Here is a quote from Jim Wallis over at Sojourners that will be the foundation for this post.
Since the Occupy Wall Street movement began, the talk about inequality has been greater than I can remember it being for a very long time. This has been the elephant in the room in our discussions about the economy that nobody wanted to say out loud. In the last hundred years, there have been two peak periods of great inequality in American society—just before the Great Depression, and in 2008, right before our current Great Recession. And in the mysterious and secret global transactions between investment bankers and hedge fund traders, the profits continue to grow.
From 1973 to 1985, the financial sector peaked at 16 percent of domestic corporate profits. In the 1990s it reached postwar period highs by going between 21 and 30 percent. But this decade it hit 41 percent. These profits weren’t from products, and weren’t always from finding the best use for capital, but from money-making more money for a new class of super-rich financial traders. And now, when their risk taking, greed, and selfishness created a mess for so many others, we bailed them out and left everyone else to suffer in the economic wilderness of unemployment, home foreclosures, pension losses, deep middle-class insecurity, and rising poverty rates.
It is indeed encouraging to me also to see the amount of attention that financial inequality is getting in the U.S. today. Almost everyone who is knowledgeable on the topic admits that the conditions in the financial sector currently pretty well mirror what they were prior to the Great Depression of the 1930’s As the quote above mentions this sector of the economy is not about enriching lives in general or making products and services that are beneficial to the general population. It is about making money with money. Hedge funds for example are nothing more than gambling on what direction the stock market will likely go. They produce no benefits to any one outside the person trying to game the system.
President Bush bailed out these guys just before leaving office and it seems that, as Jim pointed out above, it left everyone else to suffer unemployment, housing foreclosures, pension loses and the resulting very deep middle-class insecurity. Some are now pointing out these times as being the “Post Hope America”. Given the bitterness found throughout much of our world today there might be, but I hope not, a reality to that phrase. Will the Wall Street protests accomplish any good toward these ends? Who knows. But like most root level protests they must stay active for several months if not years before they are deemed serious by those yahoos in Washington. The only thing that might result in a quicker recognition is a wholesale change in the people in congress. But that will even be over a year before it can happen!
But what do I know.