Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Banker's Dance

It is like watching one of those symbolic war dances – a haka perhaps or more likely one of those morris dances with sticks. Lots of faux anger and great threat but in the end none of the participants suffer – the violence, the punishment or the attack never happens.

This is the Banker’s Dance – a stately affair involving bankers, regulators, civil servants and politicians performing to an audience of PR consultants, financial advisors and management consultants while us ordinary folk press our eyes to a crack in the fence hoping to catch a glimpse of the grand ball.

Today – on top of screwing small shareholders, excessive and unjustified bonuses, complacency in the face of crisis and crippling the economy to pay for their misdeed – these people, the bankers, regulators, civil servants and politicians, have revealed that they don’t mind fixing the system in their favour. We’ve known that politicians and civil servants have done this for years – responding to the clamour of public opinion through the temporary manipulation of markets. A tax rise here, an interest rate cut there, maybe a new road or an extra payment for pensioners – spending other people’s money to cadge a few votes.

But now the partners of those politicians and those mandarins – the bankers – are shown to be cheats too. And that their so-called regulators were either complicit or too stupid to care. We – by which I mean the man in the Ford Mondeo and the woman on the 8:35 from Beckenham Junction to Victoria – are shafted but these grand people do nothing except play the game of false anger, mock condemnation and contrived critique. The words are there:
This is a scandal. It is extremely serious. They've had a very large fine and quite rightly. But frankly the Barclays management team have some big questions to answer,"

"It is clear that what happened at Barclays and potentially other banks was completely unacceptable, was symptomatic of a financial system that elevated greed above all other concerns and brought our economy to its knees."

But does anyone believe this is different from that Maori rugby player screaming death and blood at his opponent? After the game – after the Commons statements, frowny appearances on the BBC and “we will act” articles in today’s chosen Sunday paper – the people making these statements (Osborne, Cameron, Miliband, Balls) will be stood at the bar with the people they condemn.

The stately dance has become a dark ritual, a celebration of the demonic bargain struck by politicians with banks to allow them the means to use tomorrow’s tax (and today’s inflation) to bribe chosen groups of voters. Not satisfied with encouraging us to vote to spend other people’s money, we voted to spend money that didn’t exist, to create a magical money tree.

And all the while the dancers piled up cash, assets and power while we – the poor suckers – piled up debts. Yet we carried on- and as we’ve seen in Greece will always carry on – pretending (are we really such fools) that it isn’t us who do the living and dying round here – that the magicians of government will solve all the problems.

That dance – that black dance – was the deal that made this possible. And it was, is, will be a monstrous deception. The greatest of great lies.

The thing we thought was a money tree? It’s a gibbet. And those dancers will hang us from it.


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