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Public intellectuals adopt 'Occupy Wall Street' and 'Occupy LA'

Paul Krugman supports Occupy Wall Street, but he has some ideas about its agenda.
Paul Krugman supports Occupy Wall Street, but he has some ideas about its agenda.

The floodgates have officially opened. New York Times columnist and Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman has thrown his weight behind Occupy Wall Street (and I'm assuming Occupy LA and Occupy Everywhere Else), endorsing the inchoate anger of the 99%.

Krugman doesn't mince words. The enemy is in his sights, he takes aim, and fires: "What can we say about the protests? First things first: The protesters’ indictment of Wall Street as a destructive force, economically and politically, is completely right."

Krugman is just the latest intellectual personality to lend support to the protesters. Last week, Krugman's fellow Nobel laureate in economics, Joseph Stiglitz, visited Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. Former Labor secretary Robert Reich also spoke up for the movement at a conference in Washington this week. 

Even Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, in Congressional testimony on Tuesday, expressed sympathy for the plight of the 99%. This isn't just a trend on the political left (Bernanke is the farthest thing from a woolly agitator, given that it's his job to make the world safe for capitalism). 

In Los Angeles, members of the City Council also stressed their support for the Occupy LA protesters and the exercise of constitutional rights. I haven't yet heard about any business leaders or policy intellectuals in LA giving the protesters a thumbs up, but I don't doubt that it's coming.

Meanwhile, a broader discussion is developing about whether the Occupy/99% movement has something in common with the Tea Party. Both movements are leaderless, both have leveraged technology, and both have gestated in a sense of outrage about the status quo. They may look like they're on opposite sides of the spectrum. But they definitely share some qualities.

There's no argument that Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy protests in other cities has captured the attention of some smart and influential people. The establishment isn't ignoring what's going on, perhaps because the Arab Spring protests are still fresh in people's minds. 

What's interesting is that serious intellectuals with decades of experience in the issues that the 99% have pushed to the top of the agenda are now helping the movement refine its agenda and platform. This is what Occupy Wall Street, with its demonstrate-first, take-positions-later attitude, was lacking. Not anymore.

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