The Corner

Occupy Detroit: The Obama Paradox

Detroit, Grand Circus Park — Despite their grassroots pretensions, the Occupy Detroit protesters are very much a Democratic-party movement. Indeed, it is profoundly pro-Obama movement. Obama’s roots are as a community organizer, and the community-organized radicals of Occupy Detroit are his children. In Grand Circus Park on Friday, Rev. Jeremiah Wright would not have been out of place “God-damning America.”

So the most jarring irony of Friday’s anti-corporate rally was that Obama himself was just 40 miles away at a General Motors plant — the mother of all corporations — in Lake Orion, north of Detroit.

In fact, Obama was celebrating his bailout of GM and Chrysler — bailouts that the Occupy movement claims to loathe. But as the Obama-Occupy alliance proves, it is a false loathing. The Occupiers do not so much oppose bailouts as crave them for themselves.

All the demonstrators I spoke with were aware of Obama’s dance with the devil in Lake Orion — and they applauded him for it. After all, both events were heavily populated by UAW members. While Obama was flanked by UAW members at his 2:00 p.m. GM rally, the 6:00 p.m. Occupy Detroit crowd was flush with UAW members from organizations like Detroit Local 160 (the UAW is more than autos — it is also one of the state’s largest public-employee unions).

Instead of resenting Obama’s $50 billion for GM, they want federal bailouts for their own difficulties: To pay off home mortgages, student loans, health-care bills.

“Obama inherited a disaster, but he is doing what he can. GM does provide jobs,” said activist Keith Gunter of Peace Action of Michigan. “It’s a good thing Obama agreed to save them.”

A pro-Obama group of Albion College students was slightly more cynical — “Who else is there to vote for?” one lamented — and hoped that the president would do more to bail out their student-loan debt.

In Lake Orion, Obama noted that — thanks to the government takeover of GM — 1,750 union jobs had been rescued. “A few years ago this plant was due to close,” he thundered. “But to remake this economy, (we have to) build. That’s why one of the first decisions I made was to save the auto industry.”

The 99 Percenters say they envy the 1 Percent that “have all the wealth.” In truth, they envy the 1 Percent of UAW workers that were bailed out. In bailout nation, they want 100 Percent federal welfare.

Henry Payne — Henry Payne is the auto critic for the Detroit News.

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