CNN Money points out:
Just 22% believe the country is on the right track, Rasmussen tells us. According to a new Gallup poll, more than half of us say the economy is in recession or depression, despite the fact that output has been expanding since the summer of 2009. In fact, more of us (29%) say the country is in a depression than say the economy is growing (27%).
There’s a good reason for this: As inflation surges at the store and the gas pump, the economy is stalling. And the heart of the problem could very well be the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion “QE2” money-printing initiative, which was implemented last November to great fanfare on Wall Street and is set to end in June.
Yes, the stock market has posted impressive gains since the idea of QE2 surfaced….
But stock ownership is concentrated among the wealthy: On average, just 12% of households worth $100,000 or less own stocks and mutual fund shares outside their retirement plans — a group that comprises 74% of the total population. While many more own shares through 401ks and IRAs, they’re not in a position to easily tap that wealth for current spending.
At the same time, QE2 has pushed up borrowing costs, pressing down the prices of homes — a much more widely held asset. The Case-Shiller Home Price Index started falling last summer as the idea of QE2 was floated, and it hasn’t stopped since. The broad 20-city index now sits below 2009 levels.
This is a continuation of trends that have been in place since the recession ended in 2009. According to Credit Suisse equity strategist Douglas Cliggott, it suggests the improvement in net worth during the past two and half years “has been heavily skewed towards that relatively small part of the U.S. population that has significant equity holdings.”
While the program has helped push up the cost of living for all of us — sending inflation into the red zone and damaging consumer confidence — evidence suggests its benefits have accrued only to the top tier of the net-worth ladder.
In other words, the Fed’s “stimulus” has made the rich richer, with limited impact in terms of new spending. It’s made the vast majority of people poorer, and less able to spend. It’s this tradeoff that threatens to snuff out the feeble, three-year-old economic recovery.
And salaries have only gone up for the very top. AP notes:
CEOs at the nation’s largest companies were paid better last year than they were in 2007, when the economy was booming, the stock market set a record high and unemployment was roughly half what it is today.