The downgrading of the U.S. economy by Standard & Poor's exposes a grim reality: that the economic recovery from the 2008 Wall Street debacle was fiction. That fiction is becoming more evident every day as mothers and fathers try to feed their children while the economic crisis kicks them out of their homes. Millions of babies are born without real healthcare. Families are left homeless and thrown off of welfare.
The manipulation by S&P to downgrade the U.S. government’s credit rating not only demonstrates how dysfunctional our economy has become, it reflects S&P’s own mischievous behavior as a credit rating agency. The downgrade reflects nothing new about the creditworthiness of the U.S. government. And it’s a little too late. It is important to remember that S&P rated the toxic home mortgages of the 2007-2008 housing bubble as triple-A. So we should judge their ratings with a grain of salt.
Without considering the option of making the super rich and the large corporations pay their fair share in taxes, there seems to be no real relief in sight for the vulnerable, the unemployed, and those who have lost their homes. With the country facing deep austerity measures and cuts to essential programs, America’s future seems desolate. The lack of a new economic vision in government, and the resulting Wall Street dip, confirms that the United States, and especially its poor and working class, face long-lasting economic turmoil.
For many families in America, there is a constant struggle to make payments — working to make car payments, pay phone bills, make rent, or pay a mortgage, wondering where the day went. While corporate executives come home after a day at the office with wads of cash in their pockets, so many more are failing at raising a family on minimum wage. It is easy to see that there are two worlds in America — one of the well-to-do and the other of the struggling.
If there ever were an absence of economic security in this country it is seen in the grassroots movements in Wisconsin earlier this year, and in social movements like US Uncut, and Rebuild the Dream. It is seen in the civil disobedience that arises from a generation that feels, rightly so, that they have been deceived by those who have come before them, that they are at best tolerated in schools, ushered onto the streets, and almost inescapably fated for the hellholes of unemployment. They grew up feeling hungry, hated, and unloved, and this is the fire that spawns a seemingly-pervasive anger in America. Many feel very little hope that they can climb above the pit of poverty.
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While a generation of young people arrives in a world without options, wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the few — and now the wealthy are scrambling to deal with the Tea Party Downgrade. Their very opulence and relative wealth makes them vulnerable. “The Debt Crisis” is a tea party phrase that is about as crazy as saying “military intelligence” or “the U.S. Department of Justice.” They’re just words and they have very little relationship to reality. Do you think cutting taxes and government budgets will make our economy secure? Do you feel economically secure? Do you think you will anytime soon?
This crisis could have been averted by eliminating our overall dependence on Wall Street. The solution to the current crisis requires not only a reorganizing of priorities, which puts the necessities of the most vulnerable before those of the powerful, but also economic democracy.
As we have witnessed, the U.S. government and our global economy are largely controlled by Wall Street. This sadistic relationship must end if there is to be any consequential restructuring of our economy — and change is possible, as demonstrated by a recent report from the New Economy Working Group entitled "How to Liberate America from Wall Street Rule."
We must lower our dependence on Wall Street, says the report. It proposes bold policies to support community banks which operate cooperatively and are controlled by nonprofit organizations, to greatly increase transparency in agencies that exercise great economic power such as the Federal Reserve, to create partnership banks in every state to fund local projects, and to institute stringent regulation on financial institutions, including the breaking up of big banks. These simple policy recommendations, if implemented, would unfetter America from Wall Street’s bondage and allow America to create a new economy.
As Wall Street ignores the suffering of a generation of Americans, we must all call for the changes needed to ensure a better future for our country. That means looking for real solutions to our economic woes, not looking to Wall Street.