Wednesday, 8 August 2012

A Very Special Birthday...

Thanks to the lovely folk at "Broken of Britain" and a severe inability to sleep due to money worries, I have discovered that it has been exactly five years since the beginning of the Credit Crunch. And where are we?

Pay freezes which have lasted 4 years (and are essentially pay cuts when you account for inflation), spiralling debts (and that's just the government), increases in electricity, gas, transport, car insurance, car tax, food, water rates, Council Tax. And that is only the half of it. Here, The Guardian details where the 25 most influential people of the financial crisis are today. From politicians who ignored the problem, to speculators and bank bosses who caused the problem, to CEOs of mortgage firms who loaned to Ninjas (that's No Income No Job ApplicantS). And where are they? A few notable mentions are "Hank" Greenberg of AIG who is now advising the Ultra Wealthy on how to invest. Fred "the Shred" who is leading a quiet and comfortable life in Scotland, Former Bradford and Bingley Boss Steve Crawshaw who has a pension worth £105,000/year.

It is unlikely that any of these people will be truly punished for their misdeeds. Those who stood by and  knowingly allowed toxic bonds to be sold willy nilly across the globe won't face jail. Even the "Sub-Prime Specialists" of Bear Stearns paid a fine of just $1.05 million on losses of $1.6 billion.

Last month I threw caution to the wind and decided to go on holiday. It is a luxury, but one that we carefully thought about. Our last holiday was blighted by my injury, and with my depression worsening, we decided that we should take the opportunity to spend two weeks in the sun. Now my lovely bank has charged me £16.00 which took me over my overdraft. They then proceeded to charge me £22.00 for going over my overdraft. My Car Financing company ignored my request to change my payment date, and so now I don't know if I'll manage my finances over the next four weeks. I mention the holiday because I don't want any reader to think that we are destitute. I often feel guilty when I complain about my abysmal finances because there are plenty of people far worse off than me, I am one of the lucky ones. How come I feel guilty and yet those who caused the recession seem to be immune to this basic human emotion?

I have said it before and I will say it again, although I despise the actions of the bankers, I don't blame them - in the same way that I don't blame the dog that shits on the pavement outside the flat. (Yes, in this analogy, the bankers are the dogs and the government are the owners). New Labour promised, amongst other things - "New Labour", "getting 250,000 unemployed 16-25 year olds off benefits and into work", a commitment to "education, education, education"  and crucially "No More Boom and Bust". What did we get instead? Blue Labour, the highest levels of unemployment in decades, privatised Comprehensive schools with Academy titles... and of course a Boom in public spending with Quangos galore, followed by the Bust of the longest, deepest, double dipping-est recession the country has ever seen.

After D-Day, Britain was decimated. Some 800,000 soldiers, mostly men of working age, were dead, disfigured or missing in action. How did we managed to rebuild our cities, get out of rationing and "Keep Calm and Carry On" from 1945-1955? Our leaders were men of action. Firstly under Clement Attlee's labour government, then under Churchill's Conservative, Britain became Great again. The NHS was created offering non-descriminatory healthcare, free for all at the point of delivery, the Welfare State offering William Beveridge's "Cradle to Grave" support system was set into motion and the damage of done by WWII was fixed. Across major UK cities, slums were cleared and new innovative housing was built. By the time Harold Macmillan was appointed in 1957, Britain was in a Golden Age.

So what went so wrong in the intervening years? How come 60 years later, even with the advances in technology and the explosion in wealth and longevity we are now in worse financial shape than after the war? Could it be that we spent £11 Billion on hosting the Olympic Games (Spectacularly I might add) rather than a paltry £750,000 in 1948 (That's 0.7% of 2012 GDP vs 0.01% of 1948 GDP for anyone who wants to throw inflation into the mix, according to the Guardian) The 1948 games delivered a profit of £30,000 and actually cost the taxpayer nothing and the government did everything they could to keep costs down. They had to, the country, in fact most of the world was broke. Cut to 2012 and the Games are set to cost the tax payer four times as much as the original estimates. To put it in perspective, Manchester's 2002 Commonwealth Games cost £300 Million and hosted 71 nations. London's 2012 Olympics will cost £11 Billion and is hosting 204 nations - that seems like quite the disparity to me...

Our government seems intent on spending indiscriminately whilst cutting almost equally indiscriminately. Our wonderful, unique NHS must do more, with less, every year. Our schools are being farmed out to the highest bidder - will there soon be an IBM High or a Syco Academy of Music? We are being robbed blind with one hand, whilst with the other, Dave and his cronies give tax-breaks to millionaires who earn their money here and spend it abroad. Our legal aid system is rife with abuse, as is our welfare system, but instead of making life better for people who choose to work, they simply make it worse, both for those who do work AND for those who don't. I am sure we will see these people, forced off benefits getting legal aid to take the DWP to court under the Human Rights Act in the next few years, and they will win and they should. For to take from those whom have little or nothing to give to those who are (in some cases) obscenely wealthy is surely one of the grossest human rights abuses of the modern age. People are literally killing themselves (that's 3 different articles) because they cannot afford to live a decent life.

I kind of hope that this little blog might go viral. I'm one tiny voice, unable to cope amongst with the financial demands of living in 2012. But I'm sure, I'm positive that your tiny voice is saying the same thing. In pubs and cafes across the country. In sitting rooms, around kitchen tables, in double beds between couples. In hospitals, in schools and in workplaces across the country, we are all saying the same thing. If only we could join up those voices, maybe then we might be heard.

*Update (thanks Historic Inflation Counter - £700,000 in 1948 would equate to £21,530,000.00 today)

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