Friday, December 12, 2008

Time For Us To Bail Out Our Governments?

Gordon Brown made an hilarious gaff in the House of Commons, starting a sentence "Not only did we save the world.." Freud would have a field-day with this apparent slip of the tongue, but it just shows the shift of egos.

Not so long ago hedge fund managers and bankers were described as 'Masters of the Universe' and 'rock stars'. Loved and hated in the press in equal measure, they did not care for criticism because their power came from the money they had generated for themselves, their employers and their clients. Politicians were a niggling nuisance easily fobbed off with a few campaign contributions.

The worm, however, has turned and Brown's gaff shows, in a Freudian way, that the politicians know it.

I wish I could say that our politicians have hitched up their sleeves, taken control of the situation and, like a father scolding a wayward son, slapped the bankers behind the ears and taken care of the mess they have made, all the while comporting themselves with dignity... unfortunately, I can't say that.

What we are witnessing now is more like a playground push and pull, industry and banking has been the popular group, the football team and the cheerleading squad. Politicians have been the 'geeks', jealous of the popularity of their mortal enemies just waiting for an opportunity to strike.

And so we have the politicians summoning bankers, federal chairman, auto-maker CEO's and hedge fund managers to the Hill to roundly beat them up in public.

I would have no problem with this process if it served any purpose and I would have no problem with this if it was being done to get genuine information.

But, like the Macarthiest witch hunts it is just a political show. Senators being rude to the 'evil rich' to show their constituents that they can be hard on those that have ruined it for us 'ordinary' people.

What tosh.

How long ago was it that these parasites would have been fawning all over the hedge fund managers, the auto CEO's and bankers to 'contribute' to their political effort in order to pay for their campaign to cling onto power for another four years.

Harsh, possibly. Just as I was thinking that I maybe being a bit too cynical up pops Rod Blagojevich, the Governor of Illinois. We all know the story, the none-to-bright Blagojevich, decides to talk over the phone about profiting from the selection of Barack Obama's replacement as senator.

You may say that a one off dodgy politician does not a bad government make. I agree, however, when you realise that if our friend Rod goes to jail, he will be the fourth governor out of the last eight in Illinois, to get banged up.

OK, there was a huge screw up by greedy people, bankers, house buyers, private equity and everyone else basically, but to see politicians taking center stage portraying themselves as some kind of 'heroes of the people' is, frankly, sickening.

The vote last night in the senate not to bail out the auto-makers in the US and the potential that these 'public servants' are going to go on holiday, to celebrate Christmas and not vote until the New Year is diabolical.

How will the auto-workers at Ford, Chrysler and GM feel at Christmas? What about the parts suppliers, the sales men and women at the dealerships, the cafe across the street from the factories and the towns that rely totally on the work generated by these firms, how will their Christmas be?

I have made no secret of the fact that in the main, I detest politicians. I have met a few and none of them were impressive, most were more interested in money and power than any altruistic service of the people and this latest scandal both in Illinois and the auto-makers farce has done nothing to sway my belief that most are crooked on some level, and that is depressing.

Obama has a big task ahead of him, and I believe he could be different, but I am none too hopeful these days. Bankers screwed up, got caught up in the greed of it all but never forget that these same politicians who are now lampooning various people stood by and did nothing to stop it.

It is no good saying they didn't understand, ignorance is no defense, these people should have known, should have done something and they didn't.

Much is written about how Wall Street and The City will never be the same again, that is probably for the best, but one thing that will not change, unless we demand it, and that is the 'systemic risk' that politicians pose to us all with their greed for power, money and fame, leading us into war and turning a blind eye to corruption and greed as long as they stay in power.

We should use this time, not only to clean up the banking industry, but to reform politics. Ban making money from memoirs, speaking engagements, jobs in banks and trips on oligarch’s yachts. Mandatory jail time for indiscretions like Spitzer and Blagojevich have been accused of and total transparency in all areas of a politician’s life.

These would be my conditions for bailing out the largest failing business of all.. government.

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