Here are a few political, economic and personal financial notes from 2009:
At the end of 2008, the previous administration started the process of pumping a record amount of new money into the financial and insurance industries, mostly earmarked for very large entitites that were publicly declared to be too large to be permitted to fail. We were assured that the industry was on its last legs, and would promptly collapse if not granted a massive, almost no-strings-attached, bailout. Job losses and home losses had started already, and we were told that the bailout was necessary to reverse this.
At the beginning of this year, the new administration pumped another record amount of new money into the economy, some of it also bound for the financial industry. This money had some strings with it, but the strings appear now to have been largely ineffective restrictions added for show. This second economic bailout was supposed to buy jobs.
The job market has not yet recovered. Indeed, job losses continue in many industries. But, according to published reports, the financial industry reported RECORD PROFITS in 2009.
A year ago, there was much hopeful talk of health care reform that would benefit average people. The insurance industry--the same insurance industry that our taxes had just so massively bailed out--threw a lot of money (money the taxpayers had recently indirectly given them!) into a massive PR campaign opposing any "new regulation" of the "free market" in health care and health insurance. However, to those who really understand the health care market, the insurance companies' propaganda defending the "free market" really resembled the old folk story about Br'er Rabbit and the briar patch. "Please, PLEASE!!!," Br'er Rabbit begged, "DON'T THROW ME IN THE BRIAR PATCH!!!" But the briar patch was Br'er Rabbit's home. Likewise, heavy, anti-competitive state regulation is the home of the health insurance industry. The insurance industry does not really object to regulation, or even to uniform federal regulation, as long as the regulations that are made all profit the industry at the expense of consumers. The health insurance industry is not at all opposed to a law that requires EVERYONE to buy their product, as long as they get to collectively agree among themselves to set the price and no real competition is permitted. So they held out for a health care bill that was everything they wanted--mandated coverage, with no antitrust restrictions, no public option and no nonprofit cooperatives. Business as usual, except that now everyone will be REQUIRED to buy their product. The Senate health care bill will produce RECORD PROFITS for the health insurance industry, when it goes fully into effect in four years. The industry will continue to publicly oppose it because, somewhere in the 2000 pages of the bill, there are a few details that aren't preceisely what they would prefer. But they are really crying all the way to the bank.
Finally, at the beginning of this year there was a lot of talk about regulating the greed of credit card companies. Of course, credit cards are provided by banks--often the same banks that received bailout money in 2008. In May 2009, Congress enacted the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, which, on its face, at least, limited a few of the credit card issuers' most notorious methods of entrapping honest customers into additional fees and penalty interest rates. However, the law does not go into effect until February 22, 2010. This gives the industry plenty of time to put the screws to its existing customers before the law goes into effect. And, as I have learned in the last month, the banks--the same banks that had record profits this year due to my generosity in bailing them out--are doing exactly that. In spite of a good payment record, my credit cards have increased, or soon are increasing, my interest rate to 24.49% or 24.99%. These used to be PENALTY rates. Now, they are the NORMAL rates, and penalty rates are even higher. So, the banks also have thanked the American people for their generosity, in giving the banks a record profit year, by ripping us off.
But this is still a "jobless recovery," very profitable for rich corporations and their insiders, but very hard for everyone else.
What's wrong with this picture?