House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has predictably called the Occupy Wall Street movement a “mob.” Cantor, who has a comfortable relationship with the Wall Street status quo and who has supported bailouts for his friends in the banking industry, is perhaps disturbed by the surge in populism over the past two years, beginning with the Tea Parties and now taking aim at the excesses of Wall Street and the Federal Reserve, which have together done so much damage to ordinary Americans.
Cantor should perhaps read the lead editorial in today’s New York Times. If even the New York Times is starting to “get it,” it is perhaps past time for Cantor and others in Washington to begin figuring things out.
“As the Occupy Wall Street protests spread from Lower Manhattan to Washington and other cities, the chattering classes keep complaining that the marchers lack a clear message and specific policy prescriptions. The message — and the solutions — should be obvious to anyone who has been paying attention since the economy went into a recession that continues to sock the middle class while the rich have recovered and prospered. The problem is that no one in Washington has been listening. At this point, protest is the message: income inequality is grinding down that middle class, increasing the ranks of the poor, and threatening to create a permanent underclass of able, willing but jobless people. On one level, the protesters, most of them young, are giving voice to a generation of lost opportunity… The protests, though, are more than a youth uprising. The protesters’ own problems are only one illustration of the ways in which the economy is not working for most Americans. They are exactly right when they say that the financial sector, with regulators and elected officials in collusion, inflated and profited from a credit bubble that burst, costing millions of Americans their jobs, incomes, savings and home equity. As the bad times have endured, Americans have also lost their belief in redress and recovery. The initial outrage has been compounded by bailouts and by elected officials’ hunger for campaign cash from Wall Street, a toxic combination that has reaffirmed the economic and political power of banks and bankers, while ordinary Americans suffer. Extreme inequality is the hallmark of a dysfunctional economy, dominated by a financial sector that is driven as much by speculation, gouging and government backing as by productive investment.”
The problem with Cantor and many others in the “political elite” is that they are essentially shielded from real life through their high salaries and emoluments, their generous pensions, and their excellent health benefits which continue to be in effect even after they leave office. They need to walk a mile in everyone else’s shoes for a change, but that is not likely to happen.