...a blog by Richard Flowers

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Day 2647: Rock and Reckoning


So, with the accounts tallied up, it seems that OUR bank, the Northern Rock'n'Hardplace has lost a-hundred-and-seventy-six MILLION pounds!

Fifty million pounds (a bit less than a third) of the loss was the fees paid to (or wasted on) consultants who were trying to find a way to avoid the bank being nationalised. Not on a no-win-no-fee basis there, I am guessing.

And, adding INSULT to INJURY, there is the outrageous GOLDEN GOODBYE given to the man who got the bank into trouble – and cost us all so much money – in the first place.

"It is an utter disgrace," said the Liberal Democrat whose advice was both right and fifty-million pounds better value, Mr Vince "the Power" Cable.

Mr Adam Applegarth, the BOSS with the LOSS, will receive three-quarters-of-a-MILLION in readies (plus additional benefits) in twelve instalments. That's twelve monthly payments of more than most families earn in a YEAR. This is, I believe, described as nice money if you can get it.

It certainly appears to be the case that while the MINIONS might get the SACK, if you are the BOSS then it is a one-way bet that you'll make a FORTUNE. Gamble like crazy – with other people's money, mais naturellement ? – and if you win you take a large slice as commission or profit-related pay or old-fashioned bonus. But if you lose, then… it appears that, so long as you lose ENOUGH, the government will step in and bail you out, with a little gold-plated thank-you as an afterthought.

This is all getting so BLATANT that it was the subject of a rant-to-camera from the BBC's new Business Editor.

With that nice Mr Evan gone off to the The Today Programme, his job of explaining MONEY to for the BBC has been passed to Mr Robert Hey-Presto… with HIS peculiar habit of EMPHasising random syllABLES in ALL of his senTENces.

It's been a good old while since we've seen such naked politics of ENVY in hour long television-documentary form. Each and every point was – it seemed – intercut with (and fundamentally undermined by) a cut away to Mr Presto pawing at Prada bags with a personal shopper, lusting over luxury yachts that cost more than the whole of Burkina-Faso or oozing covetousness over Mr Damien Hirst's fifty-million pound skull. (Incidentally, if the materials, i.e. a skull plus fifty-million pounds worth of diamonds and platinum, cost as much as the finished work, does that make the value of the artistic content, er, nil?)

It is certainly TRUE that the head-bangingly rich find some spectacular – and spectacularly TASTELESS – ways of spending their enormous and probably undeserved gigabucks. And obviously one's fluffy heart BLEEDS to learn that there just aren't enough Malibu beach condos to go around, these days. But hasn't it always been so? Did the aristocracy stop partying just because World War part One came along? The poor Parisians might have starved, but did Marie-Antoinette have any cake-related troubles while playing sheeps and shepherdesses in Versailles? (Though obviously that party came to an end rather sharply!) Ouch!

I mention this because I think there is a perfectly good case to be made that there were some very greedy people in the City – and almost all other financial centres – who got carried away in a classic BUBBLE, without having to over-egg the pudding by saying: look what the rich spend their money on, isn't it awful that they have SO MUCH and you HAVEN'T!

Instead of playing the envy card, we could have used the time to investigate why the system that REWARDS winners and RESCUES losers is allowed to continue. The blame seemed to be being passed to the banks' OWNERS – which means SHAREHOLDERS – for letting their "employees" carry on like this because, on the whole, they win from a share of the profits. BUT most shareholders are actually pension and insurance funds, vast pools of money that are controlled by… more City insiders.

Those pension funds are actually the property of all the people who are putting money aside for their retirement (because Mr Frown surely isn't doing it for you), but do they have any right to control the shares that their money has bought? They do not.

Instead, the people who vote to gold-plate the bottoms of the bankers who gamble with other people's money are THEMSELVES buying their way to the table with other people's money.

With the system so stacked against people, we need to think RADICALLY about breaking it open and start again. The very fact that the Stock Markets are an elite CLOSED SHOP means that they cannot be a proper FREE MARKET (free access is one of the requirements)! We need to bust open those cliques and let people control their own money more, through smaller and more co-operative projects, like the old building societies before Queen Maggie's "Big Bang" encouraged them all to turn into banks.

But things are certainly NOT going to change when the so-called Parliament of the people is controlled by two parties entirely in hock to those very vested interests. The Labour and the Conservatories both depend for NOT BEING BANKRUPT on a million quid here and there from a very small number of the hyper-wealthy… so you can hardly expect them to be on the side of the ordinary folk. They know which side their BREAD is BUTTERED. And they recognise who holds the solid-silver butter fork.

Speaking of which, teenage toff Master Gideon Oboe wasn't one to let a week of grumblings from the Labour backbenches (who've JUST ABOUT caught up with the Lib Dem criticism of Mr Frown's tax policy) go past without claiming that it would all be so much better if HE was in charge of the SWEETIE MONEY.

"But would you have lowered taxes in the last Budget?" he was asked on the The Today Programme.

"Well, if I'd been putting money away during the good times, if I'd been reducing the deficit, maybe even running a budget surplus, then I'd be able to do what they did in America and help the economy out," he replied.

And if he'd managed to catch the magic money fairy he could have abolished Income Tax too.

There is NO evidence that Master Gideon would have spent any less over the last ten years, indeed all of that talk about "sharing the proceeds of robbery growth" surely means that he'd have been slashing taxes not repaying national debt. Nor, for that matter, is citing the Monkey-in-Chief's trillion dollar deficit as a guide to FISCAL PRUDENCE a sign that young Oboe's eye is entirely on the economic ball!

And continuing his new policy of kissing bottom at the Federal Reserve, Mr "a new Northern Rocky policy every fortnight" Oboe went on to praise the American's speed and decisiveness in selling off Bear Sterns, saying that we should have powers like that in this country… only not for the FSA like Chancellor Sooty proposes, but for the Bank of England. 'Cos it makes SUCH a difference which fusty institution has the power!

People are tired of arguing over which puppet-Chancellor gets to fondle the levers of economic power (without actually being allowed to pull any of them, of course).

Come on Liberal Democrats, it's time we put forward the anti-Establishment answers!

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