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Occupy Wall Street's Legacy

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Politics and Democracy page.

When Occupy Wall Street sprang up in parks and under tents, one of the many issues the protesters pressed was economic inequality. Then, as winter began to set in, the police swept the protesters away. All across the country the crowds thinned and enthusiasm waned, and eventually the movement all but dissipated.

But one of its catchphrases remained, simmering on a back burner: "We are the 99 percent." The 99 percent were the lower-income people in this country - the rest of us - struggling to make a change, make a difference and just make a living while the stiff, arthritic grip of the top 1 percent sought to manipulate the social, political and economic levers of powers.

This idea of the tiny top against the broad bottom even became a running theme in last year's presidential election. In his January 2012 State of the Union address, President Obama said, "We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules."

The president went on to rail against tax breaks for the "wealthiest 2 percent of Americans" and about how tax loopholes and shelter allow many millionaires to pay less than "millions of middle-class households."

Then he invoked a line that he would repeat often: "Right now, Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary."

There was no better setup for Mitt Romney - one of the richest candidates to seek the presidency in recent decades - who was called by some a modern-day Thurston Howell.

Eventually, Romney would commit his own pratfall of percentage politics, famously defaming the "47 percent." With that, any caviar-and-toast-points dreams he may have had of flitting away the days in the White House were toast.

Still, it was not clear if the greater narrative of income inequality had legs and if it would move forward as the economy turned up.

I believe it has. 

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