Top 1% to blame for the financial crisis?

Former IMF Chief Economist and the person who saw the financial crisis coming, Raghuram Rajan, has argued that inequality caused the crisis and the US government helped in the process. Since the days of the Reagan Administration wages of the working class American have been falling behind. Reagan, as with Thatcher in the UK, introduced pro market reforms in the 1980’s but recent presidents have addressed the problem of stagnant wages by making access to mortgage finance a lot easier.

In 2007 – 23.5% of all American income went to the top 1% of earners – the highest percentage since 1929. Research has shown that the behaviour of the richest 20% has affected the spending of the bottom 80% – the more the rich spend the more the lower incomes want to keep up with them. It is commonly know as ‘trickle-down consumption’.

Less equitable distribution of wealth can boost demand for government borrowing to provide for the lower income. In the last decade this borrowing would have occurred with financial globalisation that allowed many governments to rack up debt cheaply. It seems that the ease of credit drives inequality.

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