One gets the distinct sense of a pincer movement by the very rich and the very poor against the once plentiful middle class. One gets the TARP and the other WIC, EBT, and all the rest. This depressing piece on the rise of “oligarchy” hits a lot of the right notes, in all their depressing melodies:
Wall Street grandees, many of whom should have spent the past years studying the inside of jail cells for their misbehavior, are only bothered by how to spend their ill-gotten earnings, and how not to pay taxes on it. The Obama Administration in concert with the Congress , have consented to allow the oligarchy to continue paying capital gains taxes well below the income tax rate paid by poor schmuck professionals, small business owners and high-skilled technical types.
In this, both political parties are to blame. Republican fealty to the interests of the investor class has been long-standing. But Obama and the Democrats are also increasingly backed in their “progressive” causes by the very people — Wall Street traders, venture capitalists and tech executives — who benefit most from the federal bailouts, cheap money, low interest rates, and low capital gains tax rates.
Large financial institutions also have benefited greatly from regulations that guaranteed their survival while allowing for increased concentration of financial assets. Indeed in the first five years of the Obama Administration the share of financial assets held by the top six “too big to fail” banks soared 37%, and now account for two-thirds of all bank assets.
“Quantitative easing,” the government’s purchase of financial assets from commercial banks, essentially constituted a “too big to fail” windfall to the largest Wall Street firms, notes one former high-level official. By 2011, pay for executives at the largest banking firms hit new records, just three years after the financial “wizards” left the world economy on the brink of economic catastrophe. Meanwhile, as “too big to fail” banks received huge bailouts, the ranks of community banks continues dropping to the lowest number since the 1930s, hurting, in particular, small businesspeople that depend on loans from these institutions.
This tilt towards of the financial elites, as Elizabeth Warren has noted, occurred during both the Bush and Obama Administrations. “The government’s most important job,” she remarks, “was to provide a soft landing for the tender fannies of the banks.”