The reason? Money. Wall Street provides a river of money to Washington. Special interests have spent $7 billion influencing Washington just since the beginning of 2009: $5 billion in lobbying and $2 billion in campaign dollars. Having pushed on the revolving door himself, Connaughton self-critically describes how Washington has gotten rich while everyone else has gotten poor. The $100,000 monthly fees to lobbyists, regulators, congressional staff and lobbyists vacationing together. Republicans angling for Wall Street money that Democrats want to keep for themselves. An ever-larger army of lobbyists now topping 14,000. And counting.
“We have two systems in this country,” Connaughton told me. “One for the rich and powerful and one for the middle class and everyone else.”
Ours is the finest government that money can buy. Once the battle over financial reform faded, Obama poured his attention into health-care reform and Republicans fought over the budget. Now, banks refuse to lend. The government hasn’t a clue as to what to next. The middle class, meanwhile, has to struggle with technological change, globalization — and being pillaged by banks and their pet politicians.
So, every day, middle-class people live with the fear that poverty comes next for them — or know, worse, that it has. The tale of the event planner in New York comes from a website where unemployed people tell their stories with shame and fright. Writes one mother: “I am scared for my children.” On that site alone there are thousands of such stories. Across the country, there are millions of them. And counting.
Richard Parker is a regular contributor to McClatchy-Tribune and The New York Times.