This new generation of Republicans, the self-styled Tea Partiers, want to repeal just about all of the 20th century. They don’t like Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, LBJ, or any of those Kennedy brothers. They say they want to repeal child labor laws, the 40 hour work week, food safety laws, environmental laws, the income tax, direct election of Senators, Social Security, Medicare, the minimum wage, banking regulation, Pell Grants, Head Start, civil rights, voting rights, and just about every other form of progress the 1900s brought us. You know, William Buckley used to say that “a conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling stop.” These guys are standing athwart history yelling “go back!” They will happily shut down government at the drop of a hat, for any reason at any time- even when they get what they asked for in terms of policy concessions. Backed by the 1%, the Wall Street elite and the captains of industry who destroyed the economy but are deeply hurt and offended when anyone tries to hold them accountable for it, these Republicans are hell-bent are creating an economy based on the ideas of Ayn Rand and Gordon Gekko, where greed is good, generosity and kindness are weaknesses, and we are taught that it is everyone for themselves and devil take the hindmost.
And speaking of the Wall Street big boys (not being sexist, virtually all of them are) who are not just the top 1% but part of the top 0.1 %, they set new records in 2011 for arrogance that even I didn’t think they could. I had assumed that after some of their more ridiculous moments of the last few years (like one financier comparing Obama to a Nazi because he wanted to take away one of their loopholes), that their very well paid PR guys would tell them “hey, the anger level at us is really rising, we should try to avoid public displays of unbearable hubris”. But the PR team’s nightmares continue multiplying because of quotes like these referring to protesters, one 0.1 percenter said "who gives a crap about some imbecile?” And here’s another 0.1 percenter: “instead of an attack on the 1 percent, let’s call it an attack on the very productive.”
But this was also the year when the movement of, by, and for the bottom 99% started to rise up. This 99er movement is forcing economic issues- and yes, issues of class and economic inequity- onto the American table to be debated and talked about in new ways. The push and shove of these two fundamental ideas- that society should be organized on behalf of the 99% not the 1% vs. the Social Darwinism of greed being good- will dominate our political debate not only in 2012 but for years to come.