Sunday, 24 January 2010

Bragging Rights

I’ve long been an admirer of the singer-songwriter Billy Bragg. For decades he has been one of the leading lights of a diminishing pool of politically aware artists. His tour of former colliery towns and valleys last year on the 25th anniversary of the miners’ strike proved he has not forgotten his roots and there is still fire in his belly after decades of performing.

This month he underlined his 'working class hero' status when he started a campaign to strike back at the bankers. Not content with accepting billions of pounds of taypayers’ money after their risky and greed-driven course inevitably crashed them upon the rocks, they are now rewarding themselves with bumper bonuses. News that RBS, which is 84% tax-payer owned, want to issue £1.5 billion at the end of the financial year is one of the finest examples of vulgarity and shamelessness in recent years. Their Chief Executive, Stephen Hester, could earn a staggering £10 million over three years taking into account bonus related pay. Not bad work for being at the helm of a bomb proof, Government-backed organisation. Even his own mother thinks he is overpaid.

Most people will have been left with a bad taste in their mouth by the antics of these greedy bankers. We are powerless to do anything about it. Never one to lie down and accept an injustice, Bragg has taken matters in his own hands by threatening to withhold his taxes if the bonuses are paid.

Bragg wrote on the Facebook group NoBonus4RBS.“I believe that the government have their priorities wrong," "I have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling, to inform him that I am no longer prepared to fund the excessive bonuses of RBS investment bankers. Unless he acts to limit them to £25,000, I shall be withholding my tax payment on January 31.”

I don't know what it will take before the UK government finally clamps down on the banks. There's no more money in reserves to fund another bail out. The crackdown announced by President Obama this week is a step in the right direction because banks clearly cannot be trusted to ruin their own affairs again. But why has it taken so long? And is it a coincidence that this harder line approach was unveiled the same week as the Democrats lost Massachusetts and therefore their influence in the Senate?

We need a Peoples' Bank to bring about a much-needed sea change in our financial system. We need a not-for profit bank we can trust in, owned by the people for the people, not banks which line the pockets of the greedy, who know they can take big risks with our money because there'll be no repercussions.

1 comment:

D said...

I see the issues regarding the way banking has "evolved" over the last decade in my every day work. Banks promulgate economic distress by levying charges on overdraft fees that are so disproportionate that they only serve to increase the rate of descent into economic crisis for most people. Resolution of any dispute is delayed or fettered because there is no person you can actually sit in front of. Everything takes place through a faceless call centre. Applications for loans are inflexible because unless they fit the strict criteria presented on the computer generated form there is no way that individual circumstances can be taken into account. I am certainly not a conspiracy theorist but it so smacks of a regime that seeks to restrict the acquisition of wealth or the betterment of the individual to the affluent minority.