Paul Ryan Sorry for Calling Americans “Takers.” Let’s Talk About the Real Takers.
By Lynn Parramore, Naked Capitalism
Posted on March 31, 2016
“There was a time when I would talk about a difference between ‘makers’ and ‘takers’ in our country, referring to people who accepted government benefits,” said the speaker. “But as I spent more time listening, and really learning the root causes of poverty, I realized I was wrong.”
Well, yes. But a question: If the takers aren’t standing in the unemployment line or rushing home from the second job to change diapers, then just where are they? Because an awful lot of America’s resources have gone missing. Like money that should be going to education, job training, healing the sick, retirement funds, infrastructure, and, you know — life.
Ryan didn’t quite get to that part. As he and the rest of the country’s pundits and politicians puzzle over this crazy political season, they might do well to get themselves a copy of Rana Foroohar’s forthcoming book, Makers and Takers: The Rise of American Finance and the Fall of American Business (to be released on May 17). The title was inspired by Ryan’s very own (now-disowned) rhetoric, the favorite shorthand for trickle-down myths that paint the rich as the creators of jobs and innovative products and the rest of the population as lazy good-for-nothings.
That line worked pretty well before the financial crisis. Now, not so much.
Foroohar, TIME assistant managing editor and economic columnist and global economic correspondent at CNN, has a pretty good idea where to find the takers. They are neither single moms in inner city housing projects nor unemployed white men in Appalachia.
They are the denizens of plush Wall Street offices, and they have pretty much absconded with the American Dream. Despite the remarkable ability of financiers to hide behind complexity and dodge the spotlight of the media, the regulators, and the law, Americans are copping onto the breadth and depth of the swindle. They have just about had it — which is why voters have been flocking in droves to the fiery Bernie Sanders, who wants to jail financial crooks and end to Too Big to Fail, and to Wall Street heckler Donald Trump, who describes hedge fund managers as worthless moneymen who ”get away with murder” and gleefully trashes uber-bankers like Jamie Dimon.
Foroohar has traced a seismic shift that has not only left Washington kissing the feet of Wall Street, but has turned previously normal and comprehensible activities, like making stuff and selling it, into insanely complicated financial death races where ordinary Americans are the road kill. This very shift has turned companies like Apple from makers of cool gadgets to a market-rigging megabanks, pharmaceutical companies into cold-blooded financial predators, and the American Dream of dignity, health, and the pursuit of happiness into a fantasy for large swaths of the population.
She shows how the trend of financialization — an ugly word for the ballooning of the financial sector relative to the overall economy — has led directly to the things that have Americans feeling so betrayed, like crappy McJobs, foreclosed futures, rampant volatility and insecurity, a stalled economy, and an increasingly painful gap between the rich and everyone else. Which is why things like the decline of the middle class and economic inequality have become front and center issues in the 2016 presidential campaign, no matter how much elites of both parties would prefer to change the subject.
As Foroohar warns, it matters who is president and whom that president listens to. It was Reagan’s advisors who brought America deregulatory fever and the rise of stock buybacks (once considered unlawful market manipulation in America), while Bill Clinton’s team later opened the floodgates of speculation with the repeal of Glass-Steagall. These presidencies were marked by people whose mindsets favored markets over the real economy. That had better not go on, because if it does, the angry season of 2016 may be the dress rehearsal for something much nastier four years down the road.