Monday, October 06, 2008

Money Matters

Absolutely no one at all has asked me what I think about the current financial problems being faced by us relatively cosy westerners. As most readers will have sussed I'm of the belief that everyone has a right to my opinion, so for what it's worth, (not all that much, I suspect)...My knee jerk reaction is to rage at the greedy, filthy, grasping bastards on Wall Street and in The City who caused our current woes; I want to pick them up and shake them by the throat.

The last time this country was in such dire circumstances, the blame was placed squarely at the door of "my side", if you like: the unions were seen to be too powerful, thwarting the "brave captains of industry" and putting the brakes on economic progress. Obergruppenfuhrer Thatcher did her thing, maniacally destroying whatever manufacturing and creative industry she could find and leaving us as a service (and financial services) based economy. Major followed Thatch and was in turn followed by Thatch's acolyte in Labour clothing. The unions remained emasculated and the bankers took complete control.

Well, who got too greedy this time? But, unlike the union members and leaders of yore, who's going to get off Scot-free with millions (billions in some cases) stashed away off-shore while the ordinary working person feels the full weight of their almighty cock-ups?

Needless to say the whole thing makes me very angry. And now governments around Europe and in the Great Satan are throwing billions of our money into the pot with no guarantees of better, more responsible behaviour by the Tory-boys of the financial institutions. In the words of an American union leader as they demonstrated outside Congress during the recent debate over the $700,000,000,000 (looks big in figures, doesn't it?) bail out: "They're handing us the bill for a party that we weren't even invited to".However. And yes there is a "however". We are where we are. We can't magically change things back to a bygone age, what we can do is take this opportunity to redress the balance of power between massive capital and the ordinary working person.

Of course governments can't allow all of the major financial houses to go through the hoop; every last one of us would suffer hugely. Mortgages would become all but impossible to obtain except for the wealthy few; unemployment would soar to unprecedented heights with all the misery that brings. House repossessions are already on the rise; pension plans are likely to collapse.

Remember the miners and the steel workers, the shipwrights, the fishermen: workers from ruined industries all and ruined through lack of government intervention, which has become the accepted political hegemony. But failing to intervene is an action in itself; doing nothing is making the decision to send a business or an entire industry to the wall. Intervening in business is thought to be a bad thing by the rightists (except when it's their industry that needs bailing out).
But taking control of industry is not a bad thing; in return for bailing out the city, the banks and the financial houses we need to have a stake in those businesses. The government needs to be able to put a stop to the obscene bonus payment system and to the ridiculous salaries for individuals who actually make nothing at all, who actually perform no public good whatever. The government can do that; it can make it a condition of any loan or grant. It's called nationalisation, remember that? It's not a dirty word; it means ownership of the means of production by the people, managed for the people by their elected representatives. I'm not calling for wholesale state ownership of the banks, but in return for the bail out there has to be a shareholding; a very significant one at that.

I've heard the argument for compulsory mutualisation (or re-mutualisation) of the financial houses and banks which I find quite persuasive as well. Ownership of the institution by its savers and borrowers; the institution has to be run for their benefit and not for any shareholders at all. Massive bonuses and ludicrous salaries would be instantly vetoed and might even be illegal unless the boards could show that they were specifically for the benefit of the members, and that should be a tough one to demonstrate unless accompanied by slashes in interest payable by borrowers and increases in interest paid to savers. Hmmmm.

So, yes, the financial houses have to be bailed out, but it's vital that the government does not do so with no strings attached - we need to take control of our country again, and that means having a say in how all of it runs, not just the unprofitable bits. Failure to grab this opportunity to restore some semblance of equality now will ensure that the Tory-boys and wide-girls do it all again. Please, Mr Brown, don't let them.

If you've actually made it this far, I'm astounded. I nearly bored the pants off myself, there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

here here !
i heartily agree, though my feelings towards our bankers are more along the string them up lines rather than the shake them by the throat line. at the very least a warrant sale of their considerble assets would be a start
i look forward to hearing the results of you debating this with Dong !