I came across these stunning statistics in a Matt Taibbi piece the other day: the top 1% in our country has had its percentage of the nation's wealth leap from 34.6% in 2007 to 37.1% in 2009, while the median net worth for an American household has gone from $102,500 in 2007 to $65,400 in 2009. Changes in numbers that dramatic in a two year period are astonishing, almost unfathomable. In the massive economic crisis we have just experienced, the home prices, savings, pensions/401(k) funds for the middle class took a beating like nothing most of us have seen in our lifetimes, while the top 1% have actually done okay after the initial hit on stock prices: corporate profits and stock prices are back up, corporate bonuses and dividends and executive compensation is in good shape, and the top 1% has more of the country's wealth in its back pocket than it did before. We still have high unemployment and stagnant wages and a terrible housing market, but the guys at the top are floating along pretty well right now.
As I was writing that last paragraph, my eye was caught by this headline and story from today"s NYTimes:
Corporate Profits Were the Highest on Record Last Quarter
The nation's workers may be struggling, but American companies just had their best quarter ever.
American businesses earned profits at an annual rate of $1.66 trillion in the third quarter, according to a Commerce Department report released Tuesday. That is the highest figure recorded since the government began keeping track over 60 years ago, at least in nominal or non-inflation-adjusted terms.
Corporate profits have been going gangbusters for a while. Since their cyclical low in the fourth quarter of 2008, profits have grown for seven consecutive quarters, at some of the fastest rates in history.
This story, those statistics from my opening paragraph, paint an incredible picture of an economy and country in bizarre juxtaposition: corporate profits at record levels, big banks quarterly bonuses and profits at record levels over the least couple of years, while the rest of the country in economic meltdown.
Democrats are still reeling from our political losses, and the DC political class is still obsessed with the re-positioning dance, but at the heart of everything else, at the center of everything that matters, are these bleak economic facts driving our politics. The sooner Democrats stop worrying about being center or left, and start focusing on how to get the middle class out of its economic black hole, the sooner our politics start getting fixed. Period. End of story. The heart of our political darkness is the heart of the middle class' economic darkness.