Why We Need Occupy Wall Street

Today—the same day that New York’s Mayor Bloomberg had his cops clear Zuccotti Park—Richard Fisher, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, called for breaking up America’s biggest banks, calling them “too dangerous to permit.” Also today, Warren Buffett, in an interview posted on the Business Wire of Berkshire Hathaway, his company, continued his criticism of American plutocracy. “Through the tax code, there has been class warfare waged, and my class has won,” Buffett said. “It’s been a rout. You have seen a period where American workers generally have gone no place, and where the really super rich as a group increased their incomes five for one in this rarified atmosphere.”

All of which suggests that Occupy Wall Street has already been a stunning success in changing the nation’s public discourse. Not that Fisher and Buffett hadn’t criticized our economic policies well before OWS set up shop in Zuccotti Park, but they are now not just rich and powerful voices crying out in the wilderness. As the following post from Politico’s Ben Smith illustrates, OWS really has altered what the media talk about—the chart measures a Nexis search of print stories, Web stories, and broadcast transcripts that used the term “income inequality,” measured by week:


It runs from 91 instances in the week before the occupation started to almost 500 instances in the last week of October.

Not that the rising concern over inequality has permeated the Beltway. Democrats on the budget Super Committee, in an effort to meet the Republicans halfway (which is really three-quarters of the way, but that’s another story) have agreed not to raise taxes for the wealthiest Americans above their current 35 percent level. (Raising the capital gains tax, as best we know, never even came up.) Equally awful, Democrats on the supercom may settle for a deal that makes cuts now but defers tax increases to future actions of congressional committees. That’s some deal, guys. The Republicans sold you a bridge to nowhere, huh?

In other words, we need Occupy Wall Street to keep on keeping on and to inspire us to lean on our elected representatives to stop cosseting the rich and start rebuilding the nation.