by Daphne Liddle
BIG BONUSES for bankers are back – if they ever really went away – and in spite of multi-billion-pound taxpayer bail-outs for many banks last year, meaning that the Government now effectively owns several large banks, there is very little our elected government – or any other – can do about it.
The big bankers now openly rule the western world and are giving two-fingers to democratic decisions around the globe.
Last year the excuse was that bonuses had to be paid to the top banking executives who had just contributed to the biggest global banking collapse in nearly a century because the bonuses were part of their employment contract.
This year the excuses are that, thanks to the taxpayers, they are once again doing nicely; if we don’t pay them they’ll take their “genius” at making money and the trump card: we can’t stop them.
They describe themselves as essential wealth creators though they create no wealth at all. Wealth is created by workers factories, farms, mines and mills all around the world; the bankers merely accumulate it in vast piles and devise mechanisms for diverting it into their own pockets. The real wealth creators get very little of what they make; real wealth trickles up, not down.
By returning to the big bonus tradition the banks have made a mockery of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s attempts last year to outlaw big bonuses.
Independent MP Dai Davies has sponsored an early day motion, which is winning significant backing, expressing concern at the return of huge bonuses at City institutions.
It urges Goldman Sachs to reconsider its decision, now it has just posted record profits after a bail out from American taxpayers, to offer bonuses of more than $22 million (£13.3 billion), mainly to its top staff, while cutting the jobs of lower paid staff.
The motion said it believes “such obscene profits are made by encouraging the very reckless risk-taking that brought down or severely damaged several major banks, and run counter to the restraint urged by the chancellor.”
Goldman, RBS and other banks operating in Britain argue they have overhauled their bonus structures with a greater emphasis on long-term rewards.
The MPs signing the early day motion are optimistic to think they can influence Goldman Sachs when the bank is blatantly ignoring the “restrictions” put in place last year by Barack Obama.
The same story is being repeated throughout the western bourgeois “democracies”.
In France finance minister Christine Lagarde has said it is an “absolute disgrace” that banks have started to pay their staff guaranteed bonuses again.
In what she described as a “cri de coeur” against the return of “the old ways”, Christine Lagarde urged other G20 governments to stop “procrastinating” and introduce curbs on pay practices deemed to encourage too much risk-taking at the next G20 summit in September.
The more the leaders of western democracies rail against the greed and arrogance of the bankers, the more they reveal their own impotence.
Tory leader David Cameron last week laughably claimed that doing away with the Financial Services Agency and handing over responsibility for regulating the banks to the Bank of England would solve the problem.
But many of his best friends and supporters are bankers.
Meanwhile the real creators of wealth all around the globe are facing mounting job cuts. In Britain unemployment is rising at a record rate.
The British Retail Consortium says it expects the number of empty (bankrupt) shops in our high streets to reach 15 per cent by the end of the year. Pubs are closing at the rate of 52 a week.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research, a leading think-tank, is predicting that it will take another five years for income per head to return to the pre-crash levels of early 2008.
Workers are facing unemployment and losing their homes. Those in work face increasing workloads and longer hours.
Some public sector workers are being pressured to sell their holiday breaks back to their bosses in return for cash – and many, deep in debt to the banks, are taking up the offer.
We have lost our lunch-breaks, our tea breaks and we face having to work long past retirement age to stay afloat. Truly now we are being bound to the profit-producing millstone from the cradle to the grave.
We must never forget that although Brown, Obama and the rest can do nothing to restrain the bankers, the organised and angry workers can, and eventually will stop them with a revolution.
In the meantime if we stop working sometimes and take strike action against the bankers it will remind them where their wealth really comes from.