Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Class Action

Paul Krugman wrote yesterday:

A note to Tea Party activists: This is not the movie you think it is. You probably imagine that you’re starring in “The Birth of a Nation,” but you’re actually just extras in a remake of “Citizen Kane.”

True, there have been some changes in the plot. In the original, Kane tried to buy high political office for himself. In the new version, he just puts politicians on his payroll.

I mean that literally. As Politico recently pointed out, every major contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination who isn’t currently holding office and isn’t named Mitt Romney is now a paid contributor to Fox News. Now, media moguls have often promoted the careers and campaigns of politicians they believe will serve their interests. But directly cutting checks to political favorites takes it to a whole new level of blatancy.

I understand that Dr. Krugman thinks that this is some great revelation and that we should all be shocked that the “grass roots” behind the Tea Parties are as well-manicured as the greens at Augusta, but in reality, the folks who go to the rallies and watch Fox News know exactly what’s going on. They know about all the big bucks of the Koch Brothers and the machinery behind Freedom Works, and they don’t care. In fact, it’s just fine with them.

The outbursts of populism and the railing against the “elites” and the “limousine liberals” are countered by the fact that every person who sneers at an Ivy League educated politician would do anything they could to get their son or their daughter into that same Ivy League school. They are staunch supporters of keeping the tax cuts for the rich because it is their dream to have enough money to be in that tax bracket. That’s the American Dream, and the rich folks who support their views are their heroes. That’s why people like Carly Fiorina (E-bay), Meg Whitman (HP), and Linda McMahon (WWE) can spend their fortunes running for office and tell the voters “I’m working for you” — with a straight face. That’s why someone like Rick Scott, whose stewardship of one of the largest health insurance companies in America can charitably be described as questionable, can be leading in the governor’s race here in Florida.

It’s also why the people who encourage the Tea Party — Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sarah Palin — can pull off the middle class act as if they’re still living in a split level in Dunbridge, Ohio, and driving a twenty-year-old Buick Century. “I’ve been there; I know what you’re going through, and I’m mad as hell, too,” they tell us, all the while making a ton of money at it. Hey, they’re successful; that’s great; they’ve achieved their dreams and are now telling us that we can too, if only the government would get out of the way… and if you bought their gold coins and their next book.

So Paul Krugman’s warning to the Tea Party activists isn’t falling on deaf ears. They know they’re being manipulated. Not only do they not care, but if they had the chance, they’d do it, too. That’s also the American Dream.