The banks haven't learned a thing, and we're all going to pay the price.
The price of a banking failure is high. We are all paying it, in falling house prices, tumbling pensions and in many cases, redundancy.
The average Brit has lost £40,000 in the crunch, according to accountants PriceWaterhouseCoopers. The nation owes £2.2 trillion. The economy is set to shrink by 4.4% this year and unemployment could rise by a million.
It is a fiasco.
We are all hurting, except for one sector of society. And coincidentally, they are the people who are mostly to blame for this shambles.
They're called bankers.
Prepare to be jolly annoyed.
Bankers may have destroyed their own industry and shattered the global economy, but it doesn't seem to worry them.
Many still behave like pampered aristocrats before the French revolution, flaunting their gilded lifestyles while the oppressed masses (you and me) watch with growing anger and revulsion.
Andy Hornby sank HBOS but is now merrily working for Alliance Boots on a salary of £900,000 a year.
Fred Goodwin downed RBS but was canny enough to trouser a £700,000 a year pension before he was booted out.
And now the Government has appointed Stephen Hester as boss of RBS on a potential package of £9.6m, far more than the head of any bailed-out bank is getting in the US.
Chancellor Alistair Darling glanced up from his expenses form just long enough to rubber stamp Hester's wedge.
And all of them grandly deny any responsibility for the chaos they have engineered, or the human cost of plunging millions of pensioners into poverty and a generation of young people into joblessness.
I'm not usually in favour of revolutions (they play havoc with house prices), but there is only one response:
Off with their heads!
We paid twice over.
The banks are stinging us twice. First, by blackmailing the taxpayer into paying hundreds of billions of pounds to bail them out.
One year ago, the average mortgage SVR was a modest 1.9% over base rate. Now it is a whopping 4.66% over. Some lenders charge even more, which is pure extortion.
Scores of savings accounts pay 0%, while the average authorised overdraft rate has crept up to nearly 12% and the typical credit card APR to 18%.
If the Government had been equally picky when the banks came begging, they would all have gone under.
Talk about do unto others.
Maximum damage, minimum wage
What outrages me is that the banks are getting away with behaviour that would be heartily punished if we tried.
If you or I had bankrupted our employer by investing in things we didn't understand and incidentally plunged the world into an almighty recession, we would expect a bit of a telling off.
In fact, we would expect to be fired without compensation, and spend the rest of our lives picking crops somewhere in the Fens at £5 an hour.
What we wouldn't do is demand the taxpayer picks up the tab for our mistakes. Or insist they reward us with a multi-million pound bonus package and pension fund.
No, we would slope guiltily home, draw the curtains, crack open a bottle of Scotch and reach for our old army service revolver.
At least in the Wall Street Crash, bankers had the grace to jump off tall buildings.
I'm not just scoring cheap points by bashing the banks, there is a serious point to this. Free markets are designed to punish people for their mistakes, to stop them from doing it again.
The banks should have been punished by going out of business, but we couldn't let that happen, because it would have hung, drawn and quartered the entire economy. So instead they were lavished with taxpayer cash.
Investment bankers have even been called in (on vast consulting fees) to help the Government clear up a problem caused by, er, investment bankers.
So what lesson have they learned? That the price of failure is a blank cheque signed by the likes of you and me.
That during the good times they can pocket squillions in bonuses and pensions, and during the bad times they can still pocket squillions, only this time the taxpayer foots the bill.
Which means there is nothing to deter them from creating the same mess all over again.
In fact, they have already started, topping up the discredited megabonus system, and waiting for the investment banking casino to open again.
And the Government is doing nothing to stop them.
Some of you might want to draw a parallel with our MPs, who have been behaving like crony politicians in the dying days of some doomed dictatorship, filching all they can before the people run them out of the country.
No wonder they have done nothing to prevent the bankers from doing exactly the same, although bankers, being cleverer, are doing it on a much grander scale.
I can destroy worlds!
Our politicians are a sorry bunch of small-time swindlers, but you have to respect the bankers' fiendish genius.
They have long since claimed to be Masters of the Universe, but I'm beginning to suspect they have underestimated themselves.
Anybody who can win such obscene rewards for inflicting so much damage, while leaving others to pick up the tab, has to be much more formidable than that.
And we are in their power.
Be the first to comment
Do you want to comment on this article? You need to be signed in for this feature