Barack Obama's presidency certainly hasn't been an all-out bust -- repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, taking out Osama bin Laden and getting some form of universal health coverage passed are real achievements -- but he's completely crapped the bed when it comes to jobs. And I'm not just talking about the high unemployment rate, either -- I'm talking about the continued collapse in workers' income. Check out this chart from David Frum:
Workers' share of national income started steadily dropping under Reagan and Bush I, saw a brief rebound during the late '90s tech boom, and then fell off a cliff during the Bush II and Obama administrations.
Of course, not everyone is hurting. As Felix Salmon pointed out earlier this year, the financial services industry has weathered this recession just fine:
There are lots of reasons this has occurred, but broadly speaking this trend started in the 1980s when we collectively decided that rich people were magical wealth leprechauns who must be kept happy at all costs lest they take their pots of gold elsewhere. So we got huge tax cuts for the wealthy, free trade agreements, financial deregulation and a government that turned a blind eye toward businesses that broke the law by employing illegal labor at below the minimum wage.
But sadly, that just isn't enough for our Galtian overlords. See, they don't just want us to change the law for their own benefit anymore. Indeed, they want to flat-out plunder people without facing any sort of legal consequences. "But how the hell can they justify that?" you sanely ask. The answer is, the same way they've justified giant tax cuts: By arguing that they're just Too Special and Important to be held accountable. Brad Hintz, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co, starting floating this cute little idea the other week when he declared that Goldman Sachs was too systemically important to face criminal prosecution:
The U.S. Department of Justice, which is reviewing a Senate subcommittee report that alleged Goldman Sachs misled clients before the financial crisis, will avoid jeopardizing the fifth- largest U.S. bank by assets because it’s viewed as “too big to fail,” Hintz wrote in note to clients today.
“If an alleged violation is identified during a Goldman investigation, we expect a reasoned response from the Justice Department,” Hintz wrote. “In a worst case environment, we would expect a ‘too big to fail’ bank such as Goldman to be offered a deferred-prosecution agreement, pay a significant fine and submit to a federal monitor in lieu of a criminal charge.”
And this is what America has become, then: A nation where the rich and powerful can trample the poor and middle class with impunity and face zero repercussions for their crimes. The fact that this trend has not only continued under Barack Obama's watch but has actually accelerated is about as damning an indictment of him and his administration as I can fathom. And it's not just him either, as some of our progressive "heroes" like Barney Frank are still happily allowing Wall Street to organize campaign fundraisers in their names.
There's going to be a breaking point sometime in the future where people will actually vote for a political candidate who refuses to kiss rich peoples' asses as a matter of policy. The question is, how bad will things have to get before people reach this threshold of revelation? Hopefully it'll happen before Paul Ryan starts floating the idea of reviving the poll tax.