The thing that bothers me the most about all the scurrying warnings of panic from people in the finance industry these days is that they don’t seem to acknowledge the reality of the economy outside the big markets on Wall Street. They’re saying that that the American economy will enter a serious crisis if Wall Street doesn’t get a bailout package from the federal government very soon, but the truth is that the American economy has already been in crisis for quite some time – but that crisis hasn’t affected the investment class until now.
They don’t care that huge numbers of people have been losing their homes and their jobs. They don’t regard it as a problem that wages have been in decline for most of the last generation. They only care about inflation inasmuch as it affects widescale consumption patterns. It’s only when the super rich have their standard of living threatened that they declare that there’s a crisis.
It’s been almost half a year since the grocery store in a small town near where I live closed its doors for good. The supermarket was called Save A Lot, and its business model targeted the most desperate people in the community. The store sold relatively inexpensive, low quality foods. The idea was that people in hard times would flock to the store to buy more food for their dollar, without caring that the food was overprocessed, generally unhealthy, as well as poor in taste and selection.
Trouble came for the store with this year’s inflation in the cost of food. All of a sudden, the store with cheap food was selling at a price that wasn’t at all cheap. People were getting unpleasant food for as much as they used to pay for food that they actually enjoyed eating.
Right up to the end, the Save A Lot grocery store was swaggering with confidence. I looked through the front window of the store this afternoon, cupping my hands around my face so that I could see the darkened insides. There, still hanging from the ceiling, was a sign reading 5 million customers can’t be wrong.
It didn’t take 5 million customers to be wrong for that store to fail. It fell apart on difficulties of just a few hundred customers.
That community, and those around it, have had increasing numbers of empty storefront windows this year. Yet, the landlords are still charging the same old high rates of rent for those business locations, hoping to make their investments pay off, regardless of the new economic reality.
Main Street America has been in financial crisis for a long time now, as its wealth has been sucked out to support an elite corporate leadership that has, with the help of right wing politicians in the White House and Congress, squeezed the margins of live for working Americans until they were too thin to hold out against any pressure.
Wall Street forgot that it depends upon Main Street, and so it spent the last 28 years crippling the ability of Main Street to sustain itself. Now, thanks to the cruel consequences of this exploitation, Wall Street is finally on the verge of joining Main Street in its crisis.
When we suffered, Wall Street told us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Now that it’s having economic problems, Wall Street is asking us to lend it our bootstraps, so that it can pull itself back up. Sorry, but no, Wall Street. We’re already using them.