Equation for a healthy economy: Take Wall Street and make it much smaller

Not only is Wall Street too big to fail. It's also just too damn big!

Topics: AlterNet, U.S. Economy, Wall Street, Finance, Too Big to Fail, ,

Equation for a healthy economy: Take Wall Street and make it <em>much</em> smallerJamie Dimon (Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet

“I wish someone would give me one shred of neutral evidence that financial innovation has led to economic growth — one shred of evidence.” —Paul Volker (2009)

All of us suspect the obvious — that Wall Street not only is too big to fail, but also just too damn big. But where’s our evidence? It’s one thing to direct our anger at financial elites and the top one percent. It’s quite another to make a factual case that Wall Street, indeed, is much too big, and therefore should be radically reduced in size. So here’s some data.

1. Explosion in Financial Sector Incomes But No Rise in Economic Growth

Check out this chart: Between WWII and 1980, the wages of financial workers were the same as those who worked in non-financial industries. Then the two lines split apart with Wall Street extracting an enormous premium. Do the financiers deserve it? And how would we know if they do or don’t? The answer should depend on how much value the financial sector, in fact, produces for our economy. Is there a correlation between the explosion in Wall Street incomes and economic growth?

Yes, there is, but it’s negative. As Wall Street wages rise, economic growth slows down.

1950s (1950-1959):              4.17 percent

1960s (1960-1969):              4.44 percent

1970s (1970-1979):              3.26 percent

1980s (1980-1989):              3.05 percent

1990s (1990-1999):              3.2   percent

2000s (2000-2009):              1.82 percent

[Source for these unemployment numbers ]



2: The Decline of Workers’ Share of the Economy

Wall Street apologists argue that financiers are responsible for boosting U.S. productivity and creating new, decent-paying jobs. Well, we’re still waiting. In fact, in the decade following the early 1990s, labor’s share of our national income actually declined by 7.2 percent. Why?

The usual suspects include globalization, technology and too much government spending on the social safety net. You know the arguments: we are falling behind the global competition; we are losing our jobs to new technology; government “entitlements” are crippling the economy; and so on.

Not quite.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) produced an eye-popping study concluding that the biggest factor in the decline in workers’ share of income is financialization — that it accounts for almost 50 percent of the decline in labor’s share (from ILO, Figure 38).

3.  Wall Street Costs Too Much

A compelling measure of financial bloat can be found in an excellent paper by economists Gerald Epstein and James Crotty. They look at the “financing gap” which “measures the extent to which different sectors of the economy depend on external finance as opposed to financing with internal savings.”

So for every dollar consumers and businesses borrow, how much does Wall Street charge? More and more, which is the exact opposite of what is supposed to happen in capitalism. The rise of advanced technologies, global markets and more creative work organization should lead to a drop in price, not an increase. But not on Wall Street. If we compare the booming 1960s with the last decade, we see that Wall Street is now charging four times more for its services.

uFor Every Dollar of Financing,

Wall Street Charges How Much?

(average)

1946-1959

$0.30

1960s

$0.47

1970s

$0.64

1980s

$1.32

1990s

$1.09

2000-2010

$1.74

Source: Epstein and Crotty, Table 1

Enrigue Diaz Alvarez, using different metrics in his article, “ The Rent is Too Damn High,” draws a similar conclusion:

“For every dollar that our capital stock increases, FIRE [the finance, insurance and real estate sector] collects somewhere between two and four dollars! Old Soviet bureaucrats with their chauffeured Ladas and modest three-bedroom apartments never dreamed of achieving this level of parasitism.”

4. Financial Growths Means More Gambling

Another way to measure Wall Street’s obesity is to look at how much of its profits comes from playing the markets (or what is politely referred to a proprietary trading). The bigger Wall Street banks and investment firms know they can take risks and grab all the upside, and should they fail spectacularly, the government will find a way to cover the downside fearing an economic meltdown. So we would expect that large Wall Street firms are engaged more in casino activities than traditional financial functions (like helping clients invest their money in the real economy or helping corporations raise money for expansion).

The data compiled by Epstein and Crotty show how large Wall Street investment firms are making the bulk of their profits from casino activities:

Percent of Profits Derived from “Trading”

2006

Goldman Sachs

73.7

Morgan Stanley

60.2

Bear Stearns

66.7

Merrill Lynch

47.7

Source: Epstein and Crotty

How Big Is Too Big?

Given this data, a reasonable person might conclude that the financial sector is two to four time too large. Therefore, we could either dramatically reduce the financial sector to one quarter to one half its current size, or cut its profits, salaries and bonuses by 50 to 75 percent without harming the economy.

This also means that progressives need to be more radical in our demands if we truly wish to tame financialism.

To paraphrase Grover Norquist, our goal should be “to shrink [Wall Street] down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

Loading Comments...