We all know how conservatives embraced the tactics and the arrival of the Tea Party—including spitting on Democratic congressmen. They couldn’t get enough of the rhetoric about Big Government, Balanced Budgets, and Reducing the Deficit. And why shouldn’t they have embraced these ideas, since—if the programs are implemented—the rich will, once again, get to pay fewer taxes and wash their hands of the truly needy in this broken country called the United States, where one out of four children goes to bed each night hungry? (How any Senator or Congressman can live with that statistic is truly astonishing.)
The rich are different from most of us—especially their conservative toadies in Congress, who recently have been screaming like little children now that Occupy Wall Street looks as if it may evolve into a genuine antidote to Tea Party terrorism. Eric Cantor (that bloodless GOP House majority leader from Virginia) sounds absolutely rabid when he foments about “growing mobs” at Wall Street. Is Cantor so myopic that he doesn’t realize that his words (“some in this town have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans”) reflect more upon himself than on his supposed antagonists? Does the man have no insight into himself whatsoever?
The scare tactics of Republican right politicians are frightening because they give us a glimpse of what might happen to the country if a Republican is elected president. Rand Paul (“I see it sort of like a Paris mob”); Peter King (“It’s really important for us not to give any legitimacy to these people in the streets”); Herman Cain (“anti-American”); Mitt Romney (Protestors are “trying to find scapegoats to attack”); even Michael Bloomberg, who ought to know better (“trying to destroy the jobs of people working in the city”). Taken all together, these comments about “Occupy Wall Street” suggest that it will only be a matter of time before the Wall Street protestors will be gassed, beaten up, even shot by the police. It’s the right wing that’s setting up such a possibility, not the protesters themselves who only want jobs, not food stamps; their own houses, not shelters for their families; some understanding that no society with most of its prosperity flowing up to the rich will retain the stability that a vibrant middle class for decades ensured.
The rich are different, as too many of the Forbes 400 tell us year after year. For an ugly number of them, their actions are nothing more than self-serving, building protective barriers around themselves, similar to the walls you see in Third World countries, with broken shards of glass cemented into their crests, warning everyone else to stay out. Isn’t that what the Koch brothers have done with one of their shell organizations? Isn’t their “Americans for Prosperity” actually “Americans for the Koch Brothers’ Prosperity”? Or the richest people of greater Washington, notorious as tight-wads: Forrest and John Mars. If you’ve got $13.8 billion dollars each, you probably need more.
The super rich in America today are very different from you and me—they got rich because they manipulated everything in the system to guarantee that only they would benefit. For someone to make a profit on Wall Street, someone else has to take a loss. No wonder the rich are frightened to death. They are about to lose some of their obscenely guaranteed profits.
Charles R. Larson is Emeritus Professor of Literature at American University, in Washington, D.C.