By Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks | After years of basking in the glow of a flattering limelight, by the fall of 2011 the very rich were experiencing something new and altogether jarring: the glare of a harsh spotlight trained directly on them. The temptation to bark orders like: “Dim that light, or else!” was natural enough, but perhaps unwise. After all, those shining the spotlight were not their employees and were swarming in large numbers through the streets of lower Manhattan, behaving like the sort of unruly mob one finds in faraway places where the ways of the free world are insufficiently appreciated.
By Linda Quaig and Neil Brooks: Barely a month after Barack Obama had been sworn in as the forty-fourth US president, riding a wave of immense popular support with his “Yes, we can” rallying cry echoing around the country and the world, a voice seemed to appear from nowhere saying, “No, actually you can’t.” Ostensibly, it came first from Rick Santelli, a relatively obscure investment manager-turned-commentator on CNBC, who denounced Obama’s plans to help struggling American homeowners as “promoting bad behavior.” In a wide-ranging rant from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on February 19, 2009, Santelli said, “We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I’m gonna start organizing.” Within hours, a protest movement had swung into action on the Internet, talk radio, and cable TV, and rallies were scheduled across the country for the following week.
Putting the State of the Union in context: Eight books you should read.
In an excerpt adapted from their 2012 book, Billionaires’ Ball: Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality, Linda McQuaig and Neil Brooks explore the real origins of the Tea Party’s “grassroots” movement, and the secret world of the Koch brothers’ conservative money machine fueling America’s escalating inequality.