Social and Economic Inequities

During a period of time when so many people have sacrificed so much from an economic point of view, there have been certain individuals, businesses and industries that have disproportionately, and many might argue, unfairly, profited. We have witnessed record foreclosures, a prolonged and extended period of extremely high unemployment, and a worldwide economic recession, yet these conditions have not been felt or shared equally by all.

After a period where mortgage rates were at historically low rates for quite some time (even though they were far more difficult to attain, with credit conditions made stricter, assessments made more difficult, and down payments made larger), we have recently witnessed mortgage rates once again rising. This has occurred despite a slumping housing market, yet because of a slight “uptick” in the real estate industry, it appears that banks decided to maximize their coffers. Even though the rate banks pay for money has been maintained for a prolonged period at historic low rates to the Federal Reserve, with the official reason being given to free up loan money and make it more affordable and available, banks have taken advantage of this to increase their profits. Despite paying so little for their own borrowing, banks have decided to manipulate the system to readjust their lending policies, so as to make large profits in less regulated areas, to more than compensate for the restrictions and protections supposedly imposed by the banking reform act that Congress passed a little more than a year ago.

The average interest that banks and other credit card issuers are now charging on credit card balances has jumped dramatically, and is presently averaging over fifteen percent (15%), where they were closer to ten percent several months ago. This despite the supposed consumer protections, and how little they are paying for money themselves. In addition to paying so little for Fed Funds, have you paid attention to how little they are paying you on your bank account deposit accounts?

Probably the most severely impacted have been older people who are living on a fixed income. Although the cost of living has risen substantially (check out the prices you pay at the gas pump, utilities, food stores, etc.) despite the government’s official numbers to the contrary (the Consumer Index makes as little sense as the government’s official Unemployment figures), these seniors are receiving far lower interest income on their bank accounts, which translates to lower income to live on. Social Security, on the hand, which is generally “pegged” to official indexes, has not increased to cover that difference.

Who has profited the most? One that many of us don’t even think of is the many state governments who collect gasoline sales tax, based on a percentage of the price (rather than a fixed amount per gallon). No wonder, we don’t hear too many state legislators addressing this issue sincerely or vehemently. Of course, the banks which have survived, have far and large, recovered nicely, and have been, for the most part, reporting hefty profits. Of course, the large oil companies such as ExxonMobil, etc., have been reaping substantial benefits. However, all this time, most of us consumers, just mere citizens, have been suffering.