I was lucky. I was blessed with a wife whose employer suddenly began valuing her. Her parents helped, more than I was willing to admit at the time. We got through it. The CDC report reveals that many others weren't so lucky, and shows just how bad the most recent recession was for my generation. Suicide by hanging or suffocation rose 81% among people my age, but many of us still shot ourselves, too. In other words, if you want to know why young people don't trust banks or government or business, just look at what trust did to their parents. This may be the biggest deficit our economy has, this lack of trust. Tools like advertising, lobbying and public relations are inadequate to close the gap.
According to a 2011 Federal Reserve report, this lack of trust is also affecting security pricing. Even "rational investors are uncertain about the extent of manipulation," wrote Bo Sun, and this limits public participation in the markets. The way to a bigger bull market, in other words, leads through trust and markets worthy of trust. Trust is hard to build, and easy to destroy. This was one of my first lessons in journalism school, way back in 1977. We all have a credibility account, and good work builds it. A single mistake can destroy it. I learned the truth of this in my working life, although it wasn't until this last decade that I learned the account I needed to build and protect was my own, not my employer's.
In what is the closest thing capitalism has to a religious tract, Smith wrote that to the extent that wealthy people care only for themselves, society becomes corrupted, and the wealth of a nation can dissipate. That's the lesson of the last decade, a price that's been paid in middle-class lives, and the sooner the wealthy act worthy of trust, the faster our capitalist system will heal. At the time of publication, the author had no investments in companies mentioned here. Follow @DanaBlankenhorn This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.