SOUTH BEND, Ind. — When Tom Grimes lost his job as a financial consultant 15 months ago, he called his congressman, a Democrat, for help getting government health care.
Then he found a new full-time occupation: Tea Party activist. [...]
Mr. Grimes is one of many Tea Party members jolted into action by economic distress. At rallies, gatherings and training sessions in recent months, activists often tell a similar story in interviews: they had lost their jobs, or perhaps watched their homes plummet in value, and they found common cause in the Tea Party’s fight for lower taxes and smaller government.
Um, you'll notice some of the rather intriguing notes here: lost his job in January, 2009, based on the Bush failures in financial oversight; called his Democratic congressman to get Medicare; turns traitor on the same government when things don't work out so well for him, along with millions of other people who have had problems finding a job and paying for medical care, but who DON'T act treasonously.
PS Grimes receives Social Security now. But hey, Big Government is the problem, not the solution!
In the 1930s and '40s, people appropriately looked to the government for a hand out and a hand up. This is as it should be. Government should be the last thing between a citizen and starvation or death. End of discussion. For all its wonder, the free market is notoriously brutal when it comes to the individual. Agglomerations of money and power create pockets of inequity, and it is into these pockets of inequity that people fit rather nicely.
I'll get back to that in a minute, but I wanted to share something else from the article: the hatred of right-wing media and how its influenced this yahoos:
“Even if I wanted to stop, I just can’t,” said Diana Reimer, 67, who has become a star of the effort by FreedomWorks, a Tea Party group, to fight the health care overhaul. “I’m on a mission, and time is not on my side.”
A year ago, Ms. Reimer’s husband had been given a choice — retire or be fired. The couple had been trying to sell their split-level home in suburban Philadelphia to pay off some debt and move to a small place in the city.
But real estate agents told them the home would sell for about $40,000 less than they paid 19 years ago — not enough to pay off their mortgage.
Then Ms. Reimer saw a story about the Tea Party on television. “I said, ‘That’s it,’ ” she recalled. “How can you get this frustration out, have your voices heard?”
She liked that the Tea Party was patriotic, too. “They said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the national anthem,” she said.
Right. It's true saying the Pledge of Allegiance is free and so is singing the same damned song they sing before wrestling matches and demolition derbies.
Both of which demean a national anthem, I should add. But think about it: she's in the most dire, desperate straits she can imagine, about to lose her home, her husband's out of work (and presumably now collecting Social Security, as is Ms Reimer), and the best she can do is...turn to a bunch of angry old people?
That hardly seems to be a rational decision to make. I can understand it, though. You work and struggle all your life to put together a family and maybe a little nest egg for retirement, and you figure you can sell your house when the time is right and you'll make back your investment plus a little extra.
The American dream. And it all collapses under the weight of the same free market that enticed you in with the promise of, well, living the American dream. Anger is understandable, and if you're an idiot, you blame the people who are trying to help cushion the blows at the expense of perhaps not living as volatile an existence as you have. You feel entitled to more, and rather than blame the people who have taken it all away from you, you blame the people who tried to help you keep it.
Which brings me back around to the other point I want to make here: this is neither the first, the worst, or the last banking-based crisis we will experience in America.
Free Speech TV is showing an incredible documentary this month called Life On The Edge Of A Bubble, which posits that the economic cycle is designed to create bubbles and bursts cyclically every twenty years or so, and there is nothing in the current system that will stop it. From the 1700s forward, the program traces the various market expansions and contractions, with particular emphasis on the United States since 1776 (you can watch part 1 here. It's twenty minutes well spent.)
Look, the Reimers and Mr. Grimes are not unique. Even the most intelligent people in history have gotten caught up in speculative bubbles. For example, Isaac Newton invested 7000 pounds in the South Sea Bubble, doubling his money, and then plowed the entire sum back in, only to lose all of it plus an additional 20,000 pounds.
Historically speaking the South Sea Trading bubble is probably the closest analogy to our current situation: Too big to fail, it went on a buying spree, snapping up national debts with the promise of 6% return. It then "collateralized" this debt by taking itself public and selling shares on the open market. It was "can't miss" investing, except, well, it missed.
There's a sucker born every minute, and someone pops up to bleed them dry. I won't get into the gruesome details (these folks do). Suffice it to say that, if one of the three brightest men in history could be had, then anyone can be had.
It was a Ponzi scheme that would have made Bernie Madoff lick his lips. It started with good intentions, saving England, and ended destroying a generation.
Just like the current mortgage schemes. Human history is rife with stories of greed and stupidity, and the one factor the markets cannot work out in their derivatives and calculus is stupidity and greed.
Indeed, with the advent of computing power, markets are designed to feed off those emotions, which create inefficiencies that programmers can spot and exploit. Expect these market busts to come more and more frequently.
And expect more and more heartbreaking stories like the Reimers and the Grimes. Our job as liberals is to educate these people to the real enemy.