The elites vs.
I want to tell you a story. A story about the little guy.
Someone who didn’t go to the best school, sit in the corner office, drive the fast car, own the house on the beach, or fly in the luxury jet; someone who doesn’t walk the halls of power, or move the pieces in the "Game of Life."
This someone is afraid. Afraid of losing, and tired of being told what to do, by those who don’t care, and can’t see them through their tinted glasses of contempt.
It is a story about the people of America, written by one of the best researchers America has.
“There is a major estrangement between the political class and mainstream America,” writes Scott Rasmussen in his new book Mad as Hell, How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking our Two Party System.
The Tea Party Movement, he says, has nothing to do with partisan politics, racism or nostalgia. It is a socially, ethnically and politically diverse group. It is remarkably broad-based and non-ideological and includes those who don’t have to be a member to understand its motives or agree with its goals.
The Movement has “everything to do with the everyday reality that mainstream America is experiencing, and to which the elite are essentially blind.”
That is a remarkable statement coming from one of America’s most respected political observers.
In a perverse way, he says, “the politically connected elite and have become even wealthier” from the systematic destruction of jobs, savings and home values, due to globalization, the housing collapse and the financial meltdown. They can’t see why most American’s are upset. They aren’t living it.
This goes for especially centrist liberal and conservative elites.
Rasmussen defines the "political elite" as those few “incredibly influential individuals” who “by dint of their education, power, and insularity have become fabulously wealthy,” and powerful.
“The political elite is shockingly out of touch with mainstream America,” he adds. They are insulated from the economic devastation most people are experiencing, and witnessing in their own lives. While most people’s lives, and outlooks, have worsened, the elites’ has improved.
Why are the elite essentially blind?
His answer: The media. Responsible for reporting this, the media mostly live and “walk in the same circles,” according to Rasmussen, or aspire to. They look at America, and the world, in the same way. Their lives and outlook are similar.
“The close ties among the political elite in business, government and the media is a defining aspect of this incredibly powerful minority. And it allows them to collude in ways that infuriate the public,” says Rasmussen.
We don’t have to look outside Maine to see this. There are Two Maines.
The Maine Elite: The ones that have mansions and yachts between Cape Elizabeth and Bar Harbor. The ones that stalk, or occupy, the halls of Augusta, the Ivy League Colleges and the universities of Maine. That own the largest newspaper and the local TV stations. And, The Ones, that fly to and from Maine in luxury jets to Caribbean islands.
The-Other-Maine lives just about everywhere else: Mainstream Maine.
This Maine works two jobs to make ends meet. Sleeps little. Eats less. Worries.
Go. Walk the streets of Lewiston or Rumford. Drive the back roads between Parsonsfield and Princeton, Machias and Madawaska, and you will see a different Maine.
Run down farms, homes and trailers. Old shoes. Old cloths. Old trucks.
Talk to the people. Watch their eyes. Note their gestures.
These Mainers are angry, afraid and frustrated: Listen, they will tell you their stories.
They are the economic disaster that has become Maine.
The 8.6 percent unemployment rate does not tell the story. The number of people on welfare: "officially" 35,000, one in twenty families. Unemployed: over 55,000, one in eight private sector workers. Families on food stamps: 200,000, one in three families. Go to any food pantry. Watch the people who pass through its doors.
They’re mad. They have right to be.
They see The Maine Elite. Those who work for government have higher salaries and pensions. Those who collude with government get money, or get economic boons from lobbying, or being connected with politicians. Recent examples: The Wind Power Elite and Growsmart Maine.
Why is the "Populist Economist" writing about this? First, I care. Second, and unfortunately, politics has rooted itself inextricably in economics, even to the most basic, instinctive level. It is an invasive plant.
Mainers see "The Maine Elite" and "Mainstream Maine" personified in the candidates running for governor. Cutler: The Wealthy Political Elite. Mitchell: The Career Elite Politician. Lepage: The Passionate Self-made Outsider.
This columnist believes that though The Movement may not be as visible as in other areas of the country, it would be imprudent to discount Scott Rasmussen’s research as biased or unfounded.
This November, I’m rootin’ for the little guy.
J. Dwight is a SEC registered investment adviser and an advisory board member of the Maine Heritage Policy Center. He lives in Wilton. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.