The ”Occupy Wall Street” movement desperately wants to be compared to the Tea Party, because such a comparison would give the fledgling, misguided movement unearned legitimacy. But there are three key characteristics that separate OWS from the Tea Party: First, the Occupy protesters pride themselves on provocative resistance to law enforcement and in some cases violence. Second, they disrespect public and private property. Third, and most important, the Occupy movement lacks a coherent guiding philosophy.
The Sept. 12, 2009 Tea Party demonstration in Washington, D.C., is a perfect example of the way Tea Partiers do business. Organizers planned for 100,000 Tea Party activists to show up on the National Mall, but more than one million turned out. In spite of the huge group of people, there was never an ”angry mob” mentality. Protestors said ”excuse me” and ”thank you.” No one was arrested and no property was damaged. No one told us to, but we picked up every bit of trash, even if it was not ours. In only a month of much smaller Occupy-related protests, hundreds of people have been arrested from New York City to San Diego and abroad, and in some cases protesters have resorted to physical violence. The property damage has been significant.
When the Tea Party demonstrates, we get permits. We cooperate with police. We fund porta-potties. We respect the rule of law and are responsible for meeting our own needs including food, water, shelter, medical care and bathrooms. The Occupy protestors just showed up and took over a busy part of Lower Manhattan, using local businesses’ bathrooms as their own personal washrooms – or worse – and even refusing to temporarily leave Zuccotti Park so it could be cleaned for their own safety and hygiene.
But the biggest difference between the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street is that the Tea Party is bound by a common set of values based on freedom, responsibility and property rights. While the Tea Party members hold a diverse set of views on many issues, they are united in a desire for less government, lower taxes and more freedom. Conversely, the Occupy Wall Street protesters are unified only by their hatred of the wealthy, and seem to take pride in the movement’s inability to present a coherent set of proactive initiatives. Their attacks are disturbingly similar to those levied against the rich in Ayn Rand’s ”Atlas Shrugged,” where punishing the most productive members of society was more important than fixing the nation’s problems.
The values that inform and shape Tea Party demonstrations also require the Tea Party to be consistent in applying its principles. We are willing to hold both Republicans and Democrats accountable, as well as bad actors and crony capitalists on Wall Street. We support capitalism based on hard work and wealth creation, not crony capitalism based on whom you know in Washington, D.C. That’s why we opposed the Wall Street bailout, handouts to GE and Solyndra, insurance companies writing individual mandates in ObamaCare, and Car Czars choosing winners and losers in the automobile industry.
Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, suffers from cognitive dissonance. They say they oppose special favors to Wall Street but their so-called ”progressive” leaders who are waging the same kind of class warfare in Washington, starting with Barack Obama, are the enablers of bad actors on Wall Street. Big banks and investment firms were among Obama’s top donors in 2008, including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup, UBS AG and Morgan Stanley.
Tim Geithner, current Treasury Secretary and former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, orchestrated the AIG bailout. Nancy Pelosi’s brother-in-law got a $737 million loan guarantee from the same Department of Energy that gave $535 million to Solyndra. Rep. Maxine Waters helped arrange a bailout for a bank that counts Waters’ husband among its board members. Rep. Barney Frank’s boyfriend was an executive at Fannie Mae as the government lender made it easier for unqualified homebuyers to get loans.
Where was Occupy Wall Street when the bailouts were being handed out? Where was Occupy Wall Street when politicians in Washington were handing out taxpayer dollars to irresponsible bankers, bad businessmen, and political donors? While Occupy Wall Street is making threats against people trying to earn a living and making a mess in New York and other cities, the Tea Party is working for real change at the source of the problem, Washington, D.C., by electing fiscal conservatives.
Their answer is more government, but more government has been the problem all along. Our answer is less government and more freedom. But with individual freedom comes individual responsibility and respect for private property. These are the values that bind us as a community. That’s why freedom works.
Matt Kibbe is the president and CEO of FreedomWorks, a nationwide grassroots organization fighting for lower taxes, less government and more freedom; and the co-author of ”Give Us Liberty: A Tea Party Manifesto.”