Comparing the Occupy Wall Street Movement and the Tea Party
Though both groups are seeking serious changes in government and the market, common ground seems to end there.
In comparing the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street protests, it’s probably easier to start by listing what the two groups actually have in common. There’s the fed’s bailout of Wall Street, of course. Members of both groups tend to find that objectionable. And then there’s – well, maybe that’s it, at least according to Barbara Gonzalez, founder of the Bayshore Tea Party.
When asked recently if the two groups, both grassroots movements born partially out of dissatisfaction with what’s been perceived as corporate greed on Wall Street and the U.S. government’s all too willingness to throw bags of money at a still lingering problem, might share more common ground, Gonzalez scoffed at the notion, saying that beyond taking advantage of first amendment rights the two groups have little in common.
And, despite claims to the contrary, there’s certainly no united front. For Gonzalez, there’s the right way to protest and for the right reasons, and then there’s Occupy Wall Street.
“We do both disagree with bailouts, but we (the Tea Party) disagrees with any and all bailouts. They (Occupy Wall Street) want to be bailed out,” Gonzalez said during a telephone interview. “Let the economy works itself out. If it fails, it fails. If people fail, they fail.”
At a recent rally at Marine Park called Occupy Red Bank, a mostly thoughtful crowd of more than 40 people of all ages and ethnicities gathered to express their dissatisfaction with the job market and economic disparity between the country’s richest 1 percent and everyone else. Discussion also broached other societal issues, like the responsibility of all people to help those most in need.
Less of a protest and more of a discussion – with another discussion to determine when, again, the group would meet for discussion – the event was somewhat emblematic of national criticisms made of the Occupy movement: that is members aren’t really sure what they want. And though those in the forefront of the Occupy movement have rebuked this disingenuous position, it’s succeeded in furthering the notion that Occupiers are lost children, easily persuaded by the negative influences that surround them.
Creeping, un-American influences like socialism and communism pervading the Occupy movement are some of what Gonzalez said she fears.
“I feel there is a portion of group that is innocent, for lack of a better word, but they’re directing their anger in the wrong place. What I fear is that these socialist groups are steering them into socialism, telling them that this is the answer and telling them to blame the people who work on Wall Street, blame Wall Street and nothing else,” she said.
She also challenged the Occupiers for letting some within their ranks corrupt the movement by committing criminal acts. The Tea Party protests have always been peaceful she said, while she believes plenty of evidence – and arrests – prove Occupy Wall Street to be less so.
“When they accused the Tea Party of (being violent), that’s all they had, accusations. You didn’t see anyone jumping on top of police cars or breaking windows,” she said. “Now, it’s going to go to rioting. I think that’s the next step.”
Gonzalez’s concerns about the “hippies and homeless” aside, there are a couple of figures each Occupier knows, including those who gathered in Red Bank, and is more than capable of providing as evidence as to why this Occupy movement is so important to the country and its people.
According to an article on income disparity in the U.S. that appeared in Vanity Fair in May, well before the Occupy movement took hold, author Joseph Stiglitz reported that the top 1 percent of the country’s wealthiest citizens earn nearly a quarter of all income each year. The top 1 percent, in a widely reported figure that’s remained the crux of the issue, also controls 40 percent of the country’s entire wealth.
Income and wealth disparity aside, Gonzalez said a lot of what she believes the Occupy movement comes down to is simply a desire for free stuff.
“They’re mad at the bailouts; that’s fine. They all want free college; college isn’t free,” she said, noting that she and her husband have worked to put their kids through school. “You have to work. You have the opportunity in America to become what you want, but you have to work.”