by Arlen Grossman
You may question the power of the Occupy movement, but think back less than a year ago. The Tea Party was setting the agenda: the federal deficit and national debt were preeminent issues, President Obama was anxious to trim Social Security, Medicare and other essential social services in order to get any kind of deal with the newly powerful and recalcitrant GOP leadership. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner had this president by the short hairs, and Barack Obama seemed eager to cut any deal he could. Millionaires and billionaires didn’t need to worry about losing their tax breaks.
Fast forward to September of last year. Occupy Wall Street goes to the heart of the financial industry, and within weeks the focus of political discussion had changed to the corruption without accountability of Big Banks, and the wide gap in wealth between the One Percent and the 99%. Issues of class and economic fairness that had been swept under the rug for years suddenly became issues for discussion. Middle class Americans began to understand that corporations and the wealthy were paying a lower tax rate than they were.
Suddenly we have a bolder President Obama, less fearful of and more assertive in taking on the GOP in Congress. He has taken to criticizing Republicans specifically, rather than the generic “Congress.” He sounds like he really means it when he promises to veto any extension of tax cuts for the wealthy.
And finally, after three years, Washington is going after the crimes committed by Wall Street, and there is realistic hope that at least some banksters will go to jail. Despite the myriad of unsolved problems in this country, the right-wing momentum has stalled, and labor is taking to the streets in huge numbers to protest the repressive anti-union laws passed by overreaching Republican governors and legislatures.
I can’t help but think that the Occupy movement has played a major role in reversing the focus of politics from last fall until now. If Occupy disappeared right now, they could get credit for accomplishing quite a bit in a short time.
Occupy is relatively dormant at this moment, but hasn’t disappeared. As the weather warms, as economic conditions negatively affect more Americans, as America’s One Percent battles to preserve their influence and power, Occupy may yet spark a resurgence of populist hope and power, on an even larger scale than we saw in 2011.
This nation desperately needs a re-energized, active and strong Occupy movement, and the sooner we get it, the sooner we get America back.