Does Occupy Wall Street Mark the Beginning of a New Progressive Era? No.

First there was the Gilded Age and then the Roaring Twenties. Following both of these periods of gonzo capitalism and predominantly Republican presidential leadership, there emerged progressive movements advocating reform.  The Reagan years too were a time when government gave big business carte blanche, unrestricted power. Now we see in Occupy Wall Street the rise of yet another progressive movement. Whether it’s the Gilded Age, the Roaring Twenties or Reagonomics, a major consequence of big business gone wild is what economists call a gross disparity of wealth. Essentially, the “haves” get far more and the “have-nots” get far less. I think it’s accurate to say that America’s current gross disparity of wealth is the worst of the three “gilded ages.” So the question is, does the Occupy Wall Street movement mark the beginning of a new Progressive Era? I doubt it. The spoiler is the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the decision that recognizes American corporations as individuals and allows them to contribute unlimited amounts of money to American elections. American corporations have not had that much political influence for over 100 years, not since the days of Teddy Roosevelt. Citizens United will trump the efforts of both grass roots movements, Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street alike. Actually Citizens United trumps democracy itself.  Could the irony of a case’s name be any more Supreme?


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