The Occupy Wall Street protests, like the Tea Party protests, do signal a broad based dissatisfaction with the state of the country. And this is understandable. The economy is in the dumps. Our young people emerge from college burdened with unrealistic levels of government subsidized (but nondischargable) debt. The future looks bleak. And a handful of companies, mostly on Wall Street, seem to operate by totally different rules, where they are shielded from failure. Some of these grievances are legitimate enough, and they are shared by the middle class and many even in the Tea Party movement. But the Occupy Crowd doesn’t really have a message.
Like the Tea Party, it appears these are veteran activists who have simply ginned up some likely short-lived attention and enthusiasm. They’ve probably been to a few moveon.org protests, just as many Tea Partiers have done some precinct walks for local Republicans and the like. But unlike the Tea Party, which has a narrow and coherent message that the government is too big and that the national debt has risen to a dangerous level, the Occupy Wall Street crowd does not really know what the problem is. They have a vague sense something is wrong on Wall Street–and I agree with them–but they cannot distinguish the local community banker or small town doctor from the billionaire gambler at a Wall Street hedge fund. Some hate capitalism as a whole, when, in fact, much of what happens on Wall Street is more like crony capitalism similar to the Mexican or Russian amalgamation of politics and business. In addition, the protesters have all these strange side causes like animal rights, feminism, the perennial obsession with racism, or 9 /11 Trutherism that dilute the message an reduce the protesters’ credibility. And some are simply envious a******s who would never amount to anything under any set of circumstances.
A possible leftish cause with broad-based support would be to have mass debt forgiveness. A jubilee year. Of course, this would probably cause unknown levels of turmoil and unforseeable problems if it came to pass. But at least it’s an understandable proposal, likely popular, and might even get the underwater middle class’s endorsement. And it’s not like things the way they are have been smooth sailing. We’ll see what happens. But the mass disaffection from all corners of society with government and business are reaching significant levels.