Sounds of Outrage Heard on Wall Street

Harvard’s Nieman Watchdog Web site recently featured a very good piece by John Hanrahan, a former reporter at The Washington Post, about press coverage of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations.

“There has been an outpouring of well-informed criticism of the mainstream news media’s initial coverage and non-coverage of the Wall Street protests,” Mr. Hanrahan wrote.

Coverage was initially dismissive and minimal — and mea culpa, I wasn’t paying attention myself. But it’s becoming clear that there’s something important happening: finally, after three years in which the Very Serious People refused to hold the financial industry accountable, there’s a real grass-roots uprising against the Masters of the Universe.

There will, of course, be the usual attempts to dismiss the whole thing based on trivialities: Look at the oddly dressed people acting out!

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So? Is it better when exquisitely tailored bankers whose gambles brought the world economy to its knees — and who were bailed out by taxpayers — whine that President Obama is saying slightly mean things about them?

Or: Why don’t they try to work within the system?

Well, how’s that been going for those who did indeed try? When palace intrigue undermined the likes of Elizabeth Warren — the financial reformer and now a Senate candidate — even within President Obama’s administration, and Republicans have thrown their full backing behind the malefactors of great wealth, why shouldn’t protesters go outside the usual channels?

Finally, why not defer to people who know what needs to be done? Regular readers know the answer: the Very Serious People have been consistently, awesomely wrong, both before the financial crisis and after.

Nothing in the recent record of policy suggests that the wise men of finance deserve any credence at all.

So, good for the protesters. And if the Obama people have any sense of self-preservation, they’ll try to mend fences with the people they have disappointed so badly.

Why I’m Not in Zuccotti Park

Some readers have been asking me to go make a speech at one of the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations. If you think about it, however, you’ll see why I can’t.

I’ve been granted the enormous privilege of expounding my own views twice a week in the world’s greatest newspaper. I try to make the best use of that privilege, doing all I can to get the truth across and also advocating for what I believe to be the right policies. There are, however, some restrictions that come with the privilege; one of them is not crossing the line between advocate and activist. And there are good reasons for drawing that line.

Just in case you were wondering.

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Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed page and continues as a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2008.

Mr Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes, including “The Return of Depression Economics” (2008) and “The Conscience of a Liberal” (2007). Copyright 2011 The New York Times.