The leaderless-by-design Occupy Wall Street movement—which has spread beyond the eponymous New York Financial District to at least 10 cities—may have passion, but it lacks a cohesive goal. And Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., thinks this is a problem.
“I certainly welcome the energy, I would just like to see it better channeled,” Frank told National Journal Daily. “The problem is, it’s going to get dissipated real fast if the energy is not channeled.”
Thousands of protesters, everyman and celebrity alike, have taken to the streets to protest the “corporate greed” of Wall Street that they blame for the country’s ever-growing social and economic inequality. In cities like Washington, Chicago, and New York, protests have gone through the night (with people sleeping in cardboard boxes in New York because of a city ban on tents), and garnered national attention.
For the most part, the message has been well-received. A recent Rasmussen poll found 79 percent of Americans agree with the movement’s mantra that big banks got bailed out but the middle class got left behind.
Where consensus breaks down is in the lack of proposed solutions, leaving most Americans unsure what to think about the actual protesters’ views.
Frank, who says he would have liked this kind of energy back in 2009 and 2010 when he was working on the financial-reform bill that now bears his name, thinks the protesters would be better off if they focused their energy on specific objectives.
For example, he advises them to urge the super committee charged with trimming $1.2 trillion from the nation’s deficit to raise revenues by placing a levy on financial companies with assets of more than $50 billion and on hedge funds with assets of more than $10 billion. He also would have people write their senators, demanding that they not block nominees for head of the Consumer Protection Bureau.
“If I thought there was no chance at success, I wouldn’t urge people to do it,” Frank said. “If there’s that much energy, I’m of the opinion they represent a good deal of public opinion.”
Other progressive members of the House have been less critical of the movement.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, long a populist champion, released a glowing statement in support of the protesters, telling them they were “finally getting the attention of the nation.”
“To the young men and women who are braving the overreaction of local authorities to raise their voices against the corruption and manipulation of our nation that emanates from Wall Street: I say to you that your presence is making a difference,” he said.
In a similar statement, Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., said: “I’m so proud to see the Occupy Wall Street movement standing up to this rampant corporate greed and peacefully participating in our democracy.”
This article appears in the Oct. 6, 2011, edition of National Journal Daily.