On Thursday, June 3rd the Western New York Area Labor Federation and the Working Families Party came together to discuss and critique the Tea Party. A room of nearly 100 labor leaders and active union members heard from a number of speakers dealing with the history of what makes up the Tea Party and what the labor movement should be doing to provide an alternative to the Tea Party brand of populism.
Presenters included Alex Blair, history professor at Buffalo State College, Richard Lipsitz, of the Western Area Labor Federation, Frank Messiah, president of the Buffalo NAACP, Donna Chapman, Secretary of the Working Family Party, and Tom Michael of the Colgate University of Department of Economics.
The presentation began with an overview of the economic policies promoted by the Tea Party and the connections of the Tea Party to conservative activists like Dick Army and his Freedom Works foundation. Prof. Michael gave a brief description of neoliberal capitalism, or as he later called it, “the Market as the master”. It’s this ideology of total freedom for businesses to do as they like with zero government regulation or protection of the common good that is inherent to the arguments of the Tea Party. Michael argued that fixing the crisis is a much larger task than some simple reform legislation. He argued that the political-ideological framework needs to be changed. This includes a commitment to full employment, strong regulation of financial institutions, and bringing wages back in line with productivity. “We need to make banking boring again,” he argued.
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