Fake Teabaggers Are Anti-Spend, Anti-Government: Real Populists Want to Stop Banks from Plundering America
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The AIG-bonus scandal put a handle on the irresponsible government policies that the Tea Party movement was supposedly rallying against. What could be more irresponsible than allowing financial executives that got America into this mess to walk away with multi-million dollar bonuses lifted from taxpayer money? The same people who cost millions of Americans their jobs and homes were taking what was left of the kitty to ensure that they could maintain their mansions-and-yachts lifestyles.
The Right twisted the issue by getting people to focus their rage on the government exclusively, forgetting the banker (who, in the conservative mind, is being overtaxed). The problem is the Left has been subdued, to put it mildly, in channeling rage at the bankers, in part because Obama's economic team in many ways is the bankers.
The Left should have been there to claim this genuine outrage from the very beginning. But it was late to the game. Until a new initiative called A New Way Forward began picking up steam a few weeks ago, a lot of people outraged by Obama's economic policies had only one place to go: their local FreedomWorks Tea Party.
Luckily, and not a moment too soon, this is no longer the case.
It is hard to imagine more different origins from the FreedomWorks creation than those of A New Way Forward. The seed for the initiative was planted on the ratty couch in a 19th century farmhouse on a western Massachusetts apple orchard. It was there that 29-year-old Tiffiniy Cheng sat one night watching Bill Moyers Journal with her 86-year-old landlord. Moyers' guest that night was MIT professor and former IMF chief economist Simon Johnson. A fierce critic of Obama's handling of the crisis, Johnson explained on the show that there were plenty of roads not being taken, all of which led to nationalization and strict new antitrust laws.
As they listened, Cheng and her landlord grew increasingly despondent. When the show ended, the old woman turned to the younger woman and said, "You kids need to go out and do something. The world is changing so much, you need to take control of things." Cheng decided to take up the challenge.
"I knew a lot of people like me were upset that the banks are driving the process," she says. "So I decided to coordinate among all of the frustrated people out there, who are angry about the bailouts and want to break up the massive institutions who brought us here."
Unlike a lot of people who might have shared the same thought, Cheng actually had the organizing experience and tech chops to do put it together. A self-described nonprofit "technologist" and activist with a decade of experience -- she was part of the group that launched OpenCongress.org and has developed software designed to facilitate Internet organizing — Cheng sketched out a plan and called some colleagues.
Soon they had a manifesto based on three principles: nationalize, reorganize and decentralize. A Web site followed, and word quickly spread with the help of some well-connected and supportive advisers, among them Zephyr Teachout and Joe Trippi, both architects of Howard Dean's pioneering 2004 presidential campaign.
Aided by social-networking sites and Cheng's own organizing software, more than 10,000 soon signed NWF's petition to break up the banks. The petition now holds more than 40,000 signatures and counting.
Last Saturday, NWF held the first day of rallies — the left's answer to the Tea Parties. Groups in the hundreds gathered in 60 cities around the country (including on the East Coast, despite heavy rains). The organization is also picking up its share of media attention, including a mention last month on Moyers’ Journal, which brought the nascent group full circle.