Matt Mackowiak

“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” That famous line, delivered by Peter Finch in the 1976 film “Network,” gave voice to millions of Americans who were frustrated with life in America. Economic anxiety existed then and does again now.

More than 14 million Americans are out of work, many for longer than six months, causing Congress to extend unemployment benefits to nearly two years. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of June 2011, 45.2 million Americans were receiving food stamps, a near record. The Census Bureau reports that 46.2 million Americans (15.1 percent) were living in poverty in 2010, a 17-year high. An independent national poll conducted by Quinnipiac University found that 77 percent of Americans believe we are currently in a recession, which, if true, would qualify as a double-dip recession.

So whom do we blame?

We are seeing a growing movement in the Occupy Wall Street protests. These Americans are mad as hell, and they want to blame corporate America, the wealthy and Wall Street for their problems.

Such class warfare has been cynically utilized by the Obama White House, whose rhetoric originally gave birth to the Occupy movement, which President Obama unbelievably compared to the civil rights struggle of the 1960s.

The Obama campaign clearly sees political benefit in supporting theOccupy movement, and the president has voiced public support. But Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen recently argued in the Wall Street Journal, “President Obama and the Democratic leadership are making a critical error in embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement - and it may cost them the 2012 election.”

Indeed, two Americas do exist: the makers and the takers.

No one should prejudge the patriotism of any American, but your station in life informs your own political views.

Consider today’s economic reality. Last year, 47 percent of Americans paid no federal income tax. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that nearly half (48.5 percent) of all Americans received “some type of government benefit in the first quarter of 2010,” according to census data, making American families “more dependent on government programs than ever.”

Those Americans - call them “takers,” a crude term but one that accurately describes them as receiving more from government than they contribute - do not have a direct personal interest in fiscal responsibility, limited government or reduced spending. In fact, their livelihoods depend on the “gravy train” continuing uninterrupted.

For the Americans whose income levels require them to pay income taxes - call them the “makers” - they have a discrete and clear interest in taxes remaining low and in government being made leaner and more efficient. This dynamic has been described in Patrick J. Buchanan’s new best-selling book, “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”

Today, the top 1 percent of all income earners account for 40 percent of the federal taxes. If you confiscated every penny earned by the top 1 percent, you would gain about $1 trillion, wiping out these productive Americans and still not balancing the budget.

Mr. Obama has proposed raising taxes on the wealthy as a “jobs program,” but Congress has summarily rejected it.

Class warfare may make for useful political rhetoric, but one inconvenient fact persists: As Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity has said, “I never got a job from a poor person.”

Over the past month, some of the most desperate Americans have been callously used as props in the Occupy movement, with their deepest fears used for the political benefit of the left. Many have received money for protesting. Many support radical left-wing policies.

What do they want? No one knows.

Mr. Schoen’s polling firm recently surveyed nearly 200 Occupy protesters in New York City and found that only 15 percent were unemployed. He argues that what motivates this group is a commitment to an extreme agenda and an opposition to the capitalist system.

The Tea Party, which was launched organically in April 2009 in response to the Wall Street bailout, had a clear policy agenda: End the bailouts, balance the budget, reduce taxes and adhere to the Constitution.

The Occupy movement has no official list of demands and no apparent interest in achieving a legislative objective. They are just mad as hell, and they don’t want to take it anymore.

However, they are takers.

Until America becomes a place where every citizen is personally invested in not just the benefits, but also the costs, of government, we will remain a divided nation of makers, takers and, for now, occupiers.


Matt Mackowiak

Matt Mackowiak is a Washington, DC and Austin, TX based political and communications consultant and the founder and President of Potomac Strategy Group, LLC, providing political consulting, media relations and crisis communications assistance to campaigns, companies, groups and individuals. Since he arrived in Washington, DC, he has served in senior roles for two U.S. Senators, a Governor, in the executive branch, in winning political campaigns, and in the private sector. Over his career Matt has developed deep relationships with national, state and local media and political figures.

Most recently Matt worked with PSG client Gov. Sean Parnell (R-AK) as a senior communications adviser, providing counsel on strategy, speechwriting and media relations during the 2011 legislative session in Juneau.

In 2010 Matt served as Campaign Manager for Bill Flores, the Republican nominee in Texas’ 17th Congressional District. After winning a 5-way primary, Flores defeated 10-term incumbent Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) by 25% in November, the largest margin of victory for a GOP challenger in 2010.

In addition to offering counsel to individuals and corporations, Matt provides political analysis for the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, BBC News, and radio stations throughout the country. Matt’s on-therecord political analysis has appeared in Politico, the Washington Times, the Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg News, The Hill, Congressional Quarterly, the Washington Examiner, the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, and on ABCNews.com. He is a syndicated columnist and has had opinion columns published in the New York Post, New York Daily News, FoxNews.com, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer, Politico, Roll Call, Austin American-Statesman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Des Moines Register, National Review online, Congressional Quarterly and on the popular blog sites The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post. Matt has lectured and given speeches at the University of Illinois, the University of Texas, Texas Christian University, Georgetown University, Catholic University, the University of Denver, American University and the University of North Texas.

From 2005-2009 Matt served as Press Secretary to U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (RTX), the fourth ranking member of the Republican Leadership, and three-term former U.S. Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT). Earlier in his career he was a political appointee at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson and Assistant Secretary Stewart Verdery, managed the second largest county in Iowa on the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, counseled corporate clients at international PR firm Burson-Marsteller, and performed White House Presidential and Vice Presidential advance nationwide.

Matt is a Director of the Center for Public Policy and Political Studies at Austin Community College, and is a sustaining member of MaverickPAC. He serves as a member of the Board of Advisors for the non-profit Luke’s Wings and enjoys helping Becky’s Fund and USA CARES.

A native of Austin, Texas, Matt graduated with a B.S. in Communications Studies (Political Communication track) from the University of Texas in 2003. Aside from his professional work, he owns and manages the popular blog site www.potomacflacks.com, which the Washingtonian has called “one of the best political blogs.” In his free time, Matt enjoys sports, live music, reading biographies, and is an avid supporter of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the University of Texas.