Sunday, 13 May 2012

Sink or Swim

In the mid 1800’s American activist, journalist and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison said, “You cannot possibly have a broader base for government than that which includes all the people with all their rights and with an equal power to maintain their rights.” He was speaking in support of the emancipation of slaves at the time and, although I do not pretend to claim the banking crisis is equal in abhorrence to the plight of the twelve million Africans who were sold into slavery between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, there are definitely parallels.
Like the slave traders, there are a number of bankers worldwide who have pursued personal gain with no regard for the pain and suffering levied on others. When those enslaved by debt could no longer afford their mortgages, often as result of austerity related job losses, these bankers threw them out of their homes along with their families without a backward glance. Having systematically asset stripped the global economy to line their own pockets, this very same fraternity has maintained an aloof detachment from the cruelty their psychopathic and narcissistic actions have had on their victims. Masterfully in denial of all culpability, they have stood by while millions of homeowners (forecasters predict twenty five million foreclosures in the US alone) had both their livelihoods and their equity removed from their grasp with a single expertly placed blow.

Shackled indefinitely to mortgage shortfalls as a direct result of bank profiteering, and bullied and beaten by the banks henchmen, the individual is also expected to pay the price of the global economic crisis. In contrast the bankers are still enjoying remunerations of up to 500 hundred times that of the national average earnings. For many of those trapped in debt sentences for life, emancipation is unimaginable and with debt forgiveness out of the question, it is little wonder there has been a 36% increase in the suicide rate. Even more staggering, this figure by far exceeds the 21% increase in suicides during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Throughout the years of financial crisis help for those paying the consequences has definitely not been at hand. The UK government and their regulators have paid little more than lip service to the much needed rescue packages promised to those experiencing mortgage distress while news of a further drop in share price for many of the “too big to fail” UK banks following the announcement of two billion dollars in losses at “too complicated to control”JP Morgan only serves to highlight how little has changed since the onset of the global recession.

While the Greeks and the Spanish struggle to reach any solution at all, newly elected French prime minister, Francoise Hollande may well have had the task firmly in his sights when he stated, “My principal adversary has no name, it has no face, and it does not belong to a political party, it has never presented its candidature and has never been elected but it still governs. This adversary is the world of finance” but, encouraging as his words are, he too has yet to deliver.

However, in the US, it appears the tide may at last be turning.

Distressed homeowners with underwater mortgages and more than two months of arrears are to receive aid in the form of principal reduction in an effort to enable them to stay in their homes. After year long government negotiations the banks in question hope to avoid 850 million dollars of penalties by financing a rescue package for the individual which not only avoids the huge costs and the heartache of foreclosure, but helps those in difficulties get back on their feet. Although some would say the twenty five billion dollars set aside to implement this is still not enough and the banks have, once again, got off lightly, it is a far cry from the heartless foreclosure policies of the UK’s banking industry.

Delighted to hear our American cousins are soon to benefit from the support of a government prepared to take some of their errant bankers to task, I cannot help but wonder why a similar settlement has proved impossible to arrange for sufferers of negative equity mortgages here in the UK. Had this been the case when I was in the grips of repossession at the hands of HBOS, my story would have been very different to that which I tell now.

Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States once said, “When people fear the government there is tyranny: when the government fear the people there is liberty” and hearing these words I am left wondering what future can we in the UK can expect when it blatantly obvious that our government lives in fear of the banks.                                                                                                               

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