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TheStreet Open House

Who's to Blame for the Economy? The Banks

Updated from 12:39 p.m. EDT

Each day this week, a different writer from TheStreet.com will make the case for why one of five prime culprits -- the banks, Congress, irresponsible home buyers, the Federal Reserve or the rating agencies -- is most to blame for the credit crisis and ensuing economic meltdown.

The now-famous (infamous?) Rick Santelli rant on CNBC a few weeks ago offered a prime example of how quickly Wall Street has overcome its sheepishness for extinguishing this edition of the global economic system.

For those of you fortunate enough to watch very little of the financial news network, the faux-populist Santelli rallied his Chicago Mercantile Exchange brethren (literally -- I don't recall seeing a single female amid his mob) to shout down President Barack Obama's stimulus plan as a bailout for "losers" who risk losing homes they never were able to afford.

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"How about we all stop paying our mortgages?" shouts one trader into Santelli's microphone during the tirade. "It's a moral hazard."

"This is America!" Santelli says, defending the congratulatory shouts of his pit buddies, who chuckled at their terminals, no doubt considering themselves modern-day coal miners, slogging through another bleak day before trudging home to comfort themselves with jugs of homemade corn wine.

As others have pointed out, "this" isn't America. In America, the median household income is barely above $50,000 a year. Real wages haven't moved for 30 years, 1 in 4 people say they have "no use for the Internet" and CNBC exists as a blur for people thumbing their remotes from the Discovery Channel to the Food Network.


Who is most responsible for the credit crisis and the recession?

Banks
Congress
Federal Reserve
Ratings agencies
Irresponsible home buyers

The problem with the blame game is that it's mostly an academic issue -- the economic system is too interdependent to ferret out just one villain, and any alleged improvements to come will likely be made at the margins and will have no role in preventing another boom and bust.

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