I found the comments below in my folder I call "Musings," and think I knew more then than I do now, so I would like to share that with you, a bit updated.
A friend got me thinking about what has been in the back of my mind about what is happening to our economy. What little I remember of what I used to understand goes like this.
Our system of capitalism must go into periods of business cycle because, on the material front, the full value of real things produced by workers for consumption are not given back to them as income; some goes to the owners of capital, in the form of profits. Not all the profits are spent to buy back the goods and services produced, and, eventually, there is too much lying around, unbought, and there is a bust in the cycle. This includes the production of things that are produced to make other things (capital goods).
As the repetitions of production periods continue, this "surplus" becomes so great that inventories accumulate, which are not being bought. This includes the capital goods products that make things as well as consumer goods. In our period the things produced include services as well as tangible products.
Lying as a veil over all this is the world of finance, in which a section of owners of capital lend each other parts of the surplus to carry out their production operations. But, if the valuation of these financial dealings gets too far away from the true value of the underlying products, the accumulations of the surpluses gets out of balance, and the system generates crisis. The sections of the capitalist class who do not produce wealth but only move it around can make things break down despite a healthy demand for the products and a healthy capacity to meet that with supply.
At a further remove from reality is the market for the ownership of the businesses: the stock market, where pieces of ownership are traded based on expectations of future worth; nothing is produced in this market, but expectations of how it will fair affect the ability of capitalists to use the surplus to continue production in the real world.
Things break down not because of the producers of wealth, but because of the manipulators of that wealth. That is what the real estate bubble meant for the production of housing, and what we are facing now on all levels of production, as producers are not financed to continue production and workers are not able to buy what they produce. A depression comes when production has been stopped in a feedback loop that eats itself up.
Capitalism is set up to "rescue" the owners of the productive capital, not those who are employed to continue to produce. In the Great Depression, capitalism was forced to find a way to shore up the workers while the cycle rebalanced itself. Unemployment insurance, social security, federal deposit insurance, are examples of a network that was created outside of "naked" capitalism to help keep people alive during the depths of the business cycle. The option was chaos or revolution.
Revolution is not on the table. The options are helping strategies or chaos. The poor are always the ones who pay in illness, unemployment, and homelessness, because they have no power...unless they band together. Our culture used to make the workers feel personally responsible for the failures. You are supposed to pick yourself up by your own bootstraps.
In such a material world, understanding of all this can only lead to pessimism, whether it be self blaming or railing against the system. Spiritual beliefs make a difference. Because in a modern view, realizing that mass movements of people can push back against the system creates the positive energy of hope.
It took struggle to get trade unions, social security, market regulations, etc. It will take a modern day version of that to help protect one another now. And into this came our recent elections. Obama represents a force to at least see the underlying causes and deal with protections for the workers, the poor, the defenseless. But the naked violence of the capitalist class stands poised to keep that from happening.
All this goes on within our particular form of socially oriented capitalism; will we still defend our workers or let them drown?
Spirit affects what we put out into the world and what we get back. Good energy helps us see what to do without the distraction of hatred; it helps us find one another so we can unite. Spirit lets us reach out to one another; and I pray Spirit will win over the hatred that is spewing forth all around us.