Five years ago today, the front pages were just a catalog of panicky headlines about the meltdown of America's finances. Today, things have changed: headlines note that only some groups of Americans are financially doomed.
We've come a long way since Wall Street had to worry that it might implode. Those days, thankfully, are but a memory. Five years later, Wall Street is doing just fine. It's just a few dead-enders we have to be concerned about now:
—The young. Unemployment has stayed persistently high for people age 16-24, thanks to cascading effects of older people snapping up lower-paying jobs down the employment food chain. For people under 25, "Little more than half are working full time—compared with about 80% of the population at large—and 12% earn minimum wage or less."
—The lower class. It's so popular, people are flocking to it! "Last year, a record 8.4% of Americans put themselves in that category — more than at any other time in the four decades that the question has been asked on the General Social Survey." Bad news for the state of our economy, but good news for class consciousness?
—The middle class. One in four Americans worry about their ability to pay for utilities and food.
—Home sellers. Don't count your profits just yet.
—Investors in general. "One [measure] shows margin debt in brokerage accounts, a measure of the use of borrowed money by investors, is back to levels seen at the 2000 and 2007 peaks. That worries some analysts since it suggests riskier investment are back to the extreme that preceded declines in the past." Profits are getting tougher. Everyone is chasing riskier investments now! Nothing can go wrong! "After years of playing defense in cash, bonds, and large U.S. dividend-paying stocks, the nation's 40 largest wealth-management firms are recommending investments that, until lately, have been considered far too volatile, too illiquid, or simply too susceptible to economic setbacks." Risk... reward? Risk... doom? Finding out is the fun part!
—Detroit residents. Thirty years of financial mismanagement will not be unwound so easily.
—And the littlest victim of all. Larry Summers' ego.
Again, this is not a time to worry. The people who really matter are doing okay.
[Photo: Bill Stilwell/ Flickr]