The Occupy Wall Street movement is loud but limited. Compare its beginnings with the tea party’s. A month into the tea party’s existence, hundreds of thousands of Americans in thousands of towns and cities had joined the cause. Their message was crystal clear: bring back economic prosperity by cutting government spending and taxation, rolling back intrusive regulations and expanding individual freedom. The rule of law was respected as well.
A month into the Occupy Wall Street movement, we see a few thousand radicals in a couple of dozen big-city liberal enclaves. They’re breaking the law in city after city. And their message? Well, it’s all over the radical left map: demands for debt forgiveness, anti-military diatribes and even calls for the end to free enterprise and the seizure of private property. There are calls for violence mixed with virulently anti-Semitic slurs denigrating the “Jews who run Wall Street.”
Nevertheless, President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and other leading liberal elected officials have rushed to support the Occupy movement without condemning the protesters’ extremist rhetoric. With his poll numbers sinking thanks to his disastrous big-government policies, the president is apparently thrilled to have a spark, any spark, on the left that will attack the usual suspects (evil corporations, dastardly millionaires, etc.).
At the core of the left’s Occupy Wall Street movement is the same old class-warfare rhetoric that relies on envy and presses the twisted idea that destroying our free-market system will somehow make us more free and prosperous.
Protesters at the Occupy rallies have proudly and repeatedly announced to cameras, reporters and anyone who will listen that they are anti-capitalist and anti-business. They argue for dismantling our free-market system despite the fact that history has proven that free markets raise people out of poverty and despair better than any government ever can. In their pursuit of “equality of outcomes” they are willing to shrink our economic pie and then have government elites dole out equal portions of what’s left to Americans regardless of work ethic, talent and achievement. Of course, the government elites will have a higher standard of living than all the “little people,” since they’re more important.
While I can only assume that these Occupy Wall Street activists are well-intentioned, these aren’t the kinds of ideas that are going to draw large numbers of Americans to their cause. Of course, the big labor unions and public employee unions are moving into the Occupy movement now, so expect the movement to grow and become more professional. But the protesters will still be limited by their message of big government and class envy.
From my travel across our nation with Americans for Prosperity, I know that my fellow Americans are aspirational and not envious. They value opportunity and individual freedom more than they trust government to pick winners and losers in some effort to enforce equality.
For this reason, I welcome the debate with the Occupy Wall Street movement. It’s a debate we will win with the American people.
Tim Phillips is the president of Americans for Prosperity (AFP). Information on AFP’s Cut Spending Now Tour can be found on www.CutSpendingNow.org.