I've been pondering this aspect of the economic collapse and the bogus recovery since they happened, way back in the 2000-oughts, almost ten years ago now, and I've noticed from the outset how the facts don't seem to register with very many observers.
The direct consequence of the economic collapse of 2006-2009 and the subsequent bogus recovery that we're still in is that millions upon millions of Americans were forced into poverty, a poverty which for most of them is permanent. They will never escape, and their progeny, born into poverty, will likely never be able to escape, either.
These millions upon millions of Americans were forced into permanent poverty by policy. It was not an act of God, nor was it an accident. It was deliberate, calculated, even calibrated year by year, as a means to enhance and maintain the well-being and wealth of certain individuals, families and institutions at the top of the economic pyramid -- and to maintain the power of the governments who serve them with such policies.
Strangely though, Americans have largely ignored this process of impoverishment by policy.
Consequently, they don't seem to see what's happened an is still happening domestically -- even when it affects them directly. When it happens to people overseas, as it has happened with a vengeance to Greeks among other "peripherals" of Europe, the widespread notion is that they deserve their fate because of their past profligacy and present obstinacy.
The absolute number of people in poverty in the United States has skyrocketed since the economic collapse, and nothing is done to lower it at all. Even if the employment picture is somewhat better than it was (arguable since so many millions of people have left the labor force and are no longer counted as unemployed) wages are so low and hours are so spotty that even many of the employed are in poverty -- and they cannot get out by working more.
The debt burden on millions upon millions of Americans increases, particularly student debt -- which is often literally criminal -- imposed by fraud and coercion.
Americans take on student debt as a means to "better themselves" through education, but in the end, millions have found there is nothing "better" to be had, there are few jobs for people with their education, and those that exist don't pay enough to pay off these odious debts.
This is again a matter of policy, not accident or divine will.
Poverty per se is not an intrinsically bad thing -- unless it leads to bad outcomes for individuals, families, and communities. In other words, one can live poor with dignity. But when being poor leads to injustice (as it does), destruction of lives and communities (as it does), and inability to secure a decent life (as it does), then living poor is a hazard at the least. Calls for lifting the brutal burdens of poverty are necessary.
On the other hand, economic growth per se can be and too often is a bad thing -- at least for the environment and for the legacy of the future.
Economic growth for its own sake is almost certain to be ruinous for the long-term well-being of the planet and its inhabitants though it may provide a comfortable cushion for the well-connected who seem to believe they'll be able to ride out any coming catastrophe.
What then is to be done?
If we allow as how perpetual economic growth is unsustainable and that forced impoverishment is deeply antithetical to the values we seek to enhance, then we need a creative solution to a fundamental dilemma.
We cannot have perpetual economic growth if we value the planet, yet forcing untold millions of people in the US and around the world into poverty is not a rational or reasonable answer. What should be done instead?
I don't have an answer at this point. But the current situation is unsustainable. Something must be done, and it must be done soon.
What it will be, and whether it will be, is one of the questions for the ages....