If the Wall Street protesters require any more incentive, they need only read the transcript of last night’s Republican debate. Here they are on the street, pointing out the obvious and glaring inequities that continue to benefit the rich at the expense of everyone else, yet the would-be leaders of the plutocrat party offer nothing but disdain.Granted, many of the Republican candidates have already shown themselves to be fact-challenged buffoons with zero prospects of winning the party nomination, but their sneering attitude and willful dismissal of economic reality is apparently shared by all. Nobody on that stage, for instance, acknowledged the factual truth that the top one percent of households currently hold 23 percent of the nation’s wealth (the highest share since 1928 and more than twice the percentage 30 years ago). Nobody conceded that the Wall Street hustlers bear at least some responsibility for the sub-prime scandal that has wreaked havoc with millions of middle-class families. Nobody was willing to acknowledge, even just a wee bit, that the protest movement has any valid grievances; instead, the prevailing tone was “get off my lawn.”Consider, for instance, Newt Gingrich (R-Tiffany). Last night, he dismissed many of the Wall Street protesters as “left-wing agitators” who don’t pick up their litter. He also doesn’t think that anyone on Wall Street deserves to be jailed for their roles in the scandal; rather, “if you want to put people in jail…you ought to start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd. Let’s look at the politicians who created the environment, the politicians who profited from the environment, and the politicians who put this country in trouble…Everybody in the media who wants to go after the business community ought to start by going after the politicians who have been at the heart of the sickness which is weakening this country.”Gingrich was basically echoing Michele Bachmann, another marginal candidate on life support. Bachmann insisted that the Wall Street protesters have it all wrong, that the real culprit of the economic meltdown is “the federal government…It began with the federal government and it began with Freddie and Fannie.”As usual, Bachmann screwed with factual reality. The government-sponsored mortgage programs known as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were essentially encouraged to run wild in the late ’90s, when the Republican Congress (with Bill Clinton’s complicity) loosened the regulations governing Fannie and Freddie’s behavior. That same Congress also passed a law that exempted credit default swaps from regulatory oversight. In other words, the federal government indeed bears some responsibility – not for doing too much, but for doing too little to rein in the Masters of the Universe.Flavor-of-the-moment Herman Cain doesn’t know the history, either. (No surprise there.) Referring to the Wall Street protesters, he said at one point that “they have basically targeted the wrong target. It should be against the failed policies of this administration, not Wall Street, is where they should be protesting” – the implication being, of course, that nothing was amiss on Wall Street prior to January 20, 2009. And as Cain again acknowledged last night, he thinks the protesters are just a bunch of slackers who lack the gumption to pull themselves up by their bootstraps (“Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks; if you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself”) – a clueless remark that fails to address the very real threat of long-term underemployment among kids now in their twenties, pushed to the margins by economic inequity. But his ‘tude was predictable, given the focus on his “999 plan,” which would coddle the rich with new tax cuts.And so it went. Late in the debate, the incredibly disappearing Rick Perry was invited to address the issue of economic inequity (“Governor Perry, over the last 30 years, the income of the wealthiest one percent of Americans has grown by more than 300 percent”), but there was no way he was going to tackle the realities of how the rich keep getting richer – especially over a 30-year span when the Republicans held the White House for 20. Instead, Perry (either out of shrewd calculation, but probably because he was repeating a rote talking point) focused exclusively on the last two years, pinning all the blame on “job killer” Obama – because “that’s what’s wrong with this country today.”If only for the sake of ideological diversity, it would have been refreshing to hear somebody on stage at least acknowledge that the young people in the streets are giving voice to legitimate concerns about the concentration of wealth and the screwing of the middle class. Here’s a sampling of what was sorely missing last night:”I live in an America where these questions need to be asked. When I see CEOs of banks get a thousand times the pay of their average employee; when I see the top 19 banks in America on Wall Street be propped up by the taxpayers and then treat them like dirt; when I see more homeowners going to prison than I do corrupt banking officials; when I see the president of the United States sign a banking reform act that doesn’t reform a damn thing and then he goes to Wall Street two weeks later for a fundraiser at $35,000 a ticket hosted by Goldman Sachs; when I see a nation where nine percent of the people are unemployed, three percent of the people have quit looking, and another 10 percent of the people are working only part-time and can’t sustain themselves – then I applaud young people, middle-class people, senior citizens who stand up with signs and say, ‘Why, America? What are we going to do different?’ That’s why I applaud the Wall Street demonstrators. Not because they’re perfect, not because they’ve got pretty hair…but because they stand for American values – and that is questioning the status quo.”So says Buddy Roemer, Republican presidential candidate, in a new interview on the Salon site. The ex-Louisiana governor has no more chance of winning the nomination than the rest of that motley crew, but if only he could get a chair on stage, he’d at least demonstrate that somebody in the plutocrat party has a heart and a clue.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1
Due to the Senate impeachment trial, tonight's regularly scheduled TV programming will air on Y2.