Financial Uprisings

Reforming. Rebuilding. Reassessing. Restructuring. They’re all different ways of saying the same thing: revolution.

If 2008 was the year our economic foundation nearly disintegrated, and 2009 the year we took full stock of the damage, then 2010 was the year we began to build anew.

The reconstruction effort was centered in Washington, D.C., but what crystallized in the halls of Congress didn’t necessarily originate nor end there. The remaking began with homeowners in Maine and Florida, unemployed autoworkers in Michigan and Ohio, families crushed under hospital bills in Iowa and California, minimum-wage earners in Montana and Oklahoma, and ordinary borrowers in Missouri and South Carolina. It spread north to New York, south to Georgia, outward to Illinois, and onward to Oregon, hitting every stop in between.

People across the United States, and in some cases beyond its borders, simply said enough — enough of the old ways of doing things in banking, medical insurance, corporations, and government, too.

This message came through again and again, in the health care overhaul, finance reform, budget arguments, new credit card regulations, and the emergence of the tea party. It also came through online, as lookups for unemployment extensions, austerity programs, and foreclosures registered more urgently than in 2009.

Americans went back to the basics — all the way back to the promises spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. While there weren’t any muskets and midnight rides in 2010, uprisings came from all walks of life, as people wondered whether there’s any fairness left, any happy ending, and (maybe most of all) any good reason to accept the status quo.

When President Obama sought the White House, his message focused on two themes, hope and change. “Elect me,” we were effectively told two years ago, “and you’ll have both.” Change has been a work in progress, and some have heartily disagreed with the changes underway. Hope is harder to legislate than change, and less tangible (especially in our paychecks), but still needed to keep us moving forward, no matter our lot in life or our political leanings.

Evolution is the norm; revolution, the exception. In 2010, we saw the latter. Now it’s up to us to ensure that our new world reaches its potential. At least until the next revolution is required.

–Chris Nichols

Chris Nichols is the assistant managing editor of news and investing at Yahoo! Finance. He has been a business journalist for more than 14 years. Before joining Yahoo! in June 2009, he worked for Dow Jones Newswires, Bloomberg, and TheStreet.com.

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