This commentary originally appeared on MainStreet.com April 23.
Dear Wall Street,
This is your cash-strapped cousin, MainStreet, writing.
How the heck are you? It's been a while. You seem to be doing great. I know you were going through some tough times, with the whole financial meltdown, but with the big bailout, the stock market coming back, and those enormous bonuses, it seems like you're back on top.
And that's just super. We're happy for you.
But to be honest, cuz, things aren't going so great here on Main Street, and that's why we're writing. You see, that recovery that you guys are enjoying on Wall Street, the one that's funding your huge salaries and bonuses, the one that we made possible through a taxpayer-funded bailout... that recovery hasn't really made it to Main Street.
I know you're super busy following the markets and buying gold and stuff, but the news from Main Street remains pretty troubling. The unemployment rate is stuck at 9.7%, which is close to a 20-year peak, foreclosure rates continue to rise while housing prices drop and personal bankruptcies are up sharply. Plus, banks still aren't lending. It's tough to get a mortgage, but it's REALLY tough to get a small business loan. According to some estimates, the credit market is tighter than it has been in 30 years and it could only get worse for us when interest rates start to rise, which is bound to happen sooner or later.
Listen, I don't want to be a buzz kill. I know you guys are just starting to breathe easy again and enjoy your recently reconstituted giant piles of money, but we need to have a talk.
People say that this financial crisis was everybody's fault. They say that Wall Street played a role, but that Main Street shares some of the blame too. But let's be honest with ourselves, and each other. We know that this is almost entirely your fault.
Relax. This is not about blame or finger pointing, and yes, people on Main Street took on risky debt that they couldn't afford. That happened. But why did that happen?