This means that the American dream - the dream of opportunity, of getting ahead and earning a better future for your children - is broken. That dream, that hope, for all Americans, however real or unreal it was, kept America going through good times and bad. But now, more and more Americans (and there were always some) are realizing that the dream is empty, and how hard they work does not matter. They see nothing in the future but an endless struggle to stay alive, to feed their family, keep the car running, to pay the rent and the utilities.
Unless you are Peter Darbee, who got a $35 million severance package when he resigned as CEO of Pacific Gas & Electric Company after a gas pipeline explosion killed eight people and the company's stock price took a dive. Or John Paulson, who made billions of dollars from his special deals with Goldman Sachs - deals designed to blow up in others' faces.
No wonder people are pissed off. How did we get to this point? It took a while, and there were plenty of warnings, but both Republicans and Democrats kept us on a steady course toward disaster for working Americans, and enabled the plundering of our future by ruthless Wall Street buccaneers. A craven Congress blinded by money heedlessly gutted the nation's defenses against the sheer greed that would ultimately cost American taxpayers trillions of dollars - and one precious dream.
From Reagan and his "trickle down" economics that blessed the rich keeping more and sharing less, through Clinton's quashing of attempts to think about regulating the derivatives markets, to Bush 2 and Obama, the Republicans and Democrats in the White House and Congress share the blame.
Neither Republican nor Democratic presidents enforced the anti-trust laws designed to keep banks from getting "too big to fail." Both Republican and Democratic congresses willingly - even proudly - eliminated the protections put in place after the 1929 stock crash and the Great Depression. Both Republicans and Democrats ignored the clear warnings: the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, the failure of Long-Term Capital Management in the 1990s, and the few bold voices telling them "this is a bad idea." Instead they kept listening to the siren song of Alan Greenspan and the big corporations urging them to blindly trust in unregulated markets - regardless of the real-world evidence.
While things were going okay for most people (even if they weren't getting super-rich like the top 1%) they were content to just live their lives. The Occupy movement (and to a lesser extent, the Tea Party movement) is a sign that things are no longer going okay for most people in America. People are pissed off that they got ripped off, and particularly pissed off that the very government that is supposed to protect them from getting ripped off opened the door to the robbers.
Yes, we want the dream back. But now we want back more than just a dream. This time it needs to be real.