Mayor 1%

“American politics reached a pivot point this week,” writes E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post.

"Finally the anti-Wall Street demonstrators have created a new pole in politics. Americans have always been wary of concentrated power. The tea party had great success in focusing anxieties on what it argues is an excessively powerful federal government. Now, an active and angry band of citizens is insisting that the concentrated power Americans most need to fear exists on Wall Street and in the financial system."

The protesters Occupying Wall Street, and those Occupying Chicago, refer to themselves as “The 99%” -- the vast portion of the American public that has seen its standard of living erode as the nation’s wealth is concentrated in the bank accounts of the wealthiest 1%. As one protestor’s sign read, “This Revolution Will Not Be Privatized. We Are The 99%.”

You have to wonder whether the non-stop demonstration in front of the Federal Reserve Building is making Mayor Rahm Emanuel nervous. Like the prankster who posted signs in the window of the Board of Trade, Emanuel is part of The 1%. Not only did Emanuel make his fortune as an investment banker, he collected a large portion of his campaign contributions from the financial services industry, and he has governed on its behalf, by pressuring unions to give up overtime pay, cancelling schoolteachers’ raises, and privatizing recycling. It has paid dividends, including this flattering profile in Bloomberg Business Week.

“Government is too big and expensive” was a popular platform in February. Since his election, Emanuel has tried to channel populist anger against labor unions, by complaining that public school students “got the shaft” under a contract that guaranteed teachers a 4 percent annual raise. In October, populist anger seems to be running in the other direction.

Occupy Wall Street does not present itself as an electoral movement, advocating for or against political candidates. It may never become one. But this can’t be a comfortable time to be a 1% Politician, especially for a Democrat whose ambitions don’t end at the mayor’s office.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was another 1percenter who responded to the crisis of his times and took on the Wall Street bankers. In the late 1920s, the Top 1% held a larger portion of the nation’s wealth than they do now and they grumbled that he was a “traitor to his class.”  In fact, he saved his class from revolution. 

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