Archive for October, 2011

What Exactly is Going on with Wall Street?

If you have turned an eye to the news media over the last month or so, you may have noticed a story about the “Occupy Wall Street” protests going on in New York City, or sister protests which have sprung up around the country. The folks of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) have been protesting what they see as the corrupting influence of big money in politics and government. Much like the rise of the Tea Party movement a few years ago, this movement seems to stem from an overall sentiment of feeling “fed up” with the current socio-economic political environment. The protesters have been arguing that the disparity of wealth in the United States has been increased due, in part, to short-sighted government policies that allow for the concentration of forty percent of the nation’s wealth in the hands of one percent of Americans.

While some in the media and government have said that the OWS protesters have no real demands, the people involved in the OWS movement have actually voiced a number of different goals they hope to achieve. Some of the goals of the protesters include for President Obama “to ordain a Presidential Commission tasked with ending the influence money has over our representatives in Washington,” ending tax loopholes for corporations, raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, protecting Social Security and Medicare, cutting defense spending, and even auditing the Federal Reserve.

Although the Occupy Wall Street movement has yet to coalesce around one single overarching statement of purpose like the Tea Party’s “Don’t raise taxes” mantra, it’s probably important to remember that the Tea Party grew out of protesting various different specific issues, from obesity taxes in New York to President Obama’s stimulus package of early 2009. The movement has now grown into a national movement with widely known figures and beliefs, but early on it was just groups of people getting together to protest what they didn’t like about the government, much like the current Occupy Wall Street protests.

The protests have been diminished by some detractors, but as a fledgling weeks-old movement, the Occupy Wall Street protesters have managed to become a vibrant and much-discussed part of the national discussion. It remains to be seen whether the people involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement will become involved in the political arena the way that the Tea Party movement has. If so, that can only be a good thing for debate, to have voices in the discussion speaking out against the powerful in our society.

 

UPDATE (10/13/11 10:30 am):

Time has a new poll out today, and it ranks favorable views of the Occupy Wall Street protests at 54%, significantly higher than the 33% that Rasmussen reported last week. Over at Slate, Dave Weigel notes that the Occupy Wall Street protests are twice as favorable as the Tea Party in the poll.

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Unpacking Chris Christie

Over the past few weeks, there has been rampant speculation that the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, will jump into the race for the Republican nomination. Many commentators seem to be infatuated with the idea that outside of the current crop of Republican candidates there exists a single candidate who will be able to enter the race, and have the nomination virtually secured just by the nature of entering the race.

You may recall that not all that long ago, Rick Perry was bandied about by “Green Room Republicans*” (those in the Republican party responsible for talk show booking, etc.) as the hero of the Republican base. Perry was going to come out of Texas, enter the nomination battle, and speedily hand out defeats to his rivals. Perry’s “straight-talking” Texan style, coupled with the view that he was a champion of libertarian-leaning Tea Party Republicans, appealed to many in the Republican base, those who tend to drive voter turn-out in primary battles. Perry’s ride to an easy victory, however, has come not really materialized. After performing poorly in a number of Republican debates, voices in the Republican party, and in the media, started crying out for a new hero. In a field of candidates seen populated with candidates labeled as “flip-floppers” (Romney), “unelectable” (Bachmann, Cain, Paul, Santorum), and “un-serious” (Gingrich), “straight-talking,” potential candidates seem to suck up all the oxygen in the room. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, following in the footsteps of Rick Perry and Mitch Daniels, has emerged as the latest straight-talker, a possible candidate who could potentially rise above petty bickering and speak to the issues that Republican primary voters care about.

In spite of his constant denials, Christie’s name keeps being floated as a possible contender for the GOP nomination. At this late stage of the game, however, a Christie candidacy would face numerous challenges that might prove insurmountable. With the first Republican contests scheduled to be held in January of 2012, a new entrant to the race would only have a scant fifteen weeks to undertake all the groundwork needed to produce a viable presidential campaign. Fundraising, especially in early states like Iowa and New Hampshire, requires a very hands-on commitment from a candidate. Voters in Iowa and New Hampshire like to believe they have a feel for the candidates, meaning that town hall meetings and small-scale meet-and-greets are key to establishing a candidate’s support.

Any candidate attempting to enter the race at this point would have his work cut out for him. The hurdles for a sitting governor to conquer are even more problematic, requiring near-constant travel and campaigning, calling the candidate away from any responsibilities at home. Unlike some of the other candidates in the field, Christie’s position as a sitting governor would produce just one more boundary to his being able to travel around the country over the next few weeks.

Not to mention, of course, that Christie has repeatedly denied over and over that he will run. In our modern political world, denials of an intention to run for public office are taken with a grain of salt. At least. Usually more. Whole buckets of salt.

 

*The very clever term “Green Room Republicans” was coined by John Dickerson on the Slate Political Gabfest “The Big Green Tractor” Edition, September 30, 2011

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