Saturday, 14 May 2011

MEASURING PROGRESS?

President Obama
A few years down the line and we are all still paying (and are going to carry on for some time) though the nose for the banking fiasco (crisis is too dignified a word for it) that was overseen by New Labour and is being paid for by the rest of us. Post election (back in June 2010) George Osbourne and the Tories reluctantly paid lib service to the publicly stated need to regulate the more unsavoury aspects of the banking sector. Nominally at least they signed up to President Obama's publicly stated aim to regulate tax havens.

Just in case you forget, it was back in January (2009) when President Obama announced two more than reasonable measures to curb the banks, the first aimed to stop banks from engaging in proprietary trading, private equity, or any other activity for their own profit unrelated to serving customers. The second measure aimed to take further steps to limit the balance sheet size of banks so that they cannot in future acquire “too big to fail” status.

Theodore Roosevelt
President Obama was absolutely right to characterise his proposals as a victory for common sense and while we may have some way to g before the banks are forced to act responsibly, the first steps have been taken. David Cameron and the Tories (despite everything that has happened in an almost unregulated, greed driven finance sector over the last few years) are still far to enamoured with their friends, the dodgy money men in the City of London.

There are times when you can find yourself wondering just exactly how far we have progressed in the last hundred years of so? In the later years of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century US Presidents, Presidential candidates and politicians including Theodore Roosevelt (a Republican) and William Jennings Bryan (a Democratic Presidential candidate) were opposed to the power of big business and fought against the dangers of monopoly capitalism (as personified by ‘Standard Oil’ and ‘the Trusts’ in Teddy’s case).

William Jennings Bryan
In 1896, William Jennings Bryan, a future Democratic presidential nominee, warning against the power of finance, said: “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” President Roosevelt and William Jennings Bryan had and in my opinion still has a pretty valid point - if you believe in the ‘free market’ and the City money men claim to, then no organisation can be too big to be allowed not to fail.

While Westminster bailed out the banks with massive public subsidies, which effectively made some of the banks 'publicly owned’, they are still run by bankers, who are so thick skinned that they carry on regardless with the awarding of bonuses. The Con Dem UK Government should have seriously consider breaking up and ‘privatising’, perhaps selling the shares on the open market (with specific quotas on how many shares any one institution can own) – because from where many people are sat these bloated banking organisations appear to be a serious block on the ‘free market’.

There is still a pressing need for similar rules for financial institutions across the globe, off shore must become a matter of historical record – there must be no where the financial institutions can hide and no more endless threats of taking their “ball” (businesses operations) elsewhere and relocating because they have lost their so called special status. It's important to remember, that no one, not even bankers or MPs are above the law and no one is above financial regulation, scrutiny, free from responsibility and consequences for ones actions.

The OCED has estimated that some $10 trillion dollars worth of private wealth is concealed in Paradis Fscaux (tax havens). These financial dead letter drops tend to be used by banks, multi-national companies, corporations, the super (and not so super) rich, drug dealers, dictators, terrorists, fraudsters and other criminals who use them to hide and launder their wealth. One side effect of Paradis Fiscau is that they enable people and organisations to avoid paying their fair dues to the society in which they live, unlike the rest of us mere mortals.

To put things in perspective - that $10 trillion dollar figure produced by the OCED means that the lost taxation normally accrued would be more than double the entire planet's global aid budget. President Obama, President Sarlozy and Chancellor Merkel are on record saying that off-shore capital needs to be properly regulated - Gordon Brown (remember him?) waffled, the Con Dems are pretty quiet or are they merely in the pockets of the money men in the City.

In relation to the banking crisis and the vast debts that us mere mortals are having to repay, perhaps is best to paraphrase Winston Churchill, 'Never have so many had to pay so much on behalf of so few!'. And we are going to carry on paying...and the money men continue to escape regulation... so much for progress...

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