Market Populism vs. Grassroots Populism: Which Side Are You On?
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In two separate television clips yesterday, we saw the two most powerful political forces in America in their most pure form -- and it's important to watch both clips back to back to see what I mean.
On one side, you have what Thomas Frank has called "Market Populism" -- the portrayal of Wall Street's agenda as an impassioned mass-based populist movement. Check out this clip from CNBC, where the network's correspondent, Rick Santelli, is literally on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange surrounded by multimillionaire traders railing on the Obama administration for trying to help struggling homeowners, and berating people who are getting foreclosed on as "losers." Santelli is praised as a supposed "revolutionary" and the mob of financial elites around him is whooping and hollering, pretending to be a populist mob of regular Joes.
Now watch Virg Bernero, the mayor of Lansing, Michigan, presenting the antithesis of Market Populism -- let's call it Grassroots Populism. Bernero demands to know how anyone can be calling for wage/benefit cuts for workers at a time the government is taking workers' tax money and handing it to the very speculators that Santelli is whooping it up with:
After watching these two clips, the question is the same question that's always been at the heart of economic politics: Which side are you on?