Big Banks to Main Street: What Recession?

Average Americans still dealing with the burdensome effects of wage stagnation and unemployment in the U.S. must be having a difficult time getting their heads around the reported profits of the nation’s six largest banks.

Not only is it hard to imagine big banks doing so well while those on Main Street continue to tighten their belts, but the enormity of the figures themselves are challenging to comprehend. Through the four quarters ending in June, the six largest lenders raked in combined profits of $63 billion, the most they’ve earned in any calendar year since 2006.

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Meanwhile, American workers have been enduring over three years of unemployment rates above 8 percent and pay that won’t seem to improve. According to a July article in The New York Times, wages for individuals working bottom-half paying jobs have only increased a mere 7 percent since 1973. These people are left scratching their brows, wondering how these banking giants aren’t feeling the recession as acutely as they.

The big banks’ reply: What recession?

Indeed, if the recent four-quarter profit reports are any indication, times are good in the banking world. Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC) made more money in the last 12 months than Walt Disney Co. (NYSE:DIS) and McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) combined. JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), the largest of all the banks according to assets, enjoyed profits exceeding $17 billion.

In defense of such staggering profits during times of economic hardships for everyone else, the banking powerhouses, which also include Citigroup (NYSE:C), Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), are quick to point out problems they still face, like diminished leverage and low returns on equity. However, the truth is Americans are likely to have a hard time feeling sympathetic.

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