The New York Times reports: A year ago at the World Economic Forum here, Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, lashed out at what he saw as unfair criticism of the world’s financial wizards.
“I just think this constant refrain, ‘bankers, bankers, bankers’ — it’s just a really unproductive and unfair way of treating people,” he said. “People should just stop doing that.”
After several years of financial crisis, during which the word banker had become a catchall epithet for the undeserving rich, the global economy appeared to be on the mend. Perhaps the bankers, and the other millionaires and billionaires, could wear their pinstripes with pride again and get back to business as usual.
Yet even as Mr. Dimon was speaking, a new wave of anger was welling up, one that, over the last year, would shake up old assumptions about the ultrarich, the middle class and the growing gulf that separates them.
Today, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is no longer just a rallying cry to incite anticapitalist advocates. It has become a mainstream issue, debated openly in arenas where the primacy of laissez-faire capitalism used to be taken for granted and where talk of inequality used to be derided as class warfare.
In the United States, the issue surfaced when protesters proclaimed they were the “99 percent” of the population who were paying for the sins of the wealthy “1 percent,” taking their grievances directly to the epicenter of capitalism. The Occupy Wall Street protests, which began in New York, spread to other cities around the United States and across the world.
In Spain, thousands of “indignados” converged on Madrid and other cities to vent their frustration over mass unemployment and government austerity measures. In the Arab world, a wave of unrest that toppled governments began with a protest over a lack of economic opportunities in Tunisia.
And now, as the Republican Party chooses a nominee for the United States presidential election, rivals of one candidate, Mitt Romney, are rounding on him over his wealth and his background in the private equity business.
Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum, in a recent report, named the growing income divide as one of the biggest risks facing the world in the years to come.