Occupy Wall Street, now spreading into New Jersey and around the nation, started out as a primal scream against the policies of the past 20 years. Regular folks know the economy isn’t working for them the way it’s working for rich people. These people have a valid beef: The top 1 percent account for 24 percent of the nation’s income and 40 percent of its wealth. Now income inequality could hamper our recovery. Economist Andrew Berg indicates, “Countries where income was more equally distributed tended to have longer growth spells.” – Star Ledger editorial (10/09/11)
I wonder how many Democratic legislators walked across West State Street to talk with the Occupy Trenton participants. Our legislators have been trying to promote job bills, a higher tax rate for millionaires, and more equitable policies for the middle class and the poor – the very same issues that Occupy New Jersey espouses. These legislators should be ecstatic that there is now a movement that supports these concerns. Legislators by themselves can not effect change while the business community generously finances the opposition, pushes back on all initiatives, and prevents reforms. They need popular support, but they are ignoring a group willing to stand up and say that inequality lowers growth, that jobs are needed, and that a 2% or 3% increased tax on millionaires is a benefit for our state.
So what are Republicans saying? Matt Rooney, conservative Republican Save Jersey’s Founder & Blogger-in-Chief, without any indication that he has visited any Occupy venue, in one post refers to Occupy participants as the greasy, uninformed “occupy” foot soldiers. In another post he disparagingly says, Occupiers are aging hippies, college students, violent anarchists and union activists.
Occupy New Jersey can be a powerful voice, a counter to the Tea Party, but it requires support from many more volunteers and donors. It is not getting that support now. Occupy groups are struggling to form in Atlantic City, New Brunswick, Newark, Somers Point, and other places. We have already seen action in Jersey City and Trenton.
Occupy New Jersey could create a tipping point. Republicans are foolish to attack Occupy New Jersey. Democrats are foolish not to support it. In fact we should embrace the movement and get involved.