Our Two-Faced Economy

On one hand, the U.S. economy of the past few years has been great— for investors, banks, and the young affluent types propelling the new tech boom. On the other hand, progress for the middle class is all but absent (not to mention the lower class). Sooner or later, one hand is going to cut the other hand off.

This is, to a large extent, the real economy vs. the Wall Street economy dynamic, rolling on. For those in the investment and capital class, the post-recession era has been amazing: a once-in-a-generation stock market rally, and a continuing triumph of money over fear. The people who've been predicting doom since 2008 are still waiting. Wall Street is getting rich in the meantime. And even as all the big banks have announced staggering profits this week, they have also leaned in harder against proposed new regulations designed to mitigate, just a little bit, their ability to collectively destroy the global economy. They are still too big to fail, and they're quite satisfied to keep it that way. Along with the young and affluent class pouring money into real estate and a resurgence of house-flipping across America, all we need is a nice big dose of subprime loans to put us all right back in 2006.

Not to worry, though; nobody's dumb enough to start handing out free money to the poors again, just yet. The prospects of the middle class, after all, are not looking as bright as those of Wall Street. They're moving in the opposite direction, in fact:

Data from spring show that median earnings — those of the worker smack in the middle of the middle class — have fallen 4 percent since the recession ended, after adjusting for inflation... researchers warned that wage growth is likely to decelerate “long after the unemployment rate has returned to more normal levels.”

The answer, of course, is socialism enforced by a staunchly progressive tax code— a solution which should appeal equally to the impoverished underclass who want a living wage and to members of the enriched overclass who do not want to have all of their possessions stolen from them by an impoverished mob. But the American public may not be ready for that just yet. So let's start with Glass-Steagall, and work our way up from there.

[Photo: David Shankbone/ Flickr]