Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke outlined the steps that the government would gradually--gradually, mind you--take in withdrawing economic stimulus measures that have been in place for the last four years or so. As the national economy improves, the Fed will "scale down gradually its monthly purchases of Treasury securities and mortgage-backed bonds beginning later this year and ending when the unemployment rate hits 7 percent." The central bank will also eventually begin raising interest rates, which currently hover around zero, in an attempt to ward off inflationary pressures. Shortly after Bernanke made this announcement, the Masters of the Universe on Wall Street flipped out and stocks took a nose-dive. I don't pretend to understand all the vagaries of high finance, but I do understand that, whenever the Fed Chairman raises interest rates--or even mentions raising interest rates at any time in the foreseeable future--stocks crash.
Now, just last year, the Republican nominee for President, Mitt Romney--whose picture could presumably grace a dictionary entry for "Wall Street"--got into a heap of trouble when he lambasted the 47% of Americans "who are dependent upon government": a group of people who would never vote for Romney because he would "never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
So what we learned last week is this: The same titans of finance who scream "Socialism!" when the government offers support so that poor people can do things like eat or avoid homelessness will also scream--in terror--if that same government threatens to withdraw support for programs that enable multi-millionaires to become billionaires.
And Republicans wonder why they can't win elections.