There’s an old saying that goes like this: “If you lose your money, you lose your money. If the banks lose your money, you still lose your money.”
In this year of innovation, the banks of the world have discovered not only how to lose money while paying fat salaries and raises to their bosses, but also how to make their customers pay for the losses a second time — through their taxes.
The bankers and brokers don’t refer to themselves as “masters of the universe” without reason. Hell, they even crushed the once-wealthy nation of Iceland within five years of the privatization of its banks, which promptly went on the biggest spending spree in Icelandic history.
Not only that, but the $700-billion payout authorized by the US government has turned into the largest bonus package in the history of corporations, with $70 billion dollars alone being reserved for those fat salaries and bonuses.
They’ve cleaned the taxpayers’ clocks in the US. And they haven’t done too badly in damaging Great Britain and the rest of Europe as well, along with China and India.
The only thing that saved Canada was the intelligence of our citizens, who insisted on a minority government. Both Harper and the earlier Liberal government were ready to sell our banks to the Americans, but minority politics prevented that. And that’s why our banks are among the only ones in the developed world still standing.
When the big taxpayer bonus was announced, the American bankers took a little time off from what New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called their “Marie Antoinette spa treatments, luxury sports suites, Vegas and California post resort retreats….” The executives at A.I.G, recently saved from extinction by a $123-billion gift from American taxpayers, decided to relax a little.
They sashayed over to England’s posh Plumber Manor using $30,000 worth of private jets and chauffeured limos, blew another $10,000 on the fancy manor, and $10,000 more on the fine food and wine. Their four little hunting parties cost another $50,000, all courtesy of those impoverished taxpayers, four million of whom will lose their homes during the next two years.
After the halibut gratinee with chorizo, fillet of beet wrapped in Parma ham, pigeon breasts, and roast guinea fowl, one of the executives casually informed an undercover reporter: “The recession will go on until about 2011 — but the shooting was great today and we are all relaxing fine.” I should think so.
When the great crash first began, New York saw a sudden increase in $1,000 lap-dances and a rush on the most expensive brandies. The thinking was that the doomed executives had decided to party until the world ended. Only now, hilariously, with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson heaping billions of cash bailouts on his multi-millionaire cronies the partying has been extended.
Every American will have to pay $10,000 to this latest slush fund for bankers, yet the bailout has not stemmed the tide of foreclosures. Even Canadians, despite our regulated banks, will pay with a recession and a loss of jobs.
It’s truly amazing how a few dozen unspeakably greedy people drove the entire planet into economic chaos. Well, there’s your free market for you. It’s only free for the wealthy, while the rest of us pay for the bird dogs.
America is finally trying to put the clamp on AIG. Its chief financial officer, the one who managed the company’s multi-billion dollar loss, has had his $10-million severance payment held back for now. Poor man.
To give you an idea of the scale of the greed of these executives, here’s last year’s salaries of a few of the company bosses involved in this collapse: Citibank’s Chuck Prince, $38 million; Merrill Lynch’s Stan O’Neal, $161 million; Bob Diamond of Barclays, $72 million. Between 2000 and 2007, former Lehman boss, Dick Full earned $485 million in salary, bonuses, and stock options. Until finally the company went bankrupt. In Canada we pay our prime minister less than $300,000 a year, and despite our misgivings about them, our prime ministers have never driven the country into bankruptcy.
Two weeks ago, the Morgan Stanley honeypot for its employees was $10.7 billion. Yes, they were earning more money than the stockmarket deemed the value of the entire company.
It appears the last great act of the disgraced Bush administration was to “shock and awe” the US Senate (and they pulled it off!), conning them into the gutting of the US Treasury to cover the gross salaries and business practises of the bankers. The administration’s deregulation propaganda that allowed the rich to get richer and impoverish the poor, is now going to take away the homes of their poor as they file for bankruptcy.
The man who inspired this worldwide meltdown, Allan Greenspan, has now reluctantly admitted he was wrong, while the current Treasury Secretary, Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, rewards his former company for its disastrous business practises.
These fellows are so full of chutzpah that they’ve decided not to use the money the taxpayers gave to them so they’d free up the credit crunch. Naw, they’re buying up other banks, because their enterprising accountants figured out they could buy those banks and then receive a tax writedown for misspending the taxpayer’s gift — making the taxpayers pay again!
I’ll never forget the look of terror on President Bush’s face as he spoke to his nation when the meltdown began. And I’ll never forget the memorable words of this failed president who, in less than eight years, ruined America’s reputation, started two wars he couldn’t finish, gutted the American treasury and left the rest of the world in economic shambles: “This sucker could go down.”
Now pass the partridges.
Brian Brett, poet, journalist, novelist, lives on Salt Spring Island and returns to the Yukon whenever he can. His most recent book of poetry and prose is Uproar’s Your Only Music.