Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Not So New News

I'm posting David Horsey's cartoon and comments not because it contains a startling new revelation but because it points to a serious problem affecting far too many people in our nation.

A couple of weeks ago, JPMorgan Chase & Co. revealed losses on risky investments that, thus far, total more than $2 billion. It seems that, even after the near-death experience of the 2008 global financial meltdown, hotshot investment bankers at JPMorgan were rolling the dice and betting enormous amounts of other people’s money on high-risk ventures.

Then, after Facebook’s first public stock offering fell far short of expectations, it was revealed that Morgan Stanley, the bank that managed the IPO, had quietly warned big investors that buying into Facebook might not be such a great idea. More modest investors, as always, were left out of the loop. ...

In years long gone, this sort of behavior would not have mattered quite so much to the public at large. Wall Street was a place for men in striped suits with money to spare; it was not a place for the typical working man. But, over the last couple of decades, the financial lives of the majority of Americans have become enmeshed with the ups and downs of the market.

Many have bought into mutual funds, an affordable and supposedly reliable way for the small investor to reap a little profit from the bigger investment game. Many have also become investors, whether they like it or not, as pension plans have been replaced by 401(k) schemes. This change seemed like a sensible step considering the trajectory of the stock market in the 20th century.
[Emphasis added]

And that's the point. The Wall Street banksters are walking away with no penalties, while the rest of us are suffering more than just bloody noses. It is one thing to acknowledge that Wall Street is a crazy casino, it is another to acknowledge that we are being forced to bet in that tilted venue with no recourse, at least no recourse that looks reasonably forthcoming.

Horsey's conclusion captures our dilemma nicely.

It is as if the U.S. financial system is a churning ocean on which the captains of finance rove in their treasure ships while the rest of us are left to drift in tiny vessels, surrounded by sharks, with no oars or compasses or clues about how to find safe harbor.


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