As we said, the dozen-plus protesters in Bowling Green today — while less numerous than the previous New York tea-party’s speakers, who called Obama a socialist and compared him to Hitler — were a little more down-to-earth. There was a guy in a grey suit and shades who talked about commodity money, fiat money, and surrogate money like a true gold bug and didn’t want to go on record. But others we spoke to sounded like old-fashioned Democrats, or at least moderate Republicans.
“People have the right to work,” said Enrico DiFinizio, a sheet-metal worker and proud member of Local 28 on Staten Island, who heard about the demo on the internet. He said he didn’t vote for Obama “for one reason and one reason only, because he wasn’t qualified.” (“He’s not eligible, either,” another protester added)
But his biggest beef with Obama was that new jobs weren’t materializing fast enough. “Why are we outta work, why?” he asked. “This guy was supposed to walk on water.”
“What is [Obama] doing?” DiFinizio added. “Where are all the promises he promised? Such as no pork in the bill?… his cabinet — where’s the new blood he was supposed to bring? Most of the guys he’s got working for him now are crooks. They didn’t pay their taxes… Where’s all the jobs? Closing Guantanamo Bay is a big priority, but taking care of his own people wasn’t?”
DiFinizio proposed that Obama “start creating jobs here.” How? “There’s plenty of people with ideas with solar panels. Encourage people who’re willing to make energy. They’re looking for government money to open these plants.”
Wait — you want the government to make jobs? “Where else is he puttin’ the money in? Take all that earmarks and give ’em to the people to open the factories to make power sources, solar panels. The automakers that’s being laid off now? Take the autoworkers, they work at an assembly line, they can form an assembly line to make solar panels, let the government offer people an incentive to change their resources. You know what I’m saying?”
DiFinizio mentioned, in tones of disgust, that a windmill farm someone wanted to build on Staten Island was being held up by environmentalists who wanted to block because it would be dangerous to bats. “Animal activists,” he groused. “They’re worried that the turbines they turn, they’re gonna kill the bats, they care about bats — I mean, I don’t get it.”
A soft-spoken, bespectacled young fellow named Matt Pekar carried a “Madoff Didn’t Work Alone” sign and told us he works at a custodian bank as a programmer, and took a vacation day to join the demo. He passed me a flyer outlining a “Genesis Plan” to reform the banking industry. But unlike the laissez-faire, hands-off, free-market-roolz Tea Partiers we were used to, Peker was alright with regulation. In fact he insisted on it.
“I want good regulation,” he said, “the regulation we had before, where we had leverage limits — which were removed in 2004 by Hank Paulson, which allowed banks to go over the 12-to-1 leverage ratio. Every company that’s blown up so far has been more than 24-to-1 leveraged, and it’s ridiculous… I favor the restraint that we had that worked for a very long time, where we had separation of commercial and investment banks that was done back in the 1930s and was only recently removed.”
Pekar’s beef with the stimulus plan was that “we’re spending our way out of debt. The first thing we should be is adding accountability. The people who lied, with the fraudulent balance sheets, we need to get it straightened out… in the swaps market, we don’t know who owns what or whether they can pay it. And we have a trillions-of-dollar insurance industry that’s unregulated right now.”
Unlike the previous Tea Partiers who called for Obama’s head, Pekar stressed that “we don’t want to make this political. We want simple things that both parties have agreed upon in the past.”