Boston Herald | Monday, October 17, 2011 | Op-Ed |

As a professor at Harvard Law School, Liz Warren is no doubt familiar with sit-in protests.

Back when I was at the law school in the early 1990s, students occupied the dean’s office to protest the hiring of four white, male professors and to demand the appointment of a “woman of color.”  Although student demands were not immediately met, the pressure to hire a more diverse faculty ultimately benefited Warren, whom Harvard hired as a permanent full-time faculty member in 1995.

Today, Harvard students are not content to occupy the office of some grad school dean to protest faculty appointments — diversity protests are so last century!   In 2011, they take to the streets to demand debt forgiveness (theirs) and higher taxes on the “wealthy.”  (Apparently, they haven’t figured out that when their parents are taxed into oblivion, their student debt will rise.  But since when are college students rational?)

Luckily for this motley group of malcontents, Cambridge Liz is on their side.

“The people on Wall Street broke this country,” she said when asked about the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Really? According to Peter Wallison, a former member of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, reckless government housing policy — not Wall Street greed — was the primary cause of the financial collapse.

But Wallison is no Harvard Law professor.  If Cambridge Liz says it’s Wall Street’s fault, by golly, she must be right.

Liz Warren is, of course, more than just an OWS sympathizer.  She is the movement’s ideological mother.  In her scholarship and speeches, Warren routinely attacks American entrepreneurs, serving up the very class resentment and sense of entitlement from which OWS draws strength.

She famously argued that “nobody gets rich alone” and that successful businesses owe the government a debt of gratitude for providing essential services. According to Warren, this debt is to be paid in (you guessed it) higher taxes. Forget about the fact that higher taxes mean fewer jobs — this is a matter of “fairness.”

Indeed, when asked in the UMass-Lowell debate about the extension of the Bush tax cuts, Warren answered that taxes are a question of “values,” and that the money would be better spent “elsewhere” — not, mind you, on deficit reduction, but on more social programs.

To the political talk-a-razzi, this message represents liberalism’s last best hope.  Writing in The New Republic, John B. Judis and Jonathan Cohn argue that Warren and OWS are the Democrats’ final chance to “redeem the promise of Obama’s 2008 campaign.”

They are right.  The Massachusetts Senate campaign, like the 2012 presidential race, will either validate or repudiate Obamanomics.

The debate has been framed:

  • Do we, as a state and as a country, believe that our current troubles were caused primarily by Wall Street greed or by irresponsible government policies?
  • Should we treat our economic ills by expanding the social safety net or by limiting the size and reach of government?
  • Do we believe that the principal engine of economic growth is government or the private sector?
  • Is taxation a necessary evil (a way to pay the government’s bills) or a moral good (a means of spreading wealth)?
  • Are we more comfortable with the Tea Party’s message of debt reduction or with Occupy Wall Street’s message of income redistribution?

Unlike other recent presidential election years (1992, 1996, 2000 and even 2004), this campaign is about more than the candidates and their laundry list of policy ideas.  It is about first principles.

The lines have been drawn.   Which side are you on?


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