They made an almighty mess of the economy, then they accepted so much money from the government to keep them afloat that they crippled us for years to come, and then they carried on exactly as if nothing had happened.
Their banks are still losing money but the bankers are still taking home huge bonuses, on top of their huge salaries. Some of these bonuses are measured as multiples of their basic pay.
Can you imagine the outcry if all the rest of us demanded to be treated that way?
David Cameron, our comedy Prime Minister, is fighting a European Union scheme to cap those bonuses, saying that without the incentive of huge gobs of cash, these bankers – who caused the crash, remember – will leave the UK. He thinks we need them. According to the BBC’s Any Questions today, he might have a point.
It depends whether all those bankers, with their bonuses, will be paying the full 50 per cent rate of income tax. If they are all doing so, then, fair enough, we need them, because that money goes back into the national bank account and helps us out. If not – and this seems far more likely – then why keep them? There are plenty of others, in jobs lower down the scale, waiting their turn. Considering the mess that was created in 2008, they’ll probably do a better job.
If Mr Cameron really wants all those bad bankers to stay in the UK, he would be more popular if he quoted a different reason: Justice. How many British bankers have been prosecuted for causing the crash? Is it even possible to prosecute them for it? If not, how can they be punished, other than by docking their salaries or pay? Making the banking institutions themselves pay up is not useful in this instance, because it assigns no personal responsibility.
There is the issue of whether the bankers are actually managing to re-stabilise our financial institutions. If so, then that might be considered a good reason to continue providing their bonuses. If a bank’s losses go down from billions to merely hundreds of millions, is that a justification for paying out hundreds of millions more in bonuses?
It all seems very complicated.
But that doesn’t mean we should stop being angry about it, and it doesn’t mean we should stop seeking compensation for it.
The bottom line is that the banks have absorbed hundreds of billions of pounds that belong to British taxpayers, and now the vast majority of British taxpayers are having to go without, due to a shortage of cash, while the bankers – with their bonuses – are allowed to continue their profligate lifestyle.
What better demonstration could there be, of the fact that we are definitely not “all in it together”?
The honourable thing to do, for the bankers, would have been to make a solemn commitment to provide restitution for all the damage they caused, and to agree not to demand bonuses or to move elsewhere until that restitution has been provided in full.
But these are not honourable people.
Maybe it would be better to point out that we do have banks that are owned by the state. Perhaps we should take the view that, if those other banks that received so much money are now so rich that they can continue paying out enormous bonuses, then they are clearly in a position to pay back their debt to the nation and return the money that was provided to them. If they are unable to do so, then they should be broken up, with citizens’ accounts absorbed into the nationalised banks (to safeguard our savings), and the rest of the organisation sold off piecemeal to pay off the debt.
Hang that threat over them, and let’s see what happens!
But we won’t see that, will we?
It isn’t going to happen, and it’s just the naive speculation of a lay spectator, viewing it all from the outside.
Still, it’s a starting-point.
Does anybody with more expertise have a practical plan to get our money back?