Erin Burnett states the obvious when it comes to one of the reasons that people in this country are pissed off right now which is the huge disparity between the salaries of those at the top and every day working people. My question is why in the hell are she and Tom Brokaw the ones Gregory brings in to discuss the economy on Meet the Press?
MR. GREGORY: It leads me so perfectly to a question about what happened this week. Why was this week a kind of tipping point? Here's the cover of Newsweek magazine. You've got an angry mob with pitchforks and the headline, "The Thinking Man's Guide to Populist Rage." Editor Jon Meacham writes this: "It was, in a way, overdue. Beginning last September, when the financial sector of the economy collapsed and the markets melted down, a resurgence of American populism seemed inevitable. ... And yet the temper of the time, shaped in large measure by Barack Obama's own coolness, remained calm. ... You might think of the period between September 2008 and March 2009, then, as a kind of economic phony war, the term historians use to describe the months that elapsed between Hitler's invasion of Poland in September 1939 to the broader outrake of--outbreak, rather--of hostilities in late April and early May of 1940. In this analogy, the AIG bonuses that were revealed last week are rather like the battle for France--the point after which nothing would be the same."
Your take, Tom, on what happened this week.
MR. BROKAW: Well, I--my take, I think it's understandable. One of the things that I've been saying is that for a year now, for a full year nothing that the American people have been told about the financial condition of this country has proved to be true. And very good people--Jamie Dimon from JPMorgan Chase said last June, after Bear Stearns collapsed, "Well, we think we've seen the worst for Wall Street now. We still have the housing crisis to go."
MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
MR. BROKAW: Well, we hadn't seen the worst from Wall Street. And this AIG bonus thing exploded in everyone's faces. Meanwhile, across the country car dealers are going under as they watch GM get bailouts and GMAC come and clear off their lots of the vehicles that they owe money on. Mom and pop and regional retail stores are closing up or cutting back severely. I know one banker who was dealing with a client who got in some credit card difficulty and, as he said, the day that Citibank got 5 percent money from the government this client, a single mom, had her penalty bumped up 2 points on her credit card late payments. And he said, "How do you explain that?" That would ricochet up and down any Main Street. So there has been this steady building. And I think that not just the administration, but the political culture in Washington has been insufficiently attentive to what's going on on Wall--on Main Street, at the other end of the pipeline. They need to hear from those people, make them feel like they're part of the process and make them understand how we can all go forward and we not just feel your pain, but we hear what you're saying.
MR. GREGORY: And I just feel like, Erin, there's been a, a breaking of contracts. If there was a social contract between American investors and Wall Street, it was, "Look, we don't really get a lot of what you do..."
MR. BROKAW: Yeah, right.
MR. GREGORY: "...but we count on you for the long-term wealth." And all of the sudden that evaporates. And when it comes to government, hey, government's got to be looking out for us, protecting us. That seems not to have happened. It's that loss of faith that I brought up with the leaders in the earlier discussion.
MS. BURNETT: I think you, you put it in a great way when you said it's a breaking of a contract; which does, in a sense, sort of explain why there is such public support for breaking formal legal contracts...
MR. GREGORY: Hm.
MS. BURNETT: ...when people feel they've been so let down, as you're talking about. Because the irony of this is that even though it seems it's about the money when it comes to these bonuses, it really isn't. When you look at the bonuses paid last year, the $18.6 billion number from Wall Street that so shocked people, if you taxed that at the, at the House bill rate, that's only .6 percent of the tax revenue that the United States government took in a year ago. It's an infant--it's incredibly small. So in a sense it really isn't about the money, it's about this broader shift. The average executive in this country of a publicly traded company, not just Wall Street, makes 400 times the average worker. And that has been a dramatic shift over the past two decades. That is something that is causing some of the anger here. In a sense it's been building, and this is the moment where it breaks.
Really Erin? Aren't we the observant one? I don't know about everyone else but in my world where I have to go work one of those things called...you know...a job, and not one surrounded by inside the beltway and Wall Street talking heads, this is not something new. People have actually been pissed off about the over the top executive pay in the United States for a long time. I'm so glad you finally bothered to notice. You finally put enough of them out of their homes and guess what? They're going to start beating down someone's door because on top of being pissed off, they now also have nothing more to lose.
Erin Burnett's been too busy talking about how great it is for a company's stock when they lay a bunch of their workers off or snuggling up to the Wall Street CEO's that got us into this mess to have taken much notice before the villagers were marching with pitchforks in the streets. Now she's going to share her vast wisdom on populist outrage with us.