Wall Street Profits while Main Street Plummets

Have you ever wondered how Wall Street can be rolling in dough, while the poor slobs on Main Street are worried about where their next paycheck is going to come from?

While I’m not an expert economist I do consider myself fairly intelligent. I try to stay informed, reading all the news that new and approved as well as some that’s not so approved, and some that’s downright borderline heretical. Whether it’s financial or political, national or global – I try to keep up to date with what is happening in the world around me. When I read that the latest Consumer Confidence Index numbers reported showed an increase of 4.2 points at the end of November – I nod my head and think “that’s positive news”. When I hear that the third quarter of 2010 produced a 2.5% increase in the national GDP – I pause and wonder if summer vacations, Back-to-School sales and early Holiday shopping influenced the numbers. When leading expert economists state that the Recession officially ended in June of 2009 – I shake my head and wonder what planet they live on. When I read that over the last 21 months the stock market has surged 76% I stop and my brain starts to overheat out of shear frustration.

Here is my question to you: Has your income increased 76% in the last 21 months?

How is it possible that one of the leading indicators of economic growth and stability (the stock market) can have experienced a 76% growth when the unemployment rate is still hovering at 9.8%, housing prices are still falling, and the majority of Americans are being overwhelmed by debt? Here’s what I’ve figured out so far. According to government economic data, the U.S. economy is largely driven by consumption. Consumerism comprises approximately 70% of the national GDP. This means that 70% of our nation’s economy is driven entirely by the amount of money you are spending annually. You. Not some corporation or the government … you. You must be doing pretty well financially since the national GDP increased, right?

Wait, there seems to be a problem. You tell me that you aren’t doing that well financially? You still can’t find a job or are still facing layoffs and salary reductions? Your credit card interest rates just went up again and your bank has started imposing new and higher fees on your money? How is this possible?!? The GDP is increasing, the Stock Market is growing, and the Consumer Confidence Index is rising. Something must be wrong with this picture.

Let’s look at the situation logically: the economy is recovering, the economy is primarily driven by individual spending (consumerism), and therefore the logical conclusion is that American individuals must be spending more money on average. The problem is that the average American household has less money to spend than ever. America is in the mists of a “jobless recovery”. We’ve all heard this. Jobless – meaning that after all the layoffs, all the business closures and bankruptcies, the economy seems to be magically correcting itself and even prospering while the number of jobs being created on a national level are not enough to put all the unemployed back to work. I must have something wrong with my analysis.

Ninety percent of the population is identified as Middle or Lower Class based on their annual income, and we know that the Middle and Lower economic classes are struggling financially. Is 70% of the economy being driven by the consumerism of the top 10% of the population? I doubt it. Even the Warren Buffet’s and Bill Gates’ of the nation aren’t out spending their money willy-nilly. So how is the economy growing? If I were to ask my father, he would say there is some vast conspiracy driving the profits of Wall Street in order to enslave the remaining 90% of the American population and keep them dependent on the corporate fat cats. Possible, but I have considerable reservations with that idea – at least the enslavement part. Without those average Americans financially stable the top 10% won’t have anyone to buy their products or services, or work for their companies. Are the numbers merely fictional concepts announced to the public as a means of driving them to some form of action? This seems a little more probable. Consumers are more likely to spend if they believe that the economy is stable, or that they will be getting greater value for their money. But who is perpetuating this deception? Is it the government? Are businesses or shadow organizations crafting some complex fiction as a means of control and manipulation? I don’t know. But I do know that if enough of us stop buying in to the story (pun intended) and start asking questions, then it will be possible to regain control of our own financial destinies.