Perhaps the eviction from Zuccotti Square and other encampments around the country will be remembered as a positive turning point for the Occupy Wall Street movement. I've spent part of the afternoon watching streaming videos from East New York where crowds of demonstrators have marched to support families scheduled for eviction from their homes. There's much positive energy, good "mic check" speeches, and a coming together of people from diverse groups, which is as sign that, as one person there commented, "the color of the movement is changing."
I like the drums, small brass band, chanting, appearance of the OWS sanitation crew to clean the house, banners, house warming presents, little girl looking a the window saying, "They're waving to you, mommy!"
Meanwhile, the practical effects of the protests are more and more evident -- not just "change in the dialog," but substantial political changes that would not have happened otherwise. Here's one, via the New York Times, from Albany today.
Cuomo Strikes Deal to Raise Taxes on the Wealthiest
By THOMAS KAPLAN
Pubished: December 6, 2011
ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders on Tuesday announced that they had reached an agreement to raise taxes on New York State’s wealthiest residents as part of a deal to overhaul the tax rates.
The leaders, seeking simultaneously to make the state’s income tax system more progressive and to increase tax collections during a down economy, announced their agreement as lawmakers began to arrive at the Capitol for an expected special session of the Legislature later this week.
The tentative agreement would not only raise taxes for the wealthy, but also cut taxes for the middle class, by creating four new tax brackets and tax rates. The officials said the tax rate changes would generate $1.9 billion in annual revenue for the state.
“This would be lowest tax rate for middle class families in 58 years,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “This job-creating economic plan defies the political gridlock that has paralyzed Washington and shows that we can make government work for the people of this state once again.”
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Some observers might say, "It would have happened with or without Occupy Wall Street." (Yeah, right...uh huh....sure it would....)
Evidently, another sign of this turn of events came in Obama's speech on inequality and fairness in Kansas today. I have only read excerpts so far, but the tone and content seem extraordinary, given the cautious approach the President has taken during the past three years. Here's a passage from Greg Sargent's story:
Obama’s speech went to great lengths to criticize inequality in this context, and his historical references were also designed to support that theme. He drew a direct line between today’s debate and the debate at the turn of the century between the forces of unregulated capitalism, which caused massive inequality and suffering, and Theodore Roosevelt's insistence on humane government intervention in service of the national good.
“Roosevelt was called a radical, a socialist, even a communist,” Obama said, in a tacit reference to similar attacks on himself. “But today, we are a richer nation and a stronger democracy because of what he fought for in his last campaign: an eight hour work day and a minimum wage for women; insurance for the unemployed, the elderly, and those with disabilities; political reform and a progressive income tax."