About the Occupy Wall Street Thing

So, I’ve been thinking off and on about the Occupy Wall Street protests. Now, I’m pretty darn liberal on most things, so the fact that I’m only half paying attention is not a good sign.

But I will say this. Americans are fond of saying that there’s no class system here. And that’s complete bullshit.

America is different — not because there is no class — but because it happens to be quite possible to transcend class. It exists all right, but it doesn’t have to define you here. It’s a lot harder to rise than it is to fall, but both are possible. Whatever their downsides, capitalism and a decent public education system are what make this possible.

So how do we explain the current protest — as well as other protests we’ve seen off and on the past few years?

To my mind, we’re seeing at least a partial breakdown of the grand bargain of American politics of the last 40 years. That bargain has been between the wealthy, largely Republican, group and the working-class, mostly white, group. And the deal has been, you go with us on economics, we’ll go with you on social issues, and we’ll all go home happy. The unspoken side of this is: Siding with the rich folks economically nods and winks at the idea that you, too, can be rich one day, you know, you hold your tongue right and all.

And when I see what’s happening on Wall Street, I think that a lot of people don’t like the deal anymore. They don’t see the pathway to upward mobility. They’re working harder than ever and they have less to show for it. And they see some wealthy Wall Street types enjoying fat returns while the rest of the country pays for them.

I don’t think that’s an entirely accurate assessment of the current economic situation, but I can absolutely, 100% see how you’d view things that way.


  1. Rex Hammock
    October 5, 2011 #

    How to explain the current protests?

    I heard several of the protester being interviewed on NPR the other day, and they all said they were protesting something different. When I was in Israel in August, I happened to be there when they were having protests with 200,000 Israelis showing up (lots more than in NYC). The interviews with Israeli protesters sounded like they were mad at the costs of renting a good apartment and that child care costs had gone up too high. In other words, the protesters sounded like middle class individuals who felt deprived of their being shut off from the next rung up of middle classdom. The interviewees I’ve heard of Occupy Wall Street couldn’t put enough sentences together to make much sense

    Ironically, the Occupyists and the Tea Party people seem to sound similar to me. At least they agree that the problem is Wall Street — as in the metaphor for greed.

    The Occupyists seem like a bunch of idiots to me. (As do the Tea Partyists.)

    When I hear the rants of either of the groups, I am immediately forced to think of Howard Beale in the movie, Network. These people are not actually aware of what they are for or against, they just know they’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.

  2. lcreekmo
    October 6, 2011 #

    I think that’s a good assessment, too. Corporate greed has fueled some of this anger, but I think many of those angry are just mad they are not personally benefitting from the greed.


  3. Mike Byrd
    October 6, 2011 #

    Rex–you’ve pretty much got the tens of thousands of dissenters showing up in NYC all figured out. Listen to a few people on NPR, then pass an event off as illegitimate. You’re my hero.

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