Too rich for middle America?

At a town hall meeting in Cupertino, CA today, President Obama announced that he had directed the FBI to begin investigations directed at determining whether speculation and market manipulation were responsible for inflating prices of US stocks.

“We need to determine if a small number of selfish people are driving up the prices of stocks and making them too expensive for the average investor,” the President said.  “Stock ownership is the right of all Americans, not just the wealthy.  And we have watched stock prices nearly double since early 2009, when we all know we’ve been locked in a recession of significant magnitude and duration.  Don’t try to tell me that something’s not going on.”

In fact, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen from a low of roughly 6800 to the 12,500 level during that period, in spite of continuing high unemployment, stagnant growth in wages, and significant price hikes in critical consumer sectors such as food and energy.

“”I want to make an equity portfolio as American as ‘Apple’ pie,” the President proclaimed.  “But to get that done, we need to make Apple — which sells for over $350 a share — something that the working women and men in this country can afford.”

The President further pointed to Goldman Sachs and Citibank as clear evidence of stock manipulation.  “Goldman sells for $150 a share.  Citibank — the bank that your government put back on its feet, and still closely supervises — is $4.50 a share.  Do they think that we are that stupid?  Can Goldman be worth thirty times as much as Citi?  Of course not.  They just want to be sure that only the rich can invest in Goldman.”

When one audience member noted that Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway was priced at an astronomical $123,690, the President responded:  “I know, and it’s a shame.  But that’s not Warren’s fault.  It’s just one more piece of evidence that someone is rigging the game.  They don’t want anyone else getting a piece of Warren.”

The President further suggested that the same sort of manipulation might be responsible for high energy prices.  “The attorney general is putting together a team whose job it is to root out any cases of fraud or manipulation of oil markets that might affect gas prices. That includes the role of traders and speculators. We’re going to make sure that nobody’s taking advantage of American consumers,” the President said.