Main Street Suffers the Bruce Springsteen Effect

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Discourse in America is imperiled by the Bruce Springsteen Effect: the lyrics are injected with a blue-collar sensibility, but the main act will cater to a multi-million-dollar lifestyle at day's end. In rock music as in the U.S. economic outlook, there's a separation between letter and spirit.

It's to this paradoxical tune that the metonym "Main Street" has been employed of late – with politicians and economic authorities attaching themselves to the phrase in seeming solidarity with the common man. This strategy, time and again, proves ill-begotten – no matter the guttural, working class warble of the tone.

Case in point: at the end of March, Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen spoke at the 2014 National Interagency Community Reinvestment Conference in Chicago to present the palatable theory that the central bank has the goal "to help Main Street, not Wall Street." Yellen discussed her advocacy for the Fed's continued support for the U.S. economy in the aftermath of the Great Recession in order to alleviate the financial hardships faced by the everyday American -- unemployment, mounting debt, diminished savings. In her examples of specific Americans suffering various employment challenges, Yellen invoked a rousing conclusion: "They are a reminder that there are real people behind the statistics, struggling to get by and eager for the opportunity to build better lives." This call for improvement is certainly a road paved with the best intentions but one with no clear endpoint.

That's in part the fault of the legislative branch, which let down the middle and working classes during the financial crisis by failing to implement more stimulus through fiscal policy. The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) allowed the Treasury to purchase or insure $700 billion of troubled assets to bail out the banks, and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) could not effectively save and create jobs. The Fed was left to shoulder the burden of preventing the economy from falling off the ledge by lowering interest rates and instituting quantitative easing – purchasing mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bonds.