What is the meaning of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement? For about a month now, protesters have camped out in a park in New York’s financial district, part of an “Occupy Wall Street” movement that has since spread to hundreds of other cities across the nation, including Portland, Maine.

They have a number of grievances, including high student loan debt, few job opportunities, and growing income inequality between the rich and the poor. They’re promising to continue the protests through the winter.

Is the movement a liberal version of the tea party?

Or are protesters an anti-capitalist rabble for the digital age? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, discuss the issue:


The bill is coming due. That is what Occupy Wall Street is about.

For 30 years, the country has gotten richer. The richest 1 percent of Americans have gotten wealthier. But most of the rest of us have seen our incomes stagnate — a fact that was papered over for years with growing productivity, a housing bubble, and rising debt.

The economic collapse laid these facts bare: Median household incomes have dropped, and the number of Americans in poverty is the highest measured in 52 years of Census Bureau reports.

Government’s response? Tax cuts for the rich. Taxpayer-funded bailouts for banks-which turned around and gave their already-rich employees even more money. Court rulings that allow unlimited cash donations to political candidates. Protesters have looked at the state of affairs and concluded, not unreasonably, that the system serves mainly a wealthy few.

Last weekend, I visited the Occupy Philly protest, located on the front plaza of City Hall. There was a Marxist and a couple of socialists, along with a couple of your standard drum-playing hippies. Contrary to stereotype, I mostly found well-scrubbed, well-educated twentysomethings, born and bred to the middle class, young people who should be out conquering the world — and have found, instead, that precious few opportunities exist.

The gathering was surprisingly unradical. The angriest-sounding speaker inveighed heavily against corporate CEOs and their multimillion-dollar compensation packages — but added he didn’t want to take those away: He just wants to ensure that everybody else can get by, too. Not exactly revolutionary.

Right now, regular folks — young, smart, educated young people — are frustrated because they don’t see a way to claim their piece of the American dream. That’s not a fringe concern.

But it should make the Top 1 percent very nervous.


If the Occupy Wall Street protests were merely a gathering of liberals angry at the pathetic state of the economy and the incestuous relationship between Big Government and Big Business, most Americans likely would be on their side.

But something else is happening here.

We don’t have much real data about who these protesters are or what exactly they believe. But we have a few hints. The protesters’ online manifestos read like a Marxist child’s letter to Santa Claus, demanding everything from college loan debt forgiveness to a living wage “regardless of employment.” New York Magazine took a snapshot poll of 100 protesters camping at Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. About 34 percent of the “young, smart, educated young people” surveyed are “convinced the U.S. government is no better than, say, al-Qaida.”

So it’s fair to say a sizable minority of the people camped out in New York and dozens of other cities around the country are on the fringe of mainstream American politics.

And yet Occupy Wall Street has touched a nerve for the right reasons.

“If you’re a bank or an insurance firm, and you create a product that your investors and your regulators can’t understand in a crisis, you aren’t punished. Instead, you get rewarded with bailout money,” my City Journal colleague Nicole Gelinas observed recently. “It’s hard to argue with the Zuccotti protesters’ manifesto on this point: ‘They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity.'”

The difference between the tea party marches of 2009 and the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations of 2011 is the difference between “No more bailouts!” and “Where’s my bailout?” For the tea party, Big Government — too many regulations, too much federal meddling in Americans’ lives — is the problem. For Occupy Wall Street, bigger government — more taxes, more regulation, more subsidies — is the solution. The choice is yours.

Ben Boychuk and Joel Mathis are moderators of the website, RedBlueAmerica.com. Boychuk (bboychuk @manhattan-institute.org) is associate editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal and represents the Red (conservative) side. Joel Mathis ([email protected]) is a writer and blogger in Philadelphia and represents the Blue (liberal) point of view. This column is distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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