Years ago, maybe in 2002, at a conference I attended in St. Louis, Dr. Bob Goodman, then Putnam’s economist and a spokesman for the firm, said that dividends would become increasingly important to Americans. His thesis was that, as they had after the Great Depression, dividends would become important because Americans would no longer trust companies. Of course, Dr. Bob was referring to the tech wreck of 2000-2003, and he was dead right. (I think Dr. Bob retired in 2003 as Putnam’s official economist.)
The tech wreck was small potatoes when compared to the credit crisis. The former was a bubble, fueled by nearly unstoppable optimism; the latter was fueled by greed and a pretty total lapse of common sense (credit default swaps were handshake deals — insurance without an insurance contract — and liar mortgages created a whole new business class and there was a mortgage company ready for our phony applications on every street corner).