by Zach Carter, TMC MediaWire Blogger
Some of the largest U.S. banks may be on the ropes these days, but the disparity between the plight of financial executives and ordinary Americans has never been starker. Over the past two decades, the banking system has grown accustomed to scoring massive profits by preying on its own customers, making 2009′s transition to pilfering taxpayer wallets an easy one. After burying the economy under a mountain of unaffordable debt, bank CEOs are now finding ways to subsidize their own paychecks with taxpayer bailout funds.
With over $550 billion in government money already dedicated to shoring up the financial system under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), it’s easy to wonder just what Wall Street and its highly-compensated executives actually do for the economy. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke offered one explanation in a speech last week in Washington, D.C. At its best, Bernanke claimed, Wall Street innovates, creating new financial products that expand access to credit, making it easier to run small businesses and improving living standards for households. Armed with ever-expanding paydays, Wall Street has indeed innovated over the past thirty years, radically altering the economic landscape in the process.