Our Idiot Brother: The Tea Party’s Relationship to Occupy Wall Street

I'm here for Occupy Basement.

We are products of our choices more than our environment. Perhaps nothing demonstrates this more than the stark difference between siblings. Two children born and raised in the same home by the same parents, taken to the same church, and taught in the same schools can nevertheless lead remarkably different lives. One may strive to achieve while the other slacks. One may obey the law while the other breaks it. One may take responsibility while the other places blame.

As Occupy Wall Street demonstrations carry on throughout the country, many commentators have made comparisons to the Tea Party. While there are far more contrasts between the two, there is nevertheless a relationship worth noting. In effect, Occupy Wall Street is the Tea Party’s younger, misguided sibling.

Tea Partiers and Occupiers are born of the same environment. Ideology does not affect reality. Whether you are a constitutional conservative or a rabble-rousing Marxist, we have all seen the American economy implode. We have all seen the housing bubble burst and the subsequent bailouts of banks and favored corporations. Likewise, we have all been privy to the gridlock in Washington, to the debates over the debt ceiling, government stimuli, and how to best recover from recession.

However, these events have been viewed from decisively different perspectives, producing wildly different protests. The consensus such as it is among Occupiers is that bankers, corporations, and the wealthy are to blame for the nation’s wrecked economy. The Tea Party recognizes that government is the chief actor. It’s not as though Goldman Sachs or Chrysler can tax Americans. Only government can do that. Only government can bail out private interests with public funds.

By failing to recognize the government’s role in the bailouts, Occupiers find themselves in the paradoxical position of advocating precisely what they claim to protest. Occupiers typically call for some form of wealth redistribution. They call for taxing the wealthy to provide for everyone else. What they don’t seem to realize is that the bailouts they claim to be against were precisely that! By definition, a government bailout is the seizure and redistribution of wealth to insulate bad actors from malinvestment. In that way, bailing out Wall Street is fundamentally no different than bailing out student loans (one of the Occupiers’ demands). One cannot be against the bailouts and for socialism, as they are one and the same.


Occupiers clearly can’t see this forest from their surrounding trees. They see a wholly manufactured distinction between Wall Street and Main Street, as if borrowers and government had nothing to do with the housing and financial crises.

Government insisted upon sub-prime mortgages, mandated them, and backed them with the full faith and credit of the United States. Borrowers took money because they could without applying due diligence to determine whether they should. The motive of the scheme was explicit, to regard home ownership as a basic human right. That plainly socialist objective is precisely the kind which Occupiers champion. Bankers were both coerced and incentivized to lend irresponsibly. When the resulting bubble burst, the bailouts did precisely what Occupiers are asking for, plunder wealth for the least deserving.

Occupiers appear to be instinctively aware that their wealth has been among that plundered. But they blame the banks for being bailed out instead of the government which did the bailing. They are protesting the same socialism as the Tea Party, only unwittingly and while advocating more socialism. Like a drunk treating a hangover with another drink, these folks are as self-destructive as they are aloof to their real problem.

Stuff for the people! To hell with people that make stuff!

Renowned investment advisor and economic commentator Peter Schiff summarizes:

What are they upset about? They are upset about the bailouts, the bailouts of the banks, corporate welfare. But that’s not capitalism. Maybe it’s crony capitalism or corporatism or statism or socialism or fascism. There are a lot of ‘isms that you can label this. But the one ‘ism that doesn’t apply is capitalism, because under capitalism the banks would have failed. They wouldn’t have been bailed out. There would be no corporate welfare. In fact, if we had capitalism, there really wouldn’t have been a housing bubble. If we had capitalism, there wouldn’t have been a financial crisis. So the protesters would have nothing to protest….

What they want reads like the ten planks of the Communist Manifesto. Clearly, [their demands are] more government, more socialism. But what is driving the protests is what they’re demanding….The Occupy Wall Street movement is really arguing for more capitalism whether they know it or not.

This is what makes the Occupiers idiot brothers of the Tea Party. Both movements are driven by the same impulse, but toward different ends by a completely different understanding.

The older, wiser Tea Party saw the score from the start. The now famous rant by Rick Santelli on the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange kicked off the movement with a succinct complaint.

How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage…? Raise their hand. [Boos.] President Obama are you listening?…

Do Occupiers want to pay for their neighbor’s mortgage? Clearly not. Otherwise, they wouldn’t object to the bailouts. So what’s the divide? How does one start from the same basic objection and reach the polar opposite prescription?

The answer is a lack of maturity. Occupiers don’t seem to understand how finance works. The term “bank” is a pejorative among their ranks, as if finance is an inherent evil. They never quite grasped their fathers’ crotchety axiom that money doesn’t grow on trees. They certainly refuse to acknowledge that the rich aren’t rich enough to provide everything for everyone.

"I want to own my own catering company. I want to start my own cafe. I want to start my own non-profit...What's stopping me? My own lack of unmotivation." - actual quote from real Occupier

Occupiers see themselves as other-than-rich. Such is the sentiment underlying “I am the 99%.” When they talk about taxing the wealthy to provide for the people, the “wealthy” is some other guy and the “people” are them. However, in practice, socialism cannot function by eating just the rich. It eats anybody who earns anything until nothing is left.

The bailouts, the stimuli — it’s all cannibalism. Occupiers don’t realize they are on the menu. They do not understand that wealth is accumulated production, and that their demands require taxing their own production before it accumulates. They do not understand that they are chewing their own arm.

This is why the Occupiers cannot come up with a coherent message. They first need a coherent thought. To that end, this Tea Partier offers his services. To the extent Occupiers are born of the same distaste for socialism as Tea Partiers, the old and wise may be able to mentor the young and dumb. Like any such familial reconciliation, success starts with the choice.