The financialization of the US economy

Encapsulated in a single picture.

The coronavirus death toll in the U.S. — now topping 23,000 — skyrocketed as families continued to huddle in their homes uncertain of what’s next, while an unthinkable number of more than 16 million people have now filed for unemployment amid an economy grappling with the shutdown.

Yet, somehow, the stock market has managed to push higher. In other words, at least those fortunate enough to own stocks had something to smile about. Democratic strategist Justin Horwitz summed up the disconnect with this tweet that went viral across Twitter TWTR, +2.68{de336c7190f620554615b98f51c6a13b1cc922a472176e2638084251692035b3} :

As you can see, that’s CNBC’s Jim Cramer talking about the rally in the market while the chyron points out the grim reality of the historic job losses.

One commenter captured much of the response on social media by saying, “The Dow is not the economy. It is a giant government sanctioned Ponzi scheme for the wealthy.”

Another pointed to the fact that, according to Federal Reserve data, 84{de336c7190f620554615b98f51c6a13b1cc922a472176e2638084251692035b3} of stocks owned by U.S. households are held by the wealthiest 10{de336c7190f620554615b98f51c6a13b1cc922a472176e2638084251692035b3} of Americans — essentially Wall Street vs. Main Street.

The financial industry doesn’t lubricate the economy. To the contrary, it is both a huge parasite and a massive anchor that drains more than one-third of ALL corporate profits out of the real economy. To put this in perspective, the total amount of all retail trade profit was $154 billion in 2018. The total amount of all transportation and warehousing profit was $55.6 billion. The total amount of all food, beverage, and tobacco profits was $50.5 billion.

The total amount of financial profit was $448.3 billion, and that almost certainly understates it. If you want to know what is wrong with the economy, the answer is “the transfer of profit to the financial institutions” which is done through ever-expanding debt. This is why either a debt jubilee or mass defaults and the total collapse of the US economy is absolutely inevitable.