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Monday, May 3, 2010

Populist Takes Shots at Tea Party: But Why?

You can read more about tea parties, and why progressives hate them, here.

Last night I watched a Bill Moyers show, where he covered several groups of protesters. They are a group of, what he calls, "populists" who protest against, what they call "corporations." They appeared to be mainly small farmers and laborers.

These protesters show up to protest about banks, corporate farmers and a number of other "big money" people who they say are taking advantage of them. Moyers said, "this is not the tea party crowd, chanting against government take overs and creeping socialism. They are populist of the old school. They want the government on their side, battling against predatory monopolies, trusts and corporations."

One of the leaders that Moyers interviewed said, "What we feel, is not that we want government completely out of our lives, that's what the tea party people say. They say, 'well we don't want government in our schools, and we don't want government making any health plans for us, and governments too big and it impacts our lives.' Well what we see, is that government needs to impact our lives in certain areas."

The tea party attacks continued throughout, saying that tea partiers are not "real populists," and that they are just confused, misled, front groups for the rich corporations and so on.

My Thoughts
I felt compelled to write about this, because I admire populists. I have always said that people should organize and fight for what they believe in, even if I don't agree with it--and most of the time, I do agree with them. These people epitomize this American spirit.

But I don't agree with many views of populists, because, according to their own words, they are not against the government picking winners and losers in principle--they are just jealous because they are not the winners. They'll tell you straight up, that they think the government should favor them in policy making. They don't think wealthy people deserve to be winners because wealthy people are selfish and greedy and they get that way by taking advantage of the working class.

That is only partially right, but fundamentally flawed. But first, I want to address my amazement at the shots taken at the tea parties.

How can people who claim to be "populists" express such disgust for other people? I'm guessing its probably because they liked it when they were the only ones protesting in the streets. They constantly claim to be "the people," and that argument holds less water when other "people" disagree with them. The tea parties exposed the other, larger, part of America, that support enforcement of the Constitution, and that usually remains silent, except at the ballot box. They don't want favoritism or government's benevolence. Being left alone is quite enough. Taking shots at the tea party, in a show that has absolutely nothing to do with them was unprofessional of Moyers. It merely exposes a lack of tolerance. But I digress.

Now let me discuss the populist's arguments--unlike them, for me, its not personal. It is true that there is all kinds of evil people in the private sector and the government. They seem to think that evil is limited only to the rich "corporations." They say government should represent them and their interests because, they are the true "people."

Well, believe it or not, "corporations" are people too. Saying that they are not people is like saying a flock is not a bird--which is true, but a flock is just a bunch of birds. The word "corporation" is merely a label that represents a tax and liability status of a group of people, doing something they have a God-given right to do: organize to accumulate wealth, by engaging in voluntary exchanges with other people.

But even beyond semantics: millions of people work for corporations, and we all buy stuff from them. The very cloths populist wear, as they scream about corporations, were made and delivered by people acting under a corporate label--very efficiently and at a low cost. People acting within what we call corporations have made virtually every consumer product in America so cheap and accessible, that what we call poor people today, live better than the richest people of a hundred years ago.

And they did it all for profit to get rich and I never could understand what is wrong with that. This meant they could pay their employees out of the proceeds of the money they made, without taxing people against their will. Did they "take advantage" of their workers? Not one corporation ever forced a single individual to work at any place or at any time. It is completely illegal, under the 13th amendment, to force people to work for you. But the populists will say those people just don't know any better. If the workers did know better, they'd go work somewhere else, and unionize, and protest with us, and ect., ect., ect.,. And this gets to the heart of it: progressive populists just don't have respect for other people's opinion. And maybe this is why they felt the government should censor "Hillary: The Movie," saying that "corporations" (i.e. certain groups of people) should not be allowed to speak.

The fact is that virtually every business, large or small, treats its employees just fine. Otherwise, those employees would leave. If employees are not treated right (as defined by the employees themselves) the business cannot survive. In a free market, no exchange takes place unless all parties benefit, because all parties are free to walk away. People should be respected for their ability to make such decisions for themselves. There are a few exceptions, and that is what we should be screaming about. But to demonize the whole group is absurdity and morally wrong.

Governments operate only through coercion and force. We must all partake in its plans whether we like it or not. I always find it fascinating when people claim that the reason the government should force people to partake in something against their will, is because the government should operate for the people, by the people!! What they really mean is: by the progressive people, for the progressive people, whether anyone else likes it or not, because the progressive people say its for their own good.

It is absolutely true that the government has to use force all the time, and that we accept a certain amount and kind of it. We create and enforce laws whether people like it or not. But America has prospered because the Constitution create boundaries on this. One of those boundaries is that the government is not supposed to pick winners and losers. Not that those laws are enforced anymore--but that's what the tea party movement is all about.

Government's employees must be paid by taxing productive people, even if against their will. In doing so, the government is highly wasteful, inefficient and often counterproductive. Government actors are just as greedy and selfish as big corporate interests--the only difference is the corporations satisfy their greed by persuading people to exchange with them. Politicians satisfy it by supporting those who support their political ambitions, and that is why most of their plans benefit the few with the most money and access. You cant change that by convincing the government to be greedy on your behalf.

Instead, the answer is simple: enforce the law of the land, the Constitution. I said I agree with populist most of the time, because the Constitution commands the government to vigorously go after the bad guys--but often, the bad guys are in the government as well.

Another person Moyers interviewed was quoted as saying, "the Preamble to the Constitution says 'promote the general welfare.' Well, does that sound like a government that's hands off, and isn't involved in the overall well-being of everybody in this country? So this idea of 'get government out of our lives,' I don't know how that works because we're supposed to be government of the people, by the people and for the people. So how do I take government out of my life? I am government." (Sidenote: So under this logic, every American "is government" by virtue of citizenship. I agree. But doesn't this mean that the corporate CEO and corporate emloyee is as well? Would you also so proudly proclaim, "Bill Gates is government!" or "The people who run Goldman Sacs are government!" ?) Moyers' other guests also evoked the founding fathers on a few occasions.

This view couldn't be more wrong and ignorant. Selectively quoting the Constitution does not put its weight behind your argument. The Constitution demands that all laws effect all Americans equally--meaning that it forbids the government from picking winners and losers in the economy. A "preamble" merely states the purpose of a piece of law, and is not affirmative law itself. So the purpose of the Constitution (in commanding due process, equal protection, free speech, freedom of religion ect.) is partly, to provide for the general welfare. The idea that the government is actually supposed to generally pick progressives as the winners is beneath contempt.

And this is where populists and tea partiers should find common ground. Instead of mocking each other like Moyers, lets continue the great debate over government's role. You see, we both abhor that the government has developed this dirty relationship with the New York banking establishment. We both hate that they created and maintained monopolistic corporations like Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, health insurance companies, the Federal Reserve and others. We both hate that they are bailing out big corporations, while productive people pick up the tab. We should be praising and agreeing with eachother on that.

So Bill Moyers thinks the government should be on his side. And I think that government-corporatism is a necessary consequence of a government that picks ANY winners. But we shouldn't be taking shots at each other, and we should all be protesting together, based on what we agree on.

So the shots taken by Moyers and the populists are out of line. Instead of focusing on the agreement and the sincerity of both groups, he mocks of ridicules those who merely disagree with him. The good thing is that populists have rarely been able to gain a lot of ground in America. It seems everybody else is fine competing and working in the free economy that has provided so much for us, and we don't think select groups should be favored.

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