air. They look like dinosaur structures.”

      Some very interesting comments. VictHere are some musings has some musings on the very thoughts you have brought up.

    • Mike K says:

      When I was a child (1940s) NOBODY had air conditioning except movie theaters that boasted “refrigeration.” My uncle was an engineer for one of those theaters. It was pretty primitive although we all went to the movies on hot summer days if we had a quarter.

  5. Jupe says:

    Also, this is scary:

    It really is scary. Is that how you think about democracy, too?

  6. Jupe says:

    Dr Rich,
    Can you tell me how “Zucotti Lung” is different from flu? You have to admit they happen at the same time of year?

  7. Bonnie says:

    I really don’t know what to make of either movement. I kind of thought the Tea Party was a convulsive reaction to our first African-American president, and OWS as students burdened with heavy student-loan debt who can’t find jobs in a dicey economy throwing a temper tantrum.

    The world will be survived by people who are either willing or able to grab life by the throat and make it work for them. If people think an unarmed insurrection will change things, well, let them have a go at it.

    Banks need to start writing down their bad debts. Of course, they will do everything imaginable to avoid doing this. They love those bonuses. I can’t blame rich people for wanting to stay rich. It’s what I would do if I were rich.

    Income redistribution never works. Joseph Smith found that out. The Chinese are learning. India spawns billionaires.

    Obamacare will morph into something else, and some people will continue to get good care, and others will fall by the wayside. And so it goes.

    Until maybe 2025 when the Singularity occurs and the machines sort us out.

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply