Unfortunately, the amount of money that has effectively disappeared due to the present unwillingness or inability of people to buy stocks is about equal to what I would have paid in taxes; and, of course, I will still have to pay taxes when what I have left comes out.
(People talk about paper losses and how you should not think of it that way, but what actually happened is that I gave somebody money for things that I can't sell for much now. Somebody actually did get my money: whoever had the stocks before I did. So the loss is real; it's just that it may possibly be canceled out by some future gains, which are what's unreal.)
Whether it had gone to taxes or to stock market losses, a lot of it would have gone to either:
- retired people (either drawing on their 401(k)s or drawing on social security)
- rich crooks (pocketing either capital gains or compensation from companies subsequently bailed out)
but if it had gone to taxes, at least some of it could go toward things that are helpful to me, like transportation infrastructure, environmental and safety regulations, health care, education, public safety, and so on. As it is, it's like I'm paying taxes to some other government somewhere, which literally does consist of a mix of lazy people who don't do anything useful and powerful people who don't give a shit about me, and which doesn't lay train tracks or protect me from other people's tendency to socialize costs while privatizing profit.
What can you do? Rebalance and move on. There's no room in the budget for pitchforks and torches.