Five years ago today, clearly without meaning to, Rick Santelli of CNBC became a national hero when he focused on the folly of President Obama’s stimulus plan, the moral hazards in mortgage writedowns … and the unfairness of it all for people who, to use one of the left’s favorite phrases, “play by the rules.”
It’s not correct to say that Santelli launched the Tea Party movement. The first Tea Party event was in New Hampshire in December 2007. Other protests against the outrageous (and, we now know, failed) stimulus plan were already in the planning stages in many cities by early- to mid-February.
It is correct to say that Santelli popularized the “Tea Party” term nationally and helped to focus millions of outraged Americans on the serious dangers ahead far more quickly than if he hadn’t said what he said. In that sense, he helped to coalesce a nascent fractured movement into one to be reckoned with — and not a moment too soon.
You’ll note in the video that Santelli didn’t really go off until one of the studio hosts made a inane comment soaked in condescension about those who were on the sparsely populated trading floor (it was way before that day’s opening bell in Chicago), saying that “They’re putty in your hands.” No, it couldn’t be that those who had heard Santelli’s previous statement could think for themselves (/sarcasm).
So maybe we should thank Joe Kernen as much as Rick Santelli himself for what transpired (bolds are mine):
Becky Quick, in studio: …. Rick have you been listening (to the previous conversation)?
Rick Santelli, on trading floor: Listening to it? I’ve been just glued to it because Mr. Ross has nailed it. You know, the government is promoting bad behavior, because we certainly don’t want to put stimulus forth, and give people a whopping eight or ten dollars in their check, and think that they ought to save it.
And in terms of modifications, I’ll tell you what, I have an idea. You know the new administration’s big on computers and technology. How about this, (Mr.) President and new administration — Why don’t you put up a web site to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers’ mortgages, or would we like to, at least, buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give them to people who might have a chance to actually prosper down the road, and reward people that could carry the water, instead of drink(ing) the water.
Trader sitting near by: What a novel idea! What? Who thought of that!
(traders in the pit start clapping and cheering)
Joe Kernen, in studio: Rick, they’re like putty in your hands. Did you hear –
Santelli: No they’re not, Joe. They’re not like putty in our hands! This is America! (turns around to address pit traders) How many of you people want to pay for your neighbors’ mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills? Raise their hand. (traders boo; Santelli turns around to face CNBC camera) President Obama, are you listening?
Trader (sitting nearby, goes over to Santelli’s mike): How about we all stop paying our mortgage? It’s a moral hazard.
Kernen: It’s like mob rule here, I’m getting scared. I’m glad –
Santelli: Don’t get scared, Joe. They’re already scaring you. Y’know, Cuba used to have mansions and a relatively decent economy. They moved from the individual to the collective. Now they’re driving ’54 Chevys, maybe the last great car to come out of Detroit.
Kernen: They’re driving ‘em on water too, which is a little strange to watch, at times.
Santelli: There you go.
Kernen: Hey Rick, how about the notion that Wilbur pointed out, you can go down to 2% on the mortgage …..
Santelli: You can go down to minus two percent, they can’t afford the house!
Kernen: ….. and still have 40% not be able to do it, so why are we trying to keep them in the house?
Santelli: I know Mr. Summers is a great economist, but boy I’d love the answer to that one.
Quick: Wow. You get people fired up.
Santelli: We’re thinking of having a Chicago Tea Party in July. All you capitalists that want to show up to Lake Michigan, I’m going to start organizing.
Quick: What are you dumping in this time?
Santelli: We’re going to be dumping in some derivative securities. What do you think about that?
Wilbur Ross, in studio: Mayor Daley is marshalling the police right now.
Kernen: The rabble rousers.
Ross: …. the National Guard.
… Ross: You know Rick, one of our producers says if Roland Burris steps down, man, Senator Santelli, the junior senator from Illinois. It’s a possibility. I’m just sayin’ –
Santelli: Do you think I want to take a shower every hour? The last place I’m ever going to live or work is DC.
Kernen: Have you raised any money for Blago?
Santelli: No, but I think that Somebody’s going to have to start raising money for us.
… Santelli: Listen, all I know is that there’s only about 5% of the floor population here right now, and I talk loud enough they can all hear me. So if you want to ask them anything, let me know. These guys are pretty straightforward, and my guess is, a pretty good statistical cross section of America, the silent majority.
Quick: Not so silent majority today.
Kernen: Yeah, not so silent.
Quick: So Rick, are they opposed to the housing thing, to the stimulus package, to everything out there?
Santelli: You know, they’re pretty much of the notion that you can’t buy your way into prosperity, and if the multiplier that all of these Washington economists are selling us is over one, that we never have to worry about the economy again. The government should spend a trillion dollars an hour because we’ll get $1.5 trillion back.
Ross: Rick I congratulate you on your new incarnation as a revolutionary leader.
Santelli: Somebody needs one. I’ll tell you what, if you read our Founding Fathers, people like Benjamin Franklin and Jefferson, what we’re doing in this country now is making them roll over in their graves.