Here's a helpful tip: if you are a political pundit and you still don't know what Occupy Wall Street stands for, you are an idiot. If you purport to make your living analyzing the political landscape, or from parsing the effectiveness of various political messages, or if you write columns explaining what the American people want
based on your deep, intimate knowledge of what the American people want
, but you still, after a month, cannot quite grasp what these uncouth people in the streets are going on about, then you are categorically bad at your job. If you find yourself tuttering and tsking over how the protestors are merely a group of fringe figures, and you do not notice or care to notice the polls expressing wide support for the message, you are a fraud.
It really is that simple, at this point. No supposed "pundit" should be able to say with a straight face that they cannot possibly understand what message the protestors have. Here, I will give it to you in a mere few words: the Occupy Wall Street movement is a protest against rampant income inequality, against corporate excesses, and against a government rigged to protect and worsen both.
It is a protest specifically against the members of the financial sector, who were bailed out at taxpayer expense after wrecking the economy with self-perpetuated fraudulent schemes against one another, and who have learned not one damn thing from the experience, but instead have continued on their merry, privileged way. They assert themselves to be masters of the universe, and pay themselves accordingly, and whether the world they supposedly run hums like clockwork or burns to the ground makes no particular difference to them.
It is a protest against the perceived entitlement of the wealthy, for whom any slight economic injury (say, from taxes) is seen as an apocalyptic event, and for whose sake austerity must be imposed on every other group, from schoolchildren to the elderly, from the poor, the sick and the comfortably middle-class alike.
It is a protest against a government that seems to exist solely to meet the needs of wealthy and corporate benefactors, a government that cannot competently even execute routine functions anymore, but which is instead dedicated single-mindedly to the premise of cutting taxes on the rich and balancing the books on the poor.
It is not a protest against TARP; it is a protest against the failure of TARP to achieve even a stick of reform in exchange for the body blow dealt to the rest of us. It is not a protest against political parties, but against a system that has been so corrupted that the needs of the one percent are considered of greater merit than that of the entire rest of the population.
It is not "against corporations." That is so wrong as to be stupid. It is against the excesses of corporations, most specifically corporate corruption and a whole passel of things that ought to be called corruption, if we were being the slightest bit honest about it. Reasonable environmental protections for communities should outweigh shareholder demands to make a tenth of a cent more profit on any given quarter. Corporations that raid the pension funds of their workers should be considered criminal enterprises, not "creative thinkers."
It is not "against the rich." It is against the rich being catered to at the expense of every other citizen, and against wealth through parasitic behavior that does not a damn thing for the larger world, save make it worse, and especially against wealth protected by implicit guarantee on the backs of the rest of us, when precious few of the rest of us can claim similar government attention. It is about the unemployment crisis going unmet, being absolutely ignored, in fact, so dedicated government is to instead pursuing whatever policy would best serve an excruciatingly narrow band of financial elites.
It is pro-worker, in that it is a reaction against workers being treated as increasingly disposable, abusable commodities by the companies that employ them. It is neither pro-tax or anti-tax; it is against the disparity of treatment between rich and poor, when it comes time to pay those taxes. It demands a voice in government, and a voice in the punditry that struggles so painfully to grasp what the little people are going on about. It is afraid of future financial disaster, and even more afraid that another disaster will be met with yet another surrender to whichever elite crooks might cause it, pampered souls who gambled the fate of entire economies with the sure knowledge that they could simply charge the losses to the rest of us, if the worst was to happen.
Above all, perhaps, it is an objection to the notion that corporations do not just have rights and privileges equal to people, but in fact have rights superior to the rights of people, rights which are appended on in the name of free enterprise and seen by lawmakers and courts alike as being far more obvious and inviolate than those of you or me. It is this treatment—this premise that corporations are super-people that are entitled to more government access, immunity to normal laws, the "right" of profit even if it injures someone else, the "right" to author their own regulations or to dispatch those they find too onerous—that is the most objectionable. Corporations have been declared to have the unlimited right to meddle in elections, unencumbered, as a matter of free speech, but the same right of free speech finds a phalanx of limits set on it early on, when it comes to camping out in a public park or marching on a public street.
The message is very straightforward. It is not difficult to understand. If it is difficult to understand, or if it seems like socialism or communism to you, or if these pleas for basic fairness in the way governments treat their citizens sound radical to your ears, then the fault is yours and yours alone. Those demands were not outrageous in previous decades, so demands to return to similar policies can hardly be considered radical now. If you have your head so very far up a rich man's ass that you think "not a penny more charged to the rich because that would be socialism" is a reasonable statement, but "repair financial regulations whose dismantling helped lead to economic collapse" is in fact the more crazy of the two statements, then there is no hope for you. Perhaps you are merely an oligarch.
So a declaration: no more dawdling columns explaining that you cannot possibly understand what the Occupy Wall Street protestors are upset about. No more sniveling that they have no concrete grievances, or can propose no concrete solutions, when people around you can easily tick off a list of both. No more throwing around words like radical, so dull from overuse as to be rendered mere parody, or burping out intellectually incompetent uses of the word Marxist merely because your worldview is has been so ideologically narrowed in the last decade that you consider anything that might bring a speck of good to anyone to be a communist-inspired plot.
The penalty for breaching any of these is to be exposed as an ignorant, hollow fool. You cannot claim to have your pulse on the mood of the public if you cannot figure out the very simple, very consistent message sent by a now-nationwide group of that public. The founding name itself, Occupy Wall Street, should give you a damn fine idea right off the bat as to the target and goals of those involved. The movement has higher public approval ratings than the tea party. It continues to spawn related efforts worldwide. If you feel ideologically bound to ignore it, fine, but claiming you do not understand it only brands you as a mind too easily taxed to be of much use in the public sphere.
If you understand the grievances of the Occupy movement, feel free to either engage or rebut those complaints. If you do not understand them, then go away, for you are too lazy, too self absorbed, or too ignorant to do the job.