Wage Stagnation, Rising Inequality and the Financial Crisis of 2008
AbstractThe most widely embraced explanations of the financial crisis of 2008 have centered upon inadequate regulation stemming from laissez-faire ideology, combined with low interest rates. Although these widely-acknowledged causal factors are true, beneath them lie deeper determining forces that have received less notice: wage stagnation and a dramatic increase in inequality in the U.S. over the preceding 35 years. Wage stagnation and heightened inequality generated three dynamics that made the economy vulnerable to systemic dysfunction. The first is that they constrained consumption, reducing profitable investment potential in the real economy, and thereby encouraging an every wealthier elite to flood financial markets with credit, helping keep interest rates low, encouraging the creation of new credit instruments and greater indebtedness, and fueling speculation. The second dynamic is that consumption externalities were generated, forcing individuals to struggle harder to find ways to maintain the welfare of their families and maintain their relative social status. The consequence was that over the preceding three decades household saving rates plummeted, households took on ever- greater debt, and worked longer hours. The third dynamic is that, as the rich took larger shares of income and wealth, they gained more command over ideology and hence politics. Reducing the size of government, cutting taxes on the rich and reducing welfare for the poor, deregulating the economy, and failing to regulate newly evolving credit instruments flowed out of this ideology.
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Bibliographic InfoPaper provided by American University, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 2012-01.
Date of creation: 2012
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social mobility; deskilling; loss of community; conspicuous consumption; social status;
Find related papers by JEL classification:
- E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomics: Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth
- E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
- G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
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