A MONEY-MAKING OPPORTUNITY…. RNC Chairman Michael Steele is using his role in the Republican Party to generate quite a bit of money for himself, most notably through his outside paid speeches and secretly-written book. Former half-term Gov. Sarah Palin is using her role in the Republican Party to generate quite a bit of money for herself, most notably through her new Fox News gig, her own paid speeches, and her striking payday for a photo shoot.

And, of course, Tea Party organizers are generating quite a bit of money for themselves, putting together a National Tea Party Convention with rather exorbitant ticket prices.

Taken together, the NYT‘s Frank Rich raises a good point — we’re witnessing “the rise of buckrakers who are exploiting the party’s anarchic confusion and divisions to cash in.”

Tea partiers hate the G.O.P. establishment and its Wall Street allies, starting with the Bushies who created TARP, almost as much as they do Obama and his Wall Street pals. When Steele and Palin pay lip service to the movement, they are happy to glom on to its anti-tax, anti-Obama, anti-government, anti-big-bank vitriol. But they don’t call for any actual action against the bailed-out perpetrators of the financial crisis. They’d never ask for investments to put ordinary Americans back to work. They have no policies to forestall foreclosures or protect health insurance for the tea partiers who’ve been shafted by hard times. Their only economic principle beside tax cuts is vilification of the stimulus that did save countless jobs for firefighters, police officers and teachers at the state and local level.

The Democrats’ efforts to counter the deprivation and bitterness spawned by the Great Recession are indeed timid and imperfect. The right has a point when it says that the Senate health care votes of Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana were bought with pork. But at least their constituents can share the pigout. Hustlers like Steele and Palin take the money and run. All their followers get in exchange is a lousy tea party T-shirt. Or a ghost-written self-promotional book.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.