Steve Fraser offers a catalog of uncomfortable truths at TomDispatch, documenting a process of decline and dismemberment of the American industrial landscape. A few eloquent passages will suggest why it’s worth reading in its entirety:
“Debtpocalypse” is merely the latest installment in a tragic, 40-year-old story of the dispossession of American working people.
Think of it as the archeology of decline, or a tale of two worlds. As a long generation of austerity politics hollowed out the heartland, the quants and traders and financial wizards of Wall Street gobbled up ever more of the nation’s resources. It was another Great Migration — instead of people, though, trillions of dollars were being sucked out of industrial America and turned into “financial instruments” and new, exotic forms of wealth. If blue-collar Americans were the particular victims here, then high finance is what consumed them…
The United States now has the highest percentage of low-wage workers — those who earn less than two-thirds of the median wage — of any developed nation.
…here in “the homeland,” the very profitability and prosperity of privileged sectors of the economy, especially the bloated financial arena, continue to depend on slicing, dicing, and stripping away what was built up over generations.
Once again a new world has been born. This time, it depends on liquidating the assets of the old one or shipping them abroad to reward speculation in “fictitious capital.” …
for more than a quarter of a century the fastest growing part of the economy has been the finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sector. Between 1980 and 2005, profits in the financial sector increased by 800%, more than three times the growth in non-financial sectors.
In those years, new creations of financial ingenuity, rare or never seen before, bred like rabbits. In the early 1990s, for example, there were a couple of hundred hedge funds; by 2007, 10,000 of them. A whole new species of mortgage broker roamed the land, supplanting old-style savings and loan or regional banks. Fifty thousand mortgage brokerages employed 400,000 brokers, more than the whole U.S. textile industry. A hedge fund manager put it bluntly, “The money that’s made from manufacturing stuff is a pittance in comparison to the amount of money made from shuffling money around.”