Sunday, January 17, 2010


Frank Rich today:

...the tea party movement is being exploited -- and not just by marketers, lobbyists, political consultants and corporate interests but by the Republican Party, as exemplified by [Sarah] Palin and [Michael] Steele, its most prominent leaders.

Tea partiers hate the G.O.P. establishment and its Wall Street allies, starting with the Bushies who created TARP, almost as much as they do Obama and his Wall Street pals. When Steele and Palin pay lip service to the movement, they are happy to glom on to its anti-tax, anti-Obama, anti-government, anti-big-bank vitriol. But they don't call for any actual action against the bailed-out perpetrators of the financial crisis. They'd never ask for investments to put ordinary Americans back to work. They have no policies to forestall foreclosures or protect health insurance for the tea partiers who’ve been shafted by hard times. Their only economic principle beside tax cuts is vilification of the stimulus that did save countless jobs for firefighters, police officers and teachers at the state and local level.

But Rich doesn't quite get it. The tea partiers don't hate Wall Street plutocrats -- or at least they don't hate the plutocrats nearly as much as they hate Obama and the Democrats. Why would they, given the profound influence of Ayn Rand on their movement? They're not angry at the banks for taking government money -- they're angry at the government for giving it to them. Everything is the government's fault -- that is, everything that isn't ACORN's fault.

Sure, tebaggers grumble about bailouts and Wall Street bonuses -- but as soon as anyome proposes anything resembling punishment for these guys, the teabaggers rush to embrace criticism of the proposed punishment. This smacks of Stockholm syndrome: Banker Daddy beats the teabaggers, but they start crying the police when the cops want to take Banker Daddy away, or even ask him a few questions. The teabaggers just want the authorities to leave Baker Daddy alone; he's going to do whatever he wants in any case, and he deserves to.

So they embrace what John Stossel says:

In other words, the Obama Administration is going to punish those greedy banks by making it more expensive for you to borrow money. This is wrong on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin. Let's start with a point made by Jamie Dimon, CEO at JP Morgan Chase:

"Using tax policy to punish people is a bad idea...All businesses tend to pass their costs on to customers."

Exactly. But don't worry, the Administration thought of that. They have a plan:

But by imposing the tax on only the largest firms, government officials said, they hope to protect consumers. Firms that raised prices would give smaller rivals a competitive advantage, creating an incentive for companies instead to swallow the cost, potentially by reducing employee pay.

Oh, now I see. They will only punish customers of big banks. If I run a small bank, this will now give me an incentive to stay small. I wonder how that will encourage lending.

... Also absurd is the administration’s rationale for taxing banks to pay for losses in TARP.

The government expects its losses to result mostly from aid extended to AIG, General Motors and Chrysler, and the cost of mortgage modification efforts....

The Atlantic's Megan McArdle has it right:

So we ought to tax bank profits because...GM is losing money just like everyone said it would ... I'm failing to see why the banks in particular--or rather the customers of the banks who will enjoy higher fees and lower interest rates--ought to bear the financial cost of the Administration's ill-advised bailout of the UAW.

The Fox Nation crowd is reciting exactly what it's been told to recite:

This is clearly a socialist "trickle down debt" fiscal policy!!! The financial institutions have paid almost ALL of the stimulous monies back, plus the interest. NOW he wants them to also pay the money given to GM, Chrysler, et al, who cannot pay the money back! You must know that the additional financial burden on banks will only continue to hamper loans, and will add fees to OUR accounts to pay for debts the BANKS DON"T OWE!!!! WE will end up being penalized TWICE - originally with the stimulous money taken out of our taxes, and through the banks with additional bank fees!

Don't take Daddy away! You'll just make him angry! Yes, he beats us every day, but it's still better if you do nothing!

And then there's Limbaugh, who insists that higher ATM fees have to result from this -- an argument echoed by teabag hero Scott Brown on the campaign trail yesterday in Massachusetts.

All of this leave-bankers-alone talk makes Stossel, Limbaugh, and Brown more popular with the teabag crowd, not less. (Did it hurt Glenn Beck with the teabaggers last spring when he came out in favor of huge AIG bonuses?)

The anger of the teabaggers is never going to be compatible with anything resembling liberalism. That's because the foundation of their movement is not a set of comprehensible principles but, rather, their taxonomy of "us" and "them."

They hate liberals and Democrats and "big government." Liberals and Democrats are "them." That they've expanded their definition of "big-government liberal" to include some Republicans is beside the point -- the bedrock of teabaggism is hatred of people who think the way you and I do about (among other things) the usefulness of government domestic programs. When they say they hate the bailouts, it's because they hate "big government," not because they hate big business.

And the teabaggers ultimately love capitalism, or at least mythologized Randian hero-capitalists. Bankers may not measure up to Rand's entrepreneur-dreamboats, but when we disgusting liberals attack those bankers, teabaggers clamor to defend them.

If teabag-oriented Republicans gain power in Washington, they will demand an end to stimulus efforts, plus tax cuts -- especially corporate tax cuts. And the teabaggers will cheer.

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