A movement that will go nowhere but could do real damage would be “We hate the rich, let’s stick it to them.” Movements built on hatred are corrosive, and in the end corrode themselves. Ask Robespierre. In any case, the rich would leave. The rich are old, they feel like refugees in the new America anyway. A movement that would be helpful and could actually help bring change would be one that said, “Enough. Wall Street is selfish and dishonest, and Washington is selfish and dishonest. Together their selfishness and dishonesty, their operating as if they are not part of a whole, not part of a nation of relationships and responsibilities, tanked a great nation’s economy. We will reform.”
Why is this happening now, and not two years ago? Because at some point in the past year or six months, people started to realize: The economy really isn’t going to get better for a long time. Everyone seems to know in their gut that unemployment is going to stay bad or get worse. Everyone knows the jobless rate is higher than the government says, because they look around and see that more than 9% of their friends and family are un- or underemployed. People put on the news and hear about Europe and bankruptcy, and worry that it’s going to spread here. Eighteen months ago smart people could talk on TV about how we’re on a growth path and recovery will begin by fall of 2010. Nobody talks like that now.
And people have a sense that nothing’s going to get better unless something big is done, some fundamental change is made in our financial structures. It won’t be small-time rejiggering—a 5% cut in this tax, a 3% reduction in that program—that will get us out of this.