I couldn’t quite believe what I was watching on TV a few days ago. Was it serious or a joke?A financial trader was telling me that governments do not rule the world – because it is ruled by Goldman Sachs. He said that traders like him don’t care about economic recession or depression, and that indeed they look forward to them, even dream of them, because they provide opportunities to make lots of money.
The trader said that the likes of Goldman Sachs do not care about issues such as the state of the Euro or the planned European rescue package for debt-ridden nations, because their job was just to make money out of the situation.
Now, he may have been a fraud – a kind of ‘rogue trader’ if you like – but even if his confession was intended as satire or a prank what he said was certainly no joke. Many people watching thought it was just a hoax – but only because they couldn’t believe someone could speak so openly and candidly.
The shock was not so much what he said, but his honesty and brutality – this is how ‘the markets’ work; live with it’. His words were just a reflection of what the rest of the financial sector thought, but was too dishonest to admit publicly.
Governments are scared of ‘the markets’. They worry about what ‘the markets’ will think, and how they will react. Economic decisions appear to be taken by governments the world over with one eye – or both eyes – on ‘the markets’. Policies are altered and decisions are reversed if ‘the markets’ grumble. Media financial reporting is all about how ‘the markets’ have reacted or will react to x or y.
Forget about the impact on real people – their savings, their jobs, their taxes – and on public spending, and on our economic future. It is the impact on ‘the markets’ that really seems to matter. We doff our caps to ‘the markets’. Because they, in the form of Goldman Sachs and many others, rule the world.
So the more the markets fluctuate up and down, the more there is boom and bust, inflation followed by deflation, growth followed by stagnation, the more money ‘the markets’ make. Steady growth, slow and solid wealth creation and economic stability are not what ‘the markets’ need to make money. They profit, and profit well, from chaos, debt, uncertainty, crisis and panic. They benefit from, and wallow in, the misfortunes of others. They feed like vultures.
I’m sick of being told that we can’t do this or that because ‘the markets’ will not like it, when we all know that the only thing they like is what makes them rich. Since the financial crisis started, the richest 400 people in the US have increased their net wealth by $30 billion, at our expense, taking their combined worth to nearly $1.6 trillion – more than 50% of the entire population of the country. That’s 400 people in the US with more wealth than 150 million people combined.
There is more. Taxpayer-supported city bonuses topped £14 billion in 2010. And Wall Street bankers pocketed over $140 billion of taxpayer-assisted benefits and bonuses in the same year. To put these figures into perspective; if the money had been invested in the wider economy instead, it would have created over half a million new jobs in the UK and 4.5 million jobs in the US, at average wage rates.
The monster we have created is enriching itself by laying waste to our jobs, our pensions and our savings. And our hopes and dreams. And our children’s future. We didn’t need to make finance and ‘the markets’ the UK’s biggest industry. Nor did we have to live in a make-believe world created from debt.We are where we are. But we don’t have to stay here. I long to return to an economy that is based on real things, that you can touch and see, rather than one that relies on iffy practices such as hedge funds and short selling. I’d like ‘markets’ to mean a place where real people buy and sell real things, at a price that makes a reasonable profit, rather than a place where you find only futures, options and securities.
I really hope it is not too late to cut off the many heads of this monster that we have created, before it devours us all.
One more thing. I am increasingly incensed by so-called market analysts and experts telling me that we can’t expect bankers and traders to pay tax at 50% on their incomes and bonuses, which often run into millions, because they would take their ‘expertise’ abroad. Please, just go. I’ll take you to the airport. I’ll buy you the ticket. First class, of course. On my credit card, because you’ve already taken my money. Just don’t come back. Go ruin another country, you have already done enough damage here.