Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Some Things Never Change

(This first appeared in the Sunday Guardian)

A long, long time ago, back in 2007, things were very different. The BJP was promising to provide strong, decisive leadership as the alternate to a UPA government riddled with coalition blues and governance problems. The American President was being criticized for illegally wiretapping American citizens while Hillary Clinton was expected to win the next Presidential election. Kevin Rudd wrested the office of the Prime Minister from an unpopular incumbent. Britain was being led by a slimy, unpopular Murdoch crony. And the world of cricket was hit with a betting scandal and administrators swore that something like that would never happen again.

Let’s not forget that it was also the year when wall street brought the global financial system to the brink of collapse. The resulting economic backlash was so bad that most countries are still feeling the after-effects of that tsunami. One would imagine that people who screwed up so royally that we were on the verge of re-establishing the barter system as the standard for exchange of goods and services would have stopped to consider the suffering their actions wrought upon the world and would try not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Seems like the perfect opportunity for people’s elected representatives and enforcement officials to make themselves useful and constitute and enforce laws that would make it impossible for the viability of every currency note in the world to depend upon the ability of recovering addict and extraordinary air guitarist Jimmy Ray Jones from Bumf**k, Idaho to fulfil his financial obligations.

“LOL.” If you believe that there is even a remote possibility of something like that happening, then you must still believe in the existence of Santa Claus, millionaire sons of deposed Nigerian princes and Clint Eastwood. Not only have the people responsible for the worst stock market crash since the great depression escaped punishment with a strongly worded gesture, but they continue to do business the same way as before.

In this fortnight’s Rolling Stone, journalist Matt Taibbi revealed how the ratings agencies who played a major part in ushering the crash by providing whatever ratings the offending banks wanted for their financial instruments – most of which they filled with junk investments - in lieu of money. Proving, yet again, that the global finance industry is one huge circle-jerk between the bankers, the people who’re supposed to regulate them, the ‘industry experts’ and the rating agencies.

In the report, many current and former employees of the rating agencies have gone on record - in depositions and/or emails obtained by the magazine - to admit that they were basically making up the numbers so as to be able to provide their clients with whatever rating they preferred for their financial instruments. That’s because they make most of their money from the companies who sell these instruments. That’s like asking students to mark their own exam sheet. Yet, these very agencies like to dictate the economic policies of governments around the world. Comply with what we say or your sovereign rating gets it. Talk about the emperor having no clothes!

These are the charlatans that the people elected to make economic decisions on our behalf seek validation from. I’m just spit-balling here, but maybe it isn’t a good idea to subjugate your country’s economic policies to the whims and fancies of an agency which gave its highest honour (an AAA rating) to a bank whose collapse one month later wiped out about five trillion dollars from the global economy?

In fact, the people running our economy keep harping about achieving eight percent growth, a claim that is as fraudulent as a report by an analyst working for a ratings agency. But they keep pretending that it’s the only solution to all our problems. A little blue pill that will stir our impotent economy back into action. Although, to be fair, if your economic growth lasts for more than four hours, you don’t need to call a doctor.

Economic theory suggests that the ‘invisible hand of the market’ always brings about a happy ending by balancing things out. That hand is now a hundred percent subsidiary of wall street.

And if you look carefully, it’s giving you the finger.

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