NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The first time I wandered by the Occupy Wall Street protest in lower Manhattan, I was almost moved to yell at them, to make myself heard over the bongo drums: "What took you so long?!" I'm still baffled that the first major organized protests against the outrages of Wall Street took place three years after the financial crisis.Well, now we have a protest proportional to the provocation, and it's about time. I think the reason OWS has resonance is that it is not organized by a specific group of grievants, like the underwater homeowners who protested at the banks a few years back. It is broad in its discontent, a bit like the larger Vietnam-era protests. In that sense it shares a good deal with the Tea Party, which also reflects a vague dissatisfaction with the direction of the country. The difference is that the Tea Party is directed at "big government" and taxation -- even of the very wealthy, whose interests the Tea Partiers have embraced, and who have financially embraced the Tea Party in return. The Wall Street protesters don't have Koch money to back them, but they don't need it. They have public sentiment at their back. Their common denominator is rage at Wall Street and income inequality in America. At Liberty Plaza, you see a lot of placards referring to the protesters belonging to the "99%" -- a reference to the fact that 23.5% of America's income is concentrated in the top 1% of American households. That, and anger at Wall Street, are two subjects that many, if not most, Americans can agree upon. It's easy to make light of the protesters, as a Florida banker did when I faced off against him on CNBC on Friday, or as Erin Burnett did in her much-ridiculed CNN segment a few days ago. But I think that it's a mistake to underestimate the strength and vitality of the protests, and the extent to which they mirror public opinion. I have to admit that the vagueness of the discontent, the failure to make specific and achievable demands, is a downside to the protests. (Though I did see a sign talking up Dodd-Frank, and another with the plaintive plea "Regulate!") While it's true, as the New York Times opined on Sunday, that "it is not the job of the protesters to draft legislation," it's a shame to see such raw energy being expended without specific goals. The protesters could use a bit of direction, some schooling in the specific reforms that need to be enacted. There have been "teach-ins" by the likes of Joseph Stiglitz, the eminent economist, and journalist Jeff Madrick, which is a start.