In just a few months, Occupy Wall Street has mushroomed into an astonishing nationwide movement against corporate greed and political corruption in American life.
Each of those cities has its own homegrown, round-the-clock occupation. There are hundreds of them in communities big and small.
In Oakland, protesters succeeded Wednesday evening in shutting down the city’s busy port. That followed a day of demonstrations outside major Bay Area banks.
On Thursday, labor unions and the Occupy Washington movement rallied outside the U.S. Treasury building, pressing for a new financial transaction tax on trades of stocks and bonds — a tax the European Union is also considering.
But right here in New York, where the entire movement started, establishment politicians like Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Cuomo just don’t get it.
They are oblivious to how deeply this new movement’s fury resonates with the public.
New Yorkers are sick and tired of rampant unemployment, a never-ending mortgage crisis and the crushing debts of credit cards and student loans. They are aghast at how the politicians and the courts have never held the banks that created this crisis accountable.
Nowhere else in America is there a greater gap between the 1% and the 99% than right here.
In 2007, less than 1% of New York City households — 23,000 in all — had incomes of more than $1 million. That’s the equivalent of earning about $20,000 per week.
That same year, 37.5% — or 1.3 million households — made less than $20,000 a year.
Yet both Bloomberg, the Republican turned Independent, and Cuomo, the Democrat, oppose extending a “millionaire’s tax surcharge” that expires in December.
They oppose the tax, even though New Yorkers overwhelmingly support it.
Bloomberg’s class solidarity with his mega-rich friends is at least understandable. But that of Cuomo’s is not.
The man who once prided himself on building housing for the homeless has the nerve to compare his stand on the millionaire’s tax to his father Mario’s moral opposition as governor to capital punishment.
What is the morality in refusing to raise taxes for those swimming in cash while cutting services to the least fortunate?
With tone-deaf leaders like these two, no wonder the protest in Zuccotti Park keeps growing.
Where wide walkways existed only weeks before, hundreds of tents now fill the park. One kiosk even dispenses free warm coats for the coming winter.
On Thursday, in the park, Princeton University philosopher Cornel West and former New York Times war correspondent Chris Hedges presided over a mock “people’s trial” of Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs.
Several hundred occupants then marched to Goldman’s headquarters. As they chanted, “We got sold out; banks got bailed out,” dozens of Freedom Tower construction workers on their lunch break smiled approvingly.
One of those marching was a middle-aged, well-dressed black man. He said his name was Alvin David, and he hadn’t been able to find much work these days.
“I come here two or three days a week to join the marches,” he said. “This movement is waking the country up, and I want to be a part of it.”
As the camps keep growing, the politicians will be forced to listen. That is how social change has so often come in America.