The Federal Reserve reported last week that the average American family lost 40 percent of its wealth from 2007 to 2010.
That's two decades' worth of assets and savings wiped out in three years.
A family at the median, or one that's richer than the bottom half and poorer than the top half, saw its net worth decline from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010.
Because the plunge in housing values explains 75 percent of the decline, you could say the loss is not real since housing prices were an illusion, fueled by risky loans that were sold and re-sold by Wall Street banks that profited when the loans failed. That house of cards toppled in late 2008, bringing down the whole economy with it.
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While housing prices were artificial, the effects of the housing bubble's collapse have been painfully real.
The Fed reported that median family income, the amount taken in from working and investments, also fell from $49,600 in 2007 to $45,800 in 2010.
The Fed's Survey of Consumer Finances, issued every three years, found that middle-class families were socked with the biggest percentage losses in both wealth and income.
The data are 18 months old, but Fed economists said stabilizing home prices and job gains have not altered the results. "Recovery from the Great Recession has been particularly slow."
Considering how long it is taking to dig out, you'd think everyone would want to avoid another banking-inflicted burial of the economy.
But no. Republicans and their presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney continue to prescribe deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy as the magic economic elixirs.
Romney has vowed to repeal the Dodd-Frank reforms which were enacted to prevent big bank losses from spilling over onto the middle-class and smothering the rest of the economy.
If anything, Dodd-Frank is too weak. But Republicans are determined to defang what little bite it has.
Spurred by the financial sector, the GOP is lining up against a rule, named for former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, that would restrict banks that receive federal support from trading in the kinds of derivatives that triggered the economic meltdown. The Volcker rule has yet to take effect, but Republican Sens. John McCain and Jim Demint have loaded down the farm bill with amendments to repeal it.
Achieving a perfect regulatory balance is probably impossible, especially in a dynamic economy. Policy-makers should beware of constricting credit by punishing local banks for the sins of their "too big to fail" brethren.
But if the recent past teaches us anything, it's that the far greater risk is from politicians and Wall Street whizzes whose idea of prosperity is a free-for-all that leaves almost everyone else poorer when the bubble bursts.