"I'm amazed at how passive the population has remained in the face of this sustained outrage," Bob Herbert writes in his column in today's New York Times. The outrage he is referring to is that, as he puts it, "Even as tens of millions of working Americans are struggling to hang onto their jobs and keep a roof over their families' heads, the wise guys of Wall Street are licking their fat-cat chops over yet another round of obscene multibillion-dollar bonuses — this time thanks to the bailout billions that were sent their way by Uncle Sam, with very little in the way of strings attached." Meanwhile, last month, in his regular column, the president of the Hudson Institute, Herbert London, wrote, "It strikes me as remarkable that a government take-over of so many aspects of the private economy has elicited so modulated a response...Had this overreaching, this blatant attempt at government usurpation, occurred in another period Americans would have been out on the streets with pitchforks ready for combat. But most Americans scarcely know what is going on. They don't get angry because they don't know what to be angry about."
Mr. Herbert, who is left of center, and Mr. London, who is right of center, each venture answers to why the public isn't as riled up as it might be. Mr. Herbert says the taxpayers might be suckers, as he puts it, and Mr. London says Americans have been intoxicated by entertainment, the modern equivalent of bread and circuses. Sometimes the "where is the outrage?" question is the lament of a figure, like Bob Dole in 1996, whose message just isn't resonating with the American public. At this juncture, though, it may be that there is more outrage simmering under the surface than either Mr. Herbert or Mr. London realize, and that it is just waiting for a political figure to come along and capitalize on it. There's nothing like some well-crafted political campaign advertising to get the public riled up, and since we've been in an off-cycle year for American national politics, there hasn't been as much of it as there might have been.