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Wall Street Built That

Joseph Hines

As we celebrate Occupy Wall Street’s first birthday, the movement's pivoted from financial regulation to focus on crushing consumer debt. While reforming debt is crucial (particularly student debt), finance remains an imminent threat to the American economy. We shouldn't forget it.

There's little evidence that Wall Street's changed since 2008. The drumbeat of flagrant financial crimes has continued unabated in the year since Occupy Wall Street’s inception. As Senior Fellow Wallace Turbeville aptly illustrates, the culture of the "alpha" remains.

In addition, coming on the heels of a report by Better Markets last week that apprised the cost of the financial crisis at $12.8 trillion dollars in lost wealth and human capital, a new report from the Americans for Financial Reform estimates the financial crisis’ additional costs.

Some glaring figures the AFR highlight: 

  • 8.8 million Americans (1 in 20 full-time workers) lost their jobs between 2007 to 2009.
  • The unemployment rate doubled from 5 to 10 percent.
  • Income fell 8 percent. (check out Michael Lipsky’s argument that wage stagnation is as important as unemployment)
  • The percentage of Americans in poverty (though perhaps not a great measure) rose 3 percent.
  • 4 million Americans had homes foreclosed.
  • Homes lost nearly 40 percent of their value.
  • $108,000 per household of lost government spending and diminished home and stock values.

That's just a few of the myriad ways that the deregulated financial industry hurt the broader economy. Debt's important, but ensuring that we reestablish effective and bold regulation remains crucial. As politicians seek to weaken Dodd-Frank by diluting the Volcker Rule and regulating the regulators, a movement to reestablish the people's stake in finance is as important as ever.

When conservatives complain about the deficit and argue for deregulating the financial industry in the same breath, it bears reiterating: Wall Street built that. Let's occupy it.