The "Occupy" movement is the offspring of the "Tea Party" movement and is now a better representative if its principles than the Tea Party itself.
I do not have enough room in this blog to give this hypothesis justice, but I will throw out some reasons to consider it true.
The question asked in the "Tea Party" originally movement was, "Why is the government spending all of this money to reward those people whose poor decisions caused this mess, and putting the burden on those of us who have lived responsible lives?"
Consider the rant by Rick Santelli that is considered a key point in the Tea Party movement.
You know, the new administration’s big on computers and technology– How about this, President and new administration? Why don’t you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages; or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road, and reward people that could carry the water instead of drink the water? . . . How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor’s mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise their hand.
He is not complaining about the level of government spending. He is talking about taking the money from the responsible people and giving it to the irresponsible people.
And it is not just the irresponsible middle class - but the irresponsible rich. The broader issue in the rant concerns "moral hazard". Economists use this term to talk about government action to bail-out rich people who make unwise decisions and end up in financial hot water. It is mostly used when talking about the government putting huge amounts of money on the table to rescue rich people who made mistakes while leading organizations that are "too big to fail".
So, this was the start of the Tea Party movement.
But what happened?
Well, it started off as a disjointed group if angry voters with no clear message or objective. However, it became news. Some Tea Party members got access to microphones - meaning, that they and their message made it into the press and in front of the public. Others were ignored - and their message faded into the background. Some members of the movement got funding and got volunteers to help them organize. Others got nothing.
Which portion of the Tea Party got these benefits?
Well, those people with the message that the microphone holders wanted people to see got the microphone. Those with the message that the people with money wanted to fund got the funding. Those that certain political organizations thought would be best for helping their candidates or special interest groups got the organizational help.
This is not a conspiracy theory. This is just the invisible hand of people pursuing their own individual best interests to the degree that they are able - and the people with the money and control of the media being more able than others.
Through the action of purely natural forces, the Tea Party movement became a "Protect The Pocketbooks Of The Rich" movement.
This became obvious during the budget debates in July 2011. The one thing that the Tea Party legislators absolutely refused to compromise on was not holding people responsible for their choices and actions - that never even entered the discussion. Instead, the only thing they cared about was protecting the pocketbooks of the top 1%.
The multi-millionaires who drove their companies into the ground should be greeters at Wall-Mart by now. Instead, they sit in huge homes with huge bank accounts filled with the money that responsible people earned and paid. The Tea Party candidates did not even discuss the issue of how to get back some of the wealth that they pocketed - that makes up a substantial portion of our current debt. Instead, ironically, the Tea Party is interested in only one thing - making sure that they get to keep the money they have already taken.
Ultimately, the idea is that if the government adopts the principle of rewarding the irresponsible and punishing the responsible, we will end up with nothing but irresponsible people. I do ask myself at times if I am stupid for living a responsible life when, if I were to be as reckless as others, i could enjoy the pleasures of that recklessness and then have the government rescue me in the end.
In more general terms, they are not working on solving the moral hazard problem. They are working on compounding it by making sure that the recipients of these government rescues keep their wealth. We do not even hear the original reason for the Tea Party any more - the government rewarding (bailing out) irresponsible and incompetent people at the expense of the rest of us. Instead, the only message coming from the Tea Party concerns protecting the pocketbooks of the top 1%.
The effect of this (even though it is not the intent) is that the top 1% have raided the treasury and walked away with trillions of dollars of benefits. Now that we are looking at that deficit and talking about paying the debt, the top 1% - speaking through the Tea Party and using them as its defensive shield - is saying, "Don't talk to me. Give the bill to the middle class."
Well, a lot of the people in the top 1% are doing this. It would be wrong and totally unfair to claim that this statement is true of all in the top 1%.
This now brings us to the movement to Occupy Wall Street.
Why Wall Street?
Because these are the "moral hazard" people - the people who were allowed to keep their million-dollar homes and million -dollar jobs as a direct benefit of running up the government deficit. And who now refuse to pay any taxes that would go to relieving or paying off that debt.
"Hey, top 1%. You took spent the money - putting your bailout on the national credit card. You pay the bill." Here, again, let us not lose track of the fact that a substantial portion of the problem rests with $15 trillion already spent. This is not about future spending. This is about past spending. $15 trillion has been put on the national credit card. The wealthiest Americans have pocketed virtually all of the benefits from that spending. So, the wealthiest Americans ought to contribute to paying off the debt. Even balancing the budget does not answer the question that needs to be answered: Who is going to pay back the $15 trillion already spent?
During the past 30 years of deficit spending, the wealthy significantly increased their personal income and wealth. The middle class has treaded water for 30 years, harvesting no overall benefit, while the poor has become worse off. If that $15 trillion - and the benefits that came from it - all settled in the pockets of the wealthiest Americans, but the middle class are forced to pay the bill, then we truly have a situation in which the main role of government for 30 years has been to transfer money from the middle class to the rich.
This suggests a potential rallying cry for the Occupy movement. "You - the financial companies of America - you hoarded the wealth that came from the deficit. You pay the bill."