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VIEWPOINTS: Hypocrisy reigns as politicians, media choose sides in Occupy Wall Street, tea party fray

Published: Sunday, November 06, 2011, 5:25 AM

By Glen Browder

Occupy-Wall-Street-Oakland-1103-11.jpgAn Occupy Oakland protester waves a flag next to a bonfire in Oakland, Calif. (The Associated Press)

It is hypocritical and arrogant how the political class is dealing with serious demonstrations -- i.e., the tea party and Occupy Wall Street -- against the establishment.

Last year, Democrats derided the tea-partyers as selfish, racist obstacles to progress; conservatives praised them as true patriots. Now, Republicans depict Wall Street Occupiers as spoiled, socialist malcontents, while liberals extol their noble participation.

Many chattering journalists have entered the fray, sometimes promoting the movements as grass-roots democracy and at other times filling the air with nasty epithets. Expectedly, the Internet is buzzing with comments and videos about "barbarians" threatening the future of American democracy.

The hypocrisy and arrogance of the political class -- including some media -- is strikingly evident in this continuing fit of democratic distemper. It is ultimate double-talk for leftists to damn the tea-partyers and praise the Occupiers, all in the name of civic virtue; and it is just as wrong for rightists to push the alternative message.

Perhaps most galling is when partisans arrogantly preach their gospel to friendly audiences of aroused activists -- with Republicans pandering to angry taxpayers and Democrats stroking the beleaguered little guy -- totally oblivious to their snickering, on-record comments about the alternative movement and crass, semisecretive actions as public officials.

The truth is that many national leaders routinely engage in such self-serving and deceptive political practices. Publicly, Republicans trash Big Government and Democrats rail against Big Business. But behind the scenes, some R-teamers and some D-teamers aggressively push new federal spending for their favored interests and crony capitalism for their wealthy supporters. Unlike the average taxpayer and little guy, these back-door beneficiaries have wisely "invested" in federal campaigns; and they usually prosper beyond the bounds of competition and decency.

Of course, Washington and Wall Street are not alone in the practice of hypocrisy and arrogance. The public shares a great part of the blame. The American people have been living beyond their means -- privately and publicly -- for decades; and now they're outraged at having to pay the piper with increased taxes and/or lowered benefits.

This all sounds like politics as usual. But we're in a global/domestic crisis; these are indeed our days of reckoning, and the failed leadership of the political class is dangerous as well as disgusting. Something has to be done to restore the American Dream.

It really bothers me that the political and financial elites might skate through this crisis with impunity while ordinary people are hurting and desperation is setting in.

Check out contemporary headlines. Most Americans think the country is heading in the wrong direction; our standard of living has plummeted; our misery index has peaked; and more people are on antidepressants than ever before. Meanwhile, our national capital is now the wealthiest metro area in the country, and corporate leaders continue to reap ransoms from questionable business deals.

I sympathize with both activist camps against the abuses and excesses of entrenched power. The tea-party crowd is right: Big government needs to be whipped into shape and made more responsible to taxpayers. The Occupy crowd is also right: We need to stop big corporations and fat cats from reaping huge profits by trampling on the little guy.

It is no wonder the tea-partyers and Occupiers -- who generally despise each other -- want to take back their country or at least restore their version, of the American Dream. While these divergent forces are not likely to ever merge ranks, America might be well-served if both movements were to enjoy some good old-fashioned, selective, corrective sacking and pillaging.

It's a trite and strained comparison, but the analogy of the fall of Rome actually may be appropriate here.

The Eternal City enjoyed a grand and glorious run; but toward the end of that course, the empire was broke; civic life was debauched; and emperors lived and ruled in an outrageous manner. In the end days, Rome needed to be sacked and pillaged; and hordes of barbarians helped put an end to that travesty. I'm not endorsing violence, and we can argue about where we go next, but the current political order needs to change drastically. It's nice to think that, lurking in the shadows of our current discontent, are indigenous spirits of Alaric the Visigoth, and Geiseric the Vandal, or even Attila the Hun; and we could use some noble savage -- a real-life, civic-minded Conan the Barbarian -- to storm the citadel. Maybe then we can start restoring the American Dream.

Sure, there's a lot to dislike about the tea-partyers and Occupiers -- some are selfish, racist obstacles and spoiled, socialist malcontents -- but the political and financial classes need to feel the wrath of an outraged citizenry. The more I hear self-serving politicians mouth their rhetoric, the more I wish some measure of success for both the tea party and Occupy Wall Street.

About the writer: Glen Browder, Ph.D., is emeritus professor of American Democracy at Jacksonville State University. He is a former U.S. congressman, Alabama secretary of state and Alabama legislator, and he is considered the father of the Alabama Fair Campaign Practices Act. Email: browder@jsu.edu.

<CM+NT photo merlin id# 13330920 -NT> 

An Occupy Oakland protester waves a flag next to a bonfire in Oakland, Calif. (The Associated Press)

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bhamliberal November 06, 2011 at 6:42AM

Even Sarah Palin railed against crony capitalism when speaking about Perry. Conservatives promote "free markets" and what we have now is anything but. Unfortunately, the Tea Party is pretty much funded (and controlled) by hard right folks like the Koch Bros. To say they want "free markets" is the opposite of what they really want. I think both camps want to see the middle class/working people get back on their feet and resume their place as the backbone of our democracy.

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Mortie November 06, 2011 at 8:43AM

I'm a little confused how anyone could see any parallels between to Tea Party and OWS crowd.

Look at the nest for starters.

I understand that OWS is a highly paid occupation.

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Mouse Wife November 06, 2011 at 8:55AM

One is telling the government "stop taking so much of my hard-earned money".
The other is telling the government "give me more of other people's hard-earned money".
Not even close to being the same.

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DonaldDunlap November 06, 2011 at 10:10AM

The difference between these 2 factions is one wants to be independent to succeed or fail based on their work and sacrifice and enjoy the benefits of their effort without government interference while the other wants the government to guarantee success in their lives regardless of their efforts.

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BrianO'Alabaster November 06, 2011 at 12:03PM

The difference between these two factions is one was founded and funded by wealthy corporatists, the Koch bros and Dick Armey, to help elect people who will work to benefit the wealthy. The other was started by independent citizens who want to slow, and eventually reverse, the destruction of the middle class.

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testerman November 06, 2011 at 1:53PM

I completely agree. Public employee unions are stealing from the middle class in order to enrich their own pockets, with little or no accountability for work actually done. Child molesters in the public education system are put on paid leave when they are found out, and when convicted they never have to pay it back. Brutal police have the same luxury.

Bank of America sucks. Customer service is horrible, and the execs are greedy jerks.

The most telling thing in this excellent op-ed piece is that the Beltway is the most affluent metro area in the country. Big business and big labor have destroyed the middle class.

The writer of this editorial shows clearly that both sides of this coin are at fault. Small minded people on those sides will point fingers at the other side without realizing their own culpability.

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bhamliberal November 07, 2011 at 8:03AM

May I suggest that you folks who think the OWS movement is composed of liberal morons actually get off your ass and attend an event? If you drop your Faux News view, you might be surprised at the folks you meet.

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Mortie November 07, 2011 at 10:11PM

I think I actually did attend an event a week or two ago down near the NEWS building. It was just one guy with a silly hat and a sign wandering around. It wasn't easy to blend into the crowd because it was just the guy but I managed to not stand out.

Sadly, I understand that it is a well paid occupation but no takers. I guess picking tomatoes pays better than triple minimum wage.

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