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Saturday, October 18, 2008

The race to rescue the bankers by Mark Steel

Mark Steel



The next move, presumably, will be to nationalise the country’s gambling debts.

To revive confidence among blokes in betting offices, the government will hand over £300 billion to cover the money they’ve lost. Then a leading gambler will be quoted as saying: “This package goes some way towards restoring calm. The last week has been horrendous. One of my friends lost a ton on an 8-to-1 shot he’d been assured was a banker by a minicab driver.” Another method might be to let the world’s share-dealers go bankrupt, and see if we manage to carry on without them. One advantage of this strategy would be the entertainment of seeing them fight the job losses. City traders would carry placards saying, “Stop the axe on Goldman Sachs!”

Support groups would be set up that could hold collections in which people would be asked to donate riverside apartments to a fighting fund, as some of the bankers were undergoing such hardship they hadn’t bought one for over three months. But organisers of the fighting fund would have to be careful to keep some donations back until handed out as the Christmas bonus. They’d certainly deserve our backing, as you get an idea of the nature of share traders from the Daily Telegraph, which told us that after the initial rejection of the US recovery plan by Congress, “there was disbelief among U.S. traders who accused politicians of putting their own interests ahead of the American people”.

You see? Even in this crisis, all they’re thinking about is the US people. They’ve never wanted the burden of accepting unimaginable salaries for buying and selling the same stuff, but they’ve soldiered on out of love for the US people. Well, it’s time they understood there’s such a thing as being too selfless, and took a moment to consider themselves for once.

Their complaint was the failure to approve a US$700 billion bailout of failing finances, but it’s even worse than they fear. Because according to one commentator, one reason why politicians rejected the deal was that “they were receiving letters from the public running at 40-to-1 disapproving it”. So it’s not just politicians, but the US people who are against the US people.

Some of them, for example, might consider that $130 billion to provide a national health plan for all US citizens for two years would be a better use of funds. Those poor traders must hold their heads in their hands and sigh: “It’s just ‘me me me’ with some people, isn’t it?” So maybe there’s another solution. It seems that world governments will do anything at all, no matter how desperate, to revive “confidence” in the markets, as these markets, which are run by the dealers, control the economy.

This means the dealers are far more powerful than governments. In which case, in the interests of democracy, instead of wasting time electing governments, why don’t we elect the dealers? They could make speeches such as: “Let me assure the British people that, if elected, less of the wealth created by hard-working families will be taken by the state, and far more will stay where it belongs, with me.”

And: “I apologise to my constituents for the embarrassing revelation that I’ve not been seen in an exclusive lap-dancing club for over a week.” And one day, we’ll all look back and wonder why we’d never thought of it before. [Mark Steel is a comedian and socialist activist. Originally published in the October 6 British Independent.]

From: International News, Green Left Weekly issue #770 15 October 2008.

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