Friday, 16 October 2009

The Penny Hasn't Dropped

It is difficult to compare the issues of bank bonuses and MP expenses but somehow there is a link.

I have just read some guff about entangled photons and being able to teleport their states to one another. It gives some credence to the Star Trek teleporter but in reality, the teleporting of matter has not been proven, just quantum state information. Why do I mention such complexity in an article on bank bonuses and greedy MPs? Well I think the state of mind is linked, perhaps even teleported to one another.

Many MPs have railed against the investigation by Sir Thomas Legg. In effect, he has imposed some regulation on an unregulated system - and MPs don't like it. They accuse him of changing the rules when he would insist all he is doing is setting some sensible benchmarks by which to measure whether claims were reasonable or not. How on earth he allows people like Jaqui Smith, Hazel Blears, Geoff Hoon and others to go scot free is another question. But in a way, on a smaller scale we have the bank bonus syndrome.

Goldman Sachs are one of 3 banks who have reported enormous rises in profits in the last quarter. They have set aside no less then $5bn for staff bonuses which would pay out on average $172,000 per employee - the total estimated to be paid for this year will be $22bn in bonuses. It seems no one has learnt anything and there is a huge anti-regulation body within banks. The argument goes that banks must be able to compete for the talent that is capable of yielding such profits. I suppose MPs would say the same - if MPs couldn't make a few bob on the side then who would want to be one?

It is the base attitude that is the same even though the amounts of money are hugely different. Bankers just do not connect themselves with the last year or so of financial chaos that was the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. Having lost hundreds of billions there were few casualties, hardly a hiccup in earnings and within months the same people who lost the money are rewarding themselves with even bigger bonuses.

MPs have the same layer of thick skin too. They simply do not understand that honest, law abiding and decent people have a fundamental issue with an MP claiming even a penny for dry cleaning, gardening or kit kats let alone being allowed thousands of pounds for such things. Cleanliness is a personal choice and expense - it's ridiculous to believe that the taxpayer gets any value from paying to clean someone's moat or flat. Yet MPs simply don't get it. When someone as intelligent as Ann Widdecombe, who does not even draw her second home allowance, argues in favour of MPs who are cheesed off just because the 'sensible' limits are applied retrospectively then you know MPs are out of touch with the electorate.

The similarity between bankers and MPs is that they believe that their own world is a real one and correct - and they don't see what it has to do with the external world. We all have a stake in banks and the financial system. If it fails, our money goes down the swanny - so the answer to the question about what has it to do with us, it has everything thing to do with us. Should RBS or Goldman Sachs fail as a business then we are all directly affected in some way, some more than others.

These banks have a duty of compliance to normal rules. They have the best of both worlds right now - they can gamble billions and if they win, they can reward themselves astronomically. If they lose, we pay to reward them astronomically.
It is as simple as that in banks. For MPs, every single one of them are beholden to us. We vote for them, they represent us, we pay their salaries, expenses and allowances. It should not be down to Party leaders to question or sack them for abusing expenses, it should be for the people to decide as that's who foots the bill.

These worlds operate around us as if we can have no access or have a say. It is time we did. Our money and futures are at stake. Banks have a duty to maintain stability but they are run like Vegas betting shops manned with people who believe they have talent but have no more skill than the average punter at Joe Corals. MPs are much the same.

The time for change will pass us by once again and these issues will haunt us well into the future, because the wrong people are making the rules.

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