Where's Occupy Wall Street when you need it?
That's the question columnist Robert Scheer asked Tuesday amid abounding evidence that Wall Street and the wealthiest 1% are living up boom times while the rest of the U.S. continues to languish in the clutches of a recession that began nearly five years ago.
On Tuesday the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit an all-time high. As the Associated Press reports, "The [stock index] jumped from the opening bell, climbed as much as 158 points early and reached 14,286, breaking through its previous record high set in October 2007."
"Two-thirds of the wealthiest people in the U.S. added to their fortunes in 2012, boosting their average net worth by $400 million to a record $4.2 billion." - Forbes 'Billionaires List'
But as the Guardian's U.S. Finance Editor Heidi Moore urged readers to remember: "the stock market is not the economy." And even if it was, she says, the Dow Jones has its "own interest at heart," not the general public's. The Dow, she explains:
[is] that narcissist who's always preening and trying to look powerful when in fact it barely deserves an invitation to the party.
Most Americans know that the Dow is composed of a basket of 30 industrial stocks that are largely impervious to the struggles of ordinary Americans. If you separated these stocks, their rise would not be exciting. It's hard to picture a family driving back from the food bank – poverty is also at all-time highs in America, by the way – chanting "three cheers for Alcoa! Let's hear it for Caterpillar!" Americans, no matter how patriotic, don't pull out the pom-poms when it's a good quarter for Cisco. We just wait quietly for the riches to trickle down, for the companies to start hiring and for the rest of us to feel rich.
But don't hold your breath, Moore says. With corporations hoarding as much as $1.4 trillion in cash assets and new evidence showing that corporate profits are careening upward without the need to hire US workers, the disparity between rich and poor is only likely to grow.
As it does, middle-class and low-income Americans are forced to swallow continued high unemployment, stagnant wages, and austerity economic policies based on deficit hysteria.
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But, as Scheer explains:
The suddenly increased national debt is primarily the result of a deep recession caused by the top bankers and hedge fund hustlers of Wall Street, saved from their folly by massive and costly federal intervention. The result has been a season of obscene profit for them, while the rest of the nation has floundered. But instead of making the rich pay, ordinary citizens will be visited with job furloughs and a savaging of public services that often are lifesaving.
And while the pain continues among the poor and working class, the release of Forbes' 'Billionaires List' on Monday showed that 210 individuals found themselves elevated into the worlds' most exclusive economic bracket last year.
According to Forbes: Two-thirds of the wealthiest people in the U.S. added to their fortunes in 2012, boosting their average net worth by $400 million to a record $4.2 billion.
And The Guardian reports:
Many of the world's largest economies may be weathering the toughest recessionary storms in living memory, but for those at the top there has rarely been an easier time to join the billionaires' club.
Some 210 multi-millionaires were propelled into the premier league of extreme wealth in the last 12 months as they achieved 10-figure fortunes and the world now plays host to a record 1,426 dollar billionaires, according to Forbes magazine's study.
This super-rich set together sit on wealth estimated at $5.4tn (£3.6tn) – equal to more than a third of the annual output of the US, the world's largest economy. Last year the billionaires' club held a combined wealth of $4.6tn.
Despite that accumulated and massive wealth, as Scheer concludes, "the country now debates the causes and cures for the enormous public debt run-up since the onset of the Great Recession."
What's clear, he says, is that "a national bipartisan policy of bailing out Wall Street has succeeded splendidly, but at the expense of the average citizen."
And in a final note of devastating irony amid the rising treasures of the rich down on Wall Street, Scheer points out the quiet headline in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday which read: “New York City Leads Jump in Homeless.”