Heads I Can Borrow, Tails You Can’t

One year and trillions of dollars later, the amount of money banks and credit card companies are lending to consumers is shrinking, while big corporations and Wall Street are awash in dough – our dough.

The disparity couldn’t be more obvious: on October 9, the Wall Street Journal reported a “drought of credit” for consumers:

Total consumer credit outstanding, which includes everything from credit-card debt to loans for recreational vehicles, fell $12 billion in August, or at a 5.8% seasonally adjusted annual rate….The drop is a stark demonstration of how banks and other lenders are scaling back, owing to their own exposure to the struggling real-estate market.

But three days earlier, the Journal noted that “rock-bottom interest rates and thawed credit markets are emboldening some companies” to borrow to “pay out special dividends, buy back stock or finance acquisitions.”

According to Treasury Secretarys Paulson and Geithner, we had to offer the Money Industry an unprecedented bailout in order to “restore confidence” in the financial system. Not our confidence, but Wall Street’s. Having cheated each other (by selling pieces of paper whose worth nobody really understood) and made billions, the fat cats suddenly realized they couldn’t trust each other, and stopped lending until the taxpayers came to the rescue.

With Dow at 10K, Wall Street is back to business (and bonuses). But one of every ten people you run into is out of work. (One in eight in the Golden State.) For many of these Americans, credit cards are not  for flat panel TVs or yachts. They help people pay for food, clothing and medical care. Unfortunately, as far as the financiers are concerned, “the 'democratization of credit' is over -- now it's payback time,” as the Journal explains.

Meanwhile, USA Today recently reported that in 2005, 10% of the population was using anti-depressant drugs –and that was at the height of what some called “the good times.”

The mental State of the Nation – at least that of the average American – has clearly degenerated over the last year, and with good reason. Watching Washington rescue Wall Street, we are a country of the abandoned, angry and bereft.