Repression of Middle Class Fosters Discord in America


“I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” That seems to describe the general feeling among people as diverse as Tea Party members and Occupy Wall Street types. It also captures the mood of a vast middle class of America that is fed up with our institutions of finance and government in general. Why is that?

One reason may have to do with the fact that Wall Street banks and their top executives made mega-millions by recklessly creating the bubble in the 1990s (putting “lipstick on pigs”) and, the next decade, dealing in toxic securities that played an important role in the financial crisis and recession of 2008-2009.

Wall Street financiers made out like bandits by bending and breaking the rules with impunity, and, in the process, destroying individual investors’ confidence in the stock market. There will be no criminal trials for top Wall Street brass, however, despite the numerous jail sentences handed down in the wake of the much smaller savings and loan scandals.

As Wall Street continues to reap ill-gotten gains, and uses them to buy politicians to fend off much-needed reforms, middle-America, which respects and plays by the rules, is suffering and falling further behind. The Federal Reserve Bank recently issued a report showing how the financial crisis and recession destroyed much middle-class wealth.

“The impact has been a massive destruction of wealth all across the board,” one investment advisor who manages $500 million was quoted as saying, adding: “What you see is an economy that’s really very, very stressed for the bottom 60 to 70 percent of the population that’s struggling just to make ends meet.” (“Fed puts a number on financial crisis damage ? and it’s a jaw dropper,” InvestmentNews).

CNNMoney reports how Morris County, New Jersey, once an upper-middle class enclave with a median income over $91,000, has seen the number of people on food stamps triple the past 5 years.

“These people thought they had the American Dream,” Phyllis Tonnesen, a 27-year veteran of the Department of Human Services Office of Temporary Assistance, was quoted as saying, adding: “They had decent jobs, a home, a new car every five years, took the kids to the shore for vacation. Suddenly here they are applying for food stamps.” (“Living on food stamps in middle-class suburbs,” by Adam Reiss and Poppy Harlow, CNNMoney).

The American Dream, in essence, is that if you work hard and play by the rules, you are likely to be financially better off than your parents were. The American Dream is gone, many believe, largely because there are too many corrupted politicians in Washington, D.C., who refuse to put the reigns on an out-of-control Wall Street and their own profligate deficit spending on dubious wars and Wall Street bail-outs.

Page Perry is an Atlanta-based law firm with over 170 years of collective experience maintaining integrity in the investment markets and protecting investor rights.