It croaked on a birthday of sorts. This month marks 10 years since the Great Recession — and thereby the social movement it unleashed — was born.
This obituary begins in December 2007, when the spark of the financial crisis grew into a fire. The conflagration would go on to blaze through more than 8 million jobs, trillions of dollars in wealth, millions of foreclosed homes and half the value of the stock market.
Older and middle-age workers would lose jobs and nest eggs. Younger workers would get stuck in dead-end careers, if they could find careers at all, and fall behind on milestones of adulthood such as homeownership and marriage.
And millions of children would grow up watching their parents stress about money. Some would come to wonder whether socialism was really such a dirty word after all.
Amid disillusionment with elites, resentment of “banksters” and their garish bonuses, and furor with regulators who let the crisis happen and then held no one — but no one — truly accountable, a populist fever erupted.
For some, this populism took a decidedly leftist strain.
The Occupy Movement demanded a pound of flesh from Wall Street, as well as an entirely new social contract. You can draw a straight line between those who camped in Zuccotti Park in 2011 and the broader movement that last year agitated for single-payer health care, free college and other forms of economic redistribution.
Plenty of other populists broke right.
Like their socialist brethren, these populists hated Wall Street bailouts, but they hated handouts going to their undeserving neighbors even more. They asked: Why should their mortgages be written off, when my home is also underwater? Why should they get food stamps, when I struggle to put dinner on the table? Why should they…