"It Is What's Known in Business as the Invisible Government Scaffolding of the Free Market"
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
The real information in that clip from Thursday's "Daily Show"? Jon Stewart -- or someone in his office -- read Matt Taibbi's blog post explaining the basis for the $3.4 billion Goldman Sachs made during the second quarter. And so should you. That basis, after all, is your money. And it's not just Goldman. J.P. Morgan made $2.7 billion in profits. Bank of America -- remember when it almost collapsed? -- reported $2.4 billion.
You should, of course, be celebrating. We're back to "normal." It's a recessionary normal, but a form of normal nonetheless. The only problem is that it feels like hell. No one wants a normal where Wall Street took hundreds of billions in emergency taxpayer dollars and went back to pocketing billions for themselves. And it's not just the billions we gave them but the trillions they took: The crash was in no small part their fault. But though the rest of us remain trapped in recession, they're back to triumphant quarterly reports.
Economic policy these days is like the old hypothetical where you had to decide whether you'd crush the skull of a little girl if it would save a preschool full of children. It's good that the economy didn't collapse. But the way we went about saving it sure doesn't feel good, and the welfare kings on Wall Street aren't doing much to make it feel better.
Taibbi's righteous anger -- and it is decidedly, undeniably righteous -- doesn't have a lot of room for counterfactuals: I don't know whether we could have saved the economy without massively subsidizing the financial sector. Nor am I convinced that a policy of revenge and retribution on top earners would do a lot of good for median wages. But you know what would do a lot of good for the working class? Health-care reform. And one of the options for paying for health-care reform is a 5.4 percent surtax on income beyond $1 million a year. There's a lot of opposition to that, of course. It's that dirtiest of words: redistribution! But given the flow of funds over the past few years, and given what the finance class has taken from the working class, it's also something else: re-redistribution.
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