Sunday, May 30, 2010

Breaking a butterfly on a wheel

In the last few years, we've found that our unregulated masters of the universe have been inventing assets, borrowing against them and paying themselves astronomical bonuses from the profits.

And when the whole uninvestigated house of cards fell down around their feet, they simply shifted the risk on to us, walked away and continued behaving in the same manner all over again. Our grandchildren will be paying the bills that these thieves have handed us and they've already started preparing for the next raid in which they socialise their losses and privatise stolen assets.

They've been able to do this because of the largely unchallenged monopoly statuses that their employers have been allowed to gather to themselves, and they've benefited from an approach to shareholder control in which no-one scrutinises, makes judgements or asserts any level of restraint upon these corporations. In the US, a handful have had their collars felt. I don't think any have even had a visit from the Old Bill in this country yet.

They will continue to be able to get away with the assertion that their work somehow involves talent and insight and that they need huge incentives to create wealth. It doesn't.

They are already using their vast wealth to lobby against any regulation that will restructure their thieving industry in the public interest and if anyone doubts that they will largely succeed, I'd like to recommend this antidote.

The huge corporate PR and lobbying sector is testimony to how much this whole shooting match is worth. It's an industry that attracts shockingly low levels of curiosity from journalists. Under the umbrella of the term 'Corporate Hospitality', there is a another massive industry that effectively promotes the bribery of executives at the expense of shareholders - and ultimately pensioners. It sees the kind of sweeteners that MPs could only dream of being doled out daily to undeserving climbers of the greasy pole.

Hush money goes unchallenged and little cartels are cemented at the expense of shareholders, small businesses and - as often as not - the taxpayers who foot the bill either through corporate welfare, or the more straightforward processes of public procurement.

I could go on (believe me!), but all of this has happened with a acquiescence of our useless, lazy, incompetent, self-serving Fourth Estate. Freedom of Information has only served to dish regulators up on a plate for lazy hacks. For all we know, thousands of wealthy execs could be banging a string of underage hookers on beds of Angel Dust in mansions that are paid for out of shareholders funds and our media would ignore it because it's not something that you can bring to light with a tidily worded letter to the correct authorities.

So, beside journalists, who else is there to hold them to account? Well .... er... there's elected politicians. But we need fewer of them, don't we?

Just in case anyone thought that the anti-politics crusade that we've seen conducted over the past few years was about keeping Labour politicians in their place, we've all had a sharp reminder: If you put yourself up for public office and don't maintain standards that are infinitely higher than the unaccountable thieves that you are supposed to monitor (alone!), then don't be surprised.


Brian said...

Don't you love the way government is forced to borrow money from the banks to bail out the banks and stimulate the economy to prevent it collapsing, and then the banks demand that we pay them back what we had to borrow from them NOW, THIS MOMENT, you hear?, and if we don't, they'll refuse to lend us any more money except at extortionate rates of interest, to pay which we'll need to borrow even more, choking off economic recovery from the bank-created recession, causing more unemployment, further reducing tax revenue and increasing social security payments, thus increasing the deficit....

And this is the best, most efficient and fairest system the human race has been able to come up with to date.


Will said...

"The only truly surprising thing about the 2008 financial meltdown is how easily the idea was accepted that its happening was unpredictable. Recall the demonstrations that throughout the last decade regularly accompanied meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank: the protesters’ complaints encompassed not only the usual antiglobalization motifs (the growing exploitation of Third World countries, etc.) but also how the banks were creating the illusion of growth by playing with fictional money and how this would all have to end in a crash. It was not only economists such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz who warned of the dangers ahead and made it clear that those who promised continuous growth did not really understand what was going on under their noses. In Washington in 2000, so many people demonstrated about the danger of a financial collapse that the city had to mobilize 3,500 local policemen. What ensued was tear- gassing, clubbing, and mass arrests. The police were used to stifle the truth."