Friday, October 7, 2011

Obama and the Occupy Wall Street Movement

The most honest and genuine development I've seen with Occupy Wall Street is the protesters marching on the White House. The New York Times has this, "Protests Offer Obama Opportunity to Gain, and Room for Pitfalls" (via Memeorandum):

WASHINGTON — Anti-Wall Street protesters marched past the gates of the White House on Thursday, bringing their message of economic injustice to the capital and posing an opportunity, but also a threat, to President Obama, who presents himself as a fervent defender of the middle class.

Brandishing placards that said “No More Wall Street White House” and chanting “Shame! Shame!” the crowd took aim at the president, even if it saved most of its vitriol for the nearby headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — or as one banner labeled it, “Chamber of Corporate Horrors.”

To hear some Democratic analysts tell it, the mushrooming protests could be the start of a populist movement on the left that counterbalances the surge of the Tea Party on the right, and closes what some Democrats fear is an “enthusiasm gap” between their party and Republicans in the 2012 election.

But that assumes the president is able to win the support of these insurgents, rather than be shunned by them.

Mr. Obama, in a series of recent hard-edged speeches around the country, has channeled many of the grievances of the movement known as Occupy Wall Street: deepening economic inequity, a tax code that gives breaks to the wealthy and corporate interests and banks that profit from hidden consumer fees.

Yet the president also oversaw a bailout of those banks, appointed a Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, who is viewed by the protesters as a shill for Wall Street and pushed a reform of the financial industry that many in the movement condemn as shamefully inadequate in curbing its excesses.

“There’s a lot of discontent with Obama’s policies,” said Kevin Zeese, an organizer of the protest, which drew about 500 people. “Obama is out of touch. He’s busy going around the country raising $1 billion to run for re-election.”

At his news conference Thursday, Mr. Obama seemed to recognize the potential and pitfalls of the moment. He sympathized with the frustration of the protesters and criticized Republicans for trying to roll back regulations. But he also defended the bailout and the financial reforms known as Dodd-Frank.

“These days, a lot of folks who are doing the right thing aren’t rewarded, and a lot of folks who aren’t doing the right thing are rewarded,” he said. “And that’s going to express itself politically in 2012 and beyond until people feel like once again we’re getting back to some old-fashioned American values.”

Even before the protests welled up, Mr. Obama’s political advisers said he would focus heavily on the issue of fairness, tapping into a widespread sense among middle class voters that they lost the most in the recession.

Underscoring his more populist tone, Mr. Obama confirmed that he was open to paying for his $450 billion jobs bill by levying a tax surcharge on people with incomes of more than $1 million. The White House had earlier been cool to the proposal, made by Senate Democrats, in favor of taxing a broader group.
The comparison between Occupy Wall Street and the tea parties is bogus, of course. And it's frankly obscene that folks think Obama should benefit politically from these protests. The White House has been in bed with Wall Street. The dilemma for the Democrats is how they can channel the protests against the Republicans without getting caught up in a generalized anti-government tsunami in 2012. As was clear at the press conference yesterday, the president will basically lie through his teeth, blaming the economic crisis on his predecessor and waging a morally bankrupt class war on the high-income earners.


Harry Leem said...

I have no doubt our Teleprompter-in-Chief, or any of his buds, has read the "Demands" of the Occupiers.

ReasonableViews said...

The Tea Party is a legitimate comparison. But, there are two key things the Occupiers need to do to become a respected movement: have clarity of purpose, and express values shared by Americans. They may somehow accomplish both, but the latter requirement looks like it will prove more difficult. To me, the most likely outcome is being co-opted by other interests, e.g. unions.