Just a year ago, Occupy Wall Street commanded attention from the media and politicians alike. Yet last night the central concern of that social movement—one shared by a majority of Americans—wasn't even mentioned as both candidates and the moderator ducked the problem of economic inequality.
Yes, Obama did say several times that America does best when the middle class is growing. But he never overtly talked about the growing chasm of income and wealth—or how a big reason that ordinary people are not doing so well is because so much new prosperity created in today's economy gets channeled upward to a tiny sliver of the population.
Not mentioning inequality when talking about the plight of the middle class is like not mentioning poaching when discussing the future of elephants.
Obama's omission was especially notable in that his campaign is one of the most populist in memory, with nonstop attacks on Romney as part of the plutocratic problem and repeated calls for higher taxes on the wealthy. Bain Capital wasn't mentioned once last night, much less the Cayman Islands.
I am genuinely curious as to how Romney would address a direct question about economic inequality. Does he share the view of David Brooks and other moderate conservatives that inequality is a problem? Does he think government has any role at all in closing the gap? What strategies would he favor to do so?
Last night was an opportunity to hear both candidates address what is arguably the biggest problem in America right now—a country supposedly founded on egalitarian ideals.
Too bad that opportunity was missed.