Franklin’s Thrift

Much of the national public debate over the past year has focused on the world of high finance and the big global institutions that have contributed to widespread economic distress.

What I want to focus on today, however, is the world of low finance and the local and state-level institutions that have contributed to ordinary Americans’ economic distress.

Here is my argument in a nutshell: For much of the 20th Century, we had an institutional culture of thrift. In the 21st Century, however, we have built an institutional culture of dis-savings and debt. The institutional culture of debt has hurt all of us, but it has been most devastating for lower-income Americans who lack the broad range of savings and investment opportunities that upper-income Americans enjoy.