This feeling is shared by Tea Party demonstrators, jobless workers and small-business owners who find that banks won’t lend them money while their credit card interest rates rise to punishing levels, workers who lose their health insurance and young people who will be forced to pay back mountains of debt piled high by the gluttony of their elders.
The great fault line in American politics today is not Democratic versus Republican, left versus right or black versus white. It is between the core political and financial power centers and the great silent majority of Americans who want to work hard, play fair, build a better life for their families and be treated fairly by government and business alike.
There is racism in America. There are political leaders who fail to speak out against the politics of hate.
And yet: America has elected our first black president, who is still the most popular figure in national politics. Our first lady has popularity ratings over 70 percent, the envy of elected officials.
What is amazing and unreported by a media that treats our politics like a freak show is the low level of bigotry among young people who are the future of the nation.
As Christmas approaches, there will be stories of humongous Wall Street bonuses alongside stories of unemployment rising above 10 percent and foreclosures remaining at record levels. There will be stories of speculation on Wall Street alongside stories of credit card rates still rising as banks rush to beat the effective date of the new credit card law.
It is not “Merry Christmas” for workers worried about losing their jobs or benefits. It is not “Happy New Year” for those receiving pink slips while others receive giant bonuses.
This is not about race. It is about the reaction when Americans perceive that the few enjoy the prosperity while the many endure the pain.
Americans ask: Where did all this bailout money go? How do we repay these deficits? What did I do to deserve this?
Americans increasingly feel powerless as lobbyists dominate Washington and the cost of the bailouts reaches somewhere between $5 trillion and $23 trillion. Nobody tells Main Street exactly how the money was spent or how it helps the people who paid for it. People believe, often correctly, that they are being screwed.
The most powerful institution in America is the Federal Reserve Board. It bears major responsibility for creating the crisis, deserves credit for action that prevented a second Depression and shares responsibility with the president and Congress for not enacting reforms of abuses that caused the collapse.
Yet the Fed acts largely in secret, without even the audit required of government and public companies, as Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) notes.
Americans watch CEOs make millions of dollars while they outsource jobs to low-wage nations.
So-called green shoots lead to rising stock prices not so much because companies expand business, but because they cut costs, increase layoffs and reduce benefits.
Americans sense something is wrong when the cost of blood and treasure rises in Afghanistan while our corrupt government ally in Kabul steals money and votes.
There is deep concern about the uncertain dangers of enormous deficits, debt, spending and ballooning monetary policy involving government, business and speculators, while the benefits are not apparent to our people.
There is concern about America’s status as world leader when our debt is increasingly owned by foreign nations, our jobs are exported along with our products and our fate is becoming determined by forces beyond our control.
All of these concerns are legitimate. None of them involves racism. The 2010 election will be decided by who gives voice to these legitimate concerns and offers solutions that voters believe will make their lives better.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Pundits Blog and reached at