When listening to the State of the Union speech, one should ask just which economy Mr. Obama means when he talks about recovery. Most wage earners and taxpayers will think of the “real” economy of production and consumption. But Mr. Obama believes that this “Economy #1” is dependent on that of Wall Street. His major campaign contributors and “wealth creators” are in the FIRE sector – Economy #2, wrapped around the “real” Economy #1.
Economy #2 is the “balance sheet” economy of property and debt. The wealthiest 10% lend out their savings to become debts owed by the bottom 90%. A rising share of gains are made in extractive ways, by charging rent and interest, by financial speculation (“capital gains”), and by shifting taxes off itself onto the “real” Economy #1.
We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up