Doctors have a problem diagnosing when a patient’s only complaint is that he or she just feels really rotten. It can be even harder for the medico if this patient has all kinds of symptoms to go along with this generalized feeling, many of them seemingly contradictory.

The same sort of diagnostic challenge today confronts political analysts looking over the outcome of yesterday’s midterm election. Yes, the patient here, the American voter, obviously feels really, really rotten. But the reasons for feeling this way can be explained in so many different ways that making things better for the sufferer can appear very confusing.

My own analysis, however, is that the basic cause of voter anger by many, and voter apathy by many others, can be summed up in just two words: Wall Street.

The greed and arrogance of a few on The Street has generated no discomfort at all for these worthies. Indeed, as I’ve noted in previous posts, they have never done better since causing the financial meltdown of 2008. A record $133 billion in compensation was paid by large Wall Street firms in 2009. That record is reportedly going to be beaten with an estimated $144 billion this year.

The Republicans don’t seem to have a problem with this perp, who prospers greatly while its Main Street victims wallow in recession. But neither do the Democrats, and the Democrats were supposed to be Main Street’s buffer against Wall Street’s predation. More to the point in the wake of midterm elections, the Democrats had the power to punish Wall Street perps and didn’t.

In these circumstances, why keep Democrats in power in Washington? Who needs to twist the knife with hypocrisy atop indifference?

The larger problem when it comes to a Wall Street beyond government (and the people’s) control, however, is that Wall Street’s unchecked wealth gobbling is just the outward sign of this nation’s profound economic perversity. This larger problem was summed up in a quote from a recent Bob Herbert column in the New York Times: “…that the incomes of the very highest earners in the United States, a small group of individuals hauling in more than $50 million annually (sometimes much more), increased fivefold from 2008 to 2009, even as the nation was being rocked by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

Income distribution in this country is now so concentrated at the top that the middle and lower tiers of income earners don’t have the wherewithal to spend us out of our present economic doldrums. I’m not talking about economic justice here. I’m talking Eco 101. You don’t earn it, you can no longer borrow it, then you can’t spent it, and the economy suffers accordingly.

Neither party spoke about redressing our present and growing national bizzaro income mix, much less doing something significant about it. The Democrats could have done so, didn’t do so, and paid the price at the polls.

As for the Republican victors who are most certainly not going to do anything to redress matters here, I can only ask: Are you really sure you want to try to govern a country awash in road rage on this crumbling economic highway?

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MICHAEL SILVERSTEIN, Wall Street Columnist
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