The difference between populism and where the public seems to be headed is actually quite dramatic. Populism tends to focus on destroying the current system of privilege, taking from the rich, and implementing policies aimed at remaking society in the name of the public. Because of the extreme nature of populism, it is often borderline violent and it tends to flirt with either anarchy or socialism. I don’t see any of that in the current political environment.
To the contrary, groups like the Tea Party want neither anarchy nor socialism. They don’t envy those who have, nor do they seek to crush the rich. What they want instead is to reshape the government to stop it from being able to do the bidding of the connected. Specifically, they want the government to stop guaranteeing the risks of big business, and they want the government to stop issuing two sets of laws, one which helps the connected and one which simultaneously hinders the unconnected.
This seems to be confirmed by a new poll conducted by Rasmussen. Indeed, this poll showed broad bipartisan opposition to cronyism and strong support for free market policies. Consider these results:
● Only 27% think it is “ever ok for the government to make investments in private companies.”It’s the last couple that tell you what is going on. People saw trillions of dollars poured into the big banks to save them after they made horribly stupid bets on things that the banks themselves created after getting the Clinton Administration to change the law to allow them to take these kinds of risk. They saw how the entire financial system almost collapsed because 3-4 big banks fell apart and they saw how these same banks have returned to record profitability (and record size) while the rest of us get to pick up the tab. They saw how billions were funneled directly to unions through the stimulus bill. They saw how billions more were given to Obama donors under the guise of running “clean energy companies,” which went bankrupt within months of getting the billions. They saw GE lobbying to get nonsensical environmental laws passed and then turned right around and get waivers from those same laws. They saw how hundreds of billions in government contracts have been awarded on no-bid, sole-source contracts to companies that handed over tens of millions in lobbying money. They saw how loopholes were put into the tax code which protected only a handful of companies, or in the case of Charlie Rangel’s friends only one company. They saw bribes and sweetheart deals given for regulatory consideration. . . Chris Dodd and Countywide anyone? They saw average bondholders crushed in GM while the unions made out like thieves. They saw nonunion pension rights terminated. They saw a shakedown of Boeing. They saw attempts to tax and control the internet to protect contributors. And they saw no difference between Bush or Obama on any of this.
● 71% believe the private sector is “better than government officials at determining the long-term benefits and potential of new technologies.” Only 11% think the reverse.
● 64% think government money will be wasted if the government backs projects the private sector won’t.
● 66% believe crony connections drive most government contracts.
● Then there’s this: “By a 3-1 margin, voters believe elected politicians routinely provide help to favored companies.”
● And this: “Seven out of ten Americans believe government and big business work together against the rest of us.”
It is frankly surprising that people haven’t been more populist in their opinions. Outside of the leftist desire to steal from the rich and their rhetoric about getting even with the banks, the public has been remarkably calm. . . determined to change the game, but calm. And I think it is a real testament to the American public that their response to this pillaging and abuse has not been vindictive, but has been instead to demand the system be fixed so everyone can move on.
I think the Republicans better pay attention to this. I think Romney and Ryan will be great for this country, but they need to realize that the times have changed and the public now pays attention to who is sliding through the backdoor with their hand out. Business as usual must end.