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Recovery only for those too big to fail

Elise Patkotak

Mitt Romney heard we were having a jobless economic recovery and decided to help by tearing down his old beach house in San Diego and putting up a new one to the tune of about $12 million. Thank goodness we didn't let his Bush tax break lapse or some of that money might have gone to feed some hungry school kid whose parents were probably wasting their money on heat or rent or some such silliness. Then where would poor Mitt have been? He'd probably only be able to build an $11,995,000 second home and all his friends would have laughed at his pathetic little beach house. So Mitt did the right thing and put Americans back to work -- at least, we hope they're Americans.

Meanwhile, for those of you flummoxed by the economy's jobless recovery, I think I have finally figured it out. Let me see if I can give you a simple explanation of why we are in this national economic fiasco.

Let's start with those taxes you pay. Some go toward programs like Social Security with a promise from the government that they'll save your money for you and it will be there when you retire. Good luck with that. Some of your tax dollars go to fund critical functions of government such as unfunded wars of choice in countries that posed no threat to us. And some goes toward bailing out financial institutions that created toxic assets that were destroying them. So as we teetered on the brink of national financial ruin, the government squeezed the last drops it could from your taxes and gave it to the financial institutions that created the depr ... oops, I mean recession.

Yes, Virginia, the government took the money you so willingly gave for what you thought was the maintenance and repair of roads and the continued fiscal viability of your retirement program and gave it to those financial institutions that were deemed too big to fail. The result of that transfer of wealth was that those financial institutions did not fail. Most have paid the government back and are now sitting on great piles of money that they are loath to invest in the toxic economy they created. You can understand their hesitation. After all, you fell for their line in the first place. Why should they trust you with money again?

Because they are sitting on so much cash, we are being told over and over again that the economy is in recovery. Except this recovery is being called a jobless recovery because the only groups that seem to have recovered are those financial institutions the feds bailed out and their major shareholders don't really need jobs. Since they were too big to fail and you aren't, the feds will not be knocking on your door in the near or distant future to offer to bail you out of the financial disaster you are experiencing -- a disaster created when those bailed- out companies decided to let you borrow way more than you could pay back for a house not worth what you were paying for it.

Are you still with me or do you need a moment to sit and put your head between your legs until the dizziness stops? Take a deep breath because we haven't finished the journey yet.

So what we have in America today is a recovery of the richest at the expense of the poorest, while what's left of the once-great American middle class is rapidly shrinking. Because the vast majority of Americans who still have jobs have some understandable qualms about going into debt not knowing if those jobs will be there next week, they aren't spending or borrowing a lot. Meanwhile those businesses that were too big to fail have figured out that if they just make their remaining employees multitask and do three or four jobs at once, they can keep their payroll low and not risk expanding in a bad economy. If that keeps this recovery a jobless one, oh well, at least their assets are safe and we won't have to bail them out again in the near future.

The good news is that if you move to San Diego, I think there might be some job openings in construction there in the very near future.

Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of "Parallel Logic," her memoir of 28 years in Barrow. Website, www.elisepatkotak.com.


ELISE PATKOTAK
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