If ever there was the case for having a ‘real’ economy in the way that exists, in, say, Germany, the Great Crash of 2008 is the modern day example. As has been established in the English criminal courts in 2015, when various bankers were convicted for their part in the LIBOR-rigging scandal, there can be little doubt that great crimes were committed in the bourses of the world, especially in the neo-liberal Anglo-American economies which place dangerous faith in finance, credit and housing markets to fuel their economies.
Whereas bankers pocketed astronomical bonuses which would take most people on a salary 100 to a thousand years to earn, the securitised financial instruments they sold as AAA-rated were not worth a sheet of photocopied paper. Those instruments were the consolidated debts of the working, struggling, poor (indeed, many of those actually in work are in poverty too), who had no realistic prospect of redeeming them in their working or living lifetime. When the inevitable crunch came, it was those very people who were the victims of the earthquake and tsunami that followed.
Rather than punitive taxes on bankers and financial institutions, as a form of taxes de consolidation (as occurred in France after WW2 when the industrial bourgeoisie who had made fortunes manufacturing weapons and other goods for the occupying Nazi régime) as retribution for their crimes, it was the people who paid, and are paying still, for these deeds via austerity – cuts in public services, healthcare, social benefits – and redundancies. Other cuts followed, such as in defence and the emergency services, so that not only were the public affected, but those whose jobs were to protect them in emergencies. In the light of the current security situation, especially the threat from globalised terrorism, this mass retrenchment is also dangerous as well as inequitable.
Meanwhile, ‘super salaries’ and bonuses are still being paid, and taxes on earned and unearned income for the rich are still proportionately low in many Western economies. Homelessness is rising, public subsidised healthcare is at breaking point and people cannot afford to live near their place of work, especially, say, London (UK), where the average cost of a home is now £500,000. Not only, then, are the poor (whether they have a job or not) paying for the mess made by the Gatsbyesque debauchery and the chaos that followed, they are also being ghettoised (on which latter point your poet- blogger-writer will comment in more detail in a future article).
Most of the financial crimes committed before the Crash (indeed, all crimes committed in the bourses and banks of the world) have gone and will go undiscovered because they are unseen and more difficult to detect, whereas the crimes of the poor, the indigent, are committed in open air, the street and can be captured on CCTV.
*From: Wasteland, 2008 (Reflections)