December 13, 2009

The Particular Darkness of Our Great Recession

What gives our Great Recession its particular darkness … is the disconnect between the corporate culture that is dictating the firing and the rest of us. In the shorthand of the day, it’s the dichotomy between Wall Street and Main Street, though that oversimplifies the divide. This disconnect isn’t just about the huge gap in income between the financial sector and the rest of America. Nor is it just about the inequities of a government bailout that rescued the irresponsible bankers who helped crash the economy while shortchanging the innocent victims of their reckless gambles. What “Up in the Air” captures is less didactic. It makes palpable the cultural and even physical chasm that opened up between the two Americas for years before the financial collapse.

The private-equity deal makers who bought and sold once-solid companies like trading cards, saddling them with debt, never saw the workers whose jobs were shredded by their cunning games of financial looting. The geniuses in Washington and on Wall Street who invented junk mortgages and then bundled and sold them as securities didn’t live in the same neighborhoods as the mortgagees, small investors and retirees left holding the bag once the housing bubble burst.

Those at the top are separated from the consequences of their actions.

The words above, from this morning’s Frank Rich column inspired by the movie “Up in the Air,” seem to speak directly to this photo by Getty’s tireless recession watchdog, John Moore. In this instance, Boulder resident Harvey Lesser —  an unemployed software developer with chronic health problems related to obesity — was woken up on Friday by Sheriff deputies with a court order to evict him. Having burned through his savings, Harvey had stopped paying rent.
With Larry Summers schmoozing the unemployment numbers, and with the administration jawboning the banks to somehow self-police themselves while otherwise enabling them to maintain business as usual, the fallout continues desperately, disasterously and mostly under-the-radar.
Slide show here.

(photo: John Moore, December 11, 2009)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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