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Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party: Fighting the Same Battle?

| Thursday December 15th, 2011 | 5 Comments

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement is often seen as the idealogical counterpart to the Tea Party movement (TPM).   Occupy wants to raise taxes, the Tea Party thinks we are “Taxed Enough Already.”  Occupy thinks corporations are too powerful, the Tea Party thinks government is too powerful.  Despite their differences, these two seemingly opposing movements may have more in common than you think.

Formed from the Grassroots

First and foremost is the logistical aspect that both movements share. Each movement sprung up from ordinary people, angered and frustrated with the way things are being run in this country.  OWS and TPM both began from the grassroots.


These movements weren’t started by politicians or super famous people.  Instead of being formed from the top down, both OWS and TPM were spontaneously formed from the ground up.

There is no single central authority controlling the actions of either movement.  Granted, there are online hubs such as OccupyWallSt.org and OccupyTogether.org for OWS, and TeaPartyExpress.org and TeaPartyPatriots.org for the TPM.  But all the protest and action for either movement have been decentralized, happening at the local level.

Protesting Corporatism (Crony Capitalism)

OWS is against corporations having too much power over government.  TPM is worried about the government having too much power over the marketplace.  Whether the constituents of OWS and TPM know it or not, they are fighting a common enemy, corporatism.

Corporatism, otherwise known as crony capitalism, is when the government grants special treatment, such as subsidies, regulatory or legal permit favors, to corporations.  Corporations have power over government, government gives money and favors to corporations.

The marketplace is thus lopsided towards corporations granted government favoritism.  The most prominent form of corporatism took place as bailouts during the last recession, with bankers receiving bonuses after receiving bailouts.  The odd thing is that OWS and TPM unwittingly attack such corporatism from opposite ends.

Two Sides of the Same Coin

OWS attacks the corporate side. Occupy Wall Street “is fighting back against the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process,” says OccupyWallSt.org, the unofficial de facto online resource.  How do these institution get the power?  From government favors.

TPM attacks the government side. The Tea Party movement is the “reaction of the American people to fiscally irresponsible actions of the federal government, misguided ‘stimulus’ spending, bailouts and takeovers of private industry,” says TeaPartyPatriots.org.  Where does government money go?  Much of the fiscally irresponsible actions were subsidies and bailouts towards corporations.

Both movements are protesting two sides of the same coin. It’s not just protesting one side or the other, but protesting the power and money held by the collusion of corporation and government. So, then, what is the solution to corporatism?

Shared Vision

It is unfortunate that the fight against corporatism is fragmented.  On the surface, OWS and TPM are opposed to each other’s ideologies.  Yet if we strip away all the differences, a common enemy emerges.  What would it look like if OWS and TPM united for a common goal?

One solution to this problem is to transform corporatism (crony capitalism) into something different.  “The current version of capitalism is not the one envisioned by (Adam) Smith at all. He was seeking to create a system defined by efficient allocation of resources driven by self-interest, but guided by self-restraint. This is conscious capitalism,” says Kyle Westaway of the HBR Blog Network.

So what do you think? What are other similarities the Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party have in common?  What is a common vision that both OWS and TPM protesters can agree on?

Image Credit: 99% – BlaisOne via Flickr; Gadsden Flag – Wikipedia


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  • Nick

    I’m no expert on the topic, but I just wanted to share the this article. The Tea Party may be less grassroots than you presume, and has links to some wealthy corporate and campaign funding:

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2010/09/17/129928863/tea-party-s-grassroots-watered-by-deep-pockets

    • slider

      While both the Tea Party and OWS are genuine grassroot groups, their objectives are far different.

      The Tea Party goals are “pro-constitution” and not “anti-government”, meaning that they simply want the federal government to limit its functions to those specified in the US Constitution.

      The OWS movement’s goals seem to be more about using the power of the federal government to redistribute private citizen’s wealth based on some subjective concept of “fairness”.

      Don’t get me wrong, I abhor the corrupt, multi-trillion-dollar, crony-capitalist menage au trois that now exists between the Obama administration, Congress, and Wall Street. But the OWS protestors only seem to focus their outrage towards the least culpable of the three guilty parties. The trillions of taxpayer dollars Wall Street got were mostly handed out by the Obama administration with Congressional approval.

  • Jonathan Mariano

    It’s difficult to say with certainty if the Tea Party today is without corporate money.

    But my point is with OWS and TPM founding. These were both founded from the grassroots. If each will remain purely grassroots remains to be seen.

  • Luc

    Although the point exposed is correct there are some glaring differences that were left out.

    The OWS movement is surely against crony capitalism but not against state give aways. In the same breath you can hear complaint against the bailouts and request to forgo student debts. While the TARP funds amounted to about 800 billions and were a loan to forgive student debts would amount to write off more than a trillion dollars and would be the biggest give away in history.

    The TEA party claim to be for fiscal responsibility which should not be a politically charged subject while OSW is basically out to complaint against crony statism only when it support groups they don’t like such as Wall Street bankers (And who like those after all???).

    This difference dooms OWS to failure: you cannot stop crony capitalism as long as you support crony statism: the latter is the source of the former.

  • Zack

    Each group has a vitriolic fringe. The more important thing is that both are voicing frustrations and aspirations shared by the 99%.

    I think people on both sides would agree that US Politics is awash in dirty corporate money.
    I think both sides want frugal government.
    I think both sides are angry that banks were given massive bail outs, and that people’s savings have been plundered, and that no one has been held accountable for the misdeeds.
    I think both sides want a clean environment.
    I think neither side wants to see the U.S. in a race to the bottom, in regards to living and working conditions, with third world countries.