The Tea Party: Brought to You by Wall Street

pity the billionaire

Pity the Billionaire: the Hard Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right

By Thomas Frank

Havill Secker (2012)

Book Review

Pity the Poor Billionaire describes how the right wing corporate elite used the 2008 economic crash to build a pseudo-populist movement (aka the Tea Party) to build blue collar support for harsh free market austerity policies that benefited Wall Street at the expense of working people.

According to Frank,  the Tea Party was the fourth conservative uprising in the last half century. The first was the backlash against the anti-Vietnam war movement that resulted in Nixon’s election in 1968 and 1972. The second was the Reagan revolution in 1980; the third the Contract with America revolution that won Republican control of Congress (in 1994) during Clinton’s first term.

The Demise of Unions and the Left

With each of these movements, US political and economic life became increasingly conservative, with all public institutions – churches, hospitals, universities, museums, the US Post Office and even the Army and CIA – succumbing to pressure to operate according to free market principles.

The same period saw the virtual demise of both labor unions and any organized US left. Nevertheless, according to Frank, right wing strategists managed to flood the media with rhetoric ramping up popular fear the left was “on the march.” It mainly  focused on a fictitious behind-the-scenes conspiracy to provoke a crisis – through overspending that would collapse the US economy.

Swaying Popular Anger from Wall Street to the Government

This messaging, crafted by right wing think tanks funded by right wing billionaires like the Koch brothers and delivered by Glenn Beck, Russ Limbaugh and similar right wing celebrities, was spectacularly effective in convincing a majority of Americans that the neoliberal corporatist Obama is really a socialist.

Oil billionaire Charles Koch warned back in 2008 that the global economic downturn could lead to the same “loss of liberty and prosperity” (for billionaires) as the Great Depression did. He and his brother David went on to deliberately manufacture an “astroturf”* movement (ie the Tea Party) to thwart Obama from enacting the same type of public spending projects Roosevelt used to reverse the 1929 depression.**

They did this by using Tea Party protests and right wing media to sway public anger away from Wall Street and onto the government. Via sophisticated psychological propaganda, working people were systematically conned into believing their interests coincide with those of Wall Street corporations.


*Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization to make it appear as though it originates from grassroots participants.

**Frank challenges (with data) the common Tea Party assertion that Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms failed to halt the 1929 depression (ie that it took the World War II mobilization to lift the US out of depression). Between 1929 and 1933 (when Roosevelt took office), the US GDP dropped by more than 50 percent. Following the enactment of the New Deal, it increased by 11% in 1934, 9% in 1935, 14% in 1936 and 13% in 1937. Overall GDP growth 1933-37 was the highest the US has seen outside of war time.

5 thoughts on “The Tea Party: Brought to You by Wall Street

  1. THE TEA PARTY IN THE USA IS A HOAX AND A JOKE. THEY HAVE NEVER SPOKEN THE CORE TRUTH OF ANYTHING, INCLUDING THE CONSPIRACIES OF DEPOPULATION AND THE UP COMING ANTI-CHRIST. ALL THEY HAVE EVER DONE IS TO COMPLAIN, WITHOUT ACCOMPLISHING ANYTHING. THE TEA PARTY IS JUST ANOTHER AVENUE TO COLLECT MONEY, HAVE PEOPLE PART WITH THEIR MONEY, SO THE PEOPLE WOULD HAVE LESS. PEOPLE THROWING THEIR HARD EARNED BUCKS, AT PEOPLE WHO CAN NOT DO ANYTHING AND WILL NOT DO ANYTHING, WHEN IT IS BETTER TO PUT TO SOME BILLS, FOOD, AND CLOTHING. WHEN THEY CAN START SPEAKING AND REVEALING THE TRUTH ABOUT THESE CONSPIRACIES IN THE WIDE OPEN MAINSTREAM MEDIA, AND “GET TO THE INSIDE OF THE BONES”, THEN IT WILL BE TIME FOR SUPPORT AND PERHAPS SOME “TRANSFER” OF PEOPLES HARD EARNED MONEY. SURE THERE WILL BE WAR WITH THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA, BUT THAT WHAT IT WOULD HAVE TO BE. THE TEA PARTY WAS ONLY CREATED TO MAKE MONEY, AND THEN AGAIN THE JOKE IS ON THOSE WHO UNFORTUNATELY HAVE GIVEN IT MONEY. LET US WHAT IS BEING DONE, AND WHAT TRUTH THEY FURNISH, BEFORE WE GET ON BOARD. ALL THESE POLITICAL PARTIES ARE NOTHING BUT HOAX AND JOKE, TO PART PEOPLE OF THEIR MONEY.

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    • Frank also writes about this in his book – how most Tea Party organizers are small business people who use their links with the Tea Party to make money – by selling buttons, literature, etc and giving conferences and talks.

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      • I AM GLAD I DID NOT BUY ANY. WHILE MONEY AND CASH ARE STILL AVAILABLE, WE SHOULD BE SPENDING OUR MONEY ON OURSELVES, OR ON SOME CHARITY WE KNOW IS WORTHWHILE AND STANDS BY THEIR MISSION, FOR THOSE OF US WHO CAN STILL AFFORD TO DONATE. THERE WERE SOME HEADLINES FLOATING ABOUT ON SOME MOBILE PHONES, I HAVE HEARD, WHERE OBAMA STATED THE END OF THE REPUBLIC AND IN WITH THE NEW WORLD ORDER, JUST TO PARA PHASE. TRUMP’S SON ERIC TRUMP HAS ATTENDED THE WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENCE DINNER, WITH OBAMA STILL IN THE OVAL OFFICE; THIS SHOULD CLUE FOLKS IN, THAT THERE DOES NOT EXIST A FURIOUS FIGHT IN POLITICS, AND THIS IS ALL A STAGE SHOW. THE PERFORMING ARTISTS ARE DOING A FINE JOB, AND PEOPLE ARE STILL UNDER HYPNOSIS BY THE SAME LINES. ALSO, TRUMP AND HILLARY SHARE A SAME ADDRESS IN DELAWARE FOR SOME REASON, BUT DO NEVER INTEND TO STATE THE REASON FOR THE SAME ADDRESS. I ASSUME, AND I COULD BE WRONG, BUT THEY HAVE A PLACE TO GATHER AND PLAN, WITHOUT GOING PUBLIC, OR MEETING IN A PUBLIC PLACE. SO WHAT IS THE TEA PARTY WORTH???

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  2. I just read an article about the Tea Party a few weeks ago, and this was the gist of the article. The Koch brothers were mentioned as being a part of this scam.

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