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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/21/11

The unemployed and top bankers: Misery for one, obscene extravagance for the other

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How is it that bankers using money made by hardworking ordinary people to manipulate financial markets, employing casino-type methods, are worth so much more than the people who make it?   People would accept hardship and cuts if they perceived that the load was shared fairly and justly, with those most able shouldering a heavier load.

Britain's Guardian, in an article titled, "10bn pounds equivalent to $16bn for Goldman staff as youth unemployment nears one million" underscores the obscenity of what is happening in our societies. The bank announced that "Goldman Sachs' 500 partners and other star performers will no longer be bound by last year's 1 million pound cap on bonuses...and are now expecting multimillion- pound rewards in the coming days."   This in a bank where its "employees earned an average of $430,000 in 2010".   The sheer arrogance of these people is breathtaking. This is not restricted to this particular bank. Others, in some of which taxpayers in the UK hold a majority stake, have also put billions of pounds aside for bonuses.

These huge profits, lest we forget, are due primarily to the trillions of tax dollars pumped into their balance sheets by governments on both sides of the Atlantic. The banking sector seems to be a one-way bet; as Vince Cable, the Business Secretary in the UK, put it, "their profits are privatised and their losses are nationalised".   That was said before he became part of the government. We now have government ministers reduced to begging the banks to lend more to businesses and pleading with them to moderate their bonuses.   The sense of outrage by ordinary people, struggling to provide for the basic necessities of life, becomes understandable.

Back in the real world of the ordinary person, a BBC article quoting the figures produced by the Office of National Statistics states: " UK unemployment rose by 49,000 to almost 2.5 million  in the three months to end of November", giving current figures of  "7.9%, but for those between 16 and 24-year-olds it is 20.3%". The situation in the US is even worse with an overall unemployment rate at around 10%. A personal tragedy for the people concerned, undoubtedly, but it is more than that.   There are societal costs as well.   The police in the UK have argued that their funding should be protected to counteract the increase in antisocial behaviour, social unrest, and crime resulting from the depressed economic conditions.

Another danger of the rise in unemployment is to community cohesion. History teaches us that xenophobia and bigotry rise with depressed economic conditions, as racist and far-right groups seek to exploit the disaffection and the frustration of the young by scapegoating minorities and the vulnerable in our societies.

The sense of alienation and worthlessness is particularly felt by the young who are at the beginning of their journey into responsibility and usefulness as contributing members of society, only to discover that their contribution is not required. The negative impact on their self esteem cannot be overstated. 

Their misery will be deepened by a sense of injustice and unfairness when they see people receiving these obscene bonuses.   This is not the politics of envy, as right-wingers might say; it is the politics of justice and fairness.   Politicians ignore these principles at their peril, with negative effects on the whole of society.

People in Britain now clearly see the empty rhetoric used by Prime Minister Cameron and his Ministers, with the slogan "we are all in this together" before the election, to rally the British people to support the cuts in public services and to their standard of living.

The popular uprising in Tunisia happened because of the injustices perceived by ordinary people, seeing their rulers living ostentatious life styles, unconcerned and untroubled by the plight of the unemployed and the poor, the majority of whom are young and well-qualified.   Substitute the bankers in western societies for president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, his wife and their cronies, and you have the parallel with what is happening in the US and Britain.

Why is it so easy for governments in the US and UK to divert trillions of our tax dollars into banks, only to see tens of billions of these paid to people who are already super rich, and trillions more financing endless wars, that are causing carnage and misery to millions worldwide in pursuit of objectives that are continuously shifting?

In fact, many experts argue that these wars are at best useless in achieving any of the "stated" aims, and might in fact lead to outcomes diametrically opposite.   Why is it we can do all of that, but human ingenuity and imagination grind to a halt when resources are needed to help those suffering the misery and indignity of being on the scrapheap?


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Dr Adnan Al-Daini took early retirement in 2005 as a principal lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at a British University. His PhD in Mechanical Engineering is from Birmingham University, UK. He has published numerous applied scientific research (more...)
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