The Financial Crisis
Many international economists consider the Global Financial Crisis (as we call it down here in Australia) to be the worst recession since the famous ‘Great Depression’ of the 1930s. The crisis started in the USA with the bursting of the housing ‘bubble’. Property had reached an unrealistically high value, peaking in 2007, then suddenly nose-dived, causing the value of US securities linked to property to plummet. Large financial institutions, key businesses and industries collapsed and banks in the US and elsewhere had to be bailed out by the government. Many banks foreclosed on mortgages and homeowners and tenants faced eviction. Consumer wealth is estimated to have declined by trillions of US dollars and the decline in international economic activity led to severe global recession and ‘economic shock’ that effected national economies worldwide, from the USA to the UK and Ireland, from France and Germany, from Iceland and Greece to developing countries like Kenya.
A 2009 Brookings Insititution report found that "The US economy has been spending too much and borrowing too much for years and the rest of the world depended on the U.S. consumer as a source of global demand." And the US-issued Levin-Coburn report found that “The crisis was not a natural disaster, but the result of high risk, complex financial products; undisclosed conflicts of interest; and the failure of regulators, the credit rating agencies and the market itself to rein in the excesses of Wall Street."
A groundswell of public opinion and an increasingly vocal reaction to the problematic distribution of wealth within the United States spawned the 2011 Occupy’ movement. Under the slogan, “We are the 99%”, referring to the concentration of wealth and power amongst the top 1% of income earners, dissatisfied protesters camped out on Wall Street to demonstrate against the unfairness of power and wealth distribution. The occupy movement has spread to other centres of financial power around the world and became a global phenomenon in itself.