Home National Politics Annabel Park and Eric Byler: We’re at “The Tipping Point.” Are...

Annabel Park and Eric Byler: We’re at “The Tipping Point.” Are We Really?


Over at the Coffee Party blog, my friends Annabel Park and Eric Byler argue – strongly and articulately, as always – that, “Years from now, we will think of February 2011 as the tipping point in America’s great awakening.” According to Park and Byler, “this be will remembered as the time when the American people decided to come together, confront the plutocracy that plagues our republic, and do something to change the economic inequality/instability that has grown from it.”

Park and Byler then list “Ten Wake Up Calls” – Egypt, Wisconsin, growing income inequality, the “Great American Rip-off,” the BP disaster, the “House of Representatives run amok,” the “Stiglitz Defict-reduction plan,” etc. –  they “predict will help define February 2011 in America.”

Are these really “tipping points” for America? As much as I wish they were, I don’t believe they are. In fact, everything I’m seeing indicates the opposite – that we’re treading water at best, backsliding at worst, in the quest to make America a better, more truly prosperous, better educated, healthier, fairer, more just and peaceful, greener/cleaner America. To kick off the conversation, here are a few thoughts from a smart, progressive, politically astute friend of mine.

*”I also think we’re at a tipping point, but I’m not as optimistic as the Coffee Party of where it’s going to take us…  Everything feels too 1910s, 1920s, 1930s to me.  Replace Britain with the US, Germany with China/Russia…  Well, you catch my drift.”

*”… 1848. That didn’t turn out so well in terms of democracy.”

*”One of my concerns right now is oil prices. If Saudi Arabia & Libya fall, and you get a sustained period of lack of access to oil in those places, that could dramatically increase oil prices and inflation, killing Obama’s re-election chances and leading to a rising of the radical right in future elections plus added turmoil in unemployment, economic discontent in general.”

I agree with much of that analysis. I’d also add a few more concerns: 1) the media is almost completely dumbed down and corporatized, providing almost no decent coverage of anything (e.g., see anything on today’s protests around the country in support of Wisconsin unions?); 2) there is simply no serious progressive movement in this country, just one extreme-right-wing party and one center/center-right party (and one that adopts much of the extreme-right-wing party’s framing); and 3) our political system is almost completely incapable of doing what needs to be done to get us out of the mess(es) that we’re in, whether we’re talking about long-term structural deficits, environmental/energy challenges, whatever.  

Finally, with specific regard to Park’s and Byler’s wake-up calls, I don’t see how Egypt – even if it succeeds in achieving Democracy, not just another military regime or, even worse, an Islamist-dominated government – is meaningful for the United States. What’s the relevance? As for growing income inequality, that just keeps getting worse and worse, no end in sight as the tax code becomes increasingly regressive and as other forces, such as globalization, cause a “race to the bottom” for the working and middle classes. With regard to the BP oil disaster and other environmental catastrophes, what has our political system done to address those? I’m not seeing it. Finally, with regard to the Wisconsin situation, the bottom line is that even if progressive forces battle to a semi-acceptable compromise there, the fact is that organized labor in this country has been declining for decades, again with no end in sight. Heck, here in Virginia we’ve got top Democratic leaders – Kaine, Warner, Deeds, Armstrong, you name it  – who proudly defend “right-to-work” (aka, “right-to-be-poor” union busting). How does any of that add up to a “tipping point?” Got me.

  • Many millions more Americans will have to feel serious financial discomfort before there is any kind of “tipping point”.

    I talked with both my son and daughter today, both in their early 40’s, both college educated, both with relatively secure incomes–Wisconsin means nothing to them.  They would check one or both of the last two choices on your “What do you think about Wisconsin” poll. (See left Margin)

  • Catzmaw

    I’d be more sanguine about the prospect of real reform, but until they get their heads out of their iPads and the latest uploads from TMZ and the Jersey Shore we’re not going to see a sea change in American attitudes about where the problems REALLY lie and who’s responsible.

    I read something yesterday where Jim Webb expressed his frustration that he couldn’t even get Democrats to join his attempt to tax the AIG bonuses after the big bailout because everyone was afraid of losing corporate money for the next round of elections.  Until our leaders stop being such wimps and stop worrying about offending their wallet-carriers, we’re not going to see much change.

    My only hope was the ThinkProgress post today which listed all the US corporations which don’t pay a dime in income tax due to the current structure of the tax code.  Obama listed restructuring of the Code as an objective during his SOTU.  In fact, I believe that once he wins reelection (which he will) all gloves will be off and he will push very aggressively for a major rewrite.  If we can make people understand that this isn’t about the unions getting high on the hog while the rest of the public must scramble for scraps then there might be hope of real change.  But other than that, there’s not enough out there going on right now for me to agree with the Coffee Party leaders; however, that could change.  Look at this and feel the rage.


  • pontoon

    on the middle class as they are currently in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio in conjunction with the spending cuts they want to make in State Houses and Congress, this will be the time remembered as the middle class awakening. We have to point out loudly and repeatedly that the middle class is their target.  We cannot allow  Sarah, Rush, Newt, and John Boehner to continue to frame every debate…i.e., Obamacare, Death Panels, the Job Creators et cetera.  

    The mobilization of the working class is about more than political parties.  After all, there are those who are not Democrats protesting in Wisconsin.  There are solidarity protests all across the country.  The crank call, then proved without a doubt, that the radical right was attacking our way of life, not the deficit.

    We must counter the misinformation twice as many times as any right-winger says the deficit problem is because of union workers.  We have to shout back repeatedly that the Wall Street bankers are what decimated our economy, the pension plans and 401k’s of working Americans.  Two wars mounted huge costs for which no financial sacrifice was requested of any American.  Instead President Bush gave tax breaks to the wealthy saying our surplus was too high.

    We need to take the lead in framing the issues and the solutions. We need to provide and support a plan that spreads the burden across all income levels…with everyone giving their fare share, including the corporations like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and General Electric.   If we can do that, the working majority of this country will stand with us.  

  • normanva

    I certainly don’t see any tipping point here unless you mean we are tipping into a downward spiral.  Too many folks that I know are living in perpetual fear and anger believing all the talking points from limbaugh, palin, fake news, etc. It’s like viewing some insane alternate reality where down is up and up is down.  

  • DrGood

    How many tipping points will we get?  Even Workers Surprised by Success of Factory Sit-In:  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12