The Trial Lawyer Summer 2018 - Page 72

key catalyst in a spiral of disaster that nearly decimated the world financial system. It wasn’t the bankruptcy that did it, however, but the massive amount of money the surviving banks had already lent Lehman to buy the toxic assets they created. Around the same time, Merrill Lynch, a competitor of Lehman’s, was sold to Bank of America for $50 billion and American International Group (AIG) received $182 billion in government assistance. JPMorgan Chase had already bought Bear Stearns, which had crashed six months earlier, utilizing a $29 billion government and Federal Reserve security blanket in the process. In the wake of Lehman’s bankruptcy, $16 trillion in bailouts and other subsidies from the Federal Reserve and Congress were offered mostly to Wall Street’s biggest banks. That flow of 70 x The Trial Lawyer money allowed them to return from the edge of financial disaster. At the same time, it fueled the stock and bond markets, as untethered from economic realities as the hot air balloon in The Wizard of Oz. After nearly tripling since the post- financial crisis spring of 2009, last year the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose magically again by nearly 24%. Why? Because despite all of his swamp-draining campaign talk, Trump embraced the exact same bank-coddling behavior as President Obama. He advocated the Fed’s cheap-money policy and hired Steve Mnuchin, an ex-Goldman Sachs partner and Wall Street’s special friend, as his Treasury secretary. He doubled down on rewarding ongoing malfeasance and fraud by promoting the deregulation of the banks, as if Wall Street’s greed and high appetite for risk had vanished. IMPENDING SIGNS OF CRISIS A quarter of the way into 2018, shadows of 2008 are already emerging. Only two months ago, the Dow logged its worst single-day point decline in history before bouncing back with vigor. In the meantime, the country whose banks caused the last crisis faces record consumer and corporate debt levels and a vulnerable geopolitical global landscape. True, the unemployment rate is significantly lower than it was at the height of the financial crisis, but for Main Street, growth hasn’t been quite so apparent. About one in five U.S. jobs still pays a median income below the federal poverty line. Median household income is only up 5.3% since 2008 and remains well below where it was in 1998, if you adjust for inflation. Workforce participation remains nearly as low as