Who's to Blame for the NINJA Generation?

02/17/2011 05:34 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

I finally got around to watching Michael Douglas reprise his role of Gordon Gekko in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. It's a mixed bag, but Douglas does give yet another riveting speech that rivals his "greed is good" of the original Wall Street. Let's call it the NINJA speech.

Addressing a group of young thrusters and hustlers and would-be "Masters of the Universe," Douglas notes that the latest generation is, well, screwed. They're the NINJA generation: no income, no job, no assets. The young people in the audience smile knowingly, yet you see the tenseness, the fear, underneath those smiles.

And here's the question: Why are so many young people looking at bleak futures with fewer jobs and lower incomes and no reserves? Could it be that Wall Street and its craven machinations are somehow to blame?

Here one needs to read Matt Taibbi's latest at Rolling Stone.

Consider Taibbi's conclusion as to why Wall Street is able to profit endlessly, in ways that are stunning in their chutzpah and in their lack of concern for legality, let alone morality:

The mental stumbling block, for most Americans, is that financial crimes don't feel real; you don't see the culprits waving guns in liquor stores or dragging coeds into bushes. But these frauds are worse than common robberies. They're crimes of intellectual choice, made by people who are already rich and who have every conceivable social advantage, acting on a simple, cynical calculation: Let's steal whatever we can, then dare the victims to find the juice to reclaim their money through a captive bureaucracy.

Read Taibbi's article. Ponder the words of Gordon Gekko. And then ask yourself, Who's responsible for our NINJA generation? And why are they never called to account?

I give you the headline of future historians: Wall Street fiddled and profited while America burned.

Professor Astore writes regularly for TomDispatch.com and can be reached at wjastore@gmail.com.