In other words, they think we're idiots. They expect us to forget that we were nearly eight years into the George W. Bush presidency when catastrophe hit the U.S. economy. They expect us to forget that Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Washington Mutual, Wachovia, Citigroup, and AIG either failed, were acquired under duress, or were taken over by the government --- all before President Bush left office. They expect us to trust them when they tell us that the cure for the economic crisis that hit us like a freight train in 2008 is --- wait for it --- to return to the same laissez-faire insanity that got us into this mess in the first place.
The truth is that for the past twenty years, under the negligent stewardship of both Republican and Democratic leadership, the American economy, and the investment and credit markets in particular, were heading at top speed into uncharted territory with no one at the wheel. While ideologues of various stripes now repeat ad infinitum that "government is the problem," the truth is that huge firms were making massively risky moves --- with other people's money --- that no one but the insiders knew anything about. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," they told us. What could go wrong?
Wall Street was at the wheel, with politicians and regulators riding shotgun and the American economy riding blithely in the back. It was one hell of a ride. But when you drive at full speed with your eyes closed, you're going to hit something eventually. We did, and we're living with the consequences.
Of course, when I say "we," I don't mean everyone. Some people wound up with very big bonus checks, not pink slips, in the wake of the 2008 crash. In fact, for the most part, Wall Street and the big banks --- the authors and architects of the crisis --- stepped out of the wreckage without a scratch.
The rest of the country didn't fare so well. Hard-working Americans lost their jobs, their homes, their savings, their health coverage, their retirement funds. Their kids put off going to college, or abandoned the idea entirely. Many of those people --- the lucky ones --- are just beginning to put their lives and their credit back together; others are still looking for that fresh start. These are the people that Wall Street and the big banks sold out once. Now they want to do it again --- and once again, they want to do it in secret, behind our backs.
The open hostility of these people to the idea of a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people" really comes down to one thing: utter contempt for "you people." It's shameful. It's intolerable. It must be stopped.
Adam Levin is chairman and cofounder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911. His experience as former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs gives him unique insight into consumer privacy, legislation and financial advocacy. He is a nationally recognized expert on identity theft and credit.