Obama Embraces Occupy Wall Street

President Obama says he'll fight for the 99 percent.

President Obama says he’ll fight for the 99 percent.

Business Insider (“White House Draws Closer To Occupy Wall Street, Says Obama Is Fighting For The Interests Of The 99%“):

The White House continued its embrace of the Occupy Wall Street protests on Sunday, using the strongest terms yet to identify President Barack Obama with the growing movement.

In a call previewing Obama’s upcoming bus tour through North Carolina and Virginia, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Obama “will continue to acknowledge the frustration that he himself shares,” about Washington’s laggard response to the financial crisis. Earnest added that while on the trip, Obama will make it clear that he is fighting to make certain that the “interests of 99 percent of Americans are well represented” — the first time the White House has used the term to differentiate the vast majority of Americans from the wealthy.

Obama, who has been branded a “class warrior” by Republicans unhappy with his plans to increase taxes on the rich to pay for his jobs and deficit plans, has embraced the term.
“I’ll tell you what, if asking a billionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber or a teacher or a bus driver makes me a warrior for the middle class, I will wear that charge with honor,” he told donors in Dallas earlier this month.

This is shrewd positioning, identifying himself with the frustrations sparking a movement as well as its most effective slogan without embracing the movement itself and its potential baggage. The wee problem with it is that, not only is Obama part of the 1 percent, he’s been the single most important voice in American public policy for the past three years and has done nothing about these issues. Indeed, he was the chief cheerleader for the massive bailouts of the banks that gives the movement its name.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Lit3Bolt says:

    True, but remember this all triangulation against Romney, who’s in like the 0.001%. Stories about Wall St. rushing to open their pockets for Romney will also shape the narrative.

    Remember, when the financial world was staring down the Abyss, it chose Obama for lack of a real alternative. McCain’s erratic and mercurial nature scared big donors off in 2008, but Romney is a corporate candidate through and through and they want to go back to their Republican roots. Obama shouldn’t have too much difficulty trumpeting his own humble background while downplaying his own Ivy League education and millionaire earnings. (Also, Wall St. has all but declared war on Obama for some reason…he’s seemed pretty friendly to me. Can anyone enlighten me to why Wall St. is so overwhelmingly hostile to Obama? With actual evidence from non-Right wing websites?)

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    OWS has so far proven remarkably resistant to co-option by the Democrats, so I suspect Obama won’t find much support there; everyone knows he doesn’t mean it.

  3. Lit3Bolt says:

    @Ben Wolf:

    If OWS resists being co-opted by Dems through the winter, I will be gobsmacked. But they are impacting and shaping the next election already. The simplistic statements (“I am the 99%”) identifies with the underdog and is easy to understand. And it’s more logical and grounded in reality than the dire threats of illegals repairing our roofs or picking our vegetables, or the vile image of a single African-American mother getting (ANY) benefits from the government (let’s ignore the poor whites who get disability and benefits).

  4. Mikey says:


    Read this blog entry by Internet mogul and generally rich guy Ted Leonsis:

    Class Warfare – Yuck!

    He’s an Obama supporter who is getting a bit fed up with being repeatedly demonized. I would suspect a lot of people on Wall Street who donated heavily to Obama in 2008 are feeling the same way.

    Were I much more cynical than I am, I’d think maybe Obama’s people are back-channeling Wall Street and saying “It’s not personal, just let him say these things to get re-elected and then we’ll keep rigging things to favor you.” But I’m not quite that cynical…yet…

  5. john personna says:

    The clip I heard on tv this morning actually had Obama saying something about “addressing inequality” but also “without demonizing the 1%.”

    (We should probably watch for thin-skinned rich guys who think that cutting their lobbying, or eliminating carried interest, is the same as being burned at the stake.)

  6. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    This is parody, right?

  7. john personna says:

    Indeed, he was the chief cheerleader for the massive bailouts of the banks that gives the movement its name.

    Well, this definitely blows the timeline.

  8. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: TARP was a piker compared to the Obama bailout–which was actually the third big stimulus package of the recession; everyone forgets about Bush’s first one.

  9. john personna says:

    Two things. First, what people really forget about is Obama’s small share of the debt. Even now, after 3 years, it is less than half of the Bush legacy.

    Second, you did say “massive bailouts for the banks.” If those were in the stimulus packages, detail where exactly they were.

  10. lou91940 says:

    Campaigner Obama also said he would march with the unions. As far as I can tell he didn’t march in Wisconsin or in Ohio or any place. Now if he were to make an appearance at some national high profile OWS location, that would show balls….. but I don’t expect it. As the man I voted for, I have buyers remorse.

  11. john personna says:

    A new Pew Research poll finds that just 34% of Americans know that the federal government’s bank bailout program was actually signed into law by President Bush while 47% incorrectly believe it was enacted during the Obama’s administration.

  12. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: Aside from supporting TARP, enacted in October 2008, he championed more bailouts in the early weeks of his administration.

    Obama’s Dangerous Bank Bailout (WSJ)

    Obama’s Ersatz Capitalism (NYT)

    Joseph E. Stiglitz: Obama’s Bank Bailout Plan Is Win-Win-Lose Proposal (HuffPo)

    New Obama Mortgage Plan: A Backdoor Bank Bailout (Cato)

  13. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    So which of those happened? Some homeowner things with low subscription rates?

    Seriously, Obama said a lot of things, including:

    Obama Unveils a Tax on Banks to Recoup Losses in Bailout Fund

    The net-net of all those plans were pretty trivial. The main prop for the banks in the Obama years has come from the Fed, and continuing obligations like GNMA

  14. john personna says:

    Here is a full bailout tracker.

    I remember Making Housing Affordable as an Obama initiative. It is only $25B.

    The FHA housing rescue bill, $300B, was passed under Bush.

    Go ahead, find big-ticket bank items under Obama.

  15. James Joyner says:

    @john personna: Fair enough. I knew TARP was under Bush but thought there was more bank bailout money in the Obama stimulus. His bailouts were mostly aimed at the auto companies.

  16. john personna says:

    @James Joyner:

    But certainly we could go on about his responsibility or non for ongoing Fed efforts.

    How QE delivered a triple-whammy of profits to the banks

  17. Lit3Bolt says:

    Thinking on Wall St. vs. Obama, I guess Wall St. concluded it was obvious from Obama’s rhetoric that he was going to betray them in the 2012 election cycle, so they jumped the gun on their own betrayal of him. Unfortunately for them the Republican field is weak to put it mildly.

    I don’t know where they got the conclusion that Obama was going to go all firebrand populist on them. The man’s a dry-as-toast Constitutional lawyer. As john personna pointed out, he’s allowing any bank to make money for free via qualitative easing. So there’s class warfare and ingratitude all right, but I think it’s coming from the money, not the people.

  18. David M says:

    @john personna: To me QE is viewed as another least bad option at this point. The GOP long ago announced they weren’t going to cooperate on anything that would improve the economy, so that leaves QE as one of the few viable options.

  19. john personna says:

    @David M:

    I’ve been thinking back to 2009. There seemed to be two arguments in succession. First, if bailouts (and less visible aid) were necessary, and then whether the bailouts justified increased regulation, oversight, and Wall Street fees.

    It’s pretty amazing looking back now, but somehow we got the bailouts while a belief in “the free market’ blocked further changes.

  20. Lit3Bolt says: