Police can break up the various “Occupy” encampments across the country but can they halt the movement? Probably not. As disorganized, disparate and disheveled as some would like to believe Occupy Wall Street and its regional allies are, the barn door is open and the horse is romping freely in the field.
Or in this case, the park.
We are seeing the early stages of a new progressive movement, according to Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University. The Occupy gatherings “are most likely the start of a new era in America,” he wrote Sunday in a New York Times article.
“Historians have noted that American politics moves in long swings,” he continued. “We are at the end of the 30-year Reagan era, a period that has culminated in soaring income for the top 1 percent and crushing unemployment or income stagnation for much of the rest. The overarching challenge of the coming years is to restore prosperity and power for the 99 percent.”
The roots of today’s crises of vast income inequality and wealth transfer, corporate dominance and feckless, inept elected leaders lie with the direction that Reagan took the nation – always making government the problem, slashing taxes for the rich along with outlays on public services and infrastructure investment, and sweeping deregulation.
“Reagan’s was a fateful misdiagnosis,” Sachs says. “He completely overlooked the real issue — the rise of global competition in the information age — and fought a bogeyman, the government. Decades on, America pays the price of that misdiagnosis, with a nation singularly unprepared to face the global economic, energy and environmental challenges of our time.”
And yet Washington “still channels Reaganomics… Both parties have joined in crippling the government in response to the demands of their wealthy campaign contributors, who above all else insist on keeping low tax rates on capital gains, top incomes, estates and corporate profits. Corporate taxes as a share of national income are at the lowest levels in recent history. Rich households take home the greatest share of income since the Great Depression.”
The American people are waking up and the OWS movement wants to challenge and change the channel of inequality.
“Following our recent financial calamity, a third progressive era is likely to be in the making,” Sachs writes. “This one should aim for three things. The first is a revival of crucial public services, especially education, training, public investment and environmental protection. The second is the end of a climate of impunity that encouraged nearly every Wall Street firm to commit financial fraud. The third is to re-establish the supremacy of people votes over dollar votes in Washington.”
Sachs says the people in Zuccotti Park and more than 1,000 cities have put the nation on a path to renewal.
While it’s hard to think in absolute terms about something so new, something without central leadership or a written platform, the need to reverse obvious flaws has touched a chord.
Perhaps, as Sachs says, a new generation of leaders who are not on the corporate take is just getting started. Perhaps it is history in the making and the dawn of a new progressive era. Perhaps it needs to be the crowd-sourcing movement it is and not a party or corporation or organization that’s easily corrupted and dominated by the wealthiest few. Perhaps the pendulum—as pendulums do—is swinging back.
[Image Credit: Darwin Yamamoto, Flickr Creative Commons]