Class Warfare, Better Late Than Never? I Think Not

After about a decade where real wages for most American stagnated and the rich got richer, the public waited until now, with the Western financial system in ruins, to break out the torches and the pitchforks.

We have a center-left President, a Congress dominated by the Democratic party, a budget that looks like a liberal's wish-list, and all of a sudden it feels like full on class war is about to break out. Bonus recipients at AIG are afraid for their lives. I wouldn't be surprised if some enterprising citizen who's mad as hell and not willing to take it anymore tosses a molotov cocktail at any number of targets on Wall Street. Something is very wrong with this picture.

We just spent eight years under radical (or is the word reactionary) laissez-faire Republican government, and there was nary a peep from the American public about skyrocketing executive pay packages. Now the good guys, at least from the perspective of your average class warrior, have taken control and I'm worried people might start throwing up barricades a la 1848 all across America.

I'm sorry America, you can't have been complacent for decades while the masters of the universe padded their paychecks and only get furious when the whole edifice comes crashing down and we have to bail out the bankers. If the people running Citigroup or Bank of America are really so terrible, then maybe it would've been a good idea to get up in arms about their activities a little sooner. That's the kind of class warfare I can understand (and incidentally, the kind of thing we practiced on Mad Money, where my boss, Jim Cramer, was literally screaming about the collapse of the Western financial world thanks partially to the mistakes and dishonesty of the bankers at least as early as August of 2007).

What we're seeing now isn't legitimate proletarian outrage. This is pure petulance, justifiable petulance, but petulance all the same. We, the people, handed over our collective fate to the financiers, and now we're really upset because, golly gee, they screwed everything up, enriched themselves, and left the taxpayer holding the bag. Who could've seen that coming?

I don't think we're seeing a populist backlash to executive overreach, although there was plenty of overreach and a lot of room for backlash. To me this looks more like, "we screwed up, we don't want to admit it, let's go key the cars in the AIG parking lot." Maybe that's just the cynicism of youth, but really, who's to blame here? From 1994 to 2006 the American voter elected successive Republican Congressional majorities that basically promised to let business self-regulate. We gave ourselves two terms of George Bush, but really, I lay more blame on Congress than I do on W. After all, what the heck do Representatives and Senators have to do all day except hold hearings and try to spot the next crisis. Instead they're only now trying to figure out what happened over the last few years in response to a very upset electorate.

Scream all you want to about bonuses.

The truth is, we were complacent, we let this happen and now we're paying the price. The price of prosperity is at least minimal vigilance, and that's not something we seem to do well in democracies.

Give me a benevolent dictatorship any day of the week.

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