The Politics and Economics of Occupy Wall Street

Now that the movement appears to be losing steam, what economic impact did it have?

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The Occupy Wall Street movement shut down a shipping port in Portland Monday morning as part of a larger effort to cut corporate profits.

"By shutting down work at the ports this [is] one more day that Goldman Sachs and Wall Street firms are unable to create profit," said Occupy Portland spokeswoman Kari Koch, according to the Portland Tribune.

[See 12 Ways to Stop America's Decline.]

The Portland protest is part of what the movement calls its "Shut Down Wall Street on the Waterfront" effort, an attempt to disrupt trade at San Diego, Portland, Los Angeles, Tacoma, Oakland, and Seattle. Previously, Occupy Wall Street protesters managed to shut down the port in Oakland, one of the biggest on the West Coast.

Meanwhile, back on the East Coast where the movement originated, protesters surrounded Goldman Sachs, demanding that the company pay more taxes. "We're standing in solidarity against an investment firm that was highly responsible for the economic crisis," demonstrator Rick McAllister, 22, told the New York Daily News. "My message is: 'For us to survive, you have to go.'"

These renewed protests come weeks after the Occupy Wall Street movement seemed to be drawing to a close. Police in cities throughout the country cleared protesters from parks that served as the center of the movement against the country's "1 percent"—a nebulous group that possess 1 percent of the nation's wealth, and includes corporations, politicians, and the news media. They believe this group is behind the income inequality in America, or the gap that has been growing between the middle and upper classes.

[See 7 Stressors Sapping the Middle Class.]

After parks were cleared, the news media had abandoned the story and the general public, which watched the movement grow with a mix of support and disdain, stopped paying attention.

But today's protests show that the Occupy Wall Street movement is far from dead. Calls to a phone number provided to the media by the group were not returned.

Occupy Wall Street's next step remains unclear. According to a message on its website, it is currently planning additional actions following today's port protest. "To the 1%'s pundits who claim Occupy is over: We are still here. Even as the agents of the 1% evict our communities and eviscerate our rights, we are evolving. What we have set in motion cannot be stopped with tear gas, bulldozers, rubber bullets, or metal barricades," the group proclaimed on its website.

But what exactly has this movement set in motion? What outcomes has it affected? As Occupy Wall Street begins a new phase of protesting, U.S. News explored just what effect the protests have had on American politics and the American economy.

Political. Compared with the Tea Party, the political impact of Occupy Wall Street has been minimal. Unlike the Tea Party, no national politicians have publicly aligned themselves with the movement and no members have been elected to national office.

However, prominent Republican pollster Frank Luntz recently told the Republican Governor's Association that he's "scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I'm frightened to death." Luntz said he believed the movement is "having an impact on what the American people think of capitalism."

[See 17 Ways Consumers Are Changing.]

President Barack Obama reflected this impact in a speech last week in Kansas. He blasted Republicans as out of touch with everyday Americans and accused Wall Street of hurting the middle class though fraud and dishonest practices. "At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement," Obama said.

All of these themes reflect the sentiments of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. So while it hasn't changed national politics yet, the movement could influence the 2012 presidential election.

"The major impact of [Occupy Wall Street] has been on the center of gravity of the public conversation in the U.S. It has expanded the conversation and changed its center of gravity," said William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, a Washington political think tank. "The content of that speech was influenced by the conversation that Occupy Wall Street helped spark."


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