The way you know a movement is starting to have an impact is when the powers that be start to respond to it. This has been happening for quite a while now with the 99er Movement (it’s Occupy but a lot more than Occupy). Republican politicians have been lashing out, and corporate and Republican insiders have been starting to worry and plotting strategy to respond. Democrats have been responding cautiously but more positively than not, and have sure been noticing and watching with a lot of interest.
Now, though, even more tangible — and more positive — responses are starting to pop up. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) leadership has introduced a bill this week that is about as direct a response to the flowering 99er movement as a piece of legislation could be, from its name to its messaging to its content: the Restore the American Dream for the 99 Percent Act.
Check out the materials and messaging from the press conference: this is all-99 percent, all the time. The content flows from the movement as well: it taxes Wall Street and the 1 percent to pay for more than 5 million jobs for the 99 percent. The 99 Percent Act includes every economic provision from The Contract for the American Dream, which was crowd sourced from hundreds of thousands of Americans. Tonight, the leaders of the CPC will be talking about what the bill does on this webcast that is worth checking out as well.
This legislation could turn into a big deal. The conventional wisdom will be that a bill introduced by progressives in the minority party in the House doesn’t matter because it can’t pass, and of course as long as the Republicans control the House it won’t. But the 99er Movement is rising, and I think there will be a lot of interest in this bill by the movement — groups like Rebuild the Dream, MoveOn.org, and the AFL-CIO are pretty excited about this bill. If there is a push by those groups, I think it could easily pick up enough co-sponsors over the next few months to have a solid majority of Democratic House members, and a majority of the candidates challenging Republicans endorsing it as well. If the Democrats retake the House (which is not at all out of the question), a solid majority of the new House caucus is supporting this bill, and the Democrats have won sounding as populist as they are sounding today, the 99 Percent Act will be at the center of the economic debate at the start of 2013. That would be a pretty impressive achievement for this movement given where the political and legislative dialogue the first 11 months of this year has been.
There are a lot of important rumblings going on in American politics right now. People have taken to the street, bank lobbyists and Republican operatives are nervously trying to figure out how to respond to the 99er message, and a lot more Democrats are even beginning to sound like Democrats again. On issues I am working on like the bank settlement talks, I am seeing policymakers far more nervous than they have ever been before about looking they are cutting sweetheart deals with Wall Street. And can I just say something? It’s about freakin’ time. Census numbers came out today showing that half the country is now considered poor or low-income. The middle class in this country is being crushed, and God help any young or poor person trying to climb their way into it.
Politicians who just operate on the business-as-usual model are making a huge mistake. The ones who are bold and respond positively to the 99 percent are making a good bet. Now is the time to respond to the tide that is rising.