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Written by Dean Baker   
Friday, 14 October 2011 15:51

The sun came up this morning and George Will doesn’t like the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) crew. He found some protestors there who said things that he found silly. For example, someone on Wall Street thought the minimum wage should be $20 an hour. That might seem a bit high, but if the real value of the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity growth since 1969 it would be almost $20 an hour today.

Will also seems to think that the bankruptcy of Solyndra is some incredibly damning piece of evidence against those who think the government can play a constructive role in the economy. I suppose that would be a compelling argument to people who have never heard of the Internet, Dos, penicillin or any of the thousands of other innovations that have benefited from government support. Also, the Solyndra failure may not seem that impressive to people who have seen the fraud and bankruptcies at companies like Enron, WorldCom, Lehman Brothers, and Bear Stearn. Maybe Will’s point is clearer to those who travel in his circles.

The idea of spending $1 trillion for infrastructure (much less than we are actually projected to spend in the next decade) also comes in for ridicule by Will. I guess he is blaming the OWS folks for thinking small.

He then warns progressives:

“From 1965 through 1968, the left found its voice and style in consciousness-raising demonstrations and disruptions. In November 1968, the nation, its consciousness raised, elected Richard Nixon president and gave 56.9 percent of the popular vote to Nixon or George Wallace. Republicans won four of the next five presidential elections.

Perhaps things will go better for progressives this time.”

Yes, Republican presidents did win those elections although it’s not clear how many people voted for George H.W. Bush in 1988 because of the Vietnam protests in 1968. More importantly, people should remember that Republicans in the White House created the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, proposed a more radical national health care plan than Obamacare, proposed a guaranteed annual income (like the one advocated by an OWS protestor that Will mocks) appointed Harry Blackman and John Paul Stevens to the Supreme Court and allowed us to have a 3.5 percent unemployment rate in 1969.

If President Obama supported measures that were as progressive as the ones pushed by Presidents Nixon and Ford, the Tea Party would be turning to nuclear weapons. It wasn’t that these Republican presidents were born radicals (I’m quite sure that neither were Moslem), they were responding to the pressures of their time.

If the #OWS protestors and their supporters around the country can sustain the momentum, then it can change the atmosphere in which the folks in Washington conduct their business. I suspect that few of them care whether Democrats or Republicans occupy the White House and Congress, they care about the policies pursued. If they can create an environment that results in presidents who push along a progressive agenda to the same extent as did Nixon and Ford, but it is Republicans who do the job, I doubt that many will be disappointed.  

Comments (2)Add Comment
written by mara, October 14, 2011 6:03
You do have an incisive wit.
Have a good weekend.
written by mel in oregon, October 19, 2011 4:44
george will hopes 2012 will be like 1968. my guess is it won't be. back in 68 america was bogged down in viet nam much like we are today in iraq & afghanistan. there the similarity ends. unions were strong in 68, so strong in fact that they were fat cats. so they were making money hand over fist, & were very supportive of the war. but along came reagan in 1980, fired the control tower operators, & unions didn't do anything except whine. check out how weak they are today. except now they have some very good leaders compared to some of the jerks of yesteryear, & i hope they make a comeback. what's different today a majority of people like the protesters & what they stand for, including unions. welcome back! now granted this is an over simplification of 43 years of history, but i think the main cornel of truth is pretty solid. as far as george will, he's just an old man who has been very bitter since the 1960s. he missed "sex, drugs & rock n roll", & has never gotten over it.

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