How OWS is winning

In one of my more prescient bits of political analysis recently, I weighed in on an on-line discussion for my public policy class about Occupy Wall Street.  The gist of the discussion was that the movement was a loser because they could not agree on concrete proposals, much less push them through to actual policy.  I argued that the movement would have it’s greatest chance for success by simply changing the political narrative in this country.  Dare I say, “Mission Accomplished.”  When Paul Ryan feels the need to give speeches defending the Republicans on the issue (naturally, the only way to do so is with lies and half-truths), OWS has already won.  Here’s EJ Dionne on the matter:

But what’s most instructive is that Ryan would not have given this speech if the Republican Party were not so worried that it is losing control of the political narrative. In particular, growing inequalities of wealth and income — which should have been a central issue in American politics for at least a decade — are now finally at the heart of our discourse. We are, at last, discussing the social and economic costs of concentrating ever more resources in the hands of the top sliver of our society.

Ryan offered the classic defense of inequality, arguing that what really matters is upward mobility, and that the United States has more of it than those horrible welfare states in Europe. “Class is not a fixed designation in this country,” he declared. “We are an upwardly mobile society with a lot of movement between income groups.”

The only problem is that upward mobility has declined as inequality has grown, and social mobility is now higher in Europe than it is in the United States. That’s shameful. And don’t believe me on this: Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum brought this up at a recent debate, backed by a study from the Economic Mobility Project.

It’s hard to justify more tax cuts for the wealthy in a country that is becoming more rigidly stratified by class. And if it is class warfare simply to acknowledge the facts, does this make Santorum a class warrior?

Yep.  Santorum is basically an idiot, but you know what they say about broken clocks.  Nonetheless, good for him.   Regardless of anything else, shifting our larger political discussion from short-term deficits (which really aren’t a big deal– I did say short term) to structural and growing inequality (which is a big deal) is a huge victory for the OWS movement– whether that’s what they intended or not.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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