If Obama can speak lucidly about a subject as thorny as race, he can surely do a far more specific job of telling the story of how we got to this economic impasse. He must join the many who are talking about why the top 1 percent of American earners now take home nearly a quarter of Americans’ total income — perhaps the single most revealing indicator of how three decades of greed and free-market absolutism have eviscerated America’s fundamental ideals of fairness. It can’t all be reduced to the shorthand of “George W. Bush.”

Obama might be so rude as to point out how these top earners are whining all the way to the bank even as the G.O.P. opposes extending more benefits to the unemployed and new tax cuts to small business. In June, the Business Roundtable chairman and Verizon chief executive Ivan Seidenberg gave a speech so rank with self-victimization — he claimed that government was “reaching into virtually every sector of economic life” — that the normally polite Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein reviled him as “a corporate hack” peddling “much-discredited country-club nonsense.”…

As many have noted, the obvious political model for Obama this year is Franklin Roosevelt, who at his legendary 1936 Madison Square Garden rally declared that he welcomed the “hatred” of his enemies in the realms of “business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.” As the historian David Kennedy writes in his definitive book on the period, “Freedom from Fear,” Roosevelt “had little to lose by alienating the right,” including those in the corporate elite, with such invective; they already detested him as vehemently as the Business Roundtable crowd does Obama.