There’s a passage in Russell Brand’s Revolution in which he quotes a chap called Dave Graeber as follows: “During the bailout of Wall Street, $30 trillion in support and subsidies went to the most powerful players… That was the greatest theft of wealth in history.”
Here in the UK, we were part of that. The Brown (Labour) administration paid a fortune into our own banks to keep them solvent because they were also participants in the global economic crisis – it had to, otherwise all of our savings would have disappeared.
We all thought this was reasonable, at the time. Shore up the banks, sure – they’ll pay us back in the long run. Have they paid us back?
Have they heck as like!
(That’s a colloquialism meaning, emphatically, no.)
The Conservative – sorry, Coalition – government has even been helping them steal some more. Look at this RealFare image:
The bankers involved in the bailout were all on the top rate of tax – bank on it! – so there’s a double tax cut for them, and their employers enjoyed the Corporation Tax cut too. That’s a huge amount of money that the Treasury has given away to people who already owe the nation a huge amount of money!
Meanwhile George Osborne announces more billions of pounds worth of spending cuts, taking money from the poor.
You see – and perhaps this has been obscured lately – government spending involves the redistribution of wealth, and on the face of it this is to make society more equal. What the poorest can’t afford, the state will provide, to ensure a reasonable standard of living for everybody.
But George Osborne, David Cameron and their government have pig-headedly used the financial crisis and the debts created by it to punish the poor and increase inequality.
The bankers have not been asked to give back the money they were given to bail themselves out – that money has been stolen.
The government has withdrawn spending from people who need it and given the money to people who don’t in tax cuts – that money has also been stolen.
Just because it doesn’t appear in the statute books as an act of theft doesn’t make it any less so.
And now it seems another banking crisis is on its way – because the people who caused the last one are still in charge, haven’t learned their lesson (why should they? They were rewarded for the last crisis), and are hell-bent on repeating the calamity because the only people it hurt were too poor to do anything about it – people like yourself.
Look at this, by Michael Meacher MP: “Six years after the financial breakdown in 2008-9 it is therefore disturbing to see the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority seeking public acclaim for the large increase in financial penalties it has imposed on miscreant banks, as though this has changed the culture of hubris that has infected the major banks over the last decade or more.
“The FCA has certainly imposed fines of £1.4bn on the UK banks in this last year, but that is… too modest by comparison with the enormity of their regular annual profits to change the City’s amoral mindset, and above all focused on the banking institutions themselves (the shareholders) rather than on the real perpetrators (the top executives and traders).
“Not a single top executive in the UK financial sector has been convicted and sent to prison, even for such egregious offences as rigging the Libor and forex markets.”
Ed Miliband has promised to reform the banks, “so they support small businesses” – is that enough?
In September 2012, he promised that, if banks did not separate their retail and investment arms, a future Labour government would break them up (with the aim of protecting personal account holders from debts created by the gambling of the so-called ‘casino’ bankers) – is that enough?
What will be enough?
From where this writer is sitting, the banks and financial institutions are sitting on billions – if not trillions – of pounds of money that doesn’t belong to them, while millions suffer and starve.
Going back to Revolution, Russell points out that this kind of money could cancel the debts of everyone, not just an elite; it could create employment and ‘ease’ life for ordinary people, not just an elite.
Ed Miliband could win an election on this. If he said “A Labour government will take your money back from the banks and use it to improve the lives of everyone,” he’d have a landslide on his hands.
How about it, Ed?
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